Rota Latte Stone Quarry
Rota Latte Stone Quarry
Rota Island latte quarry site. Also called As Nieves Latte Stone Quarry
Northern Mariana Islands
|NRHP Reference #||74002225|
|Added to NRHP||December 23, 1974|
Rota Latte Stone Quarry is known as the As Nieves quarry and is located near the Chamorro village of Sinapalo, on the island of Rota, United States Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, in the Marianas Archipelago. As Nieves was the origin the stone quarries in the Marianas. The prehistoric megaliths are believed to have been used as foundation pillars for houses, but their exact age and origins have not been determined. Some pillars weighed up to 35 tons with the methods of quarry and transportation not known.
A latte stone (also called taga stone) pillar is a two-piece structure consisting of a base (haligi) and hemispherical cap (tasa), with the flat side turned upwards. It has been believed that the prehistoric latte stone pillars were used as housing foundations for the indigenous culture of the Marianas. The homes sat atop two parallel rows of the pillars, and the Chamorro, or their ancestors, buried their dead between the rows. The stones pre-date any retained oral history of the Chamorro, who cite the original source of the stones as the "taotaomona" (before time people). The exact age of the stones has not been determined, but some are believed to date back to at least 845 AD. Carbon dating places the indigenous population as far back as 3,000 BC.
The Rota quarry is known as the As Nieves quarry. The origin of the megalith quarries in the archipelago, it is the abandoned site of the largest unearthed latte stones in the Marianas. Nine haligi and seven tasa are found at the As Nieves quarry.
Some of the abandoned megaliths found at the quarry would stand approximately 25 feet (7.6 m) high if the haligi had been topped with tasa and erected upright. The tasa at this quarry measure approximately 7 feet (2.1 m) across and 5 feet (1.5 m) high. The work was halted without finishing the stones, and there is no record of why the site was suddenly abandoned.
The quarry method is not known, nor the method of transporting the latte to their destination and uprighting the stones. Theories and legends exist about the stones, but nothing is scientifically proven.
When erected, the megaliths from Rota Latte Stone Quarry would be per 0.5 m taller than the tallest existing latte stones at House of Taga in Tinian Island. This is indirect proof of the competition between different groups, striving to build the most impressive set of latte stones.
Legend credits the origin of the quarry to a mythological chief named Taga, who quarried the stones at Rota before abandoning the site and later erecting the House of Taga on Tinian. A different legend tells of ghosts carrying the stones.
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