These structures of antiquity look like the legendary Latte Stones of the Mariana Islands at first glance which are just as ancient and mysterious. But these sculptured stones are on the other side of the world from Guam and the rest of the islands in the Marianas. They are located at Stonehenge in the British Isles. Archaeologists speculate that they served as calendars in ancient times.
Closer to home are these statues on remote Easter Island, located hundreds of miles southeast of Guam; her nearest neighbors include Pitcairn Island whose inhabitants are descendants of the mutineers from HMS Bounty. No one knows precisely why the large statutes of humans found on Easter Island were constructed from the waist up and emplaced with their backs to the sea.
In neighboring Pohnpei, here in Micronesia, are these huge platforms and enclosures at Nan Madol which are exceedingly difficult to reach except at high tide. Burial sites have been found in them but many unanswered questions remain.
And, here at home, in the Marianas, the ancestral home of the Chamorro people, are found the Latte Stones, of simple design but, nevertheless, imposing, majestic, and functional.
Some common unanswered questions about all of these ancestral creations are: How were the ancients in England, Easter Island, and Guam able to sculpture them with the very primitive tools which they had at the time? How were they able to transport them from quarry to mountaintop and from island to island in their own island groupings? Such accomplishments would be engineering marvels even today.
My own generation never gave much thought to the presence of Latte sites and settlements along the beach on the northern end of Tumon Bay. We used to visit them during school and family outings during the 1930's and early 1940's. Our elders considered these places sacred and treated them with great respect.
Sadly, these beautiful links to our past were thoughtlessly bulldozed in the 1950's in favor of parking spaces, recreational facilities, and other buildings.
No other item is more representative of the ancient Chamorros than the Latte Stone. Not unexpectedly, the outline of the Latte Stone, consisting of a pillar and a cup (haligi and tasa), is a model for a wide array of things: from fence posts to flower pots and adornments in the back and front yards of homes and buildings. The Marines use it as a model for brass plaques and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas gives it a prominent place on its official seal. Its signature became very prominent in the old Guam Airport and became even more so in our new International Airport.
As depicted in this magnificent painting, the Latte Stones served primarily as foundations for houses, the sizes of which depended on the status of the individuals whose houses they were.
Neither paintings nor artifacts of modern design, however, could come close to approximating the beauty of a Latte Stone site in its original setting. This was brought home to me as I was taking these pictures near Urunao Beach. There was simply no way of capturing the dimension of being at an ancestral site where these stones have remained undisturbed for centuries.
The next stop on our trek was a settlement in the jungle a distance away from the beach areas. While going up and down slopes, I kept wondering how were my ancestors able to transport stones weighing thousands of pounds over hilly and rugged terrain considering it was a struggle for me with just a camera bag to carry. When we finally reached this site, there was dead silence. We had entered the land of the taotaomona, the first people. Due respect was in order and it was shown. Very few words were spoken. The silence was interrupted only by the sound of gushing water from a river nearby. The view of the surrounding mountains was breathtaking. The environment was pristine but it was not paradise. The native birds have been virtually decimated by a predator, the brown tree snake, which was inadvertently shipped to Guam with U.S. military cargo during the waning days of World War II.
Clearly, these stones played a very vital role in the well being and society of our ancestors. The most fitting tribute that we can now pay would be to leave them in peace and tranquility at various locations in the verdant jungle that they chose themselves.