Marianas Variety

Last updateSat, 25 May 2019 12am







    Saturday, May 25, 2019-9:10:12P.M.






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Still no plan for re-interring ancient human remains found at Garapan hotel project site

DEPARTMENT of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter said there is still no concrete plan for the re-internment of the ancient human remains found at the Best Sunshine hotel project site in Garapan.

“That there are no concrete plans is true,” he said. “We have been meeting with involved parties and agencies to discuss possibilities, in addition to the hearing that was held some time ago. Right now we’re focused on seeing that all of the work that needs to be done on the various collections from the site is accomplished and that the reports are completed. That will still take some time, and we aren’t looking at re-interment until after this completion of work. In the meantime we will be working with the various governmental and involved parties to formulate plans and shore up resources necessary for the re-interment.”

Variety asked Hunter for his comments regarding the independent review made by University of Hawaii’s Dr. James Bayman on the draft report prepared by Scientific Consulting Services which was contracted by Best Sunshine for its hotel project.

Robert HunterRobert Hunter

Variety learned that the Historic Preservation Office has the following policy for the treatment of human remains found in the CNMI: “In cases where remains are exhumed in advance of public or private construction projects, the Division of Historic Preservation shall require the responsible party to dedicate land within the development for reburial. They will ensure that no further disturbance to this area is allowed. In most instances, such reburial sites will be marked with appropriate memorial and interpretive devices.”

In an email, Hunter said: “The review of draft reports is the common practice where the HPO solicits an outside source to review and make comment on the draft report before it is finalized/accepted. A report is produced for every significant archaeological project that is undertaken, and a review of the draft follows.”

Variety learned that the HPO solicited outside sources for the review of reports, like Bayman, because the office lacked an archaeologist on staff. But the HPO now has an archaeologist on staff and can review reports in-house.

“In this case,” Hunter said, “because of the scope of the project, it is my understanding that [Scientific Consulting Services] submitted a ‘preliminary’ draft report in order to submit information to the HPO as quickly as possible (and called it a ‘preliminary draft’ for just that reason). Archaeological firms are granted a period to address the findings of the review, and this is the case with [Scientific Consulting Services]. They have through September 15 to address the review. Their revised report will be reviewed following its submission.”  

Bayman’s review of Scientific Consulting Services’ draft report was addressed to Mertie Kani, head of the CNMI Historical Preservation Office.

The review spelled out five general statements regarding the Scientific Consulting Services’ archaeological data recovery report which was prepared by David Perzinski, B.A., Christopher King, Ph.D, Willa Trask, Ph.D, Joseph Farrugia, M.A. and Michael Dega, Ph.D and undertaken from April 4 to June 30, 2016.

One of Bayman’s main concerns was that the report did not consolidate previous archaeological findings done on the site which is considered to be an exceedingly significant archaeological site in the Mariana Islands and the Pacific region.

According to Bayman, “A fundamental limitation of the current project by Perzinski et al. 2016 is the fact that previous projects in the area by Swift and Harper Archaeological Research Consulting [or SHARC] between 1996 and 1999 recovered a total of 260 sets of human remains, 53 archaeological features, and a rich assemblage of artifacts and cultural materials have not yet been fully analyzed and reported. This prior project was undertaken at a site…that yielded archaeological and documentary evidence of a village occupation that spanned the Latte Period through the Spanish Mission Period.”

Bayman added, “The current project by Perzinski et al. 2016 cannot be responsibly completed and reported unless (and until) the human remains and cultural materials that were recovered by the previous SHARC projects in the area are fully analyzed and reported. The analyses by SHARC should include osteological studies, wood identification and radiocarbon dating, macro-botanical analysis, faunal analyses, and artifact assemblage analyses. Finally, human remains from both projects should receive reburial according to the Procedures for the Treatment of Human Remains in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.”