Excavating the ancient circle was not an easy task. Previously six two-story apartment buildings and a swimming pool had occupied the property and the ground was filled with rusty plumbing pipes, reinforcement steel, concrete, and other debris. After a tremendous amount of labor, the site was eventually cleared exposing at least two hundred other postholes cut in the limestone in addition to the ones forming the weird circle. Other features uncovered included a carving in the stone of a large eye motif, 24 rectangular basins, a complete carapace of a sea turtle, a shark skeleton, and teeth from an extinct monk seal and a human. The most curious items were fragments of copper and galena along with two small ax heads crafted from basalt. Since none of this material is indigenous to Florida it indicated that these early people had an extensive trade network 2000 years ago.
Several of the exotic artifacts uncovered at the circle led archaeologists to believe that the site was used for ritualistic or elite ceremonial purposes. This was supported by the shark and turtle remains that were found in what appeared to be an east-west orientation, perhaps deliberately placed for ceremonial reasons. A surveyor carefully calculated that solitary holes found 41 feet on each side of the circle’s center could predict the autumnal equinox and the summer and winter solstices. It added fuel to the theory that the circle was Mayan-built as a giant astronomical calendar or some kind of ancient almanac. And that eye motif carved in the limestone, that’s the Maya symbol for “zero.” The idea that the circle was a Mayan project is not so far-fetched when you consider how close the Yucatan Peninsula is to the tip of Florida and the Maya did in fact, build sea-going canoes. It would have been easy for Mayan mariners to ride the Gulf Stream over to Florida, although returning home may have been a problem.
The Miami Circle was indeed a great archaeological find that needed serious study, but it was standing in the way of a multimillion-dollar development. The press played up the events, which attracted so many people that the place had to be fenced off. For those who could not make it to Miami, a camera was fixed to the roof of a nearby high rise to beam pictures to the Internet. Soon there were two hundred websites carrying news about the Miami Circle and an online petition for saving the site. The 2000-year old Circle had evolved into a kind of shrine that was magnetically drawing attention from around the world. Maybe there really was something magic about this circle. Save-the-Circle groups held candlelight vigils while protestors made daily marches with signs demanding the site be protected against development. Thousands of letters poured into government offices requesting action from local and state representatives. Experts, in an attempt to save the circle, even studied the possibilities of making a gigantic plaster cast of the site, or sawing it up in sections and moving it to a safer location. At one point, due to legal proceedings, permission was needed from the presiding circuit court judge just to see the circle. In October 2003, Senator Bob Graham introduced legislation that would authorize a feasibility study for incorporating the prehistoric site into the Biscayne National Park.