ANCIENT CHAMORRO SETTLEMENT

Sumay’s history dates before the Spanish colonial period, although not much is known about its pre-contact history. Findings in a cave complex in the old village site suggest that ancient Chamorros dwelled in them long before the Spanish first arrived. When the Spanish proclaimed Guam as theirs, Sumay’s chieftain was said to be among those who held strong opposition to the Spanish colonizers, although the Spanish government eventually gained control. Sumay, like other villages, became centered around the Catholic church.

The Spaniards kept a settlement at Sumay, and its easy access to San Luis de Apra Harbor made it a favorite anchorage town for whalers and other sailors. Sumay grew into a thriving little port town in the 1800s. The Spaniards fortified the high cliffs behind the village and other points to protect the harbor. The guns were in disrepair, however, when the Americans sailed into Apra to capture Guam without resistance during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

The Americans also fortified the same cliff line after World War I and stationed a Marine Corps Aircraft Squadron in the area because of suspicions of Japan, which had gained the Northern Marianas after the war. However, the U.S. dismantled the fortifications on Guam in the early 1920s.

Much of the naval shipping operations were situated along this coastal village when the American government took over. The Trans-Pacific Cable Company anchored its station at Sumay in 1903, linking Guam with both Asia and the United States. Pan American Airways landed its China Clipper at Sumay in 1935, and built Guam’s first hotel there.

A seawall that surrounded the coastline was constructed to protect it from the pounding waves, and many of the residents enjoyed fishing and swimming along the coast every day. The Maxwell School was also constructed in the early 1930s, a small building that educated most of the children of the area. As of the 1920 census, the population of Sumay was 1,209, the second-highest population after Hagåtña. In 1923, the village became the site of Guam’s first golf course, the Sumay Golf Links, with eighteen holes.

Sumay’s well-known representative in the Guam House of Assembly was Antonio B. Won Pat, a schoolteacher whose family was from the village. Won Pat became speaker of the House of Assembly in 1948 and would go on to become the first speaker of the new Guam Legislature in 1951 and Guam’s first delegate to U.S. Congress in the 1960s – and the island’s most influential politician for several decades. Won Pat’s successor as Guam delegate to the U.S. Congress, Gen. Ben Blaz, was also from Sumay.

PEOPLE FLEE THE JAPANESE

Because military shipping and communications centered around Sumay, it was one of the first areas to be bombed when the Japanese attacked on December 8, 1941. The people of Sumay fled and scattered inland to their small ranches in the jungles, with many families becoming separated. The entire population of Sumay was promptly evicted by the Japanese in the first few days of occupation to make room for a Japanese garrison, and five Chamorro girls were raped by Japanese troops in the takeover. The residents were eventually moved from camp to camp by the Japanese, some as far as Merizo and Mannengon hills in Yona.

NAVY TAKES VILLAGE FOR BASE

After World War II was over the Navy did not allow the Sumay residents to reclaim their home, saying they needed the property for U.S. Naval Base, Guam. The former Sumay residents were eventually relocated to the newly created village of Santa Rita. All that remains of Sumay Village is a cross from the Catholic Church, the cemetery and remains of a few of the structures.

PAGO (PÅGU)

Eastern Coastal Village

Located on the eastern coast of the island of Guam, Pago is one of the oldest villages that predate Spanish contact with the ancient Chamorros.   The village was settled near the mouth of the Pago River, which feeds into Pago Bay, the largest bay on the island; it is also the site of several important archeological investigations.

The village name Pago is likely derived from the Chamorro word pago (pagu), which is the wild hibiscus plant that grows abundantly in this area.  The bark of this species of hibiscus traditionally was used to make ropes.  The combination of river and ocean resources made the area ideal for fishing as well as plant cultivation including yams, taro and mangrove plants.  According to Chamorro legend, the bay was formed by a giant fish that ate the central part of the island, thus explaining the almost hour glass shape we see today. In the legend, the women of Pago were known to scent and color their hair with lemon peels. When lemon peels were found in neighboring Agana Bay, the women in Agana knew the giant fish had bored an undersea tunnel beneath the island.  Eventually, the fish was captured by the Agana women who wove a giant net from their hair.

CHAMORROS RELOCATED FROM THE NORTHERN MARIANAS TO PAGO

During the Spanish reducción in the late 1600s and early 1700s, many Chamorros were removed from their homes and forced to settle in mission villages on Guam.  Pago was one of the six villages selected as a relocation point for thousands of Chamorros from Tinian and Aguigan.  The reducción effectively removed the Chamorros from their traditional lands and the practices that held much of Chamorro culture together.  With the imposition of Christianity and influences of Spanish, Filipino and Mexican cultures, ancient Chamorro society underwent major change.  In 1856, a smallpox epidemic led to the decimation of much of the population and Pago was abandoned.  Survivors moved to other villages.

Today, a drive along Route 4 near the village of Yona provides a breathtaking view of Pago Bay.  The shores of the bay are popular for fishing and other recreational activities, and now, the bay is a site for major new housing developments.  Nevertheless the ancient village site remains archeologically significant, giving insight into ancient Chamorro life and cultural practices.

ARCHEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS

Recently archeologists working along the shores of Pago Bay, on Guam’s east coast, discovered previously buried archeological soils, features and artifacts indicating that people lived along the shores of this bay hundreds of years before the Spanish first arrived in AD 1521.

During the period from 2005-2009 four archeological projects were completed in Pago Bay.  Three small projects were located northeast of the Pago River in the vicinity of Frank Perez Park, a public recreation area located on the shoreline, northeast of the river mouth. The fourth and largest project, the Laguna Pago Bay Resort, is located south of the river.  These projects found that the lands bordering the bay on both sides of the river had been utilized during the Latte Period (AD 900-1521), and they revealed new information about the ancient village of Pago, the nature of its occupation and the range of activities traditionally carried out by the people who lived there.

Three separate projects completed on the north side of the river were situated on the accumulated sand deposits that lie southeast of Chalan Justice Monessa Lujan, formerly known as Inalado Road, and the shoreline.  The large project completed on the south side of the river included a narrow strip of beach bordered by a limestone cliff with rock overhangs and upland areas developed on a limestone base that formed a plateau and slopes. While all of the areas had been considerably disturbed in the past, the archeological projects identified scattered pockets of intact cultural deposits dating to the Latte Period.

LATTE PERIOD FEATURES

Exposed in some soils were intact Latte Period cultural features, including an earth-oven, postholes (holes dug in the ground that indicate placement of wooden or stone posts), and prehistoric trash pits, as well as intact and previously disturbed human skeletal remains.  Charcoal recovered from intact cultural features was radiocarbon dated.  A variety of stone and shell tools and shell ornaments was recovered and described. Floral and faunal remains were identified, providing information about traditional subsistence practices.

Latte stones are monolithic limestone, coral or basalt structures comprised of a capstone (tasi) that rests on a pillar (haligi). Appearing in parallel rows or sets, they are believed to have functioned as foundations for houses and other buildings in ancient Chamorro villages.

Excavations in a previously disturbed area uncovered a probable limestone latte pillar and capstone. The exposed latte pillar was 0.87 meters (2.9 feet) long and the capstone was 0.24 meters (9.5 inches) thick, making a pillar/cap combination with a maximum height of 1.11 meters (3.6 feet). The disturbed latte elements provide tangible evidence that at least one latte set formerly existed in this area.  But it is likely that the area once had more sets.

Human skeletal remains, which are generally closely associated with latte sets erected along Guam’s shoreline, were exposed in three of the four project areas.  Based on the scattered distribution of the skeletal remains, it could be inferred that latte sets had been built on the sand flat on the northeast side of the river and on the northern edge of the limestone plateau on the south side of the river.

Generally, the individuals had been placed into prepared pits dug into the ground, although outlines of pits were not always visible.  The burials exposed in the sand deposits were preserved in place without being entirely exposed by hand.  Thus, little information about burial practices, or the age, sex, or condition of those individuals was gained.  The previously disturbed human remains exposed at the northern edge of the limestone plateau south of the river were recovered, and they will be reburied on the property.   Most of the preserved remains were adults.  The recovered remains included adults and juveniles, as well as males and females.

A zone of stone cobble mounds located along the base of the limestone slope south of the Pago River was interpreted as an agricultural field where yams may have been grown.  A grain of yam (Dioscorea) starch in a soil sample from this zone, as well as yam spines in the soils, provided tangible evidence that the tubers and the vines were once present.

Soil samples taken from the Pago wetland on the south side of the Pago River provided evidence that taro was once cultivated in this area.  Other plants once present in this area included mangrove, breadfruit, coconut, ferns, pandanus, and grasses.

RADIOCARBON DATES

Radiocarbon dating is an archeological method for assigning ages to certain kinds of archeological materials, particularly remains of organic or once-living things, all of which contain the element carbon. Carbon has a radioactive form known as carbon-14, or C14. Archeologists measure the amount of C14present in a particular sample to determine the age of the sample.  Seven radiocarbon dates were obtained.  One date with a range of 210-30 BC was not associated with a cultural deposit.  Four dates fell within the Latte Period and their calibrated ranges were AD 870-1020, AD 1020-1190, AD 1150-1280, and AD 1290-1420. One date had a range that extended from the late Latte Period into the early Spanish Period (AD 1440-1640).  The seventh date was modern, post AD 1950.  The dates indicate that people utilized the area from near the beginning of the Latte Period into early Spanish times.

LATTE PERIOD ARTIFACTS

Latte Period artifacts recovered from the project areas include pottery fragments, shell ornaments such as Conus and Spondylus beads, bone spear points, fragments of bone awls or needles, a small coral mortar, slingstones, basalt and chert flakes, basalt tool fragments such as pounders and adzes, Tridacna shell adzes, and Isognomon fish hooks and fish gorges.

AMBERGRIS FOUND

Two probable pieces of ambergris (a waxy substance formed in the intestines of sperm whales) were recovered, providing the first archeological indication that Latte Period people may have been familiar with this material.  Ambergris floats on the ocean surface and it sometimes washes up on beaches in the form of irregularly shaped lumps.  The fact that these two pieces, recovered from two different cultural features, appear to have a similar shape, suggests that people may have utilized the substance in some consistent way.  Historic accounts from the late 1700s note that ambergris occasionally washed up on Guam’s shores, but the account did not mention that the material was ever collected and/or utilized.

LATTE PERIOD ACTIVITIES

Based on the data collected, the Latte Period activities included cutting, chopping, scraping, pounding, abrading, tool making, tool repair, the production of fishing gear, fishing, mollusk collecting, farming, and cooking.  The finished beads suggest that the people made and wore ornaments manufactured from marine shells.  The postholes and the latte elements indicate that they built houses or other structures, buried their dead near the areas where they made tools, and prepared food.  The food and plant remains indicate that they ate breadfruit, yams, taro, a variety of shellfish including gastropods and bivalves, caught fish, including parrotfish and shark, and captured fruitbat and turtle.

By Darlene Moore, MA

Quick Enquiry