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Archeology in Warmer Climes

For many people in the United States, January means cold weather and dreams of island paradises in warmer climes. If you’re looking to escape your winter wonderland, might we suggest visiting archeology in America’s national parks? The National Park Service has units in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and Hawai’i. Below are a few ideas to get you started.

Although Kalaupapa National Historical Park is known best for its settlement of Hansen’s disease patients, the peninsula holds incredibly well preserved archeological resources of ancient islanders and the earliest Hawaiians. These resources include agricultural and aquacultural features, such as low rock walls and terraces, for growing food staples like taro and sweet potato. Places of worship include major temples and everyday places of worship including fishing and agricultural shrines. House sites, monumental walls, and other features testify to the enormous workforce once inhabiting the peninsula. Learn more about archeology at Kalaupapa on the park’s archeology webpage. (Average high in January is 78 degrees, average low is 63 degrees.)

Ancient peoples and early European settlers lived on the volcanic landscape now known as Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. They built house platforms and developed communities. Enclosures for livestock also dotted the landscape. They also etched petroglyphs on the volcanic rock. Living on a volcano wasn’t without its dangers, and the fire goddess Pele shook up settled life. Archeologists have found evidence of temporary housing and resettlements correlating with volcanic eruptions. Learn more about archeology at Hawai’i Volcanoes on the park’s archeology webpage. (Average high in January is 68 degrees, average low is 49 degrees.)

People first inhabited the Virgin Islands around 1000 BC, setting off a timeline of continuous island occupation to the present day. Archeologists are conducting historical investigations to answer questions about the relationships between the different cultural groups who lived on the islands, among them the indigenous Taino; colonial Spanish, English, and Dutch settlers; and “Almina,” or African, laborers. Learn more about the research program and the field school on its blog. (Average high in January is 82 degrees, average low is 70 degrees.)

For more information, Find a Park!

  • (NPS photo) Stone structure at Kalaupapa.
  • Petroglyphs at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. [NPS photo]
  • Chela Thomas works on preserving artifacts at Virgin Islands National Park.