Ineyak / kuttura

Live-blogging the Mike Carson presentation on Litekyan archaeological sites

UOG CLASS Lecture Hall


Sea levels were higher 3000 years ago, Guam MUCH narrower in middle, beaches are buried far inland from today’s coastland to find 3000+-year-old sites.  Mike Carson.  Steep clifflines in south coming right down to the ocean.  Different coral reefs than are present today were growing back then.  Pottery changed over time, type of shellfish eaten, different shell ornaments, different adzes.  Pottery main indicator because we find so much of it.  Adjustment 2700-2000 years ago, very diff. coastal ecology, sea levels dropped significantly.  People lived in different ecological niches at Litekyan.  Coastal plain grew, stabilized, sea level no longer dropping rapidly.  1500 years BP the coral reef in existence today began growing healthily and we saw signs of people adjusting to that and taking advantages of lagoon waters. Previous one died off.  1000-500 years BP – latte period.  Latte sites everywhere, Litekyan is just covered with evidence of human habitation.  Long-time habitation must be emphasized.  At the Litekyan refuge, we see all of the periods of Chamorro history represented in one place.  How did the Chamorros adjust to changes in sea level?  Why did they come here in the first place, 3500+ years ago?  Long-term view must be emphasized.  How human civilization has adjusted and evolved on its own and overcome so many challenges.  How did this group of people survive for so long and still maintain the culture we see today?  Archaeology is one way only of looking at the past: it’s a group effort with biology, cultural practicioners, language specialists . . . 

Andy Laguaña as an architect on how the latte houses were built.  The houses may have been for other purposes than we think of houses today.  Guam Historic Preservation Office assisted as well.  At least 15 sets of latte houses in really good condition, pillar and tasa visible, shape of house distinguished.  Each has its own design, more tapered, thicker, etc.  The personal style each family, group, house had.  Mr. Laguaña pointed out the socket in the bottom of some tasa which may have helped protect against destabilization due to typhoons or high winds.  Socket would roll but not fall down — working well with latte more tapered toward the top.  Haligi with small V-shape notch and small cobbles, to be braced in place on the ground.  Maybe there were types of patios.   

Inventorying the items at the latte sites.

Three-dimensional digital recording of sites, just using a simple digital camera and sequencing the shots.  Make it accessible to anyone on any side of the world.  Images can be manipulated in any direction.  The software used is free, available to anyone. 

Some archaeological sites are protected, need to be respected. Make proper arrangements ahead of time but do go visit. The cultural resources now are integrated into the system of management.  This knowledge we are gaining needs to be given out to the public to pursue the questions they find interesting.

Audience question — how many homes were found in the village?  Response: In eastern side of refuge where they are clustered, 15 very clear and more that are unclear (maybe six of those).

Question – pattern in positioning of columns?  — Response: Houses are always the long axis, with the down slope on the other side, going toward the ocean (usually) except where ground is uneven and at a bit of an angle.  Mostly parallel with ocean.

The most common and numerous item found was “unbelievable amounts” of broken pottery.  Stone tools, adzes, shell adzes, only one slingstone found so far, broken (“possibly in action”), etc.

Question — what is the plan for the site? — Response: Dr. Carson has plans to continue his more than ten-year work there, that’s all.  Has just now started working on the eastern side of the refuge and wants to continue.

Questions – any ancestral remains found? will these sites be protected with the proposed firing range etc.?  — Response: Dr. Carson tries to avoid disturbing burial remains, doesn’t believe they should be disturbed, let people rest.  Found part of a shoulder blade unexpectedly under a latter house area.  Excavation is done very gently, it was documented and left in place.  Follow the rules, be respectful.  — Re: military: the surface danger zone will effectively shut off access to all the refuge area.  The latte sites — no idea if they will be damaged by bullets and so on.

Question — cave carvings — any relationships between them and the latte stones on Guam?  — Response: excellent question, cannot date rock art with any certainty.  It does tend to be found near latte period archaeological material but also sometimes near much older, deeper material.  Cave carvings appear only in very special circumstances.  Three colors: white (calcium carbonate, probably lime like for chewing betelnut but with some kind of organic binder, maybe breadfruit sap?), black (burned organic material, like charcoal, organic binder), red or reddish brown (red clay or hematite, organic binder).  Could be other materials used as well.  No study has been done yet with sampling of pigments and professional laboratory analysis.  Probably now is not the best time, cannot analyze without destroying it.

Question — what is the ratio for Pre-Latte to Latte artifacts?  What are the markers of a Pre-Latte settlement? — Response: 90% is Latte, in terms of what we know about Marianas archaeology.  Anything older than that is below ground, not visible above the surface.  Need to be able to read the landscape and understand if this is a place with deep sediment or not, geological processes, changing sea level and sedimentation etc.  Markers: 2000-3000 years ago — was it above sea level at that time?  In past 5-10 years we have learned so much more about Pre-Latte sites.  A period of 2500 years — multiple distinct periods — must think beyond just the one Pre-Latte period.

Question from former Guam Senator Hope Cristobal in the audience — in 1994, transfer of Litekyan from Department of Defense to Department of the Interior.  The land was not going to be ever returned to the original landowners.  Then-Congressman Robert Underwood protested vehemently and so did Sen. Cristobal.  The U.S. military does not give proper information on the work it is doing on these sites, in terms of Section 106, mitigation of destruction to latte site if firing range goes on.  Are you doing mitigation work that can be used by the military to satisfy Sec. 106 and people of Guam have not properly been informed.  Your permit is from the Feds, not the government of Guam.  GovGuam has its policies.  You tried not to dig or desecrate our burial sites, but the lattes ARE associated with burial sites, everyone knows it.  You have dug about seven feet down already, invasive archaeological work, we need to know as consulting parties what would happen to the funerary objects, the burial remains, once you have it in your work.  The people of Guam need to know this, you should follow GovGuam guidelines, and your permit should come from GovGuam.  Local oversight, not just the federal government.  The Flores & Aguero families continue to claim their original lands and they have never been respected.  What have you done to respect the families?

— Response: Dr. Carson agrees with almost everything former Sen. Cristobal has said.  He got a GovGuam permit, renewed 2006-2009 and was finally told did not have to keep renewing it.  Whether we like it or not, U.S. Fish and Wildlife is the designated agency.  He does consult with the local preservation office.  There are multiple opportunities for people to be involved and to consult with the different parties such as former Sen. Cristobal and others.  He has tried to keep his process open and be respectful and wants to correct any problem.  No funerary objects found.  No burial remains removed at all.  Most of the non-burial items stay at the site.  No need to remove anything for most of the time.  Deeper excavations — no human remains found, layers of ancient sand and then archaeological layers.  No interest in burials or ancestral remains.  Do take some materials, prepare for curation, hopefully for Guam Museum if ready, BUT do need to follow U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulations.

Question: what kind of population density is indicated?  — Response: at least a few hundred people — best guess — so many latte destroyed or lost or so ruined that cannot clearly identify a total number.  Not sure how many people would live in each house.  Could be far more — this guess is on the conservative side.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s