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It's Our History, Dig?

Scott Lewis stands in front of the canned corn and peas in a middle aisle of the Hyde Park Market in downtown Fort Lauderdale, discussing the staples of prehistoric cuisine. The grocery store on the New River is an excellent place to conduct such a conversation. Lewis believes that six to ten feet beneath the aging linoleum sits evidence of human beings who probably began eating snakes, turtles, alligators, shellfish, birds, and small land mammals on the riverbank before the Egyptians were building pyramids. The prehistoric history lies below, untouched.

"Fortunately those people weren't too tidy; they just tossed the bones anywhere, like rednecks at a barbecue," Lewis explains. Along with other refuse they cast off pottery, broken tools, perhaps even the bodies and bones of their dead. Any or all of those treasures could remain preserved in the peatlike muck below the market -- in fact, anywhere along the river downtown -- and Lewis wants at it.

With other archaeologists, he bases his conjecture on evidence scattered elsewhere throughout Broward County and South Florida, in hundreds of other sites identified but infrequently analyzed. People have lived here for roughly 10,000 years, the evidence whispers. And nobody breathing air today, not even archaeologists like Lewis, knows that much about them. "We have too much to do just to identify the sites and stay one step ahead of developers," he admits, acknowledging the pittance of in-depth knowledge acquired so far. Lewis believes that the ground beneath Hyde Park could help turn a pittance into plenty.

Political opponents contested that ground in a rancorous battle that ended last week when voters decided to create a park on the site rather than let the Related Group, Inc. throw up a 38-story high-rise. Although voters agreed to spend $8 million from increased property taxes for the downtown green space, their goal remains uncertain. Related paid $2.5 million for the market two years ago but now insists that $36 million is a fair price if the public wants the land for a park; the company bases that figure on the income it might earn after erecting the high-rise. A court may have to decide a fair price, and an outcome, later this year.

When construction begins, no matter for what purpose, a county ordinance requires a licensed archaeologist to investigate the layers of history that lie beneath the market. Lewis helped write that ordinance in 1993, when he was hired as the county's part-time archaeologist. The bill for a site investigation, a few-thousand-dollar drop in the bucket of likely development costs at the market site, will go to the ultimate owner of the land.

Unlike many other archaeological sites in Broward County, the potential to discover "a really big piece of the puzzle" of prehistory may be great along the New River, Lewis claims. For millenniums before the advent of sleek yachts, motor cruisers, and plump tourists now visible downtown, the river teemed with food. Pushing up mud and silt, the steady flow of river water created relatively dry, high ground along its banks suitable for living except during flooding. And the river itself probably served as a prehistoric highway.

But the New River was also the first place 20th-century developers dropped anchor, paving over the past before it could become a storied part of the future. For that reason the 1.5-acre market site and parking lot may shelter a little-known history of native hunters, Indians whose cultures remain lost to history, replaced by the thousand-year Tequesta dynasty that stretched across southeastern Florida.

The Tequesta vanished in the 18th Century after the Spanish arrived to turn prehistory into history. But not before they captured a number of Spanish explorers, killing some in annual religious ceremonies that required human sacrifices, according to the accounts of survivors. The Spanish didn't enjoy such outcomes and left. The Seminoles followed in the 19th Century, driven into the region by American expansion and the U.S. Army; they were the last Native Americans to live along the river before development forced them out a single lifetime ago.

Hard on the trail of that vast history, Lewis casts a hopeful eye on the Hyde Park Market and the land beneath it. But is he a dreamer draped in fantasy, searching for evidence that doesn't exist? As Broward County's official archaeologist, he'll probably get the chance to find out later this year, when the old building and parking lot are peeled off the site and destroyed.

On a gentle March afternoon in the market's middle aisles, Lewis shrugs off political questions or doubts about his own competence and studies the building. Constructed with a common, 1960s-era technique called "stem wall," the market and parking lot form an archaeologist's dream, according to Lewis.

The usually laconic, Camel-smoking 46-year-old is an expert on modern construction techniques since they affect history, he says, becoming valuable to his work. Some techniques destroy the evidence below, and some don't. "This looks pretty bad," he says, eyeballing the building's square concrete façade. "But it isn't."

Instead the market is "light, nonintrusive." It includes a three-foot base settled on roughly two feet of fill that merely caps what lies beneath without destroying it. A shallower cap in the same mold lies under the parking lot, which surrounds the market, running right to the river's edge in back. Lewis points across the expanse of food and shoppers inside the store to the slender steel poles descending from ceiling to floor. The poles, about 15 of them, punch through the cap into the earth, resting on small cement plugs. "That's the only place you might get some damage, and that's nothing," he says, waving an arm typically clad in Eddie Bauer khaki. "Most of the rest of this site is probably untouched."

Lewis, too, has remained untouched by the pitched political battle between pro-park and pro-development forces in recent months -- his name almost never appeared in daily newspaper or television reports. Nevertheless he played a prominent though indirect role. Lewis used his ordinance, as he has hundreds of times in the past, to designate the market site an "Archaeological Cultural Resource." The term is not merely a humorless sobriquet -- it carries legal weight. It forces developers to pay attention.

This year alone, for example, Lewis has designated 130 spots in Broward County as Archaeological Cultural Resource Sites. "And guess what?" he asks. "The same places prehistoric and historic people went to keep their asses dry -- that's where modern developers go, too. The high ground." Archaeologists look for evidence of the past wherever they can locate high ground in South Florida: tree islands and knolls, the sandy ridges, the many hammocks scattered throughout the eastern Everglades. Once such terrain where high ground can occur, all part of the eastern Everglades, stretched from 100 miles west of Fort Lauderdale all the way to University Drive in Broward County, only 10 miles from the beach.

At each designated spot, as at Hyde Park Market, developers must pay professional archaeologists to investigate the ground Lewis marks out. If history or prehistory can be sifted out of layers of soil unearthed on the ends of their trowels, the developer must then pay for a full site excavation. Lewis calls that a "several-thousand-dollar deal" and points out that the cost can be written off in taxes. Researchers have three to six months to complete the work, and development may then proceed.

At Hyde Park Market no one hopes to discover and preserve a pristine site. No one, including Lewis, intends to unearth and resurrect an Indian village. No one will ever see the strange, uncompromising native people who lived and died along the river reemerge in some spectacular visual fashion from beneath the city streets. That isn't the point. "It's a fallback position. If you can preserve the site, you do. But if you can't -- and you can't downtown where the value of property just about makes it prohibitive -- then you get the information out of the site first." And preserve it before developers roll in to build. Archaeologists will collect the information, based on artifacts that emerge, and send the artifacts either to university repositories or to state and county museums in the area.

So Lewis' law, innocuously listed as Broward County ordinance number 92-38, intends to preserve information before construction begins. Once the information has been collected from a site, a developer may put up a parking lot or anything else. But the ordinance includes an option: The developer may agree to cap the site with fill and leave as green space, then build around it. In that case the site remains preserved for a future investigation.

Lewis spends most of his time just looking for the sites, then performing the initial study that can qualify them for protection. From the list of 130 sites Lewis designated this year, he might get to look closely at only two or three.

"Given how much there is to find -- and I think we've only tapped the surface -- I may never get to investigate [most] sites in my lifetime," Lewis comments soberly.

Lewis' history-saving ordinance changed the nature of development in Broward County, says South Florida's most famous archaeologist, Bob Carr, who identified the Miami Circle. Carr stalled development at the site in downtown Miami to conduct research based partly on his intuition. He used a Miami-Dade County law that became a model for Lewis' ordinance in Broward County. The move by Carr proved important for posterity: He discovered what one British pundit described as "the Stonehenge of America."

In Broward County, Carr occasionally works with Lewis and is quick to praise him. "Scott is a huge boon to Broward, one of the reasons it's such a progressive county" as far as archaeology, Carr notes. But there's a problem, Carr admits -- Lewis works only part-time in a region so rich with history and prone to development that the county should hire a full-time archaeologist and staff. "The reality is that Scott can barely keep up with the needs," Carr says, then revises his opinion. "Actually he can't keep up, he can't do it effectively, there's too much."

Lewis is also his own critic, or at least a critic of the ordinance he helped create. "It's not good enough," he says. "There's pissant language in it." The weakness, as he sees it: No mandatory coordination exists between the county and many of its 29 cities. If developers are not required to go to the county for permits, city ordinances may not require them to pay attention to significant sites. Bulldozers can ride over important history, and Lewis will never find out in time to weigh in with ordinance 9238, forcing preservation. Lewis says he's trying to change that by drafting a new county ordinance "with teeth," a law that would require cities to check all their development through the county. Broward commissioners would have to vote to accept the change, and Lewis says he's discussing the language with them now.

Lewis, of course, views the ordinance as progressive. Before his ordinance existed, development had marched westward across the county for 40 years, mowing down history without stepping around or over historic sites long enough to extract information from them. In the late 1980s, a county official named Don Stone began to question such noncircumspect, unbridled development, and by the time Lewis came along, "people said, wow, we've got to do something about the past," he recalls.

When the ordinance was new, developers saw him as a real hindrance, a fact admitted even by such "model" developers as Roy Rogers, senior vice president at Arvida, which developed Weston. "Usually developers will consider having a site discovered on their property as their worst Monday-morning nightmare," Rogers says. "It's fear. They think they're going to have to work with a crazed archaeologist and the thing will mushroom into a Miami Circle." But many developers have learned that archaeology can be beneficial, not only to their bottom lines but to the community, Rogers explains. It happened to him.

At a site identified by Bob Carr, Arvida developers ultimately created Peace Mound Park. Near other sites, which they capped and preserved as green space, Arvida lent Indian names to streets and neighborhoods. Rogers reported to Carr that sales had increased as much as 25 percent after people learned they could live near historically important sites. Now, Rogers admits, he trusts the archaeologists and loves their science. "I can't praise people like Carr or Scott Lewis enough, although I know some developers don't see it that way," he adds.

"They've learned to care more now," Lewis notes about developers, when told of those comments. "It's partly a process of education. They used to resist it." Sometimes energetically. Lewis once found himself nose to nose with a bulldozer in a showdown that matched his determination to save history with the developer's impatience to start building.

He now refuses to name the developer, simply referring to him as "a major Broward developer who, I think, has learned the error of his ways."

According to Lewis, bulldozers had begun to destroy two Indian mounds -- high ground where Lewis had identified evidence of prehistoric burial sites. "This guy was putting a causeway behind them, and he didn't want to stop," Lewis recalls. So Lewis called a sheriff's deputy and stood in front of the bulldozer, not the first time he had taken that action. Lewis finally forced the developer to rebuild part of the mounds already damaged.

On another occasion a developer bypassed the county review by going to the state after Carr identified a site. The developer convinced a Tallahassee-based archaeologist that he had met the local requirements for protection and began to clear survey lines with small digging machines known as Bobcats. The state archaeologist, whose name Lewis prefers to protect, was going along with it. "He said it was the best job of Bobcatting he'd ever seen. I said, 'We don't do Bobcatting in Broward County anymore.'"

State officials told Lewis they had made a mistake and threatened to pull the developer's permits, so the builder finally complied with the law. "It ate up several months and lots of my time," Lewis says. But in the end he saved a prehistoric site on a canoe route used almost 1000 years ago.

Nowadays, letting the Broward County archaeologist look at a site that might have significance is just one more item on a developer's checklist, Lewis says. He learns of potential sites by watching permits for development come across his desk in a county government building downtown, by fielding telephone calls from concerned citizens, or by just stumbling across a site.

There isn't much money in the work for Lewis -- not, at least, from Broward County. But there is power to preserve. His ability to list important sites and protect them by law may give Lewis unofficial designation as one of the most influential part-time employees in the history of Broward County.

"What I do is survey, identify, preserve, stabilize, and cap; that's my profession now," he explains. Such work is a far cry from the romantic visions Lewis had in his youth, when he imagined making culture-altering field discoveries and living from dig to dig. "The pure science is good for the heart, but it's hard on the stomach," he says, noting that his county paycheck won't even pay the grocery bill.

Apparently Broward likes its archaeologist lean. For a two-day-per-week position, Lewis earns about $10,000 per year. That's about $12.50 per hour for 16 hours each week, small potatoes for a man with an undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida and a master's from Boston University, where he lived and worked for years.

But the archaeologist uses his degrees as a private consultant, rounding out a living that proves comfortable on most days. To pay the mortgage on his Pompano Beach home, Lewis accepts part-time jobs elsewhere in Florida, where developers must hire archaeologists to sniff out history. Away from his government job, Broward's archaeologist is president of Historic Preservation, Inc., a company that consists of Lewis and two or three hired hands whom he trusts.

Sometimes he makes money, and sometimes he faces sharp, unanticipated drops in income. One recent morning Lewis greets visitors to his Pompano Beach home with a day's growth of beard on his narrow cheeks. His work life has been put on temporary hold. "I just lost the contract in Indian River," he explains. There is no complaint in his voice, only resignation.

Lewis' "bread and butter," as he puts it, had been a contract to follow the Department of Transportation's road-building plan in a district stretching from Palm Beach through Indian River counties. He marked historically valuable sites wherever he found them, one step ahead of work crews -- valuable, sometimes tedious work. But work he won't be doing anymore.

On this morning Lewis has learned that he was outbid for future work by a large company from Georgia. It means an immediate loss of at least $20,000 in the next six months for the archaeologist. Pinched-looking after hearing this news, he goes back to work, wandering into his spacious living room. Each corner has a purpose: music collection and large-screen television in one, a collection of fiction and nonfiction books in another, and a sprawling three-sided desk covered with elaborate computer equipment in another corner.

Another room contains five-foot file cabinets designed to hold maps and charts. They're filled with topographic histories of Broward and other Florida counties.

Lewis parks himself in front of the computer and punches up maps of the New River dating to the mid-19th Century, overlaying one on another. Visible, suddenly, is the history of development across downtown -- shifts in the river's flood plain, new roads that appear over the old wetlands, the rise of a city.

"When I size up an area, I generally look at township plats from the mid-19th Century," he explains of his method. "I overlay those on general road maps, then use the 1940s aerials and 1960s aerials. So basically I rebuild the environment as it was in the 19th Century. And even where the big buildings are today, you can see it, you can see the landscape."

Then, if you're Lewis, you can find the sites where prehistoric peoples may have lived, because you arrive on a site with a mental picture of another world, the world of history or prehistory. Lewis' talent, says Bob Carr, lies in his ability to see what was on the face of what is.

At one of Lewis' favorite sites in Broward County, he doesn't have to build a picture of what was. The landscape that once existed has been preserved and re-created, to some extent, by a biologist. The place is Buzzard's Roost in Pembroke Pines. Lewis quietly asks a reporter not to identify the exact location. The land, 2.25 acres of wild coffee, elderberry, various palms, and a canopy of banyan and strangler fig trees, forms a high, dry island. The private Florida Wetlands Bank, which mitigates land for developers, owns Buzzard's Roost.

After a storm swept the property four years ago, surprised locals escorted archaeologists to an upturned tree on the wooded grounds. Resting in the roots and facing the visitors was a fairly complete skeleton. Along the surface of the ground lay artifacts from various ages of prehistory: the bones of animals eaten long ago, small shards of ceramic pottery dating to the end of the archaic period of South Florida history about 3000 years ago.

Lewis has now come to see the site with the eagerness of a small boy. On this afternoon he parks his white GMC Jimmy near Buzzard's Roost and opens the back. The tools of his trade remain neatly laid out in the truck, ready for use: a hard helmet, boots, machete, rope, measuring tapes, hand pick, trowels. Visible at a distance are large, expensive houses, built two or three feet higher than the Roost to avoid flooding, in accordance with modern codes. "The Indians wanted the same things as today's developers, but their 'codes' and needs didn't require the extra feet of fill," he says.

A cool breeze plays across the pond grass, restored by Florida Wetlands biologist Lianne Bishop. A friend of Lewis', she joins him to talk about the landscape, each taking obvious pleasure in the other's company. Bishop has re-created a habitat across the Roost that resembles closely what it once looked like. That job has taken her three full years. Lewis, meanwhile, has protected the site for his own reasons: the skeleton and other artifacts, about which he hopes to learn more later this year.

"I don't see this pursuit as romantic nonsense," Lewis says, when asked why he cares about broken pieces of once-upon-a-time found in the dirt. The island, a natural high spot, is founded on bedrock, he explains. Only to the west are the earth and sky pressed belly to belly as they might once have been to the eye of a Tequesta or Seminole. Development and unwanted exotics, the aggressive Brazilian pepper and melaleuca, edge the other three compass directions.

Lewis shoves a cigarette between his lips, forgets to light it, and talks about the skeleton. Near it rested an antler, a bone-horn tool, as Lewis describes it, which could predate Christ. The human being was wrapped, then placed on his chest in the ground almost 3000 years ago.

"We know a couple of things about this guy who ended up here," Lewis remarks. "He was probably at least 25 years old, and he was fully fleshed at the time of burial, which means he ate well." That doesn't mean he was fat. His diet? Snake, turtle, fish, deer, alligator. A few vegetables. Some wild berries, perhaps.

After a careful look at the time of discovery, archaeologists decided they would reinter the bones on the spot, to save Buzzard's Roost, and the body, for future analysis. His biggest fear, Lewis admits, comes from the threat of thieves, who could sneak onto the property and look for those bones or the many other artifacts that seem to lie near the surface.

Kneeling in the dirt, he picks up a columnella, the organlike spire of shell at the center of a conch that provided tools for ancient people. Lewis points out that someone transported it in from the coast, since this is freshwater country. Near the shell, from a much later age, is a musket ball. At this site there is no need for the trowel Lewis always carries, or even for his knife -- only for fingers. Suddenly he plucks a nondescript piece of brown particle about the size of a thumbnail from the dark earth. "Turtle shell," he says. People have probably been eating turtles on this piece of high ground for thousands of years.

When he finally gets to it, the knowledge held in the ground at Buzzard's Roost will help Lewis and others better understand burial practices and perhaps religious customs, he hopes. And by practicing bioarchaeology on the skeleton -- the close study of its bones -- scientists may be able to reconstruct the life of the individual by tracing his diet, nutrition, disease, even the cause of death.

Politicians, Lewis says, have begun to appreciate the potential of such knowledge. Charged with an obligation to protect prehistory, Broward County commissioners and staff like to keep Lewis around during public meetings to answer questions, should any arise about precious sites.

At the huge county government building downtown, Lewis is suffering silently through hours of bickering among homeowners, county commissioners, and lawyers representing the powerful South Florida developer, WCI, Inc.

Dressed crisply in sports jacket and penny loafers, his shirt starched, his trousers neatly creased, the archaeologist leans restlessly against a wall of the commission chambers, listening. Officials may require his expertise to answer questions about the archaeology at Cagle's Hammock in Coral Springs, the site of a WCI development of hundreds of single-family homes.

Hour after hour the developer's lawyers and angry homeowners debate WCI's decision to build condominiums in the development; residents thought they had won a promise that only single-family homes would be added to undeveloped acreage there. They were wrong, apparently.

None of that affects Lewis directly. He attends the meeting because once, long before such a debate, prehistoric people had lived and died where the comfortable homes now stand. Should planners, homeowners, or commissioners who will ultimately decide the issue seek answers about protected sites in the development, Lewis will offer them.

None of the debaters raises archaeological questions, but homeowners bring the historic ground into the debate anyway. They point out that WCI plans call for building across one end of an archaeologically significant site in the development, so designated in the past by Lewis. Equipped with a special slide show, they note that trees in the protected area will be destroyed under the WCI plan.

Lewis says nothing, eventually stepping outside the meeting to light a cigarette.

"It sounds like a bad deal for those homeowners, but their arguments have nothing to do with me," he says. "The only trees that would be destroyed are exotics, which would have to be destroyed anyway." The developer's plans do not call for building on protected history, which would violate the law. By 5 p.m. the meeting still hasn't ended, and a frustrated Lewis continues to sneak outside for cigarettes.

Finally he glances south a couple hundred yards toward the New River, flanked by one of Fort Lauderdale's proudest tourist adornments, the Riverwalk. He can't resist a stroll, or an escape: a chance to have another look at the Hyde Park Market.

Lewis demonstrates the site's importance by approaching the market on foot from the west, just as Native Americans whose names disappeared before the dawn of memory might have done -- just as the Tequesta or the Seminole did, too. What lured them to live and hunt along the river, of course, was the value of the terrain. Even as late as a century ago, people of the New River found abundance of food, one of the obvious reasons Lewis and Bob Carr grow excited at the mention of Hyde Park Market.

"Rushing in and out with the tide, at New River, fishes can be seen by the thousands, which snap at anything, even a bit of rag tied to the hook and thrown to them by a strong hand line. We took [fish] from ten to thirty pounds here," wrote an explorer named Henshall in 1884.

Nowadays value defined in dollars instead of food sources and dry ground lures developers. The highest real-estate values in Broward County history exist in the area -- higher even than values along the beach. One piece of downtown property at Las Olas Boulevard and Andrews Avenue, 100 feet by 75 feet, brought $1.5 million last year, a fact that Lewis tries to ignore when he considers protecting a site where developers want to build. His job is archaeology, not anxiety about slowing down progress, he insists.

Such profiteering on the part of developers is not by itself the enemy of archaeology, in Lewis' opinion. "I'm not against development, not at all," he explains. "People have to live, and they have a right to make money on their property. But I'm sorry about the way this was done."

He points to the set red bricks that form the five-foot-wide Riverwalk. To an untrained eye, they look no more dangerous to prehistory or history than the Hyde Park Market. Less so, in fact, since the market forms an imposing square of concrete and cement on a wide sheet of asphalt. But the difference is defined by the construction methods, now hidden to the eye.

Under the Riverwalk -- under buildings erected since the 1970s -- developers gouged deeply to prepare the ground, Lewis says. Their techniques probably destroyed any chance for significant findings.

At Hyde Park Market, the chance for a major find will depend upon the care of crews charged with destroying the building and parking lot, then preparing the site for new development. Whenever that occurs -- no date has been set -- Lewis intends to watch. He expects crews to start work on the river side of the market by placing bulldozers next to the water. The machines will peel up the asphalt like skin, he says, then move backward to repeat the process. At several predetermined spots, archaeologists will take deep samples, looking through layers of earth for evidence: shards of pottery from different stages of prehistoric Florida; the bones of food items that suggest what people ate; perhaps objects that come from elsewhere in the state, indicating trade; possibly human bones. The lot and building's rubble itself, meanwhile, will be hauled off to expose "a fairly clean site," Lewis hopes.

He bases that hope on intuition and circumstantial evidence that dates back several decades. In 1980 when Miami Circle archaeologist Bob Carr was a fledging detective of old bones in both Broward and Dade counties, he wandered along the New River with a shovel and spade, conducting a quick look at what had happened there in previous millenniums.

He saw nothing but a huge, untapped potential for learning. "All the uplands that bound the New River were an extensive prehistoric activity area [for] transportation and resources," Carr wrote. "Indian artifacts and food or refuse could be recovered from most any cubic yard of natural upland soil that was adjacent to the river."

Like most archaeologists working in urban settings, Carr also ran into some trouble. In the New River neighborhoods west of the now-prominent Broward Center For the Performing Arts, Carr had to go door to door, asking permission to take a shovel into the back yards of homeowners.

Recounting this effort, Carr wrote, "there was another owner who would not even permit access to his property to check the spoil from his septic tank excavations. He claimed with almost a sadistic glee he had uncovered large quantities of the prehistoric shell midden. Fortunately this attitude was the exception rather than the rule." A midden is simply a hill of refuse. For the native people who lived in South Florida for more than 8000 years, middens often rose of discarded oyster or clam shells.

In the same neighborhood, Carr also found a huge site. Between Southwest 9th and 11th avenues, just west of the Broward Center For the Performing Arts, he discovered "a nice midden 40 meters wide and 300 meters long" -- roughly the length of three football fields.

All of that information excites Lewis, lending credence to his intuition about the market, he says.

As a scientist Lewis calls himself "a method man." He means a scientific method that relies on empirical evidence, a method that draws no conclusion until a series of facts or figures present themselves that point unmistakably to a truth. But intuition is also part of the science of archaeology -- the artistic part, according to Lewis. He practiced that intuition in declaring the market site worthy of legal protection and research.

"I didn't pick Hyde Park because I figure I can get in there and just nose around, cause people trouble," he explains, laughing. Instead the reasons for excavating it are "everywhere," both in Carr's 20-year-old report and in the appearance of the landscape. Nevertheless those reasons don't amount to empirical evidence plucked from the soil, a fact which appears to make Lewis nervous. He wants hard evidence of a little-known culture, but he doesn't yet have it. Instead, Lewis explains, everywhere he looks downtown he spots riverfront ground where the voices of the lost "almost shout and wave, 'Here, we're here.'"

The New River, rich with life for thousands of years, is the key to that imaginary voice. Deep from channeling but essentially unchanged in its winding course from the west, the river executes a graceful turn a couple of hundred yards west of the market. Dark water shimmers, and Lewis turns his gaze upstream, to the south bank. "Right there where that live oak is," he says, pointing to an embankment. "That could be a site." Passing tourists clad in shorts and sandals glance to see what Lewis has spotted. They see a vacant lot. They do not see, apparently, the slight rise in ground that suggests a high place, created naturally by the sweep of water from the upriver bend, where dirt was swept onto the point Lewis studies.

A couple of Germans stand behind him and try to listen; others board a double-decker riverboat that offers guided tours of the current culture. Those tours include only brief mentions of "history" -- always the history of the Seminole Indian Wars in the 1830s and 1840s, when Maj. William Lauderdale set up camp on the river, and only a brief mention of the name Tequesta.

In sight of the boat, Hyde Park Market is doing good business in the late afternoon -- shoppers stream out the sliding doors to heft bags of groceries into their cars. "I figure it this way," Lewis announces, studying the well-fed cavalcade of food gatherers: "People have been doing that for a long time here, we're about to find out."

Contact Roger Williams at his e-mail address:


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