“If the study didn’t take place and these bones were not found, this whole area could have been bulldozed to make way for housing project,” said Governor Browny Simer of Aimeliik State after the discovery of over 1600-year-old human bones on top of the crown of Ngermeliik Terrace, one of the over 100 impressive man-made earth architectures dotting Babeldaob and Koror.
“Now that is not going to happen,” added Simer, “now that we know what is here.”
The area between three hamlets in Aimeliik, Elechui, Ngarkeai, and Ngchemiangel, is made up of terraces, a least four within one area but also others are visible across the valleys creating a terrace complex. The area was designated a national historic site during the Trust Territory period. Similar impressive structures are seen all over Babeldaob states such as Ngatpang, Ngeremlengui, Ngchesar, Ngaraard, Melekeok, and others.
As more studies on these unique man-made landscapes surface, information about the early inhabitants of Palau is becoming known. Previous information available was from the writings of some of the first westerners to arrive in Palau including the famous accounts Johann Kubary and Augustin Kramer and George Keate. But beyond that, there was little known information other than legends.
Information gathered through scientific study provides pictures of governments, livelihoods, tools, people’s health, and even climate conditions in Palau 3,000 years before the present.
The size and scope of the modified earthworks (the terraces) and the agreed timeline of construction by various archeological experts strongly suggest that strong and organized government or governments existed 3,000 years ago that enabled the construction of the monumental architectures.
More questions are still to be answered, how people 3,000 years ago dealt with climate change, why most of these structures were abandoned, and what led to population decline among others. There may be valuable lessons that can be learned from these mysterious landscapes.
Limited information available in the last 30 plus years has led to extensive earthmoving activities to develop roads and other infrastructures causing destruction of important cultural and historical assets.
It will be a tragic loss to Palauans today and in the future to lose valuable historical information and cultural treasures before they are ever found.