The Chamorro People of Guam and the Marianas

Chamorro people

Chamorro people

It’s interesting that the two main sites for Guam and their first inhabitants, the Chamorro [like tomorrow except chuh instead of of tuh], have rather different dates for their  arrival on the islands.  The amazingly informative Guampedia is quite sure they showed up around 4,000 BC, but Guam-Online (which has a clear pro-American soldier bias) says they didn’t show up until 2,000 BC.

I wonder where they got their dates from?  Could the older set be based on Radiometric Dating?

Anyway, these earliest people have a fascinating history.

We know they were excellent sea-farers:

boat at sunset

for real pictures follow the sea-farers link

A systematic migration to and settlement of the Mariana Islands, about 4,500 years ago, would not have been possible without some degree of sophistication regarding the ancient Chamorro settlers’ construction of seaworthy craft and their ability to navigate such vessels to and from these islands and their place of origin.

In English this means, if they hadn’t been really good at ship-building and sailing, they couldn’t have gotten to the places they did.  But we already knew that!

Wait a minute!  This article tells us they only got to the islands around 2,500 BC.  Someone didn’t give that author the memo!

They had a complex society from early on:

latte stone

latte stone, the symbol of the Chamorro people

In ancient Guam, Chamorro leaders were usually the oldest members of clans and were looked up to for their guidance and wisdom. The male leader of a clan is referred to as the maga’låhi (eldest son) and the female as maga’håga (eldest daughter). These leaders were held in high regard as they governed the clan for the benefit of the whole rather than the individual.

They worked out a good system to keep themselves fed and cared for:

According to archeological investigations at various sites in Guam, ancient Chamorros had good diets and ate nutritional foods. The earliest European visitors to the Marianas described the Chamorro natives as robust, corpulent and strong. Chamorros ate moderately and were, therefore, healthy, strong and lived to an old age. However, some archeological reports also show that islanders had periods of malnutrition and poor health.

Naturally, there were times of famine or disaster, but this sounds like a healthy bunch in general.

The thing that first caught my attention about them was

their pottery record.  Check this out:

pottery midden!

Guam pottery midden! (Photo credit: sandwichgirl)

the early pottery styles of the Pre-Latte Phase were thin, small vessels that were easy to carry and to transport small quantities of food and water from one place to another.  Such portable vessels were ideal for fishing and foraging societies constantly on the move to find food.  By 2000 years ago, changes in pottery forms began to appear, with the production of large, flat-bottomed vessels more suited for grilling or cooking.

That says it beautifully.  The first wave of settlement was prepared to pick up and go.  One thing they don’t seem to have been was stupid.  Have a look at this:

Over time the designs evolved from complex to simple patterns, and by AD 500 the decorated pots entirely drop from the ceramic sequence.

They “evolved” from complex to simple?  There’s something strange about that statement!  I thought things evolved from simple to complex!  Not only that, but the complex style went completely extinct after a while.  That sounds a lot more like devolution and decay to me.

Check out this short page describing the early, decorated form of pottery.  The shards are lovely.

One last quote:

why?

Although we can never know what motivated or drove the people who eventually settled in the Marianas to leave their homelands to claim new lands, archeologists have tried to reconstruct what these early Pacific voyagers might have been like.

We know, we know!  God gave a command to all people to fill the earth and after the tower of Babel was stopped, they obeyed.

God began by making one man, and from him he made all the different people who live everywhere in the world. He decided exactly when and where they would live.  Acts 17:26 Easy-to-read Version

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