Human remains uncovered at Marianas High School led to the unsettling discovery that there was no law about preserving historical remains when the school was founded in 1969.
A recent construction project at the school led to the excavation of fragments of a human skeleton, causing a delay in the construction of a new cafeteria next to the MHS Gymnasium.
According to archaeologist James Pruitt at the Historic Preservation Office, the Commonwealth didn’t have a preservation law until 1982, 13 years after the school was built.
Marianas High School was developed in 1969 before the historic preservation law was enacted. Because of this, there is no prior data on the land that the school was built on.
According to Pruitt, because MHS is the oldest institution of education in the Marianas, the office decided to leave the school grounds undisturbed, aside from periodically monitoring the school’s grounds and the land surrounding the school.
Up until a few weeks ago, according to Pruitt, MHS decided to expand the school by building a new cafeteria. HPO representatives were present for the excavation and that’s when the human remains were uncovered. HPO immediately put the project on hold until archaeologists could investigate the area further.
Pruitt said the office was just as surprised as the contractors they hired to dig up the site. The area was suspected to harbor ancient artifacts but that was only based on probability.
As of now, Pruitt and HPO are waiting for the archaeologists that the school will hire to further investigate the area. Only then will a plan be discussed between HPO, archaeologists, Indigenous Affairs Office, the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, politicians, etc. to come up with the best decision on how to handle the findings.
According to Pruitt, the cafeteria construction project will definitely resume but as to when, the office and the school have yet to find out.