A Cultural History of Three Traditional Hawaiian Sites
on the West Coast of Hawai'i Island
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Site Histories, Resource Descriptions, and Management Recommendations


F. Description of Resources: Pu'uhonua Area (continued)

10. Miscellaneous Resources

     a) 'Akahipapa Flat

This flat is a tongue of lava off the north side of Hale-o-Keawe, and is accessible from the shore at low tide. It is the place where refugees landed after swimming to the refuge from across the bay. Tradition says a tall spear flying a white flag stood in the area, marking the entrance to the refuge; some say this marker was an idol instead. It could also have been the tree trunk Dampier depicts in his sketch near the end of the flat. Found on the flat's surface are three fish net tanning tanks, a large petroglyph, and rows of depressions for konane. [152] Refugees seeking the safety of the pu'uhonua, upon reaching Pu'u-o-Ka'u point across Keawa Bay from Akahipapa Flat, would dive into the water and try to reach the flag (or idol) and thus be assured of sanctuary. [153]

     b) Shelf in South Section of the Great Wall

A shelf or bench measuring about twelve by seventeen feet built into the south wall of the refuge is traditionally said to have been connected with shark fishing. The body of a dead person or a pig was left to decompose under the shelf for several days before it was taken out to sea to use for attracting sharks. [154]

     c) Walled Enclosure Within the Sanctuary

On his sketch map of the refuge area, Chester Lyman showed a wall extending from an entrance in the Great Wall on the north around to 'Ale'ale'a platform and then back to the wall. He referred to this as a goat pen. Another stone wall extended from the southeast corner of 'Ale'ale'a to the Great Wall, the western half of which, about six feet wide, appeared ancient, while the eastern half appeared more modern. This wall was evidently removed during later landscaping activities. Stokes stated that in 1919 a wall with a branch formed part of an enclosure along the line Lyman indicated from the entrance. Although Stokes was told that the wall was used to contain refugees for various purposes, it appeared that it was actually part of goat and calf pens belonging to former Honaunau residents. [155]

     d) Konane Stone

Twelve feet southwest of the Ka'ahumanu Stone lies a basalt block two feet wide, 2-1/2 feet long, and one foot thick. Rows of holes pecked in its upper surface (9 by 11 rows) are positions for black and white pebbles used in the checker-like game of konane. This game stone is called a papamu. [156] This might have been utilized by refugees to pass the time while they remained within the refuge under the protection of the priests. Stokes referred to this as the papamu of Ka'ahumanu, presumably because of its proximity to the Ka'ahumanu Stone.

     e) Petroglyph

This male figure was carved into a rock within the enclosure.

     f) Pohaku Nana La (Stone for Looking at the Sun)

This rock, located a few yards west of 'Ale'ale'a Heiau and partly submerged in a pool of water, was used in a children's game. Part of the rock rested on the edge of the pool and the other either projected over the pool or was submerged in the water, forming an underwater tunnel. (Possibly the stone was dislodged into the pool by a tidal wave.) If the sun was in just the right location, by a combination of refraction in the water and the effect of the shadow cast by the stone, a child diving through the tunnel with his eyes open could see the sun looking like a bright, glowing green ball or, as Barrère has said, a blue pearl. [157]

     g) Spring

This spring existed just south of the spot where the wall from 'Ale'ale'a met the eastern portion of the Great Wall. In 1919 this spring, filled with stones by tidal wave action, was cleared. [158]

     h) Makaloa Pools

Located in the southeast part of the enclosure, these pools have makaloa sedge growing in them that was used in the production of mats. [159]

     i) Kekuai'o Pool

Evidently this pool was used to catch fish by drugging them. The nearby surface of the lava shows evidence of heavy battering of quantities of the 'auhuhu plant, which was used to stun fish. In tidal pools such as this, the pulverized plant was put in cracks in the rock, its narcotic effects forcing the fish out in a dazed condition. Another method of capturing the fish involved stretching a net across an indentation in the reef and thrusting the poison into holes or cracks in the reef face. As the sap dissolved, the fish broke for the open water and were caught in the net. [160]

     j) Artificial Concavities in the Lava

In several places both inside and outside the refuge these artificial cavities of varying sizes and shapes can be found, along with natural ones partly shaped. Some served as tanning baths for fish nets, some as basins for dying kapa for fishnets, and some were used as mortars for pounding salt, seaweed, bait, or sea urchins to get rid of their spines and shells. Others appear to be postholes for images, flagpoles, or kapu signs, while others may be boundary markers. Seventy-five feet south of Hale-o-Puni is a cluster of eighteen holes in a rectangular formation, thought to be for a group of warning images or an offertorium. [161] Five other concavities lie to the northwest near the water's edge, possibly serving as supports for warning images or flags that would be visible to refugees entering from the north. Stokes suggests that when Ellis referred to a low fence in the northwest part of the refuge, he might have been looking at the bases of these weathered images. [162] Other areas showing possible concavities for figures of some type are found north of the northwest corner of 'Ale'ale'a Heiau, facing Keawewai inlet, and at the head of Awawaloa inlet. [163]

     k) Stone Image Named Hawa'e

K.P. Emory noted a cove a few feet south of Lae Limukoko (see Map 1), at the bottom of which he found a stone formation resembling a pig. Possibly this is the stone image named Hawa'e for a god worshipped in ancient times. Tradition says that wooden images of this god, known for his mana and helpfulness toward worshippers, were so heavy that they could not be transported easily and were kept in secret caves in the mountains of Kona. Stone images were substituted for worship, one of which, twenty plus feet in height, was supposedly kept in a sea cavern on the seaward side of Hale-o-Keawe. It is said that Chief 'Ehu, who possessed the prerogative, or kapu, of drowning people who were prisoners of war or who had broken a kapu, would lower his victim, weighted with a large stone, into the water at the edge of the cavern. When dead, the victim was lowered farther and tied to the stone image. [164]

     l) Cup Marks

Along the south side of the south wall of the refuge are numerous cup marks in the lava bed that supported images or stakes. Another group of concavities opposite the midpoint of the south wall also exist. An informant mentioned seeing a wooden image standing in this area, about three feet high, marking the southern limit or entrance of the asylum. [165]

     m) Fisherman's Shrine (Ku'ula)

Several feet southwest of the bench in the south wall of the refuge lay at one time a large natural stone surrounded by smaller stones that was identified as a fishing shrine to the god Ku'ula. It no longer exists. [166]

     n) The Beach Site (Site B-107)

This residential site is located south of the Great Wall in a sandy ridge extending along the coast. In this sand dune on the beach Ladd found occupation sites that he judged to be periodically inhabited in pre-contact times, probably by fishermen. Remains of this particular site consisted of remnants of stone walls in the form of a nearly square enclosure, with a platform in evidence at the juncture of two of the walls. [167]

     o) Burials

Donald Tuohy excavated numerous monument burials — burials indicated on the surface of the ground by stone terraces, mounds, or platforms — in the 1960s in the parking lot area inland of the Great Wall. The remains themselves were often interred in a lava crevice below the monument. This type of burial was commonly used in the historical period, resulting in construction of stone-walled crypts. [168]

Tuohy relates that salvage excavations such as these have disclosed-six methods of body disposal practiced in the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau area. These include traditional monument, burial, cist, cave, and house methods, all used in prehistoric times, as well as the historic practice of placing a coffin in a mortarless stone vault. [169] This is in addition to the treatment of bodies of the high ali'i which were placed in woven fiber caskets in the Hale-o-Keawe. Already mentioned are the remains of at least five individuals placed in pits or vaults in the upper rock fill of 'Ale'ale'a platform. Tuohy notes that Stokes earlier discovered that the sandy beach near the southern wing of the Great Wall served as a burial ground. There bodies were placed in pits in the sand or, in one case, in an underground mortarless stone vault. [170]

A concrete tomb lies sixty feet north of the end of the south wall. Adjacent to it is a pavement probably marking graves. Lyman's 1846 map shows two graves in this location. Just south of the "Old Heiau" platform lay a graveyard indicated by pavements; within the heiau platform were two vault burials. [171]

Adjacent to the west end of the south wall was an area used at one time as a burial ground. Some burials may have been pre-European in origin, others were of more recent date. [172]

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Last Updated: 15-Nov-2001