CNMI Archaeological Dig Yet To Find Evidence Of Spanish Settlement

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Researchers also look for signs of ancient Chamorro village on Saipan

By Alexie Villegas Zotomayo

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 6, 2015) – In undertaking what is believed to be the largest archaeological dig in Saipan history, the team of experts led by Dr. Mike Dega is not only looking to find empirical evidence of an ancient Chamorro village in the former Samoan Housing area, but also a Spanish-era settlement.

Based on preliminary reports, Dega said they were not able to find links to a Spanish settlement.

"There was some evidence prior to the dig that the area could have housed a Spanish settlement. At present, there is no evidence for such claim. However, we have not yet finished our analyses," he said.

His team has been commissioned by Saipan casino investor Best Sunshine, and their work is not yet done.

"We have just submitted a suite of charcoal to the laboratory for dating," said Dega adding that results will be available sometime this month.

"We have also submitted five samples for DNA testing to a different laboratory. If the lab testing is successful, we should have those results by late October."

He added, "We are focusing on two areas of the site that contained a deep and rich cultural layer. These were in the central/eastern portion of the project area and in the northwestern corner."

The dig has already turned up interesting finds for the team.

Aside from unearthing 157 sling stones, they also found the remains of a World War II American soldier.

"We do not yet have the dating results," Dega said, "but based on the data recovery effort, significant contributions to the history of Saipan will be made from this project. Without the support of Best Sunshine over the many months of excavating, much information on the history of the island, the CNMI, and beyond would have been lost."

He said the excavation data will help "provide a solid chronology of Garapan occupation, probably from AD 1100 through modern times. The data will provide many answers."

As for the artifacts and burial sites, he said they are being curated on Saipan in a climate-controlled space set up by Best Sunshine."

Dega said Best Sunshine understands the significance of the site and the importance of historic preservation, adding that he is grateful that they have had the opportunity to work and fully understand a complex and very intriguing site such as the former Samoan Housing area where the casino investor wants to construct a hotel.

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