Before We Began Counting Years

"Before We Began Counting Years," a new video.

Thousands of years before latte stones and hollowed lusong rocks began appearing, a group of seafarers first settled in the Marianas. Others soon followed. We see the traces of these first settlers in a few coastal villages?places like Achugao on Saipan, Unai Chulu on Tinian, and Ritidian on Guam.

These early settlers arrived more than two thousand years before the beginning of what is known as the Latte Period, long before anyone began counting years. Who were these people? Where did they come from? What do we know about their lifestyle?

This new 45-minute documentary film surveys the work done by archaeologists over the years, especially the recent work by Michael Carson, to offer answers to these questions. From the fragments of pottery and the shell tools and ornaments that have been excavated we can learn something of how these early people might have lived.

Culture change was not something that first started with the coming of the Spaniards, we learn. The inhabitants? toolkit and housing style changed over the centuries, as did the people?s diet. The significant drop in the sea-level during the early centuries played a large role in such changes, as did the rapid increase in population.

?Before We Began Counting Years,? funded with the help of the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, was produced by Fr. Francis Hezel and edited by Len Tenorio. It was first shown on Saipan on April12, and on Guam on April 20.

Anyone who wishes to obtain a DVD with the film should contact Len Tenorio at

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.