Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Miami Dolphin Volume 55 Number 2, March/April 2002
by Eric A. Powell

[image] (Courtesy AHC)

Archaeologists have discovered a dolphin skull interred at the Miami Circle, the mysterious alignment of holes found in downtown Miami and thought by some to have been a Precolumbian trading post or ceremonial site. Bob Carr, director of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, says his team excavated the fragmented cranium in 1998 and assumed it was a deer skull. But when archaeologist Alison Elgart-Berry began reconstructing the skull last fall from about 100 pieces, she quickly recognized it belonged to a bottlenose dolphin instead. Cut marks show the dolphin was butchered, but its careful placement suggests the skull was intentionally buried, rather than simply discarded after a meal.

The skull was found near the remains of a shark and a sea turtle, apparently also ritually buried. According to James Mead, a marine biologist at the Smithsonian, the Miami Circle dolphin burial is the first to be found outside the Pacific Northwest.

© 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America