Sunday, January 23, 2005

Ancient Latte Stones of Guam

A unique people, Chamorros from Guam have many legends that are shared with visitors who visit our tiny island. I hope readers enjoyed the legend of the Two Lovers. Here is yet another story of Guam's Latte Stones.

Latte Stones are pillars on which ancient Chamorro may have built their houses as early as 500 A.D. Latte Stones have become a signature icon of Guam and the Marianas Islands and are found no where else in the world. Latte Stones were quarried and built as a two piece structure. The Halagi, or upright supporting column, was quarried from exposed reef formations of coral limestone.

Atop the Halagi column was placed a Tasa, or capstone, made either from coral heads or excavated from a quarry site. The Tasa then may have been carried several miles to the construction site, possibly on a litter like device that could have been lifted by several men. Using sections of coconut palm trunks as rollers, heavier pieces may have moved.

It was the custom of ancient Chamorros to bury the bones of the dead, along with possessions such as jewelry, beneath or next to the base of the upright columns. For many years after the Latte sites fell into disuse the Latte Stones were respected as burial sites and remained undisturbed, the belief that ancient Chamorro spirits, taotaomonas in the native tongue, would harm those who disturbed desecrated grounds and edifices.

Some Chamorros consider the Latte sites to be sacred places, with the Latte Stones creating an iconic link between the ancient and modern Chamorros, thereby providing a grasp of who they were and are.

The eight columns and capstones displayed at the Hagatna Latte Park, were transferred to their present location in Hagatna from Me'pu, their original location in Guam's southern interior.

While Chamorros seem to have been in the Marianas islands for 3,000 years or more, the latte stones did not appear until approximately 1,100A.D.

Carbon 14 dating delineates the pre-historical and history of the Chamorros as follows: Transitional Pre-Latte (AD 1 to AD 1,000), Latte Period (AD 1000, to AD 1521), Early Historic Period (AD 1521 to 1700).


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