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Sporting a Jimmy Johnson haircut and a bolo tie, Richard Hoagland gazes down at the Miami Circle from the Sheraton Hotel garage on Brickell Avenue. He has been one of the strongest advocates of saving the now nationally renowned ruin, appearing often in news accounts and demonstrations at the site. He's touted the discovery throughout the world over the Internet and on radio.
Hoagland's campaign does not stem simply from a love of archaeology. He believes the fenced-in, rubble-strewn site could be directly linked to a lost civilization, a coming apocalypse, and the planet Mars.
For those who haven't switched on a television or read a newspaper in the past two months, archaeologists believe the ruins on the Miami River likely formed part of a Tequesta Indian village. The owner of the land, developer Michael Baumann, would like to build apartments there. City and county governments are sparring in court over efforts to seize it; exploration has been suspended while legal issues are resolved.
The 53-year-old Hoagland dropped out of the University of Connecticut in the Sixties to become a curator at a space museum in Springfield, Massachusetts. Then he took a position as a consultant for CBS News, covering efforts to land a man on the moon. He left CBS after about a year but continued to work with museums and as a science writer for publications like Star and Sky, Science Digest, and American Way.
In the years that followed, his interest in some not-so-mainstream ideas grew: He was instrumental in getting NASA to carry plaques bearing greeting messages aboard spacecrafts, and popularizing the notion of the existence of life on one of Jupiter's moons. In 1983 he became convinced that pictures of Mars taken by a NASA Viking spacecraft revealed a humanlike face left by extraterrestrials as a message to Earthlings. The face, located in the Cydonia region of Mars's northern hemisphere, is about a mile long. It is not just any old mug, Hoagland asserts. It comprises ruins of an ancient civilization -- pyramids in fact.
Hoagland believes the Martian pyramids are constructed with a pentagonal geometry also found on Earth. This geometry is a universal language that might, according to Hoagland, contain a message on averting planetary destruction.
Ground zero for this universal geometry is near the city of Giza, in northern Egypt, where the Great Pyramids are found, he points out. Hoagland is a proponent of the idea that a grid of sacred sites based on the position of the pyramids exists. "One site will predict the location of others in terms of longitude and latitude," he asserts.
He has confirmed the Miami Circle's place on the grid, which also includes an Indian burial mound in Illinois, Stonehenge, and a similar site down the road from the English megaliths. According to Hoagland, all share the same geometry. They are also built in limestone, which has some unknown significance, possibly electromagnetic.
Together the sites tell the story of an ancient, advanced civilization that existed on Earth more than 10,000 years ago. "Something appears to have ... destroyed most of the technology and ... human memory of that epoch, leaving only a few scattered examples on this algorithm to piece the story back together," he relates.
A recent increase in the severity of storms could be a harbinger of a future calamity similar to the one that befell the ancient civilization, he explains. The weather changes are not owing to global warming, but are part of cyclical changes in the solar system.
Hoagland's interest in the site started months ago. He was planning a trip to South Florida when he heard about the discovery of the circle, the only known structure to be built in stone by the Tequesta. It instantly piqued his curiosity. Then Michael Morton, a self-described "archaeocryptographer," sent him evidence that the site might fit perfectly into the global grid. Through a newspaper clipping sent to him by a friend in Miami, Robin Falkou, Hoagland also learned of holes in the circle, which may have at one time held stones like Stonehenge. Convinced the find was significant, he packed his bag and headed for Miami.
Upon arrival in mid-January, he went to the site and discovered the developer's plans to build on top of it. "There was a chance that this was so much older than the Tequesta," he says. "I realized we had to keep it around."
On January 29 Hoagland appeared on Coast-to-Coast, a nationally syndicated late-night radio show hosted by Art Bell. Hoagland informed listeners of the Miami Circle's alleged significance. It wasn't his first appearance on the show, which focuses largely on paranormal activity. Hoagland provided the audience with fax numbers to the offices of politicians and media outlets. Bell's audience of security guards, secretaries, computer programmers, and truck drivers responded. Their efforts helped build momentum for the campaign to save the site.
Hoagland has spent the past month and a half living in a hotel in South Miami. Falkou, a statuesque redheaded doctor of Oriental medicine, has acted as Hoagland's unofficial assistant and chauffeur during his stay. He insists he will remain until he can explore the site.
"At the moment we are in good shape," he says. "We have everybody at war with everybody else. The circle is safe."
The multiplicity of groups interested in saving the circle don't know what to make of Hoagland.
"I think he is out to lunch," offers Bob Carr, Miami-Dade's official archaeologist and the man in charge of circle exploration. "But he's bright and I'm open-minded," he adds.
Carr plans to organize a seminar at the end of the month to be titled something like "Forbidden Science," where Hoagland and others can present their theories.
Hoagland gave Becky Roper Matkov, executive director of the Dade Heritage Trust, a book on Stonehenge. "I think [Hoagland] is pretty interesting," Matkov ventures.
NASA officials are blunt. "He is one very smart man and not for a second do I think he really believes in all this crap that he is peddling," says George Alexander, a spokesman at the administration's jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, California. "I think he is just doing his shtick to put bread on the table."
This is what you would expect NASA to say, Hoagland explains. He points to a 38-year-old congressional report that questions whether the public should be told if extraterrestrial life is ever found as his "smoking gun." The government agency knows the truth, but won't reveal it. By carefully examining astronauts' memoirs, one can detect secret messages left by frustrated employees, he says.
For Hoagland the adventure of the Miami Circle has only just begun. He had the idea of posting real-time video of the circle on his organization's Website, www.enterprisemission.com, as well as on other Internet sites. And he has gathered electronic gear, including what he calls "ground-penetrating radar," to explore the area after the legal issues have been resolved.
"There is so little that we know of this global, ancient culture," Hoagland says wistfully. "We have little bits and pieces that hint [it] existed, but we desperately need more real data. This could provide an untouched site, never known before, to be explored with the full modality of modern science."