War in the Pacific
Archelogy and History of Guam
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6. Historical and Archeological Research On the Marianas Islands

The first historical narrative concerned largely with the Marianas is Father Garcia's life of Father Sanvitores, the leader of the Jesuit missionary group of 1668. This very important source was published in Madrid in 1683; translations to English of portions or it appeared in the Guam Recorder in 1936-39. Very few other published studies have been devoted specifically to the history of Guam, or of the Marianas Islands as a group, though much historical information is to be found in Safford's Useful Plants of Guam and other general works, and in the pre-war Guam Recorder (contributions particularly by Commander P. J. Searles). At present, the Guam Historical Society, under the vigorous leadership of Mr. P. B. Souder, is conducting a systematic program of collecting information on all phases of the history of Guam; and Father Julius Sullivan, O.F.M. Cap., the parish priest at Inarajan, is working on the history of the islands with particular reference to missionary efforts and the work of the church, and has already produced a series of notably well-written newspaper articles on dramatic events of 1666 to 1675 or so.

Probably the first definite archeological observation in the Marianas (as against ethnological notes of 1521 on, which included reference as late as 1565 to stone pillars then in use as house supports) is Lord Anson's description and sketch of the very large stone columns (the House of Taga) on Tinian, which he visited in 1742.

The memoirs, published in 1870, of Don Felipe de la Corte (Governor of the Marianas 1855-66) also describe this great and famous ruin. De la Corte remarks, "In Guam I have not seen a single cone [vertical member] more than 4 feet high, or hemisphere whose diameter exceeded 2 feet * * * In Guam, Rota, and Saipan the latte pillars consist only of two rough-hewn stones, one cone-shaped and the other a half-sphere placed on top of it, both of them together being not higher than 5 feet from the ground * * * [describes the House of Taga] * * * In the interior of Tinian I have seen other pyramids 5 and 6 feet tall, larger than any I have discovered on Guam." The quarry of As Nevis on Rota evidently was not known or noted at this time; it is said to have been discovered (i.e., first reported) by Hornbostel in 1924.

Messrs. Safford and, later, Searles, and others, included mention or description of latte sites in their general works or nontechnical articles on the Marianas (e.g., W E. Safford, "Guam and Its People," American Anthropologist 4-4, October-December 1902, reprinted in the Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for 1902, Washington, 1903, as well as his Useful Plants of Guam, 1906; a sensational journalistic, travelers '-tales article by Searles, "Mystery Monuments of the Marianas" in Scientific Monthly 146:385-391, Vol. XXV-No. 5, November 1927).

The only extensive and comparatively systematic archeological work before the war in the Marianas (except for whatever was done by Germans and, between wars, Japanese in the islands other than Guam, without, apparently, becoming known to American workers in the field) was that of Hans G. Hornbostel, who collected a great deal of material, mainly on Guam — in part by excavating himself, in part by paying local people to dig up and bring in specimens — and wrote descriptions and discussions of many sites. Hornbostel's notes and sketches, as well as the specimens he collected, are now in the Bishop Museum, of which he was designed a collaborator or local representative. These materials were studied and analyzed by Mrs. Laura M. Thompson, and her findings were published by the Museum in 1932 (Archaeology of the Marianas Islands, B. P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 100). The human skeletal remains were studied by Dr. F. Wood Jones (unpublished manuscript on "Skulls from Guam" in the Bishop Museum).

In 1944-46, James W. Brewer, Jr., of the National Park Service, was on Guam in a Naval Construction Battalion; he visited and photographed historic remains at Umatac, and elsewhere on the island. Soon after his return to the United States and to his civilian position in the National Park Service, Mr. Brewer endeavored to interest National Park Service officials, including myself, in the historic sites of Guam.

In 1945 and 1946, Douglas Osborne, archeologist, now of the University of Washington, was on Guam, as an officer in an MP battalion of the U. S. Marine Corps. He, and a few others interested, succeeded in carrying on extensive and systematic reconnaissance and test excavations, restored the latte groups at Gongna Cove., and collected archeological specimens, mainly potsherds, which Dr. Osborne later studied in detail (Osborne, ms., and 1947).

Since the war an integrated campaign in Micronesian and Melanesian archeology has been inaugurated by the Chicago Museum of National History and the University of California, including a major expedition to the Marianas Islands by Dr. Alexander Spoehr, of the Chicago (Field) Museum, in 1949-50. Dr. Spoehr's investigations, which included systematic excavations as well as survey and mapping, were concentrated on Saipan and Tinian, with a shorter stay on Rota and a brief visit to Guam. Dr. Spoehr's results are in process of analysis and publication.

Dr. Philip Drucker of the Smithsonian Institution has also visited Guam, while on active duty with the Navy and on assignment to Trust Territory administrative work. Finally, the present writer's survey in January-February 1952, though devoted largely to compilation of available data and survey of recreational possibilities and preservation needs, adds a small amount of new additional information archeological sites of Guam.

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Last Updated: 14-Feb-2004