Rota Latte Stones Quarry (As Nieves Quarry)

Rota Latte Stones Quarry
Rota Latte Stones Quarry / CT Snow, / CC BY 2.0

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 14.1716 N 145.2588 E
No:258        (list of all attractions)
Values:Archaeology, Unexplained
Address:Australia and Oceania, Northern Mariana Islands, northeastern part of Rota Island
Alternate name:As Nieves quarry
Culture:Chamorro culture

Once upon a time (no one knows when) somebody planned to make the largest megaliths in Mariana Islands. It was planned to erect up to 7.6 m tall stone columns, capped with 1.5 m high capstones.

Unfortunately this project was not a success. The giant stones were left lying in Rota Latte Stones Quarry.

Megaliths of Mariana Islands

Latte stones are a specialty of Mariana Islands. As most other megaliths of the world, they are mysterious - their age and purpose is not known with certainty. It is also not clear how the ancient Chamorro people mined them, transported and erected.

It is known that latte stones were erected even more than 1000 years ago - around 845 AD. These structures might be made up to the 16th century. It is also known that often these giant stones were shipped over the sea and transported for several kilometres over the land.

Latte stone settings consists of two enormous stones - a standing upright stone column (halagi) with a capstone (tåsa) on it. Tåsa has hemispheric form, with a flat side facing upwards. Some specialists consider that the rounded tåsa prevented the rats from climbing up the stone pillar.

Rota Latte Stones Quarry
Rota Latte Stones Quarry / CT Snow, / CC BY 2.0

Latte stones were located in the sites of ancient villages. These megaliths in general were placed in two rows.

According to the accounts of early travellers these could be foundations for buildings of special importance.

These megaliths have some similarities to the famous moai statues in Rapa Nui - moai consist of the base statue and capstone as well and also moai represent a competition between different clans, gradually making bigger and bigger statues.

The largest latte stones

The largest latte stones were mined in Rota Latte Stones Quarry (As Nieves quarry).

Here Chamorro people in some unknown times tried to mine nine halagi and seven tåsa. All these stones are still in their original places - with each tåsa next to halagi.

The stone columns - halagi - here were up to 7.6 m tall, weighing up to 34 tons. Tåsa stones here are 1.5 m high and have a diameter of 2.1 m, they weigh up to 22 tons.

It is possible that stones were mined here simultaneously for a single latte stone structure - but the works were left uncompleted. There might be different explanations to this including a sudden warfare.

If the works would be completed, these stones would be by 0.5 m taller than the largest existing erected latte stones - House of Taga in Tinian. Most likely here we see a competition between different clans, striving to make the largest stone structures.


See Rota Latte Stones Quarry on the map of Northern Mariana Islands!


  1. Rainbird, Paul. The Archaeology of Micronesia, Cambridge World Archaeology, 2004.
  2. Morgan, William N. Prehistoric Architecture in Micronesia, the University of Texas Press, 1988.

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