By Rudolph Villaverde. The ancient Chamorros, the earliest known inhabitants of the Mariana Islands, were of Mayo-Polynesian descent. Genetic mtDNA evidence suggests that the Marianas were settled between 5,000 and 3,500 years ago directly from ISEA (islands Southeast Asia) likely Wallacea (Sulawesi and the Moluccas) Vilar, Miguel G., et. al. The origins and Genetic Distinctiveness of the Chamorros of the Marianas Islands: An mtDNA Perspective. American Journal of Human Biology. 14 October 2012 . A subsequent unique lineage of Chamorus arrived in a later wave of migration 1,000 year before present with the distinct latte structures and rice agriculture, both of which have ties to Indonesia (IBID). Based on concomitant linguistic, archaeological, ceramic and historical evidences, the austronesian cultural similarities of the ancient and present day Chamorros remotely resemble the languages and cultures of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Mavis Van Peenen wrote that "chamorro" comes from the native word "chamorri" or "chamoli" which describes the "nobles" (Spanish dictionaries indicate that the adjective "Chamorro" means "to have the head shaved or to be bald.") (Warner Van Peenen, Mavis. Chamorro Legends on the island of Guam. 2008 Univ of Guam. MARC Pulications Series No. 4).

Historian Rodrigue Levesque writes, "... the chiefly class was refered to as the Chamorris, a term later corrupted to Chamorros because the Spanish joked that they were 'bald' people. The origin of the word was the expression "chamor mauri" (History of Micronesia. Vol. 4 Religious Conquest. page 638. copyright 1995).

The first historical document describing the general physical features of the ancient Chamorus was written by Pifigetta in 1521. He described the indigenous people as being tall, big-boned, robust with tawny brown skin and long black hair. The present day Chamorus are a mixture of various ethnic compositions consisting of the many cultural groups originating from Asia, Europe, and the Americas. In 1962, President Kennedy lifted the Naval Clearing Act which barred civilians from entering Guam without clearance from the Naval Governor. Since then, many Filipinos, Caucasians, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indians, and Pacific Islanders have made Guam their home.

Guam Cultural Youth Dancers
Pre-teen Girls in Cultural Attire.
Spanish Era dresses called metizas
Spanish Era dresses called metizas

Chamorus, have traditionally populated the Marianas (Sinahi) archipelago of which Guam is the Southmost and largest Island. Precise Radiocarbon dating of the earliest Pre-Latte deposits is discussed at end of this page. Jane Underwood, Univ of Arizona, Tucson, has estimated that the cumulative 140 generations of Chamorus who have ever lived in the Marianas since the time of their initial discovery approximately 3,500 years ago numbered to be over 2 million Chamorus.

The estimated size of the population for Boan (Guam)during 1602 (66 years before the arrival of the missionary San Vitores) was 60,000 and Carpana (Rota) 12,000 (Driver, Marjorie G., Fray Juan Pobre in the Marianas 1602. pg 21. 1993.MARC). "On Guam alone (approx. year 1668) there are 50,000, on others 40,000 (Garcia, Francisco SJ. The life and Martyrdom of Diego Luis de San Vitores, S.J. 2004. MARC Monograph Series No.3. pg 167)." In 1682, during the Chamoru Spanish war, Father Strobach, Missionary of the Society of Jesus wrote that the islands were initially populated by 50,000 souls but because of european disease, hunger, and bloody warfare not even 12,000 remain (pg 598. R. Levesque. History of Micronesia - More turmoil in the marianas. vol 7 copyright 1996). "By the 1600's, Guam's population has been estimated as high as 60,000. Recent estimates by archaeologists suggest that Guam's population was probably not more than 30,000 during that time (Cunningham, Lawrence. Ancient Chamorro Society 1992; p53)." Historian Benigno Palomo cited cannonical history that the first official Spanish Census taken in 1710, after the Spanish Chamorro War, indicate 3,143 native survivors and 471 spanish mestizo people.

By studying the actual spanish census from 1710 through 1830, indigeneous males had always outnumber females and natives were consistently the predominant ethnic group. Jane Underwood (The native origins of the Neo-Chamorros, Guam recorder 1977 vol 7) wrote, "Spanish census record from the 19th Century challenges the notion that modern hybrid populations of these islands represent descendants of a predominantly alien origin. The persistence of a large native population into the 19th Century argues against the extensive, early hybridization with European and Asiatics proposed by most authorities and confirms Howells' 1973 qualifications that foreign contributions to the gene pool have been less extensive than hitherto believed."

of Latte houses by David Sablan> </img>
Pietrusewsky, Univ of Hawaii, estimated that prehistoric Mariana 
Islander women heights range from 5'2.5 During prehistoric times, ancestor worship caused bones of warriors and leaders {maga lahis} to be removed from year-old skeletons for bone spear points manufacture. These ancestral spirits or taotaomonas (men before time) during prehistory have been called upon to assist in hunting, fishing and warfare against the Spanish colonialists.

Stanley Ambrose, Univ of Illinois, analyze the isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen in bone and found a significant reliance on seaweed and sugar cane by some prehistoric individuals from Rota, Guam and Saipan. Michele Douglas and colleagues, Univ of Hawaii, stated that the age at death among the adults averaged 43.5 years.

Gary Heathcote (Univ of Guam), Douglas Hanson (Forsyth Institute for Advance Research, Boston), and Bruce Anderson (Army Central Identification Lab of Hickam AFB Hawaii), reported that 14% to 21% of ancient Chamorros were unique with respect to all human populations, past and present by the presence of cranial outgrowths on the backs of Chamoru skulls where the tendons of the neck and trapezius (superior oblique and sternocleidomastoid) shoulder muscles attach. The bone projections, on skulls during the Latte Period, indicate presence of very powerful muscular individuals as corroborated by legends on Guam. To download the booklet about Tagga Man's anthopological bone analysis by Dr. Gary Heathcote, right click this pdf link

Found only in indigenous Mariana Islanders {and later on Tonga}, these structures were induced by repetitive loading of the shoulders and arms {see Chamorro anatomy to locate the sternocleidomastoid neck muscle} by:

1. Carrying heavy loads at the sides
2. Power Lifting heavy loads with neck forwardly flexed
3. Mining /limestone quarrying
4. Transporting heavy loads by use of a tumpline
5. Long-distance canoeing and navigation and
6. Underwater swimming / spear fishing.
The largest skull tubercle development coincide with limestone quarrying and masonry monument building of latte stones. The largest bony superstructures are found in unusually muscular men and women from sites with the largest megaliths. The bone growths become more pronounced the further north one travels in the Marianas. Interestingly, the skull with the most pronounced tubercles belong to a middle-aged woman from Achugao area of western Saipan. Click here for narratives of Early 14th Century European Contact with Chamorros referencing their physical attributes.

Population of Guam after Spanish Chamorro Wars of 1669-1697

New evidence suggests Micronesia settled at least 5,000 years ago

( General Science: Nov 11, 2005. Evidence in Northern Mariana Islands suggests human settlement in the Pacific Islands of Micronesia began at least 5,000 years ago. The earliest documented archaeological sites in the US-administered territory are Saipan's Unai Achugao site from 1800 BC or 3,800 years ago and Tinian's Unai Chulu site dating to 1500 BC. American researchers J. Stephen Athens and Jerome Ward of the International Archaeological Research Institute said that sediment cores taken from Lake Susupe on the Northern Marianas' main island of Saipan provided a continual record of plant pollen, charcoal and other materials for the past 8,000 years. The two said it appears that the series of abrupt shifts in the island's environment was caused by humans, raising the possibility of inhabitants on the island as far back as 2860 BC. According to Dr. Lawrence Cunningham, IARII extracted a 2300 BC carbon date from core samples at the Laguas Swamp near Apra in Guam.

Chamoru mtDNA origins

Identifying the geographical origins of the Chamorus is changing. Koji Lum is the anthropological geneticist who initiated the first mtDNA analysis of Chamorus in relation to sampling of peoples in Southeast Asia. In 2007, Dr. Gary Heathcote (from email correspondance) offers provisional understanding of Dr. Lum's researcher 'Miguel' findings. Vilar, Miguel G., et. al. The origins and Genetic Distinctiveness of the Chamorros of the Marianas Islands: An mtDNA Perspective. American Journal of Human Biology. 14 October 2012

According to Dr. Lum, the two main mtDNA lineage groupings, which include virtually all Chamorus sampled are 'haplogroups' (B and E) with Suluwesi distributional and phylogenetic 'ties'. And, perhaps, even more interesting is that - while 'related' to these Suluwesi lineages the finely subtyped mtDNA sequences of Chamorus are 'specific' only to the Marianas. Researchers are cautious in pronouncing declarations because the ever-expanding database is still woefully inadequate in regards to multiple sampling locations given the massive populations of P.I. and all the island South East Asia locations.

According to Dr. Lum (2007), the accurate sound bites might be:

Of the 15% haplogroup B Chamorus previously thought might have originated via recent gene flow from C-E Micronesia, 95% are actually Chamoru specific.

These Hap B lineages and the majority Hap E lineages ( 97% of Chamorus) have not been found outside the marianas, highlighting the distinct genetic origins of Chamorus.
We cannot say where these Hap E and Chamoru specific B lineages came from or if they came in together in ancient times (Chamoru Bs with Latte and rice) but similar Hap E lineages are found in the Sulawesi region where Hap B is also thought to have proximately evolved.

The Art above was rendered by David Sablan entitled "TINITUHUN" or "The Beginning".


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