SHPO releases preliminary report on burials at Camp Blaz

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Acting State Historic Preservation Officer Carlotta Leon Guerrero (PNC file photo)

On November 4, 2020, a ceremony was held at the site of Camp Blaz.

During this ceremony, remnants of a pottery bowl were returned to its skeletal remains and then covered back up by dirt.

The event was attended by Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, Rear Admiral Menoni, Colonel Magrath, Acting SHPO Carlotta Leon Guerrero, State Archaeologist John Mark Joseph, SHPO
Historic Preservationist Joe Garrido and Vera Topasna from the Community Defense Liaison
Office.

Later that day, acting SHPO Carlotta Leon-Guerrero was sent a preliminary report, five paragraphs in length, from Ronnie Rogers, the archaeologist for the Marine base. The preliminary report has been released in its entirety.

The acting SHPO noted that even though the 5-paragraph preliminary report, has been released, it is not a final document, and assessments of findings are still underway.

“While I have been advised by counsel, the Governor has directed me to publish this information in the public interest, and I will respectfully comply,” Leon Guerrero said.

The following is the preliminary report shared with Leon Guerrero on November 4, 2020. The final report is not yet complete, and according to the author, it might be two or more months before it is finalized.

For information, please e-mail Acting SHPO Carlotta Leon Guerrero at carlotta.leonguerrero@guam.gov.

Preliminary Report on site of 12 burials camp Blaz

As I mentioned at the ceremony earlier today, Osteologist Amanda Murphy provided some initial findings from her study of the bones. Using only visual inspection and measurement on the in-situ remains, she obtained significant new information. We will provide SHPO with her osteological report when we get it, meanwhile, here is what she provided to me late yesterday:

“In summary, the population is inclusive of age and sex. There is evidence of 12 Individuals in the four graves (6 primary burials, 1 secondary burial, 3 intrusives, and 2 from burnt remains).

There is one fetus/young infant, two 6-7-year-old children, seven adolescent adults; and two older adults over 35-40 years minimum. The seven “adolescent-adults” are probably mostly “adults” over ~25 at minimum, and may be much older based on degeneration and dental wear. There is one probable female, two possible females, and two inferred females. There is one probable male, one possible male, and one inferred male (inferred based on size of remains alone). Sex cannot be reliably established for children. Stature ranges from 5 feet to 5’5, and the average height for adults was 5’2″.

The only thing I can tell about the ancestry of the population is that they appear to be Latte period, based on betel nut staining to most adult teeth.

Adult teeth show extreme use wear, and some traumatic breakage. They also have non-metric traits, including tuberculum dentale, shoveling, and parastyle; as well as a high incident of impacted wisdom teeth. Population has a slight incidence of dental caries and calculus. There are a few instances with evidence of possible trauma to the skull, shoulder, and foot. The most common indicator of poor health is moderate degeneration of the spine and joints; and probable use of the teeth as tools.

The site has evidence of complex burial practices. Skulls of 3 individuals are removed, and one individual is a secondary bundle burial of both skull and appendicular skeleton. The burnt remains appear to be intentional cremations of some kind. Two burials contained two individuals each: an adult cradling a child; and two older adults stacked head to foot.

Overall this appears to be in keeping with historical accounts (Uriate, Figueroa) of allowing remains to decompose and then storing skulls in the home, as well as partial cremation. It’s not clear why so many different practices are going on at once though; maybe they represent different use-periods, or different treatments for individuals with different status.

HR1 is a probable female, 40-50 years old at minimum, 5’1″ tall. She is possibly the oldest in the population, but that may just be because so much of her skeleton was available for study, while others are more guesstimated. At least a few others are probably similar in age. She had evidence of early-moderate degeneration to the spine, and possible gout evident in the feet.

(Acting SHPO Release)

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