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Last updateFri, 22 Nov 2019 12am







    Thursday, November 21, 2019-5:14:06A.M.






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Former KHS student among archaeologists digging in Garapan

AN alumna of Kagman High School is at the forefront of a major discovery in Garapan as she joins the team of experts excavating at Best Sunshine’s proposed casino site.

Vanessa Cabrera, a graduate of Kagman High School in 2007, is pleased to be taking part in what others refer to as the biggest archaeological dig in Saipan’s history.

Vanessa CabreraVanessa Cabrera

Cabrera, whose family resides in Tanapag, is excited about the ongoing excavation work in Garapan as it will allow her to learn more about her roots.

Cabrera, who has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, is currently working on completing her graduate studies in archaeology at the University of Guam.

“I am from here. I just moved to Guam for my studies,” said Cabrera.

She joins the elite few from the islands who specialized in archaeology.

Her thesis proposal focuses on the pre-Contact Period Chamorro and Carolinians.

She was pleased that she was given the opportunity to work at the site and collaborate with the experts in the region.

“I am half Chamorro and half Carolinian. I want to learn about my roots — to learn more about where I came from and share what our people were doing before,” she said.

But at the site in Garapan, she is not just an archaeologist; she is also an indigenous person who would like to pay homage to her ancestors who were there.

Cabrera said she treats the site with reverence and prays for the ancestors laid there in the ancient burials.

While she is excited over the prospect of finding artifacts and human burials, Cabrera is aware that she has to be respectful at the site.

“I am very excited brushing off the bones but, at the same time, I am apologizing,” she said.

When asked if she knew she was among the few from the islands who had gone into archaeology and anthropology, Cabrera said she was not aware.

“I never really thought about that. I just told my family that I wanted to do archaeology,” she said.

But venturing into archaeology was not an overnight decision.

It was while in seventh Grade at Mt. Carmel that Cabrera’s life took an interesting turn.

“We were watching a documentary on Pompeii,” she said.

The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius left the city of Pompei in ruins, and this engendered an indelible interest in Cabrera to read more about the city that was engulfed in lava.

“After that I went to the library. I kept browsing,” she said.

This interest would lead her to earn a degree in anthropology and soon, a master’s degree in archaeology.

At the Garapan site, Cabrera has found two ancient burials.

“I want to work with burials, that way I can learn what’s associated with them, and this will tell me what they ate, how they lived,” she said.

They have found fish bones, fish hooks, potsherds, and beads all suggestive of Pre-Contact culture.

“I am hoping I’ll find more burials,” said Cabrera.

The archaeological dig touted as the biggest in Saipan history owing to the massive area to be excavated is anticipated to yield significant artifacts from the Pre-Contact period.

The area is about 40,000 sq. m.

It is more than twice the size of the Nakamoto hotel footprint.

Earlier work at the Nakamoto site found 260 burials.

Cabrera looks forward to finding more pottery that will help her determine if the site is Latte or Pre Latte.

She said she is interested in Lapita pottery, and how it relates them to other places in Southeast Asia.

There have been studies that point to the pottery trail from the northern Philippines to the Marianas — a trail of evidence to support a hypothesis that the first settlers were originally from the northern Philippines or elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

“Decorated potsherds would be a good find,” said Cabrera who is also working with fellow indigenous John Castro.

As tedious as the job is, Cabrera is thankful to the experts she works with at the site led by Dr. Michael Dega.

The dig at Garapan is expected to last through June.

Variety earlier reported that the site could not be any older than 1,000 years old.

But the site may yield artifacts and human remains that could shed more light on the nature of Pre-Contact Chamorro settlements.

It is also hoped that the excavation will reveal evidence to corroborate the existence of a Spanish colonial village which continues to elude experts.

Whatever they find at the site, there are idividuals of Northern Marianas descent like Cabrera at the forefront of this major discovery.