Were there Mayans in the Florida Keys?


This very interesting article from 1985 highlights evidence of an ancient culture in the Florida Keys who were building mounds using limestone rock. The article suggests these mounds were constructed by the Maya. Unfortunately, the article also mentions that most of these mounds have been destroyed for use as road fill and other things. Read the article below:

Today it is little more than a growth-infested pile of coral rocks hidden away from U.S. 1 by the jungle-like foliage of Key Largo — vandalized by would-be treasure hunters, desecrated by trespassing campers.
But hundreds of years before the Spanish first set eyes on the Florida Keys, the pile of rocks was part of a sacred Indian temple with causeways, ceremonial platform and ramps shaped like a giant crab. Built entirely of coral, it rose to 15 feet, had a flat surface on top and was 100 feet long by 50 feet wide. It faces a low hill like a miniature amphitheater and was probably a gathering center for hundreds of Pre-Columbian inhabitants who worshipped unknown gods.
For 45 years, a controversy has raged over whether the Maya, a highly advanced civilization from Central America, may have built the mound.
It is the only temple mound built completely from rock ever found in Florida and much mystery still surrounds its original function. Today it sits on several acres of private property, wedged between a campground and a lumberyard on U.S.1. Developers have tried to bulldoze it and use the sacred rocks as land fill. Picnickers have climbed over it, and kids have built hideaways in its crevices.

The state is still interested in acquiring the site from its Miami owner, and the Archeological and Historical Conservancy in Miami plans to resurvey the temple. Some excavation may still take place, but the main purpose of acquiring it will be to preserve it for future generations.
LITTLE WAS KNOWN about the ancient Indians of South Florida when the Smithsonian, under a Works Projects Administration grant in the 1930s, sent a team of archaeologists to examine the mysterious mounds. Even then there was speculation that the Maya, famous for their elaborate stone temples in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, had themselves built ceremonial sites and low-lying stone walls all over the Florida Keys for some indecipherable purpose.
For years, the theory lay dormant, overshadowed by the conclusion of the day that all Florida’s Indians had migrated down from the Midwest plains.

There were 20,000 Tequesta and Calusa Indians in South Florida when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. They were hunting tribes who had lived in apparent harmony with their environment for centuries. Unlike the Maya, they had no agriculture, and a loose social organization. They ate fish and used conch shells to make tools. Their habitation and burial mounds still dot the Keys, but it seems unlikely that the rock walls found on several Keys and the rock temple of Key Largo were their creation.

So . . . were there really Mayans in the Florida Keys? A growing number of archaeologists say it’s not only possible, but probable.
“There’s no reason why they couldn’t have come to the Keys,” says Charles LaCombe, a professor of archaeology at Florida International University, and a founder in 1971 of the Institute of Mayan Studies in Miami. “They were a maritime people and the only pre-Columbian people who could navigate.”

Read the full story here: https://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/fl-xpm-1985-09-01-8502050854-story.html

Gary C. Daniels

Gary C. Daniels is an award-winning, Emmy-nominated television, video and multimedia writer and producer. He has a M.A. degree in Communications from Georgia State University in Atlanta, a B.F.A. degree in TV Production from the Savannah College of Art and Design and an A.A. degree in Art from the College of Coastal Georgia. He has appeared on the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Science Channel and History Channel. His History Channel appearance became the highest-rated episode in the network's history. He has a passion for Native American history and art. He is the founder and publisher of LostWorlds.org.