Monday, May 13, 2013

Archaeologist uncovers 700-year-old bone

Archaeologist uncovers 700-year-old bone
By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor
Associate Editor / Reporter
Marianas Variety

Dr. Mike Carson holds a piece of pottery excavated north of the House of Taga on Tinian.

AN excavation north of Tinian’s House of Taga has turned up a bone approximately 700 years old or approximately 200 years before Magellan’s expedition.

Australia-based archaeologists Dr. Mike T. Carson and wife Dr. Hsiao-chun Hung, who earlier this year uncovered five ancient human burials north of the House of Taga, confirmed to Variety that a tooth from among the bones they uncovered at the site was 700 years old based on radiocarbon dating.

“One tooth provided a radiocarbon date of about AD 1300, plus or minus some decades. That’s congruent with our possible date-range, although it’s closer to the early-end than we originally thought.

That means the child was buried at the site prior to Spanish contact, definitely within the same time-range when people were building latte-sets in the vicinity,” said Dr. Carson.

The tooth was associated with a set of skeletal remains of a 7- to 8-year-old child, among remains of other individuals found by the Carson couple on Tinian.

Dr. Carson said, “For the human burials at the site, we had permission for the radiocarbon dating of one tooth, from the one nearly-complete burial of a child.”

Dr. Carson and Dr. Hung worked with Taiwanese anthropologist Dr. Hsiuman Lin of the Taiwan National Museum of Prehistory on this latest set of human remains.

For the skeletal remains they found in 2011, Dr. Carson and Dr. Hung worked with Japanese anthropologist 
Dr Hirofumi Matsumura of Saporro Medical University.

Dr. Carson explained that the layer with the burial-features was near the present-day surface.

“It was associated with the latte-building era. That’s much more recent than our primary focus on the deeper habitation layer, but it’s very important for understanding more recent centuries,” said Dr. Carson.

He said that, according to pottery-type association, this layer could be dated broadly in a range of AD 1000 through 1700.

“A radiocarbon date from the base of the layer places it about AD 1200 at its beginning, although people continued living there for at least a few centuries and presumably all the way through Spanish contact and into the late 1600s,” said Dr. Carson.

Dr. Carson and Dr. Hung unearthed remains of six individuals in the area where Fr. Marcian Pellett found a deeply buried ancient archaeological site in the 1950s that revealed finely decorated pottery and the earliest produced in the Marianas.

Following Fr. Pellett’s lead, Dr. Carson and Dr. Hung began their study on the earliest human habitation in the Marianas and they uncovered shards of pottery and human bones in 2011.

The same area north of the House of Taga yielded more artifacts and bones when Dr. Carson and Dr. Hung returned early this year to conduct further studies.

As to the other skeletal remains unearthed early this year, Dr. Carson said, “The other burial remains all were from the same stratigraphic layer, so these individuals probably all were buried at the site within a few centuries of each other. We can begin to understand the site within this context, at least for this later period.”

He also said that in the lower deposits, no burial remains were found.

“We found no evidence of burials at the site prior to AD 1000. However, the site contains very important information about these earlier time periods, as early as 1500-1300 BC. We continue to concentrate on the data-analysis of these earliest periods, and we can look forward to more information soon,” he said.

Dr. Carson and Dr. Hung expressed their gratitude to the Tinian Mayor’s Office and the CNMI Historic Preservation Office for the assistance they received during the time they were on Tinian conducting their studies.

Dr. Carson said they hope to return to Tinian and continue their work pending a request for funding.

Dr. Carson’s and Dr. Hung’s previous trips to Tinian were funded by the Chiang Ching Kuo Foundation and the Australia Research Council

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