Archeology

archeologist gathers data
Museum Curator documents archeological features at the Summit District

NPS Photo

Even if it doesn’t appear so, Haleakalā is a fragile landscape. It is home to a variety of plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. Haleakalā is also home to a large number of significant cultural sites.

From mauka to makai (mountain to sea), these areas have been important and central to the vibrant culture of daily Hawaiian life and ceremony for centuries. These sites remain significant to Native Hawaiians today. Haleakalā National Park manages archeological sites in situ (in place) throughout all areas of the park. The park also cares for a number of artifacts in the Haleakalā Museum.

 
 
Visitor stacked rocks at White Hill
Visitor stacked rocks at White Hill. Please mālama Haleakalā and refrain from stacking, moving, or taking rocks.

NPS Photo

Preserving cultural resources and archeological sites:
Archeological sites can easily be disrupted by theft, vandalism, and unauthorized public visitation. Archeological sites and Native Hawaiian burials are protected by several laws in the United States and in Hawaiʻi. Without meaning to do harm, many visitors feel the need to stack rocks, leave memorials (e.g., crosses, lei, photographs), carve their names on things, go off-trail exploring, or otherwise disturb places they visit here at Haleakalā National Park.

Many of the areas that visitors accidentally disturb contain archeological resources. Collecting artifacts or disturbing archeological materials in general, limits our ability to learn more about the past. If you find an artifact or other archeological materials, leave it in place and report the discovery to park staff or contact the Park Archeologist at ph# (808) 572-4424.

Federal law prohibits the excavation, removal, damage, alteration or defacement of an archeological resource in Haleakalā National Park, without a valid permit. The Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) of 1979 was enacted to secure for the present and future benefits of the American people, the protection of archeological resources on public and Indian lands. Prohibited activities can result in large fines and jail time for violators.

 
 
 
Pohaku
Kīpahulu staff during rock wall restoration, 2021

NPS Photo/Creek

A day in the life of an archeologist:
Protecting these resources is one part of an archeologist's work. Archeology reminds us that all elements of a place: natural and cultural, tangible and intangible are woven together. You cannot have Hawaiʻi without its history, language, protocols, plants, animals, and architectural features. Archeologists use many types of data and collaborate in many ways to more holistically understand the past:

Archeological work is often supplemented with oral history:
Haleakalā National Park is fortunate because hundreds of moʻolelo (stories), oli (chants), hula (dances), and mele (songs) about the areas of East Maui and Haleakalā mauna exist. Haleakalā National Park has begun its own series of oral histories to ensure that the knowledge of local kūpuna and long-time staff is never forgetten. The namesake of Haleakalā comes from one such famous moʻolelo about the demigod, Māui.

Archeologists utilize written documents and archival material:
Hawaiian scholars such as Samaul Kamakau and David Malo recorded many stories in writing and Hawaiian nupepa (newspapers) from the 1840s-early 1900s and their work provides great insight into daily life across Maui before and during that time of transition. Documents of land deeds from the Mahele housed in the State archives give further oral history accounts of who lived in these lands and how lands were cultivated several generations back.

Plants and animals can give archeologists information about the uses and importance of specific areas:
In areas of habitation, such as Kīpahulu, hala trees and ti, both "canoe plants" brought over by the Polynesian settlers in Hawaiʻi, are important indicators of settlements. In the high altitudes of the valley, the presence of forest birds may indicate that a particular site was used by bird catchers.
 
 
two staff examine a rock wall
Archeologist record an archeological site in Haleakalā National Park

NPS Photo

What role can you play?
All of this protection, research, and caretaking is done by a wide-range of people at Haleakalā National Park. We thank you, our visitor, for joining us in our mission to mālama (care for) these sites, and by extension the rich and important Hawaiian culture of which they are a part. It is easy to kōkua (help) the park and the Hawaiian community in this goal by staying on trail and practicing Leave No Trace principles. Remember: never carve into rocks or create rock stacks. Please do not touch archeological sites or take rocks or other resources from the Park. Pack out all you bring into the Park, and hele mālie—walk softly as you go.
 
Kīpahulu area was a place of permanent habitation by a large number of Hawaiians.

Kīpahulu Moku

Learn about the history of the Kīpahulu moku.

Images of objects from museum collection

Collections

Learn about Haleakalā National Park's museum collection.

red yellow black cinders in a valley with clear blue skies

Summit Area

Explore archeological resources of the summit area.

Last updated: May 10, 2022

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Mailing Address:

Haleakalā National Park
PO Box 369

Makawao , HI 96768

Phone:

808 572-4400

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