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Alaguan Bay Ancient Village.
This ancient Chamorro village is located in a heavily vegetated valley along
the southern coast of Rota. The village site is extremely rich in surface material,
very extensive covering about 25 acres, and contains more than 60 latte. Although
visited by several archeologists who attested to the abundance of the surface
scatters, the true size of the site and the number of latte present remained
unknown until an intensive survey was conducted in 1988. After weeks of survey
and substantial clearing in some areas, three 12-pillar, six 10-pillar, and
42 six- or eight-pillar latte were found. Based on the distribution of these
latte, seven distinct residential groups were identified by archeologists. A
subsequent two-phase excavation was undertaken to sample each of the seven residential
units. About 15 cubic yards of deposit were excavated. Based on the dating of
charcoal samples taken during the excavation, it was determined that Alaguan
was settled between 700 and 900 years ago.
The Alaguan Bay site is believed to be the largest, best preserved ancient Chamorro
village in the Mariana Archipelago. The site's isolation--surrounded by tall-canopy
limestone forest and inaccessible by roads--has allowed the archeological features
to remain in an excellent state of preservation.
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of the lands on Rota identified for agriculture homesteading projects have the
potential to adversely affect Mariana crow habitat, as well as the habitats
of other listed species. The MPLA, mindful the ESA prohibits non-federal entities
from taking listed species without an Incidental Take Permit (ITP), has applied
to the FWS for an ITP. To obtain this permit, the MPLA is required to prepare
and submit a HCP to the FWS.
A HCP is currently
being prepared to mitigate the issuance of permits for the development of
agricultural homestead lots on lands determined to be critical habitat for
the endangered Mariana crow. The HCP describes the expected level of take
to the Mariana crow and the conservation management actions that will be implemented
to minimize and mitigate that take. The HCP would preserve essential crow
habitat while allowing for economic development in ecologically responsible
Significant Prehistoric Sites
the HCP would identify the requirements for receiving an ITP from the FWS for
the Mariana crow and other listed species. Then, the FWS, the CNMI, and the
residents of Rota would all need to reach agreement on the habitat requirements
identified in the HCP in order for the permit application to be completed. If
the high value habitat areas where future development would be restricted fall
outside of identified conservation areas, then the CNMI would be required to
establish additional conservation areas elsewhere on the island. These conservation
areas would have to be managed to sustain and increase the populations of the
Mariana crow and other listed species according to criteria that would be defined
in the HCP's Management Plan.
conservation areas identified in the HCP fall on private property, land exchanges
or some other form of compensation would need to be made to local residents.
As part of this agreement process, mitigation would be
provided for proposed project impacts on Mariana crows and other species--this
mitigation would be in the form of long-term conservation and management of
habitat conservation areas. These conservation areas would be managed to sustain,
and possibly increase, the populations of the Mariana crow and other listed
species according to relevant recovery plans. If it turns out no agreement
is reached, the HCP could not be implemented and any development project within
endangered species habitat would be required to apply for an ITP.
MPLA and the DLNR are co-applicants for the ITP issued by the FWS. These government
agencies are referred to as the "Permit Applicants." The MPLA would
be responsible for implementing the HCP. The DLNR would be responsible for the
monitoring and management of the HCP.
The CNMI Board
of Public Lands has the authority to transfer public lands to the DLNR for
habitat conservation and the responsibility to ensure habitat conservation
outside of project areas in perpetuity. The DLNR's Division of Fish and Wildlife
would be the agency responsible for implementing the HCP Management Plan.
The FWS would be responsible for enforcing the provisions of the ITP, reviewing
annual status reports, and monitoring take.
has been described by professional archeologists as having the most numerous,
most intact, and generally the most unique prehistoric sites of any of the islands
in the Mariana Archipelago. The indigenous Chamorro people have continually
occupied the island for three millennia. For many Chamorros throughout the CNMI,
the island of Rota is considered to be their cultural home.
The social changes
and economic developments that took place and reshaped Guam and Saipan since
the end of World War II have had comparatively little effect on the island
of Rota. The absence of major and intensive military activities during and
after World War II and the lack of a large-scale tourism industry have permitted
Rota to retain many tangible aspects of its ancient cultural heritage. Rota
also contains the remains of civilian and military sites or features related
to the Japanese period and there are a few structures remaining going back
to the German period and the Spanish colonial period.
in the early 1970s, several surveys have been carried out by professional archeologists.
These surveys covered major portions of Rota. The earlier surveys tended to
be research oriented, while those occurring over the past 15 years have been
more concerned with the management of cultural resources. Two important sites,
the Mochon Latte Stone Village and Taga Latte Stone Quarry, have been surveyed
several times during which excavations were carried out. During one of the surveys
of Mochon, a small test pit was excavated at the base of one of the latte stones.
The charcoal sample taken from the near the bottom of the test pit revealed
an uncalibrated date of about 500 B.C.
surveys have taken place along a nearly contiguous stretch of the north coast
of Rota from Mochon west to Salug. Excavations have been carried out at most
of the sites along this coast. The surveys revealed the presence of several
different types of prehistoric features, including assemblages of latte, stone
quarries, pottery shards, rock shelters, and water wells. Burials were uncovered
at some of the sites.
issue now facing Rota is the federal requirements under the Endangered Species
Act (ESA) for the conservation of three endangered plant species, two endangered
bird species, and one threatened mammal species, the Mariana
fruit bat. These species and other rare plant, animal and invertebrate species
are all found on Rota. As noted, Rota's forests comprise some of the most intact
and extensive native primary forests remaining on any of the islands of the
Mariana Archipelago. Since nearly all of the native limestone forest originally
found on the islands of Saipan and Tinian was either destroyed during World
War II or has since been altered by commercial or residential development, the
protection of the native forest on Rota is an issue of importance to the entire
The 1996 Rota
Economic Master Plan for Rota called for the development and implementation
of an island wide Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to address ongoing issues
with regard to habitat requirements for the endangered Mariana crow while
also allowing the development of agricultural homesteads. The "no take"
requirements of the ESA have prevented some Rota residents from being able
to obtain agricultural homestead permits. The MPLA is currently negotiating
with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to legally use the I Chenchon
Bird Sanctuary and adjoining areas as long-term mitigation for the loss of
Mariana crow habitat. The ESA requires mitigation not only for Rota's currently
proposed homestead projects, but also for other future projects that may adversely
impact the habitats of threatened or endangered species.
have also taken place along Rota's southern and southeastern coasts. These surveys
included the Alaguan area where surface scatters of cultural materials have
been described by professional archeologists as the "richest they had observed."
A major (370 acres) archeological survey of the area immediately northeast of
the summit of the Sabana revealed the presence of more than 200 features of
the Japanese period. No evidence of prehistoric use was found in this area.
3. Archeological Surveys.
most extensive archeological work on Rota occurred in 1992 when nearly 1,600
acres were surveyed in the Dugi, Gampana, As Nieves and Chenchon areas for the
MPLC. The survey was carried out to compile baseline resource information needed
for the preparation of a HCP for the homestead project area being proposed in
the eastern part of the island. During the survey, a total of 79 individual
sites were recorded, and 48 of these were determined to be prehistoric. Nine
of the prehistoric sites were selected for subsurface testing and typical latte
period features were recovered from each of the sites. The calibrated dates
of these features ranged from 1000 to 1700 A.D.
Three of the
four significant prehistoric sites described below are listed on the National
Register of Historic Places and one has been nominated for listing on the
Register. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966,
the National Register of Historic Places is part of a nationwide program to
identify, evaluate, and protect historic and archeological resources. Properties
listed on the National Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures,
and objects that are significant in archeology, history, and culture. The
National Register helps preserve these significant historic places by recognizing
their irreplaceable heritage. Sites on the National Register are recognized
nationally as highly significant and worthy of preservation. CNMI residents
particularly value the four sites described below for their cultural value
island of Rota contains the best remaining examples of what is known as the
Latte Phase of the cultural tradition of the indigenous Chamorro people of the
Mariana Islands. This phase commenced roughly in 1100 AD and lasted until the
initial European contact in the early 1500s. The Latte phase is named for the
distinctive stone architectural elements that began to appear throughout the
archipelago roughly 800 to 1000 years ago.
Mochon Latte Stone Village.
This ancient Chamorro village is located on the north coast of Rota and has
been locally designated an archeological district. The district contains 46
individual latte stone assemblages, extensive pottery and artifact scatters,
and stone-lined water wells. The latte stones are arranged in two parallel rows
and originally capped by domed shaped stones. The columns are believed to have
served as the foundations of traditional Chamorro houses at the time of European
testing within the district indicates that Mochon revealed cultural strata
down to a depth of eight feet. A radiocarbon sample recovered in 1983 from
an early stratum yielded a date of 2920 BP (Before Present), attesting to
the great antiquity of portions of the Mochon site.
Mochon Archeological District encompasses both the earlier and later periods
of prehistory in the Mariana Islands. Based on radiocarbon determinations, it
is possible Mochon may have been among the first locations to be settled on
Rota. The area may have had a continuous occupation until the beginning of the
eighteenth century. The profound changes which took place in the traditional
Chamorro life-style resulting from Spanish military and religious policies caused
Mochon to be abandoned during that time.
4. This archeological base map accompanied the nomination of Mochon to the National
Register of Historic Places (survey location points are removed). Note that
the nearly 50 sets of latte are arranged generally parallel with the shoreline.
The solid lines of latte represent sets still intact.
2004 the Mochon ruins are intact and appear remarkably similar to the sketch
made by Arago in 1823.
reconnaissance group visited the Mochon site on June 13, 2004.
Mochon Archeological District remains in an excellent state of preservation.
There was some impact on the site during the Japanese period when trenches were
dug here as part of the island's defense system. The trenching caused the destruction
of small portions of the site's subsurface deposits and a few of the latte stones.
The stones may have been utilized for strengthening the defensive positions.
After World War II, a local family took up residence in the area, constructing
a small house, a storage shed and a chicken coop. The family carefully maintained
the integrity of the Latte stones.
The Mochon Archeological District is significant for two reasons:
It is the most extensive and best-preserved ancient Chamorro village site in
the Mariana Archipelago. Since the site was occupied continuously for nearly
three thousand years and contains extensive subsurface cultural deposits, Mochon
is potentially valuable for the scientific study of a number of aspects of the
earlier period of Marianas prehistory, including the time period and geographic
origin of the first Chamorro settlers. The Mochon Archeological District is
listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
2) Latte stone
houses are judged to be the most spectacular tangible remnants of the ancient
Chamorro culture. Since few intact latte stone villages still exist in the
Marianas, the Mochon Archeological District has enormous potential as a site
to interpret the Chamorro culture, not only to the people of the CMNI but
to international visitors.
Mochon site is rich in smaller lithic scatter and artifacts in place such as
this mortar and pestle
Chugai Pictograph Cave.
This natural limestone cave is located in the eastern portion of Rota on the
rim of a plateau immediately above the second terrace inland from the coast.
The cave consists of a single passageway about 185 feet in length and averaging
about 15 feet in width. The cave is accessible via a rock stairway constructed
by the Japanese during World War II. Within the cave approximately 90 pictographs
of prehistoric origin have been painted on the walls. The drawings were executed
in what appears to be a black, dark gray, and brown charcoal-based pigment.
Most of the drawings are linear or rectilinear, possess a geometric character,
and do not appear to be representations of natural subjects. Some of the drawings
do exhibit anthropomorphic and zoomorphic characteristics; two are well-executed
drawings of sea turtles and one drawing is of a large billfish measuring more
than a yard in length.
diagram of pictographs on the north wall of Chugai Cave.
diagram of pictographs on the south wall of Chugai Cave.
pictograph wall has artistic images of two sea turtles.
Chugai pictographs were undoubtedly created in prehistoric times by the ancient
ancestors of the present day Chamorros, however, very little information exists
concerning ancient rock art in the Marianas. Individual pictograph sites also
have been documented on Guam, Tinian and Saipan. The Chugai pictographs have
not been analyzed through radiocarbon dating as this method would require the
destruction of some of the images to acquire datable material. The fact that
rock art on Rota tends to be located near latte settlements suggests it was
produced relatively late in the prehistoric sequence.
Near the entrance
to the cave are the remains of Japanese quarters dating from the World War
II period as well as scattered Japanese artifact material.
The pictograph cave at Chugai contains one of the most impressive examples of
ancient Chamorro rock art documented in the Mariana Islands. The pictographs
on the cave walls derive their significance from the presumed association with
ancient Chamorro religious systems, particularly ancestor worship. The pictographs
are suspected of being directly linked to the activities of Chamorro shaman.
The pictographs represent an indigenous art form that no longer is practiced
and about which there is little scientific knowledge.
5. The Chugai Cave complex.
study of the Chugai Pictograph Cave is likely to yield information important
to increasing the understanding of Chamorro prehistory. In 1998, the CNMI Office
of Historic Preservation nominated the Chugai Pictograph Cave for listing on
the National Register of Historic Places.
Taga Latte Stone Quarry.
This site where the quarrying of latte stones took place is located in the As
Nieves area of the island near the eastern end of the airport runway. The site
consists of several latte stone columns and capstones in various states of being
cut away from the solid coral limestone. The edges of the columns and capstones
have been separated from the limestone rock by excavating trenches. The site
consists of eight columns (each column approximately eight by twenty feet) and
eight capstones (approximately twelve feet in diameter) in varying states of
having been quarried out of the rock. One capstone has been elevated to nearly
the surface of the ground.
It is believed
basalt tools, possibly in combination with fire, were used to dig out the
huge latte stones from the solid rock. Today, erosion has back-filled all
of the trenches to some extent and some of the stones have been split, either
during quarrying or by subsequent earthquakes or root actions.
The site on Rota is the best preserved and largest known latte stone quarry
in Micronesia. Archeologists have described the Taga Latte Stone Quarry as the
most unique cultural site on Rota. It is listed on the National Register of
Historic Places. The quarry represents tangible evidence of the engineering
skill attained by the ancient Chamorros.
Taga Latte Stone Quarry is the finest and best-preserved latte quarry known
exposed quarry with work in progress shows the technique of carving in place
both the vertical pillar and cap components of the latte.
latte stone structures at the Taga site are somewhat larger than the latte stones
connected with the "House of Taga" on Tinian. The Tinian site is the
legendary home of Taga, the great unifier of the Marianas. It is not known if
the stone latte being quarried at As Nieves on Rota were intended for shipment
to Tinian as tribute or if they were to be erected on Rota by a rival clan or
perhaps as the initial step in moving the capital to that island.
6. Hans Hornbostel, of the Bishop Museum, made this plan map of the Taga Latte
Quarry in the 1920s.
Dugi Archeological Site.
The latte stone site is located atop the highest of three consecutive terraces
in the northern portion of Rota. The 16 individual latte structures at Dugi
are badly weathered and three have been heavily disturbed. Most of the base
stones have fallen and none retain their capstones. Several stone mortars are
scattered around the site. Archeologists believe Dugi may represent a relatively
late Latte Period settlement resulting from population pressure or warfare.
Dugi's significance is due primarily to its geographical location--it is one
of the few inland latte sites to have survived the agricultural development
of Rota by the Japanese in the 1920s and 1930s. The site is likely to contain
information valuable to understanding the prehistory of the Mariana Islands.
The Dugi Archeological Site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
sites remaining on Rota date from the Spanish Period (1521-1898), the German
Period (1899-1914) and the Japanese Period (1914-1945).
Following World War I, the League of Nations awarded Japan a mandate over the
Northern Mariana Islands. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Japanese developed phosphate
mining and sugar plantations on Rota. Later, during World War II, they built
defensive fortifications on the island.
Ginalangan Japanese Defensive Complex.
These fortifications are located just to the south of the present-day village
of Sinapalo. The complex consists of a network of natural and man-made caves
and tunnels set within a cliff face. Individual features include a parapet,
pillbox, revetment, a rock-faced terrace, stone steps, and a stonewall enclosure.
Compared to the defensive fortifications built by the Japanese on Guam and Saipan,
these are small in scale. Nearby and connected with the fortifications, archeologists
have documented live and spent ammunition, tools, mechanical equipment and domestic
Since Rota was
not invaded by the U.S. during World War II the complex did not sustain major
damage and is in an excellent state of preservation. Documentation has been
prepared by the CNMI HPO to nominate the Ginalangan World War II Defensive
Complex for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Nanyo Kohatsu Kabushiki Kaisha Sugar Mill, Japanese Coastal Defense Gun, Japanese
A mill to refine cane sugar was built in 1930 on the west side of Songsong Village.
Some remains of the mill still exist. A hospital built by the Japanese is located
on the west side of Sasanhaya Bay. A well-preserved swivel-mounted cannon is
set into the side of the cliff on the south side of the island. These features
are all separately listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There are only a few minor buildings remaining on Rota associated with the German
Period. These include a school and a small chapel. None of these features are
judged to be of significance to the history of the U.S.
Two buildings, the Commissioner's Office and the Rectory, both related to the
Spanish period are located in Songsong Village and believed to date back to
the 1700s and both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The
two buildings are judged not to be of significance to the history of the U.S.
Current Status of the Study Area
CNMI Legislative Delegation for the island of Rota, local government officials
and many residents all believe their island home is presently at a crossroads
for making long-term decisions about future land use. They all recognize that
Rota was spared the destruction caused by World War II on nearby Guam, Tinian
and Saipan, and that Rota has not experienced the widespread urbanization that
has occurred and is still occurring on Guam and Saipan. These officials and
the residents of Rota are now attempting to address issues that profoundly effect
future uses of Rota's land base as well as the vibrancy of its local economy.
Essentially, the issue is how to conserve Rota's natural and cultural resources
and at the same time provide a way for the people of Rota to maintain economic
a member of the French expedition under Luis de Freycinet, made this sketch
of the Rota ruins in 1823. From Russell, The Island of Rota.
issue is the threat to the integrity of Rota's significant archeological sites
from expanding development of homestead lots. Residential
and agricultural developments have not yet intruded on most archeological sites;
however, there is every indication that many of the most important archeological
sites will be directly and indirectly impacted during coming decades. Any
loss of the sites and features connected with Rota's Chamorro heritage would
likewise be an issue of concern to island residents and to residents throughout
Habitat Conservation Plan