Rota Latte Stones Quarry (As Nieves Quarry)

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

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, Northern Marianas
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 Nuimoai 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.

References

  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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Rota Latte Stones Quarry (As Nieves Quarry) 14.171568, 145.258770 Rota Latte Stones Quarry (As Nieves Quarry)

Coordinates: 14.1716 N 145.2588 E
Categories: Megaliths
Values: Archaeology, Unexplained
Rank: 5
Address: Australia and Oceania, Micronesia, Northern Mariana Islands, northeastern part of Rota Island
Alternate name: As Nieves quarry
Age: ??
Culture: Chamorro culture

Wonders of Northern Mariana Islands

Blue Grotto, Saipan
Blue Grotto, Saipan / tata_aka_T, / CC BY 2.0

Highlights of Northern Mariana Islands are the unique submarine volcanoes, the gorgeous nature and local megaliths – latte stone settings.

Megaliths

Mnajdra, lower temple. Such structures were created long before Stonehenge and Egyptian pyramids
Mnajdra, lower temple. Such structures were created long before Stonehenge and Egyptian pyramids / steve deeves, , CC BY 2.0

One of the most fascinating groups of archaeological monuments are prehistoric structures made of stones – megaliths. Through the ages, people have loved to strain their minds to find a sensible explanation to the many riddles posed by megaliths.

Even today, we can admit with some pleasure, there are thousands of mysteries left for us.

Recommended books

The Archaeology of Micronesia


Drawing on a wide range of archaeological, anthropological and historical sources, Paul Rainbird surveys the development of Micronesia, from the earliest process of human colonization, within the broader context of Pacific Island studies. Addressing contemporary debates around processes of colonization, social organization, environmental change and the interpretation of material culture, this book will be essential reading for any scholar with an interest in the archaeology of the Pacific.

Prehistoric Architecture in Micronesia


In the many centuries preceding Western contact, a richly diverse and innovative architectural tradition reached maturity in the western Pacific. Prehistoric Architecture in Micronesia, the first modern study of this remarkable work, reveals that there is no such thing as primitive architecture but only primitive means.

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