Marianas Variety

Last updateWed, 25 Jul 2018 12am







    Monday, July 23, 2018-9:29:37A.M.






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Taiwanese anthropologist examining House of Taga burial remains

THE skeletal remains uncovered at a site near the House of Taga on Tinian are being examined by an anthropologist from Taiwan.

Dr. Mike T. Carson and his wife Dr. Hsiao-chun Hung from Australian National University in Canberra continue to work at the archaeological site on Tinian where they uncovered human remains in Dec. 2011 and Feb. 2013.

Carson told Variety, “This year, we again found only partial remains of another five burial features. Again, they had been disturbed either during or after WW II activities.”

He said all of the burial features are within a layer of sediment that can be associated with a period roughly 400-600 years ago.

“This year, another physical anthropologist, Dr Hsiuman Lin (Taiwan National Museum of Prehistory) is studying the current findings,” said Carson.

In Dec. 2011, the couple began research on the earliest known human habitation in the Marianas in the area north of the House of Taga on Tinian. The couple, who will remain on Tinian for the next three weeks, has been conducting a study 100 feet inland and north of the House of Taga on Tinian where Fr. Marcian Pellett found a deeply buried ancient archaeological site deposit in the 1950s.

The archaeologists based in Australia found partial human remains in the area where Fr. Pellett unearthed finely decorated pottery — the earliest pottery of the Marianas.

Caron said, “Last year, we found partial remains of six burials. Each had been disturbed previously, either during or after WW II. That is why we find only partial remains.”

He explained how they determined the date of the disturbance at the site. “We know the date of the disturbance because of the intrusive pits that had been dug down into the burials. These later pits contained recent materials that we know must date to the 1940s through 1970s.”

Carson said the partial skeletal remains they discovered last year were studied by physical anthropologist Dr Hirofumi Matsumura of Saporro Medical University, in Japan.

Based on the report prepared by Carson and Hung, the skeletal remains were dug up in Dec. 2011 from three burial pits and were the remains of six individuals.

The report also indicated that the remains were those of two males, two females and one of undetermined sex.

According to Dr. Matsumura’s analysis, the remains consisted of post-cranial fragments and one tooth possibly from a woman 35-55 years old; lower limbs — except fibula (calf bone) and most of tibia (shank bone) — feet, partial ribs, and partial lumbar vertebrae from a male 20-50 years old; unidentifiable portions of limb-bones from a child less than two years old; partial left maxilla, partial ribs and vertebrae, partial hand-bones, partial lower limbs from an 18-30-year-old female; occipital bone, right-side arm and hand-bones, partial ribs and vertebrae, lower-limb-bones from an 18-30-year-old female; and partial ribs, pelvis, lumbar vertebrae, sacrum (triangular bone at base of spine), left ulna (elbow bone), a few ribs and foot bones from a 40-60-year-old male.

As to the most recently discovered skeletal remains, Carson said these are being studied by Dr. Hsiuman Lin from Taiwan.

The research being conducted by Carson and Hung is funded by the Chiang Ching Kuo Foundation and the Australia Research Council.

Carson and his wife, Dr. Hung, are both affiliated with the Australian National University, and are working closely with the CNMI Historic Preservation Office and the Tinian Mayor’s Office.

As to the current archaeological site near the House of Taga, Carson and Hung noted in their Dec. 2012 report, “The location of the House of Taga latte ruins unquestionably marks one of the most important sites in the region for studies of the latte period of the last approximately 1000 years, but the area about 30 m landward (north) of the ruins bears a different but equally exceptional potential for research of the earliest settlement period dated 3500-3000 years ago.”

With regard to the decorated pottery pieces, Carson and Hung stated in their report on their 2011 work that the pottery fragments found north of the House of Taga hold out the promise of “finding a larger representative assemblage, potentially invaluable for regional research and long-lasting cultural heritage value.”

They also believe that there exists a connection between the Northern Philippines and the Marianas some 3000 – 3500 years ago.

“The pottery vessel forms, use of red slip with white lime in-fill, and choice of decorative motifs all point to an origin in the Philippines. The same pottery-making repertoire is found at Philippine sites dated as early as 1800 BC. This same pottery style appeared with the first settlement sites in the Marianas, including the House of Taga site, following 1800 BC,” stated Carson and Hung in their report.

The couple will be providing reports to the CNMI government and to their funding agencies at the conclusion of their study.

Carson said the Northern Marianas Humanities Council is organizing a public lecture at the American Memorial Park on March 16 where they will share with the members of the community their recent work in the area close to the House of Taga on Tinian.