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Archaeologists finalizing report on House of Taga work

The archaeologists are close to finalizing their report on the archaeological work near the House of Taga on Tinian that unearthed human remains predating Magellan’s expedition by 200 years.

Dr. Mike T. Carson and his wife Dr. Hsiao-chun Hung of Australia National University are looking forward to coming back to Tinian and sharing their report with the government and the community.

Carson told Variety, “For the House of Taga research, we now have all the completed professional illustrations of the pottery and other artifacts. We are organizing the chapters for a complete report-book.”

He said that as planned previously, they will make the results available for free to the public.

“Our only other concern is to work with the CNMI Historic Preservation Office, CNMI Museum, Tinian Mayor’s Office, and others to develop a good long-term solution for the storage and curation of the artifacts and other excavated materials,” said Carson.

He said this part may need some time “for everyone to have a chance to consider various courses of action, work on funding sources, and so on.”

In early 2013, the Carson-Hung couple — who have been working on early human settlements in the Marianas — uncovered five ancient human burials north of the House of Taga.

Among these bones, it was earlier confirmed to Variety by Carson that a tooth they uncovered at the site was 700 years old based on radiocarbon dating.

This tooth has a radiocarbon date of about 1300 A.D. “plus or minus some decades.”

This tooth was associated with a set of skeletal remains of a 7- to 8-year-old child, among remains of other individuals found by the Carson couple on Tinian.

Dr. Carson and Dr. Hung worked with Taiwanese anthropologist Dr. Hsiuman Lin of the Taiwan National Museum of Prehistory on this latest set of human remains.

These human remains found near the House of Taga were associated with the layer corresponding to the latte-building era.

Back in 2011, the couple also found remains of six individuals in the area where Fr. Marcian Pellett found a deeply buried ancient archaeological site in the 1950s that revealed finely decorated pottery, the earliest produced in the Marianas.

The establishment of human settlements in the Marianas over 3,500 years ago required long-distance migration and may perhaps have involved the longest ocean-crossing in human history.

Prior to their study, it was earlier thought that the first remote island settlement was built in Melanesia and Polynesia some 3000-2800 years ago.

Dr. Carson and Dr. Hsiao-chun Hung saw a pottery trail that extends from Northern Philippines to the Marianas where the oldest trace was in the Philippines from about 3800 years ago or earlier.

The couple found pottery in the northern Philippines and in the Marianas that had the same design motifs and were made at the same time 3,500 years ago.

Carson earlier told Variety that the decorative pottery style first appeared in the Philippines at least 3800 years ago but this style surfaced in the Marianas for the first time about 3500 years ago.

Pending funding, the couple will return to Tinian to continue their work.

Moreover, they also continue to work closely with the Historic Preservation Office, the Tinian Mayor’s Office and the CNMI government

Dr. Carson is a research associate at the University of Guam’s Micronesia Area Research Center.

He has been doing archaeological work in the Marianas for over a decade.

His book “First Settlement of Remote Oceania” was recently published by Springer and is available at http://www.fishpond.com.au.

His wife, Dr. Hsiao-chun Hung, is a teacher and researcher at the Australia National University.

Dr. Hung has been studying human settlements in Asia and the Pacific. She began her work in the northern Philippines back in 1995.

Their work on Tinian was funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation and Australian Research Council.