State Archaeologist called out for “destructive" processWritten by Rebecca Elmore
Guam - In an informational briefing, Culture and Justice Committee Chairwoman Therese Terlaje pressed State Archaeologist John Mark Joseph, for a more proactive approach to preserving some of Guam's most sacred sites.
“My concern is that we know that both Finagayen and (Ritidian) are both eligible for historic register. They’re historic properties, but we’re allowing construction on both of these areas," expressed Senator Terlaje.
The briefing was scheduled just two days before another controversial military underwater detonation.
"I understand that we are all trying to deal with what we've been given here, we're all in a tough situation, but if I could ask for your help,” Senator Terlaje inquired of Joseph.
The state archaeologist explained that part of the historic preservation process includes the use of data recovery, a less than delicate means of preserving ancient artifacts.
“Archaeology is a destruction process, we take up the site, we take samples, we give what we can from it and therefore we destroy it in the process,” explained Joseph.
But Sabina Perez, a concerned citizen, took exception to the practice of archaeological digs. In her testimony today, Perez spoke out against the process.
"What you're doing is actually damaging the environment. It's not mitigation, it's damaging. And like you said, you're destroying the sites. And these sites are valuable. They’re listed as of high value on the Guam registry,” she said.
And with a repository not yet completed coupled with an uncertified warehouse, Perez adds that the artifacts are probably best left in the ground.
“And we need you to do this job, to prevent the destruction with these data recovery activities. To us, this is our history, this is the most we can do to protect our culture: is to protect our sites. So please, please do not continue with these data recovery,” Perez begged.
Although the SHPO was not present at the briefing, Joseph noted that he would relay the message to her himself.