Marianas Variety Guam Edition – The Local and Regional Newspaper

12 23Sat04192014

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Research reveals ancient Chamorros’ resourcefulness

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(SAIPAN)—The vast Pacific Ocean was for many ancient island communities what the Nile River was to Egypt — the source of life.

Dr. James M. Bayman, an archaeologist and professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said there is abundant evidence that ancient Chamorros were extremely resourceful people who easily adapted to their marine environment.

Bayman conducted a study on the aftermath of Spanish colonialism and Latte household organization in Chamorro society.

UH and the University of Guam jointly undertook the project, according to Dr. Hiro Kurashina, an archaeologist and emeritus director of the Micronesian Area Research Center of UOG.

“This is very important and significant in that this is the first time that the UOG worked with a noted archaeologist, Dr. Bayman. We’re trying to educate the next generation of archaeologists. To train the local Chamorro people and other students so that they can do research regarding the history of the region,” Kurashina told the Variety after a public lecture on Tuesday at American Memorial Park.

Bayman, who authored numerous books about archaeology, said there are certain parallelisms between the ancient Chamorro and Egyptian societies despite their different environments.

He said if ancient Egypt had pyramids, the ancient Chamorros had Latte stones.

“I would say it’s certainly at par with any society,” he added, referring to ancient Chamorros.

The Latte stones were used in the ancient times to support household structures. There’s also evidence that they were used as tombs.

Living in a marine setting, Chamorros used Tridacna shells as tools, musical instruments and even containers, Bayman said.

“They were extremely resourceful in adapting to their maritime environment,” he added. “The fact that they had buildings with multi-functions showed how creative they were.”

“I would hope that anybody in the community, both Chamorro and non-Chamorro, better appreciate the rich pre-history of the Marianas. In certain things, you can only learn through archaeology, because  the Spanish — they were the first Europeans to come after Magellan in this part of the Pacific — the Spanish records were incomplete, sporadic and biased in some cases, and so archaeology offers the best hope of filling in those little pieces and information,” Bayman said.

His study, which covered two adjacent Latte buildings within a single Spanish-period village in the Ritidian Unit of the Guam National Wildlife Refuge, indicated that the traditional Chamorro households included multiple buildings so that certain domestic activities were spatially segregated.

Bayman said the Chamorro society household organization shared similarities with ancestral Polynesian society.

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