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New Location Sought for Marine Research Facility after Discovery of Vast Human Remains and Cultural Artifacts (June 9, 2008)

Recognizing the need to preserve culturally-sensitive and historically-significant archeological sites, the Northern Marianas College recently opted to find an alternate site for its proposed classroom and research facility after determining that the original site in Pau Pau contained rich deposits of ancient human remains and cultural artifacts.

NMC had earlier proposed to expand and renovate an existing concrete structure located at ! Pau Pau Beach Site and use it for a Marine Science Research Center that would house a classroom, laboratory, and meeting space facilities.

“We are still very much committed to developing a world-class research facility equipped with the latest technology where our students and faculty can learn and make important contributions to marine research,” said NMC President Dr. Carmen Fernandez.

“To this end, we are grateful to the Northern Marianas Housing Corporation and the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program for their continued financial support and assistance,” Fernandez added.

Initial inspections of cultural deposits at the Pau Pau site several years ago led to the discovery of some stone and shell artifacts, a dense gastropod stratum and some bits of human remains. The preliminary findings prompted a more comprehensive excavation, a project which was led by an archeological team that included Jennifer McKinnon, Ph.D., Jason ! Raupp, and Toni Massey.

Within a short period of beginning the archaeological work, the archaeological team, assisted by volunteers from the community and NMC, uncovered the human remains of a complete burial. Additional complete human burials were discovered shortly afterwards. Due to the amount of material and the depth of the cultural deposits being discovered in nearly every excavation, the archaeological team concluded that the site is a significant indigenous archaeological site.

McKinnon, archaeological team leader and Technical Officer for Maritime Archaeology for Flinders University, South Australia, indicated that the discovery was the richest archaeological site she had ever encountered. Her extensive archaeological resume spans 15 years and includes field experience in various U.S. states, Ghana, and Australia.

Other artifacts recently discovered included human teeth, probably human bone, sling stones, plainware and redware ceramics, shell adzes, bone artifacts, shell beads, lithic debitage (ch! ert, slate, basalt, jasper), and shell. In the preliminary report submitted by the archaeological team, the site is identified as an indigenous period multi-component site with both Latte and pre-Latte periods and contains remains consisting primarily of a portion of a Latte and pre-Latte period (up to 3,000 years ago), including other possible human burial(s).

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