Chapter 9: Pu'uhonua o Honaunau
National Historical Park
Pu'uohonua o Hoaunau,
"Place of Refuge of Honauhau," is located in the ahupua'a of
Honauhau, in South Kona, on the west coast of the Island of Hawai'i. The
present park includes the coastal portions of three ancient land
divisions: Honaunau, Keokea, and Ki'ilae. It lies about midway between
the larger towns of Kailua to the north and Miloli'i to the south.
Located next to the ocean, the park is reached via a secondary road off
the Mamalahoa Highway. It consists here of a large flat tongue of
pahoehoe lava flanked by three bays, Honaunau to the north and
Alahaka and Ki'ilae to the south. In the vicinity of Honaunau Bay, the
park includes the refuge itself, nearby palace grounds, royal fishponds,
a royal canoe landing area, stone house platforms, and temple
structures. The boundaries of the refuge are formed by a wall starting
at Honaunau Bay and extending in a southwesterly direction for more than
600 feet, at which point a leg turns to the west and runs again
southwesterly about 400 feet toward the sea.
Here, as elsewhere along
the Kona Coast, lava flows (these from Mauna Loa) are the dominating
coastline feature. The refuge is situated on a tongue or small peninsula
of black pahoehoe lava jutting into the ocean and forming the
southwest wall of Honaunau (Ke Awa) Bay. Within the curve of the bay
nestles the small village of Honaunau, once the home of chiefly
retainers and commoners, now supporting only a small number of houses.
From here one can see what is perhaps the most spectacular natural
feature of the park — the Keanae'e pali (cliff), a fault scarp
paralleling the shore about one-tenth of a mile inland. The imposing
appearance of the cliff, which is arc shaped, more than 100 feet high,
and 1,000 feet long, is due to the metallic-hued ancient lava flows
frozen in time as they cascaded over the cliff edge toward the sea,
creating "festoon lava." The early inhabitants used the numerous cave
openings and lava tubes in the cliff face as residences, burial
chambers, and possibly for refuge from the elements.
From the ocean inland to
the beach the area that used to be barren, dry, open, and dotted with
scattered large lava boulders (deposited by tidal action or brought in
for construction purposes) is now overgrown with koahaole and
opiuma. The area historically supported stands of pill grass
used for thatching houses, pandanus, kou, kamani, and noni,
with cocoanut palms providing some shade around the refuge itself. About
a mile inland, the scene changes to dense foliage as a result of the
more abundant rainfall and the presence of decomposed lava. The early
Hawaiians appreciated this area's fertility and their descendants
continue to utilize it for growing large quantities of coffee, macadamia
nuts, plumeria, avocados, papayas, and other tropical fruits.
North about four miles on
the Kona Coast is Kealakekua Bay, the scene of the second significant
contact between native Hawaiians and Europeans. It was there, at the
site of the early Hawaiian villages of Napo'opo'o and Ka'awaloa, that
Captain Cook's ships, the Resolution and Discovery,
dropped anchor after discovering Kaua'i in 1778. There Cook was
worshipped as the physical manifestation of the god Lono in the
temple of Hikiau. And there he eventually lost his life during a sudden
battle with the natives at the water's edge near Ka'awaloa. A monument
on the north side of the bay marks his death site. Hikiau Heiau,
restored in 1917, stands on the east side of the bay.
The area between
Kealakekua and Honaunau bays is renowned as the Moku'ohai battleground,
site of the 1782 conflict between the forces of Kamehameha and those of
Kiwala'o for dominance over the island after the death of Kalani'opu'u,
king of Hawai'i at the time of European contact. Kamehameha's troops
succeeded in killing Kiwala'o and routing his warriors, although the
latter's half-brother Keoua escaped to carry on the battle until his own
death at the hands of Kamehameha's followers at Pu'ukohola Heiau.
Immediately south of the
refuge, in Keokea, a satellite village of scattered residential sites,
including that of King Keawe, hugged the coast in ancient times. Inland
remains of this settlement consist of two heiau, a holua,
and the burial cliffs mentioned earlier. A little farther south, within
the present southern boundary of the park, is a portion of Ki'ilae
Village, occupied from prehistoric times until 1926. There residences
arose around a well, called Wai-ku'i-o-Kekela, named for Kekela, a
resident of the area, daughter of John Young and mother of Queen Emma.
Nearby are lava tube refuge caves useful in time of war.
Today the refuge and
associated residential and temple sites, walls, trails, and village
remains are in ruins. Non-native shrubs and trees, vines, and a dense
undergrowth of grass form a thick cover over the pahoehoe lava
flow, which is periodically exterminated in an attempt to restore the
landscape of the eighteenth century and expose significant
archaeological features. Park facilities include a visitor center,
parking lot, headquarters building, and a picnic area.
|Illustration 142. Portion
of chart showing soundings, Kealakekua Bay to Honaunau Bay,
Island of Hawaii, n.d. Note delination of pu'uhonua, royal
compound, house lots, and various "ruins." Courtesy Hawaii State
(click on image for an enlargement in a new window)
|Illustration 144. "Map of
Honaunau, South Korea, Hawaii." W.A. Wall, 1906. This shows some
of the kuleana and road systems in the area. Courtesy
Kona Historical Society, Captain Cook, Hawai'i.
145. Portions of "Honaunau, South Kona-Hawaii, Beach Section,"
G. Podmore, 1918-9. This shows kuleana around Honaunau
Bay and the pu'uhonua. Courtesy Kona Historical Society,
Captain Cook, Hawai'i.
B. Description of Refuge Area
Early in the area's
prehistory, a ruling chief declared the tongue of black lava flow
extending out into the ocean southwest of the bay a sanctuary protected
by the gods. There kapu breakers, defeated warriors, and
criminals could find safety when their lives were threatened if they
could reach the enclosure before their pursuers caught them. A massive
stone wall around the sanctuary marked the boundary, while a heiau
within the walls afforded spiritual protection. Later a temple was built
at the north end of the wall to hold the sacred bones of the ruling
dynasty, who would act as perennial guardians of the pu'uhonua.
The refuge site today
consists of an area partially surrounded by a thousand-foot-long wall of
pahoehoe lava about seventeen feet thick and ten feet high. The
north side of the structure is open to the bay and the west side to the
sea. Within or next to the enclosure were several significant
structures, including the Hale-o-Keawe, the 'Ale'ale'a Heiau, the "Old
Heiau," and the Hale-o-Papa (Women's Heiau). Other notable features
include a konane stone (papamu), a fisherman's shrine, and
two large stones, one reportedly serving as a hiding place for Queen
Ka'ahumanu during a quarrel with her husband King Kamehameha and the
other used by Chief Keoua. A small enclosure east of Hale-o-Keawe
contains two fishponds used by Hawaiian royalty. The Hale-o-Keawe housed
the bones of the paramount chiefs descended from 'Umi and Liloa, some
placed in wicker caskets woven in anthropomorphic shapes. This sepulchre
of the very high ali'i lent Honaunau its great sanctity. The entire area
surrounding the complex was densely settled in aboriginal times and is
now replete with significant archeological remains.
It is clear that a
well-organized society once flourished in this area. Archeological
features here illustrate all aspects of ancient society relating to the
religious, economic, social, and political life of early Hawaiians. This
way of life began disappearing with Cook's arrival in 1778 and underwent
more deterioration when Liholiho abolished the kapu system in
|Illustration 147. Portion
of map "Honaunau, South Kona-Hawaii, Beach Section at Low Tide.
Historical and Archaeological Remains," by John F.G. Stokes,
1919. Courtesy Kona Historical Society, Captain Cook, Hawai'i.
C. Development of Honaunau Ahupua'a
As described earlier in
this study, the sheltered, temperate Kona Coast of Hawai'i became an
ideal settlement area for the early Polynesian peoples who migrated to
the Hawaiian Islands. The calm waters of Honaunau Bay provided abundant
fish and other marine resources, while its gentle upland slopes offered
conditions conducive to the growth of abundant crops of taro, bananas,
sweet potatoes, sugarcane, and later, breadfruit. Also available were
stands of hardwood trees for constructing residences and religious
structures and for manufacturing canoes. Much of Honaunau Bay's
attraction lay in its sheltered sandy beaches where canoes could easily
land. A number of brackish springs, actually tide pools in which fresh
water from rain and natural seepage accumulated on the surface of the
salt water, provided a dependable water supply. It is not surprising the
cove quickly became a favorite residence of Hawaiian royalty.
The refuge was an
important part of Honaunau, the traditional seat of the chiefdom of
Kona. The ruling chief and his court occupied the area at the head of
Honaunau Bay and along the shore to the south. Lesser chiefs and
commoners serving the court and priests resided on the north shore of
the bay, toward the mountains, and possibly at Keokea and Ki'ilae
villages to the south. All residences were basically one-room, wooden
framework, thatched-roof structures. The chief's complex would have
consisted of several houses.
The ancient village of
Honaunau was the ancestral home of the Kamehameha dynasty, serving in
ancient times as a major Hawaiian religious and cultural center. In 1823
William Ellis noted that "Honaunau . . . was formerly a place of
considerable importance, having been the frequent residence of the kings
of Hawaii, for several successive generations."
When King Keawe-i kekahi-ali'i-o-ka-moku of Kona, Kamehameha's
great-grandfather, died about 1650, his bones were placed in a temple
constructed on a platform next to the refuge. His mana, inherited
from his ancestral gods, and that of his descendants became the power
protecting the refuge at Honaunau. The structure in which his remains
reposed, the Hale-o-Keawe, became a royal mausoleum, holding the bones
of several more of Kamehameha's ancestors and thereby endowing the area
with extreme sacredness and the refuge with powerful guardian spirits.
Although the canoe
traffic of ancient times moved easily in and out of the small harbor of
Honaunau Bay, the water was not deep enough to accommodate the European
and American trading ships that began arriving in Hawai'i late in the
eighteenth century. For that reason Kamehameha and other ali'i anxious
to initiate social and economic interaction with foreigners moved to
other harbors, such as Kailua and Honolulu.
This was the beginning of the decline in Honaunau's importance, which
increased with the abolition of the kapu system in 1819, at which
time the benefits of absolution and forgiveness provided by places of
refuge became unnecessary. Honaunau over the years declined in
population as it changed in character from a royal residence of kings, a
religious and political center, and a refuge site to just another
seacoast village that gradually lost inhabitants to the upland sections
in the 1840s as happened in other places.
In the Great Mahele,
the ahupua'a of Honaunau went to Miriam Kekau'onohi, a
granddaughter of Kamehameha. She took as her second husband Levi
Ha'alelea, a descendant of the Kona chiefs, who inherited Honaunau when
she died. After his death, the administrator of his estate sold the land
at auction in 1866 to W. C. Jones, agent for Charles Kana'ina, the
father of King Lunalilo. Because Jones never paid for the land, Charles
R. Bishop bought it in 1867 as a present for his wife, Bernice Pauahi.
Six years after her death, Bishop deeded Honaunau to the Trustees of the
Bishop Estate who leased the portion occupied by the refuge to S.M.
Damon. In 1921 the county of Hawai'i leased the pu'uhonua and the
adjoining picnic area from the Bishop Estate for use as a county park.
In 1959 the federal government obtained 165 acres, including the ancient
refuge, from the Trustees for the establishment of a national park. Part
of the land was from the ahupua'a of Honaunau and part from
Keokea. Kamehameha Ill had granted the ahupua'a of Keokea to
Kekuanaoa in 1848; his daughter, Ruth Ke'elikolani, acquired it upon his
death in 1868. At her death in 1883, the land went to her cousin Bernice
D. Places of Refuge
In ancient Hawai'i,
during times of war, old men, women, and children from surrounding
districts fled to places of safety, either in the mountains, in caves,
or to pu'uhonua to await the outcome of the conflict in safety
and to escape reprisal if their warriors met defeat. William Ellis noted
Each party [involved
in battle] usually had a... natural or artificial fortress, where
they left their wives and children, and to which they fled if
vanquished in the field.
These fortresses were
either eminences of difficult ascent, and, by walling up the avenues
leading to them, sometimes rendered inaccessible; or they were
extensive enclosures, including a cave, or spring, or other natural
means of sustenance or security.
The stone walls
around the forts were composed of large blocks of lava, laid up
solid, but without cement, sometimes eighteen feet high, and nearly
twenty feet thick. On the tops of these walls the warriors fought
with slings and stones, or with spears and clubs repelled their
When their pari
[fortress] was an eminence, after they had closed the avenues, they
collected large stones and fragments of rock on the edges of the
precipices overhanging the paths leading to the fortification, which
they rolled down on the heads of their enemies.
translates literally as pu'u (hill), honua (earth).
Possibly the word pertained originally to a fortress on a hill, which is
also implied by Ellis's quotation above and one from Samuel Kamakau
presented a little later in this section. The term is also applied to
cave refuges, which were actually large lava tubes into which small
groups of people fled from a pursuing enemy. Sometimes stone walls
across the entrances allowed only one person at a time to enter, in a
stooped position, providing defensive advantage for those inside.
Places of refuge were a necessary adaptation because of the particular
culture of the early Hawaiians, regimented as it was by the kapu
system of prescribed behavior, and preoccupied as its leaders became in
achieving power and authority — pursuits that frequently dictated
conflict and wars.
According to the historian
Marion Kelly, the Hawaiian concept of asylum and its various elements
evolved as a natural outgrowth of institutions and cultural patterns
that already formed an established part of Polynesian society. These
arrived in Hawai'i as part of the general pool of cultural knowledge and
were elaborated upon and refined to conform with evolving Hawaiian
beliefs related to the supreme sacredness and inherited power of ruling
As Kelly states,
It is apparent from
the material available that the Polynesian concept of a place of
refuge is rooted in the inherited powers of the high chief. This is
to be seen in the custom of declaring very high chiefs to be
pu'uhonua, of declaring certain lands belonging to chiefs with
powerful maria to be pu'uhonua, and of placing the bones of
deified ancestors in temples connected with specific sites which
were thereby designated pu'uhonua.
Emory's views supported this statement. He determined that the sanctity
of a place of refuge related directly not only to the inherited sacred
power of the chief who established it but also to his ability to
maintain political control of the district.
3. Historical Associations with
Hebraic Cities of Refuge
Early European visitors
to Honaunau, trying to place the Hawaiian term pu'uhonua within a
context they could understand, used the term "city of refuge" for this
area. Although it little resembled the cities of refuge in Jerusalem,
because it was neither a city or even a settlement and because
protection was granted to both the innocent and the guilty, the
name clung to the site through succeeding generations of visitors and
scholars. A "logical" conclusion of this misnomer was that the Hawaiian
people must have descended from one of the lost Hebrew tribes.
Abraham Fornander dedicated a paragraph in his first volume on the
Polynesian race to "Cities of Refuge," sacred areas that he noted had
often been discussed as "another instance of Hebraic influence upon the
customs and culture of the Hawaiians."
Even King Kalakaua, in describing the two Pu'uhonua, or places of
refuge, on Hawai'i Island, went so far as to venture that their
existence suggested "a Polynesian contact with the descendants of
Abraham far back in the past, if not a kinship with one of the scattered
tribes of Israel."
4. Use Within Hawaiian Culture
Access to the
pu'uhonua o Honaunau would have been gained by land from the south
or by swimming into it from the north. The presence of the palace
complex just east of the refuge prohibited entry from that side; the
kapu system ordered immediate death for a commoner who set foot or
cast a shadow on a royal residential area.
The pu'uhonua was
a place that was always open, and anyone who reached it was assured of
protection no matter their class or type of infraction. A large,
enclosed refuge such as the one at Honaunau was considered extremely
safe not only because of the physical barrier of the surrounding wall
but also because the presence of a heiau within or near the walls
assured the protecting influence of guardian deities. Fleeing to one of
these places was the only escape from death for a criminal, vanquished
warrior, or kapu violator. These designated sacred sites offered
the chance to be purified by a kahuna pule for one's sins and to
resume life in the community free of the fear of punishment.
Kelly, in describing the
interrelationship in a pu'uhonua between spiritual mana
and personal safety, suggested that
Much more important
than physical protection was the supernatural protection and
sanctity of the surrounding area. Thus, each pu'uhonua site
was closely associated with a heiau. The heiau of the
pu'uhonua at Honaunau at the time of European contact was
Hale o Keawe. This association with religious structures indicates
that a pu'uhonua as that at Honaunau was not merely a place
of physical refuge, but more specifically a sanctuary. In a thatched
house on one of the heiau platforms were kept the bones of
deceased high chiefs, now deified. This was not a burial, but rather
a deification. Hawaiian burials per se were quite different. The
powerful mana of these deified chiefs continued after life to
surround the area and to afford protection to anyone entering the
enclosure. The sanctuary at Honaunau was under the protection of the
deified chief Keawe, and the one at Waipi'o Valley under Liloa.
De Freycinet described
Hawaiian pu'uhonua enclosures in 1819 in some detail:
They offer an
inviolable refuge to the fugitive culprits who are fortunate enough
to attain their limits while fleeing from public persecution or just
reprisal. Several large openings, some facing the sea and others
facing the mountains, make the entry fast and easy at all hours for
all those who get there. There, a murderer, a man who violated the
tabou or failed in some of its religious observances, a thief, or
even an assassin find protection and security, as soon as he has
managed to cross the threshold of one of the gates. In times of war,
a white banner, flying at all times from an extended pole at each
extremity of the enclosure, informs all combatants — friend or foe —
forced to escape the blows of the conquerors that for them the place
is an assured port of safety. The priests guarding it and serving
the refugees would immediately put to death any desecrating intruder
who was daring enough to follow beyond its sacred limits a person
under the protection of Keave [Keawe], the tutelary deity of these
inviolable retreats. . . .
contains houses for the priests and for those who are enjoying the
rights of refuge. Some leave after a lapse of time set by custom;
others return to their usual domicile after the cessation of
hostilities, having nothing to fear from then on.
Constance Cumming had
been told that, having crossed the threshold of the refuge and attained
sanctuary, "The first act of the fugitive was to give thanks in presence
of the image of Keave, and he was then allowed to rest in one of the
houses built specially for refugees, within the sanctuary. . . .
This concept of providing
places of safety was recognized throughout the Hawaiian Islands,
resulting in a functioning pu'uhonua in each district throughout
ancient times. Designated pu'uhonua changed over time with
changing policies. The refuge at Honaunau was the largest walled one in
Hawai'i and is thought to have been the most continuously used. Today it
is also the best preserved. Established by the Kona chiefs in
prehistoric times, it functioned into the historic period.
5. Use During Reign of Kamehameha
After consolidating his
power, Kamehameha abolished most of the old pu'uhonua,
distributing them to his war leaders, and established new ones. Only
Kaua'i, never the scene of Kamehameha's conflicts, retained all its
original refuges. Kamakau states that prior to Kamehameha's rise to
power there had been pu'uhonua on Hawai'i Island in Kohala,
Hamakua, Hilo, Puna, and Ka'u. But when the Kona chiefs gained
ascendancy, only the pu'uhonua at Honaunau was kept, either
because the Kona chiefs were supreme or because the land was so dry it
was of little other use.
Samuel Kamakau also
discussed the fact that not only places but people were considered
The king was called a
pu'uhonua because a person about to die could run to him and
be saved; so also were called his queen (ka Mo'iwahine) and
his god. They were sacrosanct, and therefore their lands were
sacrosanct, and were 'aina pu'uhonua, lands of refuge. Some
fortifications (pu'u kaua) were pu'uhonua, when they
were close to those about to be captured in battle.
Designation as a
pu'uhonua was applied to high chiefs because of their position as
rulers, a position supported by the mana or sacred power they had
inherited from their ancestors and that gave them the right to spare
lives or extend mercy.
As ruling chief,
converted the lands
of his favorite wife [Ka'ahumanu] and of his god into pu'uhonua
lands to save persons who had done some wrong [that is, violated
some kapu], had shed blood without cause, or who had killed a man
unintentionally. Ka'ahumanu herself was at times a pu'uhonua,
when a lawbreaker who ran to her was saved from death. Kamehameha
was also a pu'uhonua. A lawbreaker who had killed another
unintentionally ran straight to Kamehameha, and his pursuers could
not shed his blood; the king released the lawbreaker.
E. Pu'uhonua o Honaunau
1. Early Descriptions by Europeans
Early accounts of the
pu'uhonua o Honaunau consist primarily of descriptions of the Hale-o
Keawe and/or brief mention of the dimensions and configuration of the
Great Wall. In the historic period a number of early European visitors
and missionaries saw, were impressed by, and even tried to depict on
paper, the thatched mausoleum of Hale-o-Keawe and its associated refuge.
Because this temple was left to deteriorate after other religious
structures had been destroyed, it afforded a final view of the relics,
and a parting reflection on the kapu, that had comprised such an
essential part of the ancient Hawaiian religion. These early accounts
provide our only historical picture of the remains of the pu'uhonua
a) Cook Expedition, 1779
The first known visit by
Europeans to the pu'uhonua at Honaunau was by some of Captain
Cook's officers in March 1779. Lieutenant James King recorded that
In a bay to the
Southward of Karakaooa, a party of our gentlemen were conducted to a
large house, in which they found the black figure of a man, resting
on his fingers and toes, with his head inclined backward; the limbs
well formed and exactly proportioned, and the whole beautifully
polished. This figure the natives called Maee [mo-i]; and
round it placed thirteen others of rude and distorted shapes, which
they said were the Eatooas [Akuas] of several deceased
chiefs, whose names they recounted. The place was full of whattas
[hakas], on which lay the remains of their offerings. They likewise
give a place in their houses to many ludicrous and some obscene
idols, like the Priapus of the ancients.
b) Archibald Menzies, 1793
The second recorded
sojourn in the area was a brief one, on February 28, 1793, by Archibald
Menzies, botanist of the Vancouver expedition, who arrived in the
village of Honaunau at the tail end of an exploratory expedition into
the uplands behind Kealekekua Bay. He and his companions
arrived in the
afternoon at a village by the seaside called Honaunau, about two
leagues to the southward of Kealakekua Bay. As we approached it, the
natives came out in great crowds to meet us. The young women
expressing their joy in singing and dancing, from every little
eminence, to entertain us, while the men received us with a
clamorous welcome and an officiousness to serve us that would have
been troublesome and teasing had they not been kept in good order by
John Smith and the natives who accompanied us, who exercised their
authority by clearing an avenue before us wherever we went. They
took us to a large house which was tabooed for the king, with a
number of smaller houses contiguous to it for sleeping in and for
his attendants when he comes to the village. We were told that he
has a set of houses kept for him in the same way in every village he
is likely to stop at round the island, which, when he once occupies
or eats in, cannot afterwards be used by any other.
After a soothing massage,
and after contracting with the inhabitants to provide water for their
ships, Menzies and his companions spent an uneventful night in the
village. Little interested in ethnography, Menzies seemed unimpressed by
the presence of the refuge or its meaning in Hawaiian culture. He
mentions only that during the night, "in a large marae close to us we
now and then heard the hollow sounding drums of the priests who were up
in the dead hour of the night performing their religious rites."
c) John Papa I'i, 1817
John Papa I'i, a
participant in, and observer of, Hawaiian public affairs as a companion
of Liholiho, stated that Kamehameha's son regularly visited the
Hale-o-Keawe during his journeys to various luakini as his
father's representative in those rituals necessary to replenish their
mana. Liholiho would begin this series of prescribed visits in
Kailua, proceed up the coast to Kawaihae, and then continue on around
the island, finally stopping at Hale-o-Keawe. The following is the only
eye-witness account of an official state visit to the Hale-o-Keawe, made
in 1817, and of the accompanying rituals:
The person whose
writing this is [I'i] often went about them [places of refuge on the
various islands]. He has seen the Hale o Keawe, where the bones were
deposited, standing majestically on the left side of Akahipapa lava
flat. The house stood by the entrance of a wooden enclosure, its
door facing inland toward the farming lands of South Kona. The house
was good-looking inside and out. Its posts and rafters were of
kauila wood, which, it is said, was found in the upland of
Napuu. It was well built, with crossed stems of dried ti leaves for
thatching. The compact bundles of deified bones were in a row inside
the house, beginning with Keawe's bones, near the right side of the
door by which one went in and out, and extending to the spot
opposite the door.
At the right front
corner of the house, heaped up like firewood, were the unwrapped
bones of those who had died in war. In that heap were the bones of
Nahiolea, father of Mataio Kekuanaoa. Ii saw his own father remove
his tapa shoulder covering and place it on a bundle among the other
bundles of bones. He must have done this after asking the caretaker
about all of them. When Ii saw his father's action he asked, "Have
we a near kinsman in this house?" His father assented. There are
still some people who have relatives in this house of "life". . . .
After Liholiho had
finished his visit to the house, a pig was cooked and the gathering
sat to worship the deified persons there. Then the chief and those
who went into the house with him ate together. After the eating was
finished, the kapu was removed. . . .
d) Reverend William Ellis, 1823
The first detailed
description of this "city of refuge" by a foreigner was penned by the
Reverend William Ellis while visiting the area on his tour of the island
with representatives of the Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
Very interested in learning all he could about Hawaiian society and
religious beliefs, and already acquainted with many aspects of the
culture and able to speak the language, he immediately realized the
significance of the pu'uhonua. He was less impressed by the
village of Honaunau, which then contained about 147 houses. Despite the
large number of dwellings, the only accommodations he and his companions
could find consisted of a mat spread on the ground in an open canoe
shed. There they passed their nights, beset by ''swarms of vermin" and
"the unwelcome intrusion of hogs and dogs of every description." Because
Ellis was feeling the effects of indigestion, thought to have been
caused by drinking the brackish water along the coast, he and his party
tarried in the area for another couple of days while he recuperated.
During that time his companions examined the surrounding countryside.
Inland two to four miles they found a prosperous population living
comfortably in comparison to those on the coast. Breadfruit trees,
cocoanuts, and prickly pear thrived in large groves.
By this time, the
pu'uhonua at Honaunau had been abandoned for four years. Ellis and
his companions were quite impressed by the Hale-o-Keawe, although they
were unable to understand why it had not been destroyed during the
general destruction attending the abolition of the kapu system.
Ellis's description of the structure is lengthy but irreplaceable in
providing some idea of its original appearance:
The principal object
that attracted our attention, was the Hare o Keave, (the House of
Keave,) a sacred depository of the bones of departed kings and
princes, probably erected for the reception of the bones of the king
whose name it bears, and who reigned in Hawaii about eight
It is a compact
building, twenty-four feet by sixteen, constructed with the most
durable timber, and thatched with ti leaves, standing on a bed of
lava that runs out a considerable distance into the sea.
It is surrounded by a
strong fence of paling, leaving an area in the front, and at each
end about twenty-four feet wide. The pavement is of smooth fragments
of lava, laid down with considerable skill.
Several rudely carved
male and female images of wood were placed on the outside of the
enclosure; some on low pedestals under the shade of an adjacent
tree, others on high posts on the jutting rocks that hung over the
edge of the water.
A number stood on the
fence at unequal distances all around; but the principal assemblage
of these frightful representatives of their former deities was at
the south-east end of the enclosed space, where, forming a
semicircle, twelve of them stood in grim array, as if perpetual
guardians of "the mighty dead" reposing in the house adjoining.
A pile of stones was
neatly laid up in the form of a crescent, about three feet wide, and
two feet higher than the pavement, and in this pile the images were
fixed. They stood on small pedestals, three or four feet high,
though some were placed on pillars, eight or ten feet in height, and
The principal idol
stood in the centre, the others on either hand; the most powerful
being placed nearest to him: he was not so large as some of the
others, but distinguished by the variety and superior carvings of
his body, and especially of his head.
Once they had
evidently been clothed, but now they appeared in the most indigent
nakedness. A few tattered shreds round the neck of one that stood on
the left hand side of the door, rotted by the rain and bleached by
the sun, were all that remained of numerous and gaudy garments, with
which their votaries had formerly arrayed them.
A large pile of
broken calabashes and cocoa-nut shells lay in the centre, and a
considerable heap of dried, and partly rotten, wreaths of flowers,
branches of shrubs and bushes, and fragments of tapa, (the
accumulated offerings of former days,) formed an unsightly mound
immediately before each of the images. . . .
We endeavored to gain
admission to the inside of the house, but were told it was tabu roa,
(strictly prohibited,) and that nothing but a direct order from the
king, or Karaimoku [Kalanimoku], could open the door.
However, by pushing
one of the boards across the door-way a little on one side, we
looked in, and saw many large images, some of wood very much carved,
others of red feathers, with distended mouths, large rows of sharks'
teeth, and pearl-shell eyes.
We also saw several
bundles, apparently of human bones, cleaned, carefully tied up with
cinet [sennit] made of cocoa-nut fibres, and placed in different
parts of the house, together with some rich shawls and other
valuable articles, probably worn by those to whom the bones
belonged, as the wearing apparel and other personal property of the
chiefs is generally buried with them. . . .
Adjoining the Hare o
Keave to the southward, we found a Pahu tabu (sacred enclosure) of
considerable extent, and were informed by our guide that it was one
of the pohonuas [pu'uhonua] of Hawaii, of which we had so
often heard the chiefs and others speak. There are only two on the
island. . . .
This had several wide
entrances, some on the side next the sea, the others facing the
mountains. . . . Happily for him [the one seeking refuge], those
gates were perpetually open; and as soon as the fugitive had
entered, he repaired to the presence of the idol, and made a short
ejaculatory address, expressive of his obligations to him in
reaching the place with security.
Whenever war was
proclaimed, and during the period of actual hostilities, a white
flag was unfurled on the top of a tall spear, at each end of the
enclosure. . . . It was fixed a short distance from the walls on the
outside, and to the spot on which this banner was unfurled, the
victorious warrior might chase his routed foes; but here, he must
himself fall back; beyond it he must not advance one step, on pain
of forfeiting his life.
The priests, and
their adherents, would immediately put to death any one who should
have the temerity to follow or molest those who were once within the
pale of the pahu tabu; and, as they expressed it, under the shade or
protection of the spirit of Keave, the tutelar deity of the place.
In one part of the
enclosure, houses were formerly erected for the priests, and others
for the refugees, who, after a certain period, or at the cessation
of war, were dismissed by the priests, and returned unmolested to
their dwellings and families. . . .
We could not learn
the length of time it was necessary for them to remain in the
puhonua; but it did not appear to be more than two or three days.
After that, they either attached themselves to the service of the
priests, or returned to their homes.
The puhonua at
Honaunau is capacious, capable of containing a vast multitude of
people. . . .
The form of it was an
irregular parallelogram, walled up on one side and at both ends, the
other being formed by the sea-beach, except on the north-west end,
where there was a low fence. On measuring it, we found it to be 715
feet in length, and 404 feet wide. The walls were twelve feet high
and fifteen thick.
Holes were still
visible in the top of the wall, where large images had formerly
stood, about four rods apart throughout its whole extent.
Within this enclosure
were three large heiaus, two of which were considerably demolished,
while the other was nearly entire. It was a compact pile of stones,
laid up in a solid mass, 126 feet by 65, and ten feet high.
Many fragments of
rock, or pieces of lava, of two or more tons each, were seen in
several parts of the wall, raised at least six feet from the ground.
. . .
We could not learn
how long it [Pu'uhonua o Honaunau] had been standing, but
were informed it was built for Keave, who reigned in Hawaii about
250 years ago.
The walls and heiaus,
indeed, looked as if it might claim such antiquity; but the house of
Keave and the images must have been renewed since that time.
Ellis and his companions
found the refuge, signifying clemency and empathy with the plight of the
common people, a refreshing change to the deserted "heathen" temples and
abandoned altars that conjured up vastly different pictures, those of
"human immolations and shocking cruelties."
Many of the later visitors to the area based their descriptions on this
account by Ellis, adding few other relevant details or observations.
Lithograph of Hale-o-Keawe from William Ellis's tour around the
Island of Hawai'i in 1823. Courtesy, Bernice P. Bishop Museum,
e) Andrew Bloxam, 1825
Two years later, in 1825,
the British frigate Blonde, commanded by Captain (Lord) Byron,
came to Hawai'i to return the bodies of Kamehameha II and his queen,
Kamamalu, who had succumbed to measles during a royal visit to England
the previous year. On board ship were Naturalist Andrew Bloxam and
Botanist James Macrae. During their sojourn in the islands, these men
visited a number of ports and sites of interest. In addition, Byron was
more than willing to serve as an ally to the Hawaiian high chiefs in
their efforts to promote Christianity by removing all sacred objects
from the Hale-o-Keawe. Liholiho's death had resulted in Kauikeaouli's
ascendancy as Kamehameha Ill. Because the new ruler was underage,
Kalanimoku served as regent and co ruler with Ka'ahumanu. Both were new
converts to Christianity, Kalanimoku specifically giving Byron
permission to remove articles from the temple.
On the morning of July 15, 1825, Bloxam reported that
a large party
consisting of Lord Byron and several of the gunroom officers went in
the boats to visit the only perfect remaining morai on the islands.
It is about three miles south of Karakaikooa [Kealakekua], close to
the shore in a small sandy bay and near a grove of coconut trees.
Karaimoku had given permission to Lord Byron to visit it and take
out any curiosities he chose. No white person had heretofore been
allowed to enter the threshold, it is strictly guarded by a person
who had the care of it. It is tabooed from the natives, as it
contains the most precious relics — the bones of most of their
former kings. We were accompanied by Kuakini and Naihe, the two
principal chiefs. The morai [Hale-o-Keawe] is built like a large
native thatched hut, thirty by fifteen feet, with a very high roof
and one low door. It is placed in a square paved with large stones
and surrounded with thick wooden stakes and palings. Outside this
fence are ranged without order or regularity about twenty wooden
idols rudely carved and of various uncouth forms, most of which are
now fast rotting and decaying. In the interior of the palisades on
one side is erected a kind of stage, about fourteen feet high, of
strong poles on which the offerings were formerly placed. At the
bottom lay a considerable number of decayed coconuts. We entered the
building itself by a small wooden door about two feet high arched
over at the top, the only light the interior received was from this,
and a few holes in the delapidated [sic] roof. Before us were
placed two large and curious carved wooden idols, four or five feet
high, between which was the altar where the fires were made for
consuming the flesh of the victims. On our left were ranged ten or
twelve large bundles of tapa each surmounted by a feather or wooden
idol, and one with a Chinese mask, these contained the bones of a
long succession of kings and chiefs whose names were mentioned
there. The floor was strewn with litter, dirt, pieces of tapa, and
offerings of every description. In one corner were placed a quantity
of human leg and arm bones covered over with tapa. In two other
corners were wooden stages, on which were placed quantities of
bowls, calabashes, etc., containing shells, fishhooks, and a variety
of other articles; leaning against the wall were several spears,
fifteen or sixteen feet in length, a small model of a canoe, two
native drums and an English drum in good preservation. This, one of
the chiefs took with him. In the sides of the building were stuck
several small idols with a calabash generally attached to them, one
of these we opened and found the skeleton of a small fish, it was
therefore probably the offering of a fisherman.
The natives and
chiefs who were with us seemed to have but little regard for
anything there, and willingly granted whatever we were desirous of
taking. The only one who seemed to grieve at the loss of so many
apparent treasures was the old man who had charge of them. He was,
however, soon consoled by presents of knives, scissors an old suit
of clothes, etc., given by several of us. Near the morai is a large
enclosure surrounded by a stone wall, formerly a place of refuge,
where all persons were esteemed safe who flew there in time of war,
or had committed any great offence. . . .
We each of us took
away some memorial of the place and reached the ship a little before
This account does not
mention the images within the enclosure that Ellis noted nor those on
the fence. Byron's account, presented later, however, does mention
images within the courtyard. Bloxam added to the significance of his
visit by making sketches of the exterior of the Hale-o Keawe and of its
|Illustration 152. Image
removed from Hale-o-Keawe and later presented to the Bishop
Museum, Honolulu, by Henry Bloxam. From Bloxam, Diary,
facing p. 60.
|Illustration 153. Andrew
Bloxam's drawings of the exterior appearance and interior
arrangement of Hale-o-Keawe. From Bloxam, Diary, p. 75.
f) Reverend Rowland Bloxam, 1825
The Reverend Rowland
Bloxam, Andrew's uncle, added a few details on the Hale-o-Keawe's
On one side were
arranged several feathered deities protruding their misshapen heads
through numberless folds of decayed tapa. Under these folds were
deposited the bones of the mighty kings and potent warriors who had
formerly hailed these idols as their penates. . . after the party
had viewed this holy place for some time, our rapacious inclinations
began to manifest themselves and after his lordship [Byron] had
taken what he thought proper, the rest began to take an ample
sanctuary regardless of the punishment attending such shameless
sacrilege. Two immense though beautifully carved gods that stood on
each side of the stone altar were immediately plucked up and sent
down to the boats. I succeeded in appropriating to myself two wooden
gods, a feathered deity that covered the bones of Keawe, grandfather
of Terreahoo (Kaleiopuu), a beautiful spear and a few other articles
within my reach. All the other visitants were equally piously
inclined. Having thus gratified our curiosity we returned to the
ship laden with the spoils of this heathen temple.
g) Lord G. A. Byron, 1825
Lord Byron's account of
this trip provides additional information of interest and importance:
Kuakini and Nahi
accompanied us to the royal morai in the neighbourhood, which had,
till now, been considered sacred. After rowing along the coast to
the southward for a short time, we came to a pretty creek called
Honaunau, where the morai, overshadowed with cocoa-nut trees, stood.
The exterior appearance of the building itself does not differ from
that of the grass houses of the native chiefs. It is surrounded by a
palisade formed of the trunks of palm-trees, and the court within
the palisade is filled with rude wooden images of all shapes and
dimensions, whose grotesque forms and horrible countenances present
a most extraordinary spectacle. Most of these idols are placed in
the same attitude; one, however, was distinguished by a greater
degree of skill in the carving: it had a child in its arms. There
were also a number of poles with carved heads in various parts of
the court, and, immediately in front of the morai, and outside of
the palisades, there was a kind of sentinel deity of a very
grotesque shape. On entering the morai we saw on one hand a line of
deities made of wicker-work, clothed in fine tapa, now nearly
destroyed by time, and adorned with feathered helmets and masks,
made more hideous by rows of sharks' teeth, and tufts of human hair;
each differing a little from the other, but all preserving a strong
family likeness. Under these the bones of the ancient kings of the
Island are said to be deposited; and near them the favorite weapons
of deceased chiefs and heroes, their ornaments, and whatever else
might have been pleasing to them while alive.
As the idolatrous
worship of these things is now at an end, Karaimoku takes every
occasion to do away the remembrance of it, taking care not to shock
the feelings of the people too violently. He had given directions,
that as the English officers were desirous of taking some of the
ancient gods, and other articles deposited in the morai, to show in
Britain what had been the worship and the customs of their Hawaiian
brethren, the guardians of the place should permit them to remove
whatever they pleased.
We could not wonder
that the old man, who had long been the priest of the temple, and
was now the guardian of its relics, showed some signs of regret at
this final destruction of the gods of his youth. This man was the
son of the high-priest of Captain Cook's times.
The two high chiefs
accompanying Byron, Kuakini (governor of the island of Hawai'i) and
Na'ihe (chief of South Kona and guardian of the Hale-o-Keawe), were
somewhat disturbed by this looting of the temple, but remained silent.
They did, however, prevent removal of the bones.
|Illustration 154. Sketch
of Hale-o-Keawe by Robert Dampier, artist with Lord Byron on the
H.M.S. Blonde, 1825. Artistic license shows in the
background scene, but the structure is definitely the mausoleum.
From Byron, Voyage of H.M.S. Blonde, facing p. 199.
h) James Macrae, 1825
Botanist James Macrae,
not a member of the first tourist party off the Blonde, visited
the pu'uhonua the next day:
Went to see the morai
[Hale o Keawe] on the other side of the island. On our way met the
old priest in his canoe coming on board. He alone is entrusted to
enter the morai, and we accordingly took him back with us. We found
the morai was on the east point of a small bay surrounded by huts
standing under a thinly scattered grove of coconut trees, but with
no signs of cultivation about. As we were about to enter the morai
the old priest, who had on a straw hat and cotton shirt, took both
of them off, and only left his maro on. On entering we only found an
empty filthy hut with quantities of human bones in heaps under mats
at each end of the hut, many of the bones not yet dry and disgusting
to the sight. In the middle were several effigies of the deceased
chiefs, tied to a bundle of tapa cloth containing the bones of each
person whom the effigies represented. Most of the effigies were made
of wood, but the one representing the late Tamahamaah [inaccurate]
was substituted by a mask of European manufacture and was more
finely dressed than the others. The party with Lord Byron that had
visited here the day before, had taken away any memorials of the
morai that could be taken, so we asked the old priest to be allowed
to take some of the ancient weather beaten carved figures outside.
The morai is a small
thatched hut fenced round with sticks to the height of 6 feet, kept
together by two rows of bars. Fixed in the lava ground at the
entrance front stand upright several various sized wooden rudely
carved hideous figures, in representation of their former gods.
These they now set but little value upon, and are rarely met with in
the huts of the natives.
artist, Robert Dampier, contributed to this documentation by sketching
the Hale-o Keawe, producing a rather stylized rendering of the structure
against a background more closely resembling Kealakekua Bay to the
north. An engraving made from that drawing accompanied the formal report
of the voyage and is a valuable source of information on the appearance
of the structure. It should be noted that because the crew of the
Blonde removed many of the Hale-o Keawe images, they have been
preserved in a number of private collections and museums both in the
United States and Europe and provide an important record of early
Hawaiian religious art that might otherwise have been lost.
i) Laura Judd, 1828
The next foreign visitor
who left an account of the pu'uhonua was Laura Fish Judd. She
came to Hawai'i Island in 1828 in company with her missionary/physician
husband, Gerrit P. Judd, who was part of a committee exploring a site
for a health station on the nearby mountain slopes. The failing health
of many of the pioneer missionaries had become a source of concern, and
it was believed that a station in the bracing mountain atmosphere might
be good for them (Waimea in North Kohala was later selected). During
Mrs. Judd's residence at Ka'awaloa she visited the temple at Honaunau
accompanied by Na'ihe and Kapi'olani:
It was then
surrounded by an enclosure of hideous idols carved in wood, and no
woman had ever been allowed to enter its consecrated precincts. Our
heroic Kapiolani led the way, and we entered the enclosure. It was a
sickening scene that met our eyes. The dead bodies of chiefs were
placed around the room in a sitting posture, the unsightly skeletons
mostly concealed in folds of kapa, or rich silk. The blood-stained
altar was there, where human victims had been immolated to idol
gods. Fragments of offerings were strewed about. Kapiolani was much
affected and wept, but her husband was stem and silent. I thought he
was not quite rid of the old superstition in regard to women.
A few months after
our visit [probably early 1829] Kaahumanu came and ordered all the
bones buried, and the house and fence entirely demolished. She gave
some of the timber, which was spear-wood (kauila), to the
missionaries, and told them to make it into canes and contribution
boxes, to send to their friends.
|Illustration 155. Redrawn
Chester Lyman 1846 map of the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. Figure 1 in
Ladd, "Hale-o-Keawe Temple Site," p. 174 (taken from Apple,
j) Later References to the Site
Chester Lyman, a Yale
University scientist visiting Hawai'i, sketched the pu'uhonua in
1846, his map showing that the area between the Great Wall, the
Hale-o-Keawe, and the northeast end of 'Ale'ale'a Heiau was fenced off
as a goat pen. Lyman writes that on December 2, 1846,
We reached Honaunau a
little after 12, and first made a survey of the remains of the old
Pahonua [sic] or City of Refuge. The walls are yet quite
entire, and the stone foundation of the 'House of Keave' with most
of the wooden palisade which encompassed it on the west and north
sides. The whole platform on which the house stood we found to be 50
feet by 50—The house, 24 feet wide, occupying the west side.
We measured the wall
from the entrance at the south end of the platform of the house, and
found the east side to be 600 ft. and the southern 400. Mr. Ellis
gives the length at 715, which must have been measured from the
extreme northern limit of the foundation of the house at the water's
edge. . . . This wall is 15 ft. thick and 12 ft. high.
English author Samuel
Hill visited Honaunau in the late 1840s and found a village containing
about forty huts with not more than 100 residents. He described the
pu'uhonua enclosure as having walls only three to four feet high and
being full of coconut trees.
The village and refuge ruins also rated only
slight mention from George Bowser who, while compiling a directory of
the Hawaiian kingdom in the early 1880s, noted at Honaunau only
about fifteen native
houses and a Roman Catholic Church. . . . Here are the remains of an
old heeiau [sic], or native temple, and also of the other of
those cities of refuge, of one of which, at the other extremity of
the island, I have already given some notice.
D. Harvey Hitchcock, a
Hilo artist, sketched the refuge area in 1889 and depicted many of the
major structures and features.
|Illustration 156. Redrawn
D. Harvey Hitchcock map of the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. Figure 9.2
in Emory, "Transition to the Present," p. 113.
2. Early History
a) Original Chronology of
Information on the
erection of structures at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau has come primarily from
ancient Hawaiian oral traditions, early European travel accounts, oral
history from residents who once lived in the area, and archeological
fieldwork from the early 1900s to the present time. Samuel Kamakau made
the following statement concerning the setting aside of the refuge and
construction of the Hale-o-Keawe:
It is said that
Keawe-ku-i-ke-ka'ai built these pu'uhonua 300 or 400 years
ago, when the chiefs of Kona, Hilo, and Ka'u were warring all over
Hawaii. . . . Some people say that it was in the time of
Keawe-i-kekahi-ali'i-o-ka-moku, the grandfather of Kalani'opu'u, 200
or 300 years ago, and that this Keawe built these pu'uhonua
at Honaunau. But in the time of this Keawe there was peace; . . .
[Keawe-ku-i-ke-ka'ai] was the one who built the pu'uhonua at
Honaunau, and the house to contain the caskets of the chiefs
(hale ka'ai). Because Keawe-i-kekahi ali'i-o-moku became supreme
and had been encased in a sennit casket like Keawe-ku-i-ke-ka'ai and
placed in the pu'uhonua house built by Keawe-ku-i-ka ka'ai,
the house was called Hale-o-Keawe.
Abraham Fornander stated
that Kanuha, son of Keawe-i-kekahi-ali'i-o-ka-moku built the
A chronology of the
establishment of the pu'uhonua and construction of the various
heiau and other features within it has been subject to change and
revision over the years. Anthropologist Dorothy Barrère first attempted
in 1957 to determine the prehistoric use of the pu'uhonua at
Honaunau, a project hampered by the lack of much traditional knowledge.
Several sketchy oral traditions, her own genealogical studies, and
archeological data accumulated to that time convinced her that the
refuge had undergone three main phases of construction. These began with
the erection of the open platform temple now referred to as the "Old
Heiau," which she thought probably provided the initial protective
mana for the refuge. Next came 'Ale'ale'a Heiau and finally
Hale-o-Keawe. Barrère surmised that the Great Wall had been built during
either the first or second phase of construction.
Barrère found it
extremely difficult to determine when the original pu'uhonua had
been set aside, although her genealogical work deduced that the first
chief who would have held uncontested control over his kingdom and thus
would have been in a position to establish and maintain the sanctity of
the refuge was 'Ehu-kai-malino, the ruling chief of Kona and a
contemporary of Liloa, the supreme chief of the island. Both men were
active about 1475 A.D. If 'Ehu had established a pu'uhonua at
this time it probably would have been primarily intended for kapu
breakers, because there was no inter-chiefdom rivalry in progress that
would have necessitated a war refuge. Barrère theorized that the first
heiau took form at this time in association with the
Open to conjecture was
the question of what happened to the refuge under 'Umi, Liloa's son, who
inherited his supreme power. As new ruler, he could either have
abolished the pu'uhonua completely or have reaffirmed its
sanctity. The next mention Barrère found of the pu'uhonua at
Honaunau surfaced four generations after 'Umi, after the line of
inheritance of the Kona chiefs had been firmly established through
'Umi's descendants. One tradition states that it was Keawe-ku-i
ke-ka'ai, a son of Keakealani-kane, ruler of Kona, Kohala, and Ka'u
three generations after 'Umi, who built the pu'uhonua and
Hale-o-Keawe. Other traditions state the latter was built for Keawe-i
kekahi-ali'i-o-ka-moku, living two generations after the other Keawe.
Archaeological evidence at that time indicated that the eastern segment
of the Great Wall originally ran north to the water's edge and that a
portion of it had been removed for construction of the Hale-o-Keawe. On
the basis of what was known at that time, Barrère believed it was
possible to accept both traditional explanations — that
Keawe-ku-i-ke-ka'ai had reconstructed the old pu'uhonua by
building the 'Ale'ale'a Heiau platform, and maybe the Great Wall, and
that the Hale-o-Keawe was built for Keawe-i-kekahi-ali'i-o-ka-moku,
Kamehameha's great-grandfather, in a later period, ca. A.D. 1650.
Interior of the pu'uhonua o Honaunau, ca. 1890.
Identified as view from 'Ale'ale'a platform looking southeast,
Ka'ahumanu Stone in foreground. Note churchyard to left as shown
on Wall 1906 map. Courtesy Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu.
b) New Archeological Data Forces
Revisions to Chronology
After Barrère had
developed this chronology, important new information came to light
through the excavation of 'Ale'ale'a Heiau in 1963. That work showed
that this structure had passed through seven developmental stages,
described as 'Ale'ale'a I-VII. On the basis of those findings, NPS
Archeologist Edmund Ladd, of the Pacific Area Office, revised the
construction chronology in several respects. He theorized that sometime
prior to A.D. 1475, the "Old Heiau" and stages I to III of the 'Ale'ale'a
Heiau were built, the pu'uohuna possibly being in existence at
that time. (Heiau could exist independently of a sanctuary, but a
sanctuary would not be viable without an associated heiau to add
spiritual protection.) About A.D. 1475, Ladd believed, 'Ehu-kai-malino
added stage IV onto 'Ale'ale'a III. At that time he could have
reaffirmed an existing pu'uhonua or might have established the
original one. About A.D. 1500 'Umi possibly reaffirmed the earlier
pu'uhonua by adding stages V and VI to 'Ale'ale'a. Ladd theorized
that about A.D. 1600, Keawe-ku-i-ke-ka'ai reaffirmed the pu'uhonua
by building stage VII of 'Ale'ale'a around stage VI. Ladd then suggested
that in A.D. 1650, 'Ale'ale'a VII was abandoned when the Hale-o-Keawe
was built for Keawe-i-kekahi-ali'i-o-ka-moku.
On the basis of the new
archeological evidence, Barrère also took another look and revised her
chronology, tossing out some basic assumptions she had made earlier and
suggesting that the "Old Heiau" had been constructed by Pili-ka'aiea,
the new ruler Pa'ao installed in the islands, in the thirteenth century;
'Ehu-kai-malino had then constructed 'Ale'ale'a I at the same time he
established the pu'uhonua, about A.D. 1425; 'Umi then enlarged 'Ale'ale'a
in stages II, Ill, and IV and possibly constructed the Great Wall, ca.
A.D. 1500 (based on Apple); Keawe-ku-i-ke-ka'ai further enlarged 'Ale'ale'a
in stage V ca. A.D. 1625 (Apple); and then Keawe-i-kekahi-ali'i-o-ka
moku enlarged 'Ale'ale'a in stage VI in ca. A.D. 1675 (Apple). Barrère
added a new twist by suggesting that Kamehameha enlarged 'Ale'ale'a in
stage VII sometime between 1793 and 1803 and then constructed Hale-o-Keawe
between 1813 and 1819.
Supporting her theory on
the refuge's longevity, Barrère cited a traditional legend from very
ancient times describing what rites a priest followed after a refugee
entered the pu'uhonua o Honaunau. The legend validates later
stories of the area's being an ancient place of refuge, of the
inviolability of its kapu, and of the presence of guards to
enforce its sanctity and of kahuna who performed religious rites
and ceremonies. It is known that during the Battle of Moku'ohai in 1782,
men, women, and children of the camps of both sides took refuge in this
pu'uhonua. In addition, Reverend Ellis noted an account of the
area serving as a refuge for warriors retreating from that battle after
the death of Kiwala'o.
Further data from the
archeological work on the "Old Heiau conducted during 1979 to 1980
appeared to show that stage I of 'Ale'ale'a predated the "Old Heiau" and
might even be 200 years older than originally thought. In a final effort
to clarify the sequence of events, Ladd conjectured that 'Ale'ale'a I
had been built ca. A.D. 1250 by an unknown person; 'Ale'ale'a II and III
were added ca. A.D. 1250-1475 by another unknown builder; the "Old Heiau
was then constructed ca. A.D. 1350, influenced by the teachings of Pa'ao
and Pili; 'Ehu-kai-malino added 'Ale'ale'a IV ca. A.D. 1475 and also
established the pu'uhonua; 'Umi added 'Ale'ale'a V and VI ca.
A.D. 1500 and also possibly reaffirmed 'Ehu's pu'uhonua;
Keawe-ku-i-ke-ka'ai added 'Ale'ale'a VII ca. A.D. 1600, when the Great
Wall was constructed; and finally Keawe-i-kekahi-ali'i-o-ka-moku built
the Hale-o Keawe by removing a portion of the Great Wall ca. A.D. 1650.
3. Later History of the Pu'uhonua
and of Hale-o-Keawe
The pu'uhonua, as
indicated, was not needed as a sanctuary after the abolition of the
ancient Hawaiian kapu system. The Hale-o-Keawe was spared
destruction at that time possibly because of its special status and its
extreme sacredness due to its connection with the Kamehameha dynasty and
its function as the repository for the ancestral bones of the reigning
family. Russell Apple has theorized that possibly Liholiho himself, in
agreement with Ka'ahumanu, decided to retain the repository of his
famous ancestors' bones as a "royal mausoleum of the Kamehameha
Despite the acculturation
taking place in Hawai'i at that time, many continued to adhere to the
old traditions. Although worship at the old temples and of the old gods
was almost impossible with their destruction after 1819, the fact that
Hale-o-Keawe still existed provided opportunities for relic worship and
placement of offerings to ancestors. Ka'ahumanu and others who had
converted to Christianity considered this a pagan and objectionable
practice and probably an embarrassment.
Therefore, threats to the
structure's existence arose with the visit of the regent Ka'ahumanu to
the Hale-o-Keawe in 1829. Ka'ahumanu was a strong convert to
Christianity and steadfastly resolved to completely sever Hawaiian ties
to the old religion by getting rid of this last vestige of "paganism."
Missionary Hiram Bingham recounted that
The regent visited
the place not to mingle her adorations with her early contemporaries
and predecessors to the relics of departed mortals, but for the
purpose of removing the bones of twenty-four deified kings and
princes of the Hawaiian race, and consigning them to oblivion. But
at that time she thought Naihe was wavering in respect to their
removal, and Kekauluohi, whose father's bones were there, she
thought still cherished an undue veneration for them; and Boki she
feared would treat her with abuse and violence if she should disturb
the house or remove its mass of relics. But when she saw it ought
to be done, she determined it should be done: and in company
with Mr. Ruggles and Kapiolani, she went to the sacred deposit and
caused the bones to be placed in large coffins and entombed in a
cave in the precipice at the head of Kealakekua Bay. In doing this
she found an expensive article of foreign manufacture, comparatively
new, placed near the bones of the father of Kekauluohi, and which
appeared to have been presented as an offering since the date of the
prohibition of the worship of idols.
The removal of the bones
took place in late December 1828 or early January 1829, and at least
partial destruction of the house occurred soon thereafter.
The deified bones were removed from Hale-o-Keawe and placed in two large
coffins, or wooden boxes, which were secretly interred in Hoaiku cave in
the Ka'awaloa cliffs at Kealakekua Bay, where they remained for almost
thirty years. Sometime afterwards (ca. 1836?) the Hale-o-Keawe's
surrounding fence was dismantled and its sacred timbers and perhaps part
of the palisade were used in construction of a government building in
Honolulu. According to Professor W.D. Alexander, in January 1858
Kamehameha IV toured the windward islands in the British sloop Vixen
commanded by Captain Meacham. Arriving at Ka'awaloa, he ordered the
keeper of the royal burial cave to unseal it during the night and allow
the coffins from Honaunau to be loaded on board ship. Transported to
Honolulu, they were entrusted to the protection of Governor Kekuanaoa,
who was also official guardian of royal tombs. In 1865, after completion
of the royal mausoleum in Nu'uanu, the coffins were carried there during
the night in a torchlight procession and laid to rest.
|Illustration 159. Woven
sennit caskets thought to belong to Kings Liloa and
Lonoikamakahiki. The braid has been woven around their skulls;
the torso holds the rest of the skeleton. Mother-of-pearl is
used for accent. From I'i, Fragments of Hawaiian History,
Chamberlain had been present at the removal of the bones from Hale-o-Keawe
and listed the names of the chiefs whose bones went to Ka'awaloa.
Barrère, after studying the list and genealogies, discovered that
possibly as many as sixteen of the chiefs were direct descendants of one
chiefly mating. She concluded, therefore, that Hale-o-Keawe was
primarily the depository of bones of one family descended from
Keawe-nui-a-'Umi, whose son was the first hereditary ruler of Kona. The
earliest interments in the house were probably designated for
deification as ancestral gods for the next generations. Not all
descendants of the family were placed there, notable exclusions being
that of women, because this was a heiau, and of priests, a class
that could not be be deified.
concerning the Hale-o-Keawe remain unresolved. After being emptied of
relics, and after souvenir pieces of kauila wood had been given
to the missionaries, what happened to the structure? It appears to have
remained standing, possibly by intention on the part of Ka'ahumanu, who
either believed that the removal of relics had so decreased its power
among the people that it no longer posed a threat to Christian beliefs
or who left it to Na'ihe to destroy. Na'ihe continued as guardian of the
bones secreted in the cave in the Kealakekua cliffs until his death in
1831, and he might have managed to procrastinate on the house's
destruction until Ka'ahumanu's death that same year.
Missionaries Ephraim W.
Clark and Levi Chamberlain saw the Hale-o-Keawe still standing in
February 1829 as they passed in a canoe by Honaunau Bay, and the
Reverend John D. Paris noted it again in 1841. Yale astronomer and
surveyor Chester Lyman, visiting in Hawai'i, noted in 1846 the walls
"yet quite entire," the stone foundation of the Hale, and remains of the
Henry Cheever stated about 1850 that only a fence of posts remained on
site, and Samuel Hill about the same time spoke of a few stakes
remaining as well as the temple refuse pit.
A series of earthquakes
beginning in 1868 and resulting tidal waves (tsunami) probably aided the
obliteration of the temple platform and any associated structures.
Damage through neglect and natural forces, plus sinking of the land over
time, had basically cleared the site of the temple by 1902 and
dramatically changed the coastline.
Hale-o-Keawe still await definitive resolution. We can only make
educated guesses about who built it and when and where the bones of its
original inhabitants now finally rest. The presence of associated
structures, such as quarters for temple priests and for caretakers of
the royal tomb or shelters for the refugees, has not been conclusively
determined through either documentary research or archeological
fieldwork to date.
4. Early Study, Restoration, and
The first effort to
preserve features of the pu'uhonua began after the Bishop Estate
acquired the property in the late 1880s. S. M. Damon leased the property
from the estate and financed restoration work on the primary structures,
severely damaged by tidal waves or high surf, in 1902. Surveyor Walter
A. Wall supervised these attempts to repair and restore the 'Ale'ale'a
and Akahipapa heiau and parts of the Great Wall.
Other than drawing a plan of the refuge, Wall did not professionally
document the nature or extent of his work. Comparison of photos of the
Great Wall before and after 1902 show little difference in its
appearance, indicating only minor repairs at that time.
In 1919 Horace Albright,
then Field Assistant to the Director of the NPS, visited the
pu'uhonua and instantly recognized its archeological, historical,
and cultural values. He suggested it should be a national monument,
preserved just as were cliff dwellings and other cultural sites because
of its interest and educational benefits.
Also in 1919 John F.G.
Stokes, then curator of Polynesian Ethnology at the Bishop Museum,
undertook the first formal archeological fieldwork at the site by
investigating the ruins and attempting further repair and restoration of
the pu'uhonua and the Hale-o-Keawe. He mapped the complex and
carried out excavations and restoration of several structures,
concentrating on the Hale-o-Keawe, the Great Wall, and the sandy beach
within the pu'uhonua, and also digging some exploratory trenches
in the mound of the "Old Heiau. He found human burials common in the beach sand inside the refuge and
lust outside the southern arm of the Great Wall. In the course of that
work, Stokes conducted many on-site interviews with local Hawaiians,
finding that even by that time, reliable information on the area prior
to the overthrow of the kapu system was scant.
He restored the Hale-o-Keawe stone platform and repaired walls. The
county of Hawai'i finally leased the site as a park to preserve the area
pending further action affording the site national recognition. In 1949
several officials of the NPS, including Regional Historian V. Aubrey
Neasham, completed a comprehensive historical survey and analysis of the
City of Refuge, also recommending its recognition as a national monument
or a national historic site to preserve and interpret it for future
In 1952 Henry P. Kekahuna
and Theodore Kelsey began a project to locate, examine, and record the
historic sites in Honaunau, Keokea, and Ki'ilae from the seashore to
2,500 feet upland. This involved recording all features of legendary and
historical interest, sketching archeological remains, and preparing an
account of their findings. In the course of that project they studied
materials in the Bishop Museum, interviewed elderly residents of the
Honaunau area, compiled a descriptive map of the pu'uhonua, and
wrote a series of articles in the Hilo Tribune Herald describing
features in the refuge and its vicinity. In 1956 Kekahuna compiled an
interpretive map of the Ki'ilae ruins. This effort succeeded in
furthering the movement for establishment of a national park.
In 1956 Stokes came out
of retirement to help the Bishop Museum Department of Anthropology
produce a major two-volume report, The Natural and Cultural History
of Honaunau, Kona, Hawaii, which it prepared for the NPS and which
contains the heretofore unpublished work of Stokes as well as
ethnohistoric studies by Dorothy Barrère and Marion Kelly. Dr. Kenneth
P. Emory supervised the surveying, inventorying, and mapping of
resources and the collecting of traditional and historical data on the
City of Refuge and its surrounding area. His contributions are also
included in the report. This document, the basic data source for the
park, was reproduced in one volume in 1986.
After establishment of
the national park, the NPS began a long-range restoration program,
including additional research. It initially contracted with the Bishop
Museum in 1962 and 1963 to conduct further archeological excavations at
the new park. This work was intended to build upon that accomplished by
Bryan and Emory in 1957 on the area's natural and cultural history.
Although Robert N. Bowen briefly surveyed caves in the Keanae'e Cliff in
1957, Lloyd J. Soehren of the Bishop Museum began the first modern
excavations at Honaunau in 1962 by conducting test excavations in two
areas where the NPS planned construction of public facilities. The sites
Soehren tested included an arc-shaped area around the base of
pahoehoe flows inland from the 1871 trail, between the "Holua
Honaunau and the north boundary of the park. Features there were
threatened by planned construction of public and administrative
facilities in the area inland of the pu'uhonua. The other area he
surveyed was part of the coral sand dune extending from the southern end
of the Great Wall nearly to the foot of Keanae'e Cliff at Alahaka. The
portion tested was in Keokea at Pele'ula.
Park Archeologist Edmund
Ladd followed this work with extensive tests between the park entrance
road and some of Soehren's sites early in 1963 and also conducted other
investigations that year in connection with stabilization efforts at the
horse ramp in Keokea, at the Great Wall, and at 'Ale'ale'a Heiau.
Donald Tuohy also carried out excavations in 1963, along a proposed road
right-of-way within the park boundaries leading from the park entrance
toward Ki'ilae Village. This work included areas adjacent to the
proposed roadway and others threatened with destruction both from
natural causes and increased public use.
Since 1961 the NPS has
overseen stabilization and restoration of the Great Wall and the 1868
Alahaka ramp, restoration of the 'Ale'ale'a Heiau stone platform,
restoration of the Hale-o-Keawe platform and reconstruction of its
A base map locating the Alahaka-Keanae'e ruins came out in 1963. Alahaka
and Oma'o heiau have been cleared of vegetation, mapped in
detail, and stabilized. Historian Frances Jackson completed a historical
study of Ki'ilae Village in 1966, and archeological base maps completed
in 1968 show the major walls and stone structures there. Test
excavations were conducted at Site B-105 (holua sled track),
B-107 (beach deposit), and B-108 ("Chief's House Complex") in 1968. In
1980 the "Old Heiau" was excavated.
|Illustration 160. NPS
test excavations, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau NHP, 1968. Figure 1 in
Ladd, Test Excavations, p. 2.
Archeological excavations at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau NHP, 1919-63.
Figure 2.2 in Tuohy, "Salvage Excavations at City of Refuge," p.
|Illustration 162. Map 1,
"Honaunau," showing pu'uhonua area and associated
features. Survey and map by Bishop Museum, 1957. From Emory,
"Hinterland and Keamoali'i."
F. Description of Resources: Pu'uhonua
1. Palace Grounds
The royal palace grounds
are located in the vicinity of Keone'ele Cove, inland from the
pu'uhonua. Once filled with numerous grass huts, the area still
contains evidence of chiefly occupation, including He-lei-palala pond,
fed by underground springs, which held fish for royal consumption, and a
papamu stone for playing konane, a game similar to
checkers. This constituted a sacred area in ancient times and commoners
could not walk across it or even cast their shadows upon it without
risking death. Keone'ele Cove was the spot for landing royal canoes and
was kapu to commoners. The royal residential area was separated
from the refuge by the eastern segment of the Great Wall. Another tongue
of lava, called Ka-ule-lewalewa, adjacent to Keone'ele Cove on the west,
shows a line of four vertical holes along its eastern border. These were
probably for a row of images that acted as guardian sentinels for the
(The palace grounds and other features noted within the pu'uhonua
may be seen on Map 1.)
A local informant in 1919
provided information that the royal precincts comprised Lots 18-20 and
part of 22 (see Podmore 1918-19 map). The house platform on Lot 19 at
the edge of the bay was the site of part of King Keawe's "palace"
(Kauwalamalie), probably the reception hall, with living quarters
nearby. Two other house platforms were found at that time, in Lots 18
and 20. The former held a grass house in 1888 and on the latter in 1919
stood an old wooden house inhabited by the caretaker of the grounds. The
informant stated that this house of Keawe's was the site of the 'awa
party at which Kamehameha broke relations with Kiwala'o. (Kamehameha had
arrived in Honaunau to mourn and pay respects to his dead uncle
Kaiani'opu'u and to perform the 'awa ceremony for his cousin
Kiwala'o to purify him from contamination caused by association with the
corpse.) Lots 20 and 22 contain the royal fishponds. Between 1860 and
1870 (probably ca. 1867), Lot 18 was the site of a cocoanut "planting
bee" and luau held by Bernice P. Bishop, as chiefess of the land.
(Stokes believed this was not just an ordinary planting of a coconut
grove, but involved the ceremonial taking possession of the land by the
new owner.) At that time the lot was the village gathering place. The
enclosing walls on Lots 18-20 were modern (within the previous seventy
years). However, this informant did mention an ancient boundary line
there that was regarded as very sacred; any commoner whose shadow fell
on it was killed. Stokes found many holes in the solid pahoehoe
that might have supported kapu sticks.
(As late as 1919 people in the Honaunau area could remember being told
that while the kapu system was in effect, the common people had
to detour around the royal precinct, passing along the shore in the
morning and around back of the village in the afternoon hours to insure
that their shadows did not fall upon that sacred ground.)
According to this same 1919 informant, a building on Lot 19 in this area
served as a school ca. 1830. The structure had a framework of ohia
logs bound together with coconut rope and was covered with ti leaves.
The National Park Service
removed several early stone walls from the royal compound area in 1963.
|Illustration 163. Refuge
area enclosed by Great Wall. NPS photo, 1989.
Cross-section of Great Wall showing pao construction
(three tiers bridging space between outer and inner walls).
Figure 3.18 in Stokes, "Archaeological Features of the
Pu'uhonua Area," p. 70.
Fishpond in Palace Grounds. NPS photo, 1989.
|Illustration 166. Keoua
Stone. NPS photo, 1989.
|Illustration 167. Old
lavatory, bathhouse, and caretaker's house at Pu'uhonua o
Honaunau. Part of area taken by Territory of Hawai'i for U.S.
Government to preserve as City of Refuge. From Devine et al.,
Appraisal Report, p. 17.
|Illustration 168. Corner
of Great Wall, looking into refuge area. NPS photo, 1989.
|Illustration 169. Konane
board in refuge. NPS photo, 1989.
2. Pahu tabu (Sacred
Enclosure), Great Wall
a) Early Descriptions
The Reverend William Ellis
described the refuge enclosure as being "of considerable extent" in the
form of an irregular parallelogram. Walls enclosed one side and both
ends, with the other side open to the beach. A low fence ran across the
northwest end. Ellis's party measured the wall and found it to be 715
feet long and 404 feet wide, with walls 12 feet high and 15 feet thick.
Ellis saw holes in the top of the wall that had supported large images
spaced about four rods apart along the entire extent.
A 1966 study by Apple and Macdonald of the shoreline area just north of
the Great Wall confirmed that a dryland access route to the refuge had
existed. It is now submerged during periods of high tide. Their study
showed the water there had risen about one foot per century.
Samuel Kamakau describes
the Great Wall as follows:
pu'uhonua of Honaunau in North Kona had the walls of a fortified
heiau (pa kaua heiau), made of large rocks placed on top of
each other. Its two walls made an angle (huina pa'ewa)
between Honaunau and Keamoali'i. One wall was a furlong (kesadia,
or kekakia) and 19 fathoms (anana) long, and the other
67 fathoms long; the height was 2 fathoms, and the breadth, 2-1/2
Thrum further elaborates
upon the writings of Kamakau, stating that:
Honaunau . . . was a
stone walled enclosure resembling a fort, with a kind of temple
within. Perhaps only mate persons were rescued by this place of
refuge at South Kona. Honaunau was a celebrated puuhonua, its stone
walls having the nature of a war temple with large stones placed on
top of others. It had a cornered shape, two sides being built of
stone which were between Honaunau and Keamoalii, and on the makai
side was the rocky seashore, and a large stone called Keoua. There
were two temples within the stone walls, one situated on the
northeast corner adjoining the tomb called Haleo-keawe . . . and one
at the end, facing North Kona, the (women's heiau) temple of
sheltered by a surrounding fence of carved wooden images, and on the
north side was the bottomless pit (lua pau) where you enter the
enclosure. Carved images also graced the main walls of the enclosure
toward Keamoalii and Keokea.
b) Construction Details
The local informant
quoted earlier gave Stokes the following information in 1919 in regard
to the pu'uhonua and the process of forgiveness:
From Lot 19, where
Keawe dwelt, a trail formerly led through lot 20 and the ground now
occupied by the young cocoanut grove, between the Hale O Lono and
Keawe's cocoanut house, and arrived at an entrance at the northern
end of the mauka wall of the Puuhonua — the situation of the present
entrance. Thence it continued a few feet to the Kauila gate of the
Hale O Keawe [opposite its door], which Keawe and his family alone
used. The entrance which preceded the present one to the Puuhonua
was on a level with the ground, not raised as now, and the northern
end of the mauka wall originally extended full height to the line of
this entrance. (There is now a bench made in the end.) The original
entrance passed between the end of the mauka wall and the Hale O
Keawe and continued in a straight line past the chief's platform.
The low wall at present on the south side of the passage opposite
the chiefs' platform is modern according to Mainui [the informant,
said to have been born ca. 1823]. Another wall running to the s.w.
from the end of this wall, was ancient. The entrance here referred
to was not for people under the rank of chief, and was closed by
Kauila rail set up on a line of the mauka wall and the Kauila gate
to the Hale O Keawe.
entrances were two, different from those previously mentioned — they
entered by the beach either on the north or on the south. The latter
was also their point of departure after being pardoned. Refugees
approaching the Puuhonua from the north, passed along the tidal
Pahoehoe Flat makai of Lots 10 and 11 and swimming reached another
flat of Pahoehoe north of the Hale O Keawe and stretching out
towards that first mentioned. On the outer point of the second flat
was an idol, on reaching which the laws of the place regarded the
fugitives as saved. After landing, they entered the Puuhonua,
passing to the west of Hale O Keawe and to the northeast and east of
Alealea Heiau. The procedure from there on was not definitely
stated. On the south stood another idol a little to the south of the
former west end of the wall which extended almost to the sea. The
pursuers were compelled to abandon the chase when the fugitives
reached the imaginary line between this idol and the wall's end. To
this same place, the pardoned men were escorted and delivered to
their friends. The idols were of wood or of stone. Guards were
always patrolling the boundaries, to enforce the refugee laws.
Measurements taken during
archeological work by Archeologist Edmund Ladd showed the wall to be 17
feet thick, 12 feet high, and almost 1,000 feet long — an L-shaped
structure enclosing an area of about five acres. The north wall that
existed in Ellis's time is gone. Part of the north end was rebuilt to
accommodate construction of the Hale-o-Keawe. The wall forms two sides
of the enclosure, which is open to the sea on the other sides. As with
all Hawaiian masonry structures, notably the heiau described
earlier in this report, the pu'uhonua enclosure is composed of
two outward facing walls with a central core of rubble fill. The wall
material comprises uncut, mortarless, basalt blocks that fit together
with the smoothest surfaces of the stones facing outward. The stones
used on the outside veneer wall were probably specially selected for
their smooth surfaces and were probably collected nearby. Small stones
were used for the infilling, or chinking, between the large rocks, and
the rubble core between the two outside walls is comprised of broken,
more irregular, stones. In the wall at the north end are some very large
boulders, many of them weighing more than 1,000 pounds. They must have
been moved to the site with great difficulty, possibly with the use of
wooden pry bars, rollers, and skids. The foundation of the wall rests on
solid pahoehoe primarily, although several sections are built
over sandy areas or sinks. The wall's structural weakness results not
only from a weak foundation in several places, but also from its
c) Restoration Efforts
A great deal of
restoration work has been accomplished on the Great Wall. By 1902, more
than eighty years after abandonment of the pu'uhonua, the wall
lay in ruins. Archeological evidence indicates that several hundred feet
of the west end of the wall were destroyed by tidal waves. As mentioned,
S.M. Damon, a trustee of the Bishop Estate, commenced repairing this
structure and the 'Ale'ale'a Heiau and 'Akahipapa ("women's Heiau
Hale o Papa) at his own expense. W.A. Wall supervised the reconstruction
of the wall, basing his work on known facts and oral traditions of local
informants. No official records of this project were kept, although
Stokes attempted to gain some knowledge of the level of work
accomplished by talking with Wall years later and with some of his
workmen in 1919. In addition, Wall drew a plan of the refuge and related
sites that was reproduced in The Hawaiian Annual for 1908.
d) John F.G. Stokes's
In 1919 Stokes and a
Bishop Museum crew began excavation work and limited restoration of the
stone platform of Hale-o-Keawe and repair of the Great Wall. A diagram
by the Reverend A S. Baker in 1921 shows the details of structures at
Stokes made several observations in the course of his work on the Great
Wall. He believed, for instance, that the south wall had probably
originally extended out onto the flat west as far as the sea, with an
opening somewhere along it. More than 100 feet of the west end of the
south wall that had been destroyed by tidal waves had been restored in
1902, but the wall was moved slightly north of the original line during
restoration. By comparing photographs taken in 1889 and 1919 of the
middle part of the outer face of the east wall, it was apparent that the
1902 reconstruction had taken a foot or two in height off the original
wall. Stokes also determined that the north-running wall continued
through the platform of the Hale-o-Keawe, suggesting that at one time it
extended clear to the water's edge. The platform of the Hale-o-Keawe
merely incorporated the base of that wall in its construction. (Dr.
Emory inserted a comment into Stokes's written notes on the Great Wall
that a break in the east wall close to the north end for an entrance had
been installed prior to 1846 and may have been one of the original
entrances that Ellis mentioned.) Stokes measured the largest stone in
the outer (east) facing of the north-running wall and found it measured
6-1/2 feet high, a little more than 5 feet wide, and 2 feet thick. For
most of its course, the east wall rested on bare lava; those sections
that had collapsed by 1902 were on soft ground.
|Illustration 172. Albert
S. Baker's plan of "City of Refuge," 1921. From Baker, "How to
Spend a Day in Kona," p. 104.
Where the interior of the
wall had been exposed either by collapse or removal of stones, Stokes
found a remarkable feature. This was pao, a hollow construction
technique that saved labor and materials and was invisible behind the
solid facades. This caverned, honeycomb construction was accomplished by
laying several tiers of lava slabs or columns across the space between
the outer and inner retaining walls. This technique has only been found
at Honaunau, where it was also used in the platform of Alahaka Heiau to
the south. It takes advantage of the properties of the local lava rock,
which is fragmented, and probably comprised a later development of the
construction technique used in the stone chambers or vaults of house and
burial platforms in which a row of slabs a foot or two apart are bridged
over with other slabs. Although Ellis stated that he had seen holes
along the top of the wall for images, none have been noted by
excavators. According to native tradition, stones for the Great Wall
came from Paumoa and Alahaka in Keokea ahupua'a to the south.
Most of it could certainly have come from nearby sources in the vicinity
of the refuge where the lava surface is broken and from which pieces
appear to have been appropriated. There are few loose stones in the
vicinity, indicating they were used for building purposes.
Although we do not know
precisely when the Great Wall was built, in terms of how
it was built, Stokes noted that
Our examination, as
far as it goes, brings out a probability that there were at least
seven units of construction, .or seven groups of workmen engaged in
building these walls, and that the groups worked simultaneously. In
this connection, what my Hawaiian informants said about the building
of the wall by the men impressed for the work from the ahupua'a
land sections extending 4 mi to the north and 5 to the south, is
highly interesting and seems probably true. The number of
ahupua'a land-sections within these miles is nine. With such a
labor force working simultaneously, it does not seem impossible for
the great wall to have been erected in five days, each of the nine
or so groups erecting a section in a day.
Diagrams showing stabilized sections and cross walls of the
Great Wall. Figures 1 and 2 in Ladd, "Great Wall Stabilization,"
pp. 132, 138.
(click on images for an enlargement in a new window)
e) Later Stabilization Efforts
In the earlier stabilization
work on the Great Wall, Wall's men had tried to utilize the same
construction techniques used originally. Because dry-laid core fill
construction does not withstand heavy use or remain stable without
periodic upkeep, new methods were tried in 1963 to preserve the original
appearance, make the area safe for visitor use, and insure minimum
future maintenance. During this project, nearly eighty percent of the
wall was rebuilt. Although slightly modified, the finished wall closely
resembled the original. The single outside face of the wall gained
additional support through construction of an inward facing wall.
Carefully selected long header stones laid in the wall with their ends
towards the face of the wall reinforced the outside and inside faces.
The 1963 stabilization
work located three burials in the Great Wall, those of an adult and two
children. Because many bones were missing, it was thought the burials
had been washed out by high seas, with some of the bones then being
retrieved from the beach area and reburied in the walls after the 1919
restoration work. These are considered intrusive burials.
Soehren, in noting the extreme thickness of the wall, suggested that
this might have constituted an effort to protect refugees within the
enclosure from the "radioactivity-like mana of high chiefs
whose living quarters were located just inland from the sanctuary."
Marion Kelly suggests also that, despite the protection afforded by the
sanctity of the area, "the presence of this heavy wall could be
interpreted as evidence that a certain degree of physical protection was
necessary as insurance against intruders."
a) Early Descriptions
John Papa I'i, who
frequently saw the Hale-o-Keawe while it was still functioning, provided
the firsthand description of the structure and associated ceremonials
presented earlier. Ellis's account, the most detailed historical
description of this carefully built house, thatched with ti leaves,
surrounded by a fence, and protected by guardian deities in the enclosed
courtyard and vicinity, remains the primary source of information on the
early appearance of this structure. Additional descriptions by Bloxam
and Macrae of the Blonde, along with sketches made by members of
that party, provide important information on the appearance of the
building and its surrounding courtyard. The furnishings of the
Hale-o-Keawe removed by crew members of the Blonde included such
relics as carved wooden images, spears, calabashes, and other items of
lesser importance to the Hawaiians than the bones of their ancestors.
Although a very important temple because of its association with
Kamehameha and his ancestors, the Hale-o-Keawe was fairly small (fifty
feet square) compared to other temple complexes.
Because so little
information is available, many questions remain about the Hale-o-Keawe.
These include the number of times it was rethatched, how often the frame
was replaced, and what additions or alterations were made over the
years. Apple believes the temple described by early visitors such as
Ellis was one that Kamehameha renovated about 1812. This was the temple
the NPS later reconstructed in 1967 and 1968 and represents, he thinks,
the most elaborate state of the mausoleum. In addition, it might differ
from its 1812 appearance if some of the sacred images from other
destroyed temples had been added to it after 1819. Apple supports this
conjecture by pointing out that the well-carved image with a baby in its
arms that Lord Byron saw in 1825 was not mentioned by Ellis in 1823 even
though it was a most unusual form.
As mentioned earlier in
this report, the bones of ancient royalty were always carefully guarded
and usually concealed secretly in caves. Exceptions to this practice
involved the establishment of royal mausolea — special buildings for the
care of royal remains that were guarded by keepers. Some additional
protection was ensured by their association with places of refuge.
Coverings for the remains consisted of fiber caskets, possibly with
shell identification tags attached.
Early descriptions of these burial places indicate that not all bones
were prepared in the same manner, some being put in woven fiber baskets,
others wrapped in kapa.
The process of interment in these places consisted of encasing the bones
of defied chiefs in woven, sennit caskets that were moulded over the
skull. These were given pearl-shell eyes and the entire object was
placed in bundles in the Hale.
The Hale-o-Keawe symbolizes one method of Hawaiian burial practices, the
one reserved for high ali'i corpses being deified. Bones of
lesser chiefs were kept there also but received little preparation and
were stacked in a corner of the temple.
definitely served as a heiau, the bones it contained being
objects of veneration and its having in addition a hereditary guardian
and all the other accoutrements found at a state temple, including
images, offerings, altars, a refuse pit, and a palisade.
If it had been merely a resting place for family bones, there would be
remains of women present. The supernatural protection provided by
deifying the chiefs whose bones it contained ensured the sanctity and
inviolability of the refuge for all time. The erection of the
Hale-o-Keawe, also called Ka-'iki-'Ale'ale'a ("the little 'Ale'ale'a"),
probably resulted in discontinuance of the use of 'Ale'ale'a as the
pu'uhonua heiau. After that time, according to modern-day
informants, 'Ale'ale'a became a structure that the chiefs used for
recreation rather than as a sacred ceremonial place.
The last deification of a
chief at Hale-o-Keawe is said to have been that of a son of Kamehameha,
named Kaoleioku, and occurred in 1818.
c) Traditional Stories
Surrounding the Hale-o-Keawe
Kamehameha is linked to
the Hale-o-Keawe in several ways, both as its builder, as Barrère
suggests, and as a suppliant to this source of great mana for the
Kamehameha dynasty. Some traditional stories describe secret nightly
visits by Kamehameha to the Hale-o-Keawe. One mentions his landing in
the bay and entering the room containing the sacred bones of Keawe. The
guardian of the temple saw him, and, by exclaiming at his presence,
precipitated Kamehameha's hasty retreat. A similar tale tells of
Kamehameha, possibly sometime in the 1 770s before he had gained power,
disturbing the temple guard, who was stretched sleeping across the
doorway, during a possible attempt to steal Keawe's bones, possession of
which would mean possession of Keawe's mana or strength.
d) Human Sacrifices
concerning the Hale-o-Keawe is whether human sacrifices were a part of
deification ceremonies there. Indications are that both voluntary and
involuntary sacrifices took place. Professor W. D. Alexander stated
As we learn from a
memorandum made by Mr. Chamberlain, "At the setting of every post
and the placing of every rafter, and at the thatching of every 'wa'
(or intervening space), a human sacrifice had been offered." Human
sacrifices had also been offered for each chief whose remains were
deposited there, at each stage of the process of consecration, viz.,
at the removal of the flesh, at the putting up of the bones, at the
putting on of the tapa, at the winding on of the sennit, etc.
This implies that the
priests supervising the construction of the Hale-o-Keawe determined
there should be no doubts about the sanctity of these premises. It has
been stated that as many as eighty-four human sacrifices went into this
building, the idea being that the more sacrifices made, the greater the
structure's importance and sacredness, the greater the feeling of
kapu, and the more protection extended to the refuge. Barrère points out that this number of sacrifices seems highly
implausible because the dedication rites of a luakini the most
exacting ritual, required only a few.
Barrère believes that
traditions suggest that sacrifices were made here prior to Kamehameha's
rule, that they were offered but not required. The first sacrifice in
prehistoric times that traditional sources mention was that of Keawe
'Ai, a relative of King Keawe-i-kekahi-ali'i-o-ka-moku who offered to
die at the time of construction to provide added mana. Laura Judd
relates an account she heard of a sacrifice probably in the late 1780s
or early 1790s of a small boy, a favorite servant of Kapi'olani, as
retribution for her breaking kapu by eating a variety of banana
forbidden to women. A priest supposedly strangled the child on the altar
of the Hale-o-Keawe.
Upon the death of Kalani'opu'u, ruling chief of Hawai'i Island, in 1782,
sacrifices might have been made while his body lay in state at Honaunau
prior to deposition in the Hale-o-Keawe.
In addition, anyone
pursuing a refugee into the pu'uhonua was killed, whether by
priests and their adherents, the king's executioner, or the king's
soldiers is unclear. It would make sense that any bodies acquired in
this way would be sacrificed to Keawe and his ancestors and descendants
as retribution for violation of their protection.
Apple has concluded from his studies that the bones of these human
sacrifices were among those kept at the Hale-o-Keawe, that the offering
of human sacrifices to the deified chiefs was a way of propitiating them
in addition to prescribed prayers and other rituals.
account states that one of the events leading to the battle of Moku'ohai
involved Kiwala'o, heir to the government after Kalani'opu'u's death,
sacrificing some of Kamehameha's followers on an altar at Honaunau,
perhaps as his late father's companions in death. Kamakau states that Kamehameha authorized Hale-o-Keawe and the
pu'uhonua as a place for human sacrifices, probably early in his
career, immediately after winning the battle of Moku'ohai. The Reverend Henry
Cheever, visiting the area in 1849, stated
The last human
sacrifices are said to have been made at this place in 1818. One man
was then sacrificed for putting on the malo, girdle of a chief, one
for eating a forbidden article of food, one for leaving a house that
was tabu and entering one that was not, and a woman was put to death
for going into the eating-house of her husband when intoxicated. On
the authority of natives, former kings have immolated eighty victims
at once, as in the days of Umi, whose blood-thirsty god, after one
of his victories, kept calling from the clouds, "Give, give," until
the priest and himself were all that remained of his train.
One of the indications of
human sacrifices and other offerings are the refuse pits associated with
luakini. Samuel Hill made the first historical reference to such
a feature here, noting "a cavern imperfectly covered by an enormous
block of lava, but in which, we were informed, still remained the bones
of several of the ancient kings of the island." Hitchcock, who
sketched a plan of the refuge in 1889, identified that cover and
commented on the deep hole beneath the stone that was one foot thick,
six feet in diameter, and contained bones. This stone appears on the
topographic map made by Wingate in 1966. During the 1902 restoration, a
large flat stone lying at the water's edge was thought to be the cover
of the bone pit and to have formerly sat level with the pavement of the
main platform near its eastern edge. During the 1902 work, an arched
cavity was found containing human bones. Other human bones were
found in the northern side of the platform in 1902, and others were
taken from the northwest corner of the platform about 1960.
Local informants stated that this refuse pit was used to rot bones,
after which they were cleaned and hung in bundles from the roof of the
Hale-o-Keawe. One informant stated these were the bones of sacrificial
victims, not of chiefs.
Apple points out, however, that the base of the east wall of the
pu'uhonua extended under the platform built in 1902 and that human
bones have been found in other portions of the Great Wall and in similar
cavities in the 'Ale'ale'a Heiau platform. Again, these are considered
intrusive, historic-period burials.
Reconstructed Hale-o-Keawe, showing courtyard images and
offering tower. NPS photo, 1989.
e) Hale o Lono
His 1919 informant
mentioned to Stokes that on Lot 20 mauka of Hale-o-Keawe there
existed a house referred to as "Hale o Lono." It stood on a low platform
about twenty-one feet from the mauka wall of the refuge and
extended east for about fifty feet. Its width was about twenty-five
feet. According to this person, tidal waves had destroyed the platform
many years earlier. He described the Hale-o-Lono as being a portion or
continuation of the Hale-o-Keawe platform. At the time of that
interview, he said the site was on the waterfront, partly encroached
upon by a recently planted coconut grove. The house on the platform had
been of ohi'a posts with ti leaf covering. It had a lanai on the
front facing the sea on the north, as well as four doors in the front,
four in back, and one at either end. South of this structure was a small
house where Keawe kept his coconuts.
f) Decline of the Mausoleum
After 1829, maintenance
of the Hale-o-Keawe ceased and it was left to the ravages of decay and
natural forces. The structure had disappeared by 1851. Tidal waves and
high seas over successive years damaged the masonry platform as well as
the adjacent pu'uhonua walls. By 1902 those actions had reduced
the platform and nearby area to a heap of rubble. The 1902 restoration
work is considered fairly inaccurate, based solely on limited and
questionable oral information. Hawai'i County crews performed further
repair and maintenance work in the vicinity of the platform after the
county leased the refuge as a park in the 1920s.
g) The NPS Undertakes
Reconstruction of the Mausoleum
In 1963 the NPS decided
to reconstruct for the first time a building associated with ancient
Hawaiian culture. No guidelines or precedents existed for such a
project. The major problem revolved around trying to build an authentic
thatched house, a structural style virtually unknown to modern-day
Hawaiians. Data gathering included a literature search for structural
data in the Bishop Museum in an attempt to find specific data on the
Hale-o-Keawe as well as general information on Hawaiian structures.
Specific construction details needed for the temple were supplied using
the general body of information about Hawaiian structures that had been
The federal government
funded several studies to learn more about Hale-o-Keawe, its physical
development and its purpose. One was the Natural and Cultural History
of Honaunau mentioned earlier, done in 1957 under contract to the
Bishop Museum. Park Service employees also undertook a number of
studies. Russell Apple analyzed both ethnohistorical and historical data
for a pre-restoration study in 1966, and Edmund Ladd conducted a
pre-salvage report in 1969, having completed excavations and restoration
on the platform in 1967. Ladd discovered the original dry masonry
platform side and top, which he restored, plus adjacent features. He
found that Wall had fortunately not disturbed any of the underlying
foundations of the prehistoric structure but had actually protected them
by adding platforms to the side, front, and top.
Although there had been
disagreement among early visitors as to the actual size and location of
the temple platform, Ladd found outlines of the original platform and
its upper surface and was able to establish the approximate dimensions
and orientation of the temple on it. The Ellis drawing was selected as
the truest depiction of the structure. The complete restoration of the
complex included the ti leaf thatched temple, carved images, an elevated
altar, and a wooden palisade. This work, combined with Ladd's restored
platform, seawalls, and nearby terrain resulted in a major interpretive
feature at the park. The surface restoration project began August 28,
1967, and ended June 28, 1968.
At the same time a small
model of the Hale was built in 1968 to show the public how the temple
was constructed. Over the next few years, the wooden images and
palisades deteriorated to the extent that a second reconstruction was
needed by 1982. That project included a new framework for the temple,
rethatching with dried ti leaves, recarving of images, and replacement
of the palisade.
4. Hale o Puni
Stokes mentioned a pile
of rubble immediately west of the Hale-o-Keawe that, when cleared,
revealed edges of a rectangular platform. Some informants told him that
was the site of the priests' quarters.
Notes from Stokes's interview with a local informant suggest that
makai of the Hale-o-Keawe terraces there formerly existed a large
stone platform fenced with kauila posts "of such a height that
they obscured the view of the Hale O Keawe from the west." The posts
supposedly kept the platform stones in position. Chiefs and their
families used the platform for social activities (possibly as
entertainment structures where boxing or wrestling, for instance, could
be watched by an audience seated on the surrounding ground).
5. "Old Heiau ("Ancient Heiau)
The Reverend William
Ellis in 1823 briefly mentioned the presence of three large heiau
within the pu'uhonua, two being "considerably demolished" and the
other "nearly entire."
It has been assumed that the latter was 'Ale'ale'a Heiau, raising the
question of whether the "Old Heiau" originally comprised one or two
structures. Stokes recorded that
West of Alealea heiau
lay a vast heap of loose rocks, stones, and pebbles in a trilobed
area. . . . The heap extends over an area having a maximum width of
175 feet. . . . and a length of 325 feet. . . . The form of the pile
suggested the effects of successive tidal waves coming from the
southwest and northwest.
While investigating the
ruins at Honaunau in 1919, Stokes subsequently made test excavations in
the "Old Heiau" mound in an attempt to determine the original plan and
configuration of the structure. This endeavor met with only limited
success. Stokes did conclude that at least one large platform, 110 by
320 feet, and possibly a smaller one to the north, 28 by 60 feet, had
once stood on the site.
It was originally thought
that this platform was the oldest structure in the pu'uhonua and
that some of its stones later were used for construction of the
'Ale'ale'a temple. Later archeological excavations, however, have
suggested that one of the first stages of 'Ale'ale'a might be the
earliest temple site associated with the refuge. The "Old Heiau"
was also constructed using the typical Hawaiian method of dry-laid
unmodified blocks of lava rock. Stokes in 1919 performed some inspection
of surface features. During World War II, the Hawai'i Home Guard,
stationed on the nearby beach, may have modified the structure to some
The "Old Heiau"
apparently lay neglected after its initial abandonment. Gradually the
walls and platforms fell and covered the foundations of the entire
structure, turning it into a pile of rubble and sand through which could
be seen only dimly sections of walls, foundations, and pavement. In 1975
it was noted that surf and high waves during periods of turbulent seas
constantly pounded the rubble mound. These activities, combined with
visitor impacts, were causing the structure to lose its information
potential at an alarming rate. Consequently it was decided to speed
efforts to collect data and artifacts to support the park's interpretive
programs and to preserve the structure through stabilization.
The National Park
Service, under the supervision of Edmund Ladd, mapped and excavated the
"Old Heiau" site from September 1979 to September 1980. Relatively few
artifacts were found, none of which provided much information on the
site. Features found that appeared to have been original included wall
faces; an interior platform facing; remnants of stone pavements;
indications of a second, smaller, interior platform showing areas of
pao construction; and walls of another, smaller enclosure north of
the main one.
Ladd determined that the
site comprised two walled enclosures, the larger one containing two
He believed the form of the site to be similar to that of a luakini
— a walled enclosure containing terraces, platforms, and other
structures. He noted that it was similar in size and shape to that of
Mo'okini in Kohala District and that its internal features, such as the
possible raised interior terrace found, appeared similar to those
thought to have been present at Pu'ukohola.
In addition, radiocarbon dates corresponding to the construction period
of the earliest luakini in Hawai'i; the predominance of pig
faunal remains, indicating dedication rites associated with a
luakini; and the finding that the first construction stage of
'Ale'ale'a Heiau probably pre-dated the "Old Heiau" suggesting the
latter's construction on a site formerly built upon by the "people of
old," all persuaded Ladd that his theory was correct.
While 'Ale'ale'a might be older, it is better preserved because it
continued to be used, while the "Old Heiau" was abandoned and severely
impacted by surf action.
|Illustration 176. Plan of
ruins of "Old Heiau." Figure 13.12 in Stokes, "Archaeological
Features of the Pu'uhonua Area," p. 175.
6. 'Ale'ale'a Heiau
As apparent from the
earlier discussion on chronology of the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, several
theories exist as to which rulers built which structures and when.
According to Barrère's revised chronology of the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau,
'Ehu-kai-malino constructed 'Ale'ale'a ca. A.D. 1425, possibly at the
same time he established the refuge. Wall partially restored the temple
foundations in 1902. As mentioned, the Reverend William Ellis in 1823
saw within the refuge enclosure three heiau, only one of which
was in a good state of preservation. This is thought to have been
'Ale'ale'a, which was described as "a compact pile of stones, laid up in
a solid mass, 126 feet by 65, and ten feet high."
Kenneth Emory stated that a massive tidal wave destroyed the entire
northwest corner of the restored 'Ale'ale'a Heiau. Studies in 1963
showed the platform to be structurally weak and in a condition leading
to eventual collapse. Stabilization of the structure was needed for
public safety reasons as well as for preservation purposes. The ensuing
stabilization project led to some fascinating and unexpected
In 1965 Edmund Ladd
completed a report on salvage work at the 'Ale'ale'a temple site, "the
first time a temple of this size was . . . systematically examined in
The most amazing find of the project was that of several "inner
heiaus" within the main structure.
Ladd found the temple to
be a large, nearly rectangular platform measuring 127 feet long and 60
feet wide, with an average height of 8 feet. Building material consisted
of unmodified basalt lava rocks, dry-laid, with the smoother surface of
the stones on the exterior face. The fill, of openwork construction
(pao), comprised loose rubble and sand. The same basic construction
method was used on the interior platforms, with a few important
variations resulting from the different developmental time periods.
The periods of growth and
modification of 'Ale'ale'a Heiau are thought to be:
This first phase of
construction comprised a low, rubble-filled, nearly rectangular platform
measuring about 72 by 52 feet and 4 to 5 feet high. The platform is
about ninety percent intact. Prehistoric human burials ("bundle" burials
in slab-lined crypts) intrude in the south end of the structure's east
This modification to the
original structure included the addition of an elevated platform,
measuring 25 by 40 by 3-1/2 feet, at the southwest corner of the lower
This second modification
added a narrow, elongated platform extending north from 'Ale'ale'a II.
This L-shaped addition
abutted stages II and III, creating another flat-topped platform on top
of 'Ale'ale'a I.
During this stage of
construction, the builders extended the platform west, toward the ocean,
by adding a section about 2-1/2 feet wide by 51 feet long.
At this time, the
platform was extended east by an addition measuring 20 feet wide by 54
feet long. Several intrusive crypt-type burials were found in this
section. The completion of this stage resulted in a nearly rectangular,
flat platform about 105 feet long, 54 feet wide, and 8 to 9 feet high.
This is the structure
that Ellis noted in 1823 and that stands today. With its additions, it
measures 127 feet long, 60 feet wide, and about 8 feet in height. Wall
restored the west face of this stage in 1902.
Ladd noted that five
burials were found in the 'Ale'ale'a platform, all of the "bundle" type.
All the crypts, either circular or rectangular in form, are intrusive.
Other features found included an imu (cooking pit) and two areas
of pig and human bones.
As stated earlier in the
section on chronology of the pu'uhonua, the discovery of the
various stages of construction of this heiau challenged previous
theories on the developmental history of the refuge and its associated
structures. Still Barrère attempted to explain these stages within the
framework of the recorded traditional history of the chiefs of Hawai'i
Island. She then compiled a lengthy discussion of the history of the
refuge complex based on the new information Ladd had acquired through
his archeological work. An expert at genealogical dating, Barrère's
theories on 'Ale'ale'a Heiau bear considerable weight.
She believes the six
"inner heiaus" Ladd referred to were modifications or changes to
one temple platform that
should be viewed as
the site of a family heiau, and its imposing structure a monument to
the increasing power and prestige of the family in succeeding
The various construction
phases, she continued, were instances of enlargement and embellishment.
Barrère's chronology of
development of pu'uhonua structures has been outlined earlier; it
will be elaborated upon briefly here. The history of the Kamehameha
family suggested to Barrère that the following persons were responsible
for the different phases of 'Ale'ale'a temple construction:
'Ehu-kai-malino — 'Ale'ale'a I
'Umi — 'Ale'ale'a II-IV
Keawe-i-kekahi-ali'i-o-ka-moku — 'Ale'ale'a VI
(Barrère believes the
possibility also exists that Keawe-ku-i-ke-ka'ai was responsible for
both stages V and VI and that Kamehameha ordered the final enlargement
In the course of her discussion, Barrère mentions the "Ancient Heiau" in
the refuge, suggesting that the Tahitian chief Pili-ka'aiea, whom the
high-priest Pa'ao established as ruler of Hawai'i Island, whose family
line eventually culminated in Kamehameha, and whose family is so closely
associated with the Honaunau complex, might have built that structure
under his benefactor's direction as a first step in establishing his
rule over the island. (Pa'ao is the person generally credited with
instigating the construction of large, rectangular heiau such as
the "Old Heiau.") Even if constructed by a descendant of Pili, Barrère
believes the temple still probably dates from at least the thirteenth
century. Its abandonment might have resulted from destruction by tidal
waves or a change in family leadership.
'Ehu, father of
'Ehu-kai-malino, was the founder of the 'Ehu family from which the later
Kona chiefs were descended. Because prior to 'Ehu's time, the residence
of the ruler of Hawai'i Island had either been in Kohala or Waipi'o,
Barrère doubts that the pu'uhonua at Honaunau was established any
earlier. The traditional concept of a refuge associated it either with
the ruler himself or his residence, and because neither was present at
Honaunau before 'Ehu, Barrère believes the refuge was established within
traditional times. Her chronology suggests that 'Ehu may have been the
one who declared the refuge and built 'Ale'ale'a I to provide its sacred
protection, although she tends to the belief that his son
'Ehu-kai-malino, ruling chief of Kona in Liloa's time and into 'Umi's
reign, probably established it and the associated heiau of
'Ale'ale'a I. [
If we accept this
assumption, we can find in it a reason for the abandonment of the
"old" heiau other than that of tidal wave destruction. The old heiau
would have been built for the gods whose favor kept the family in
power; this new one was for the gods who ensured the sanctity of the
After wresting Kona and
Kohala from 'Ehu-kai-malino and uniting the island under his rule, 'Umi-a
Liloa moved his place of residence from Waipi'o, Hamakua, to Kona.
Barrère believes that during his long, peaceful reign, this man,
described as being very religious, might have decided to reaffirm the
pu'uhonua at Honaunau and was probably able to command the men and
muscle needed to enlarge 'Ale'ale'a in stages II, Ill, and IV, and may
even have constructed the Great Wall around it.
Tracing the history of the ruling family, Barrère credits the chiefess
Keakamahana, a descendant of 'Umi, who became ruler of Hawai'i, with
ordering enlargement V, a project carried out by Keawe-ku-i-ke-ka'ai.
When conflict broke out between branches of the family after
Keakamahana's death, Keawe-i-kekahi-ali'i-o-ka-moku restored harmony and
became acknowledged chief with supreme control. He might have decided to
enlarge 'Ale'ale'a in stage VI.
The conflict and wars
upon Keawe's death were ended by Kamehameha's assumption of power.
Barrère believes 'Ale'ale'a might have continued to be used as the
pu'uhonua heiau during Kamehameha's reign and that he continued the
tradition of modifying the platform (Stage VII), possibly in the
peacetime period after the death of Keoua in about 1791. The heiau
functions may have been transferred from 'Ale'ale'a to Hale-o-Keawe in
the last years of Kamehameha's reign, after he had returned to Hawai'i
Island to live, between about 1813 and 1819. 'Ale'ale'a's function then
changed from a family monument to a meeting place for relaxation and
A local informant stated
that this heiau was constructed by a chief named 'Ale'ale'a and
that it was used as courts of pardon for refugees. Chiefs were judged at
the mauka end of the heiau and commoners at the makai
end. The entrance to the structure was on the south side toward the east
It has also been suggested that this was the temple in which the
refugees offered thanks to the gods for their escape from death. A later
informant, in 1957, said 'Ale'ale'a had been a place where doctors (kahuna
lapa'au) grew medicinal plants used in caring for wounded refugees
178.Conjectural periods of growth and modification of 'Ale'ale'a
Heiau. Figures 2-8 in Ladd, "'Alealea Temple Site," pp. 106,
108, 112, 114.
7. Keoua Stone
The early Hawaiians often
gave names to special stones. On the north side of 'Ale'ale'a Heiau lies
a large stone, partially dressed, measuring 13-1/2 feet long and 2-1/2
feet wide and thick. Found in 1919 lying with one end abutting the
heiau platform, it was moved ten feet east where it fit within a
space delineated by six postholes drilled in the lava, apparently its
original location. Posts inserted in the holes might have supported a
coconut leaf canopy, which would have ensured a shady resting spot.
Tradition states that Keoua, the high chief of Kona and accredited
father of Kamehameha, slept on this while his men were out fishing. A
concavity at one end is supposed to be where his head rested, while his
feet almost reached the other end, making him almost equal to the stone
Stokes suggests that this
stone might have been one of those described in a Kamakau tradition
concerning King 'Umi, who, while ruling Hawai'i Island, requested his
relatives and retainers to dress large lava blocks for use in
construction of a mausoleum for him. He died before the structure was
built. Stones thought to be some of these unfinished lava blocks have
been found in several places on the island; this might be one of them.
8. Ka'ahumanu Stone
South of the southeast
corner of 'Ale'ale'a Heiau is a large, undressed, rough stone, 11 by 6
by 3 feet, supported on blocks of stone about 11/2 feet above ground. It
is called the Ka'ahumanu Stone because tradition states that
Kamehameha's favorite queen, after quarreling with her husband, fled to
Honaunau and hid beneath the rock. Reconciliation followed when her dog
barked, revealing her hiding place to her pursuing husband.
9. Hale o Papa (Heiau No Na Wahine)
Near the middle of the
south wall of the pu'uhonua was a rectangular stone platform, 25
by 30 by about 3 feet high, attached to the inner face of the south wall
by a low wall. Workmen in the 1902 restoration period resurfaced this
platform. Stokes believed that less precise construction methods
suggested a later period of construction or that the structure was of
minor importance. Evidently one of Stokes's informants told him this was
a women's heiau, although Kekahuna showed it on his 1952
interpretive map as a platform for the menstrual house of the chiefesses.
Emory believed it was a women's heiau, as would normally be part
of a complex such as this. Barrère, on the other hand, believes that this structure was erroneously
called Akahipapa through an early misinterpretation of translation. She
believed that rather than a heiau, it might well have served as a
place of seclusion for chiefly women. Only the stone platform remains
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.
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
b) Shelf in South Section of the
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
c) Walled Enclosure Within the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
j) Artificial Concavities in the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
F. Description of Resources: Inland
Honaunau and Keamoalii
Kenneth P. Emory
conducted a detailed archaeological survey of the inland areas of the
ahupua'a of Honaunau, Keokea, and Ki'ilae and discovered some very
interesting features, which will be discussed next.
1. Animal Pens, Graves, and Trails
Inland from the
pu'uhonua and south of a road leading to the uplands, Emory found
little except for several animal pens, platform graves, and trail
segments. The two areas of graves found (Map 3) consisted on the east of
a group of fifteen graves marked by rectangular stone piles and on the
west of five rectangular platforms varying from 2-1/2 to 4 feet high.
West of them were two enclosures being used as pig pens in 1957. Emory
also discerned the traces of ancient trails through the area. The south
branch of the trail running inland he thought appeared to have been
remodeled for horse travel. He could note traces of the earlier
steppingstones. Stokes had suggested that where the north branch of the
trail crossed the uplands road, another trail led south to connect with
the 1871 highway in the vicinity of Wainoni, but Emory could find no
trace of it.
Concrete salt pans along shore, Pu'uhonau o Honaunau NHP. NPS
|Illustration 181. Animal
pen, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau NHP. NPS photo, 1989.
This slide (Map 4), which
Emory thought appeared to be incomplete and possibly designed only for
practice runs, is an important park resource as an illustration of royal
pasttimes in aboriginal and historic-period Hawai'i. The chiefly sport
of holua, consisting of coasting or sliding downhill on a sled,
without benefit of snow or ice, has been alluded to previously. The
Reverend Hiram Bingham presents a highly descriptive account of this
leisurely pursuit, fraught with intense excitement, high expectations,
and not a little danger:
A broad, smooth
furrow is made from the height, down a steep declivity, and extended
a distance on the plain, less and less inclined. This furrow is
lined or smoothly covered with a thin layer of grass, to prevent too
much friction. The gambling part, and the excitement of the game, is
much like that of a foot or horse race. The game is thus performed.
In the presence of the multitude, the player takes in both hands,
his long, very narrow and light built sled, made for this purpose
alone, the curved ends of the runners being upward and forward, as
he holds it, to begin the race. Standing erect, at first, a little
back from the head of the prepared slippery path, he runs a few rods
to it, to acquire the greatest momentum, carrying his sled, then
pitches himself, head foremost, down the declivity, dexterously
throwing his body, full length, upon his vehicle, as on a surf
board. The sled, keeping its rail or grassway, courses with velocity
down the steep, and passes off into the plain, bearing its proud,
but prone and headlong rider, who scarcely values his neck
more than the prize at stake. Gliding with accelerated velocity for
a time, then more and more slowly, it at length stops, and another
quickly succeeds in the same track. The party that reaches the
greater distance the greatest number of times, wins the prize, or
takes up the wager. Much time was spent in such games before the
introduction of schools for the elevation of the nation.
Lucien Young, a
lieutenant on board the USS Boston stationed at Honolulu during
the period of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1892-93, also
mentioned the sport in his notes on his travels. He stated the sled
from twelve to
fourteen feet long, and two or three inches deep, made of hard wood,
highly polished, and curved at the forward end. They were set up
about four inches apart and fastened together by a lot of
cross-pieces, on which two long tough sticks were fastened and
connected by wicker-work.
The base of the holua
course, carefully aligned down the steep, natural incline of a hill and
extending onto the level plain below, consisted of rocks overlaid with
packed earth and then layers of pili or some other grass. Runners
of the sleds were coated with kukui-nut oil to make them slippery
and increase their speed.
De Freycinet was told that the tracks Kamehameha built were sown with
fine grass, which, when dried out by the hot sun, enabled the sport to
commence. E.S.C. Handy describes the tracks as about eighteen feet wide
and ranging from 150 to several hundred yards in length. He also notes
that this sport was practiced only in Hawai'i and New Zealand, but the
latter's sleds were more like toboggans. Only one complete ancient sled
exists, in the Bishop Museum in Honolulu.
Other holua exist
in the Kona area. The Keauhou Bay holua on the west coast of
Hawai'i Island is the largest and best preserved resource of this type
in the state. Extremely long (nearly 3,000 feet) as well as very steep
and wide, it "served as the 'Olympic Games' holua of the
Hawaiian people." The structure has been designated a National
Historic Landmark. In areas where natural grassy hillsides did not
exist, specially constructed elevated, causeway-type runways were built
over hilly, rocky terrain, such as that found in areas of the Kona
Five holua have
been identified in the Honaunau area, two of them outside the park on
the north shore of Honaunau Bay. Stokes found one near Miana Point in
1919 that he thought had been a practice slide. He reported the location
of another one, since lost, near the head of the bay behind the village.
The remaining three are all within the park. One is a small slide in the
village of Ki'ilae that was discovered in 1966 and whose upper end
extends outside the park boundaries. About 300 feet long, the track
varies from five to eight feet in width and has a 10 to 15 degree slope.
The longest slide is located in central Keokea near the north end of the
Keanae'e pali. Measuring more than 1,200 feet long, the track
reaches more than fifteen feet in width at the upper end. The steepest
point has a 20 to 30 degree slope. The 1871 trail crosses the lower end
of the slide, which had a long slope toward the ocean, while the upper
end extends outside the park boundaries. The third one, which Stokes
also found in 1919, is located near the boundary of Keokea and Honaunau
ahupua'a, behind the refuge.
Edmund Ladd excavated and
stabilized this last holua in 1968. He found it to be well
preserved, with a length of almost 580 feet and a width varying from 5
to 15 feet. The slide was built like a roller coaster, with dips. The
archeologists found grave platforms abutting the base of the slide's
side walls. At its lowest end, about 80 feet from the 1871 trail,
another grave feature was found.
Ladd concluded that Ellis did not refer to or describe these slides near
the pu'uhonua because they had not yet been constructed. He
deduced from Malo that the game was most popular between 1793 and 1840,
probably extending into the 1830s as a sport enjoyed by both commoners
and chiefs after 1819. He believes the holua in the park were
built after 1823 and used until the 1830s, after which time the side
walls were utilized as parts of grave platforms. He concurred with Emory
that the slide might not have been finished originally.
3. House Lots
At Wainoni (Map 1), east
of the ponds near the refuge, Emory found a paved house site in an area
set aside for a school in the 1850s and supporting a Protestant church
in 1889. South of Wainoni (Map 2) a wall paralleled the 1871 trail
before turning west to connect with some kuleana walls Stokes
found in 1919. Within the large area enclosed by the walls, Emory noted
an old spring (Keone'ele) used for watering cattle and another one (Kolea)
noted in 1919 but now obliterated. Also in this area were ancient
terrace platforms, house platforms, walls, graves, and other remnants of
house lots. On the shore at Pae'iki, Emory found several papamu
and a canoe landing.
The reader is referred to Emory's report for more details on
landownership in this area.
F. Description of Resources: North
1. Boundary Markers, Platforms, House
Lots, and Graves
Near the shore on the
boundary line between Honaunau and Keokea (Map 2), Emory found a
petroglyph that he surmised might have been a boundary marker. Walking
east along the boundary he found a large stone platform, possibly
originally a foundation for houses but serving then as a cemetery and
containing one concrete tomb and two other platforms. A little farther
east was a natural lava column, named Pohakuloa, that functioned as a
boundary marker. Much farther inland (Map 4), across the 1871 trail, and
just to the south of the ahupua'a boundary, Emory noted a high
wall circling a lava outcrop and forming an oval enclosure. Kekahuna
believed this to be a sweet potato plot enclosed to prevent goats
entering. Several hundred feet south of that was a stone platform lying
against a lava bank containing a small cave in which a child's skeleton
Returning to the shore
and proceeding inland again, Emory noted several house lots, the first
one just east of the old beach road being that of Unea Akana (noted on
Map 2 as "Maile Aona"). The site held the stone and plaster walls of an
old house, a concrete cistern, a pavement marking an ancient house site,
and a pig pen. To the south was the lot of Clara De Mello with a modern
dwelling, two cattle pens to the east, as well as a wall connecting with
the wall parallel to the 1871 trail. A concrete trough there was dated
1945. A windmill had been erected over a well (Waikulu) and nearby were
an abandoned redwood water tank and pumphouse. (According to Frances
Jackson, the De Mello family was paying taxes in Keokea by 1900,
evidently for property along the coast including a saloon, some animals,
some banana land, and improvements.) South of the De Mello lot lay
remains of an ancient house platform and an animal pen. Inland were
graves and wall remains. A house platform near the 1871 trail that also
had animal pens had been used in 1945 by the U.S. Army as a firing
Holua in Pu'uhonua o Honaunau NHP. Top: Figure 15.8 in
Emory, "Hinterland and Keamoali'i," p. 236. Bottom: Figure 14.5
in Stokes, "Early Hawaiian Life," p. 220.
|Illustration 184. View of
De Mello beach house from beach road. From Devine et al.,
Appraisal Report, p. 30.
2. Oma'o Heiau
Emory described this
heiau platform he found in 1957 (Map 2) as
50 by 60 ft, filled
with heavy stones, and remarkable for the natural rock column which
rises 10 ft above the pavement midway between the sides at the north
end. The column is of lava, and has been roughly shaped into
rectangular form. It occupies the position of the lananu'u
(oracle tower) of heiaus, and would seem to have served the
same purpose. The surface of the platform is now in rough condition,
but smaller stones were observed at the south end, a facing across
the platform at 20 ft from the north end and 1 ft higher, and a
short section of facing along the west side framing a rough mound on
its west, which may be a burial mound.
A pit in a jog at the
northwest corner may have been a sacred refuse pit, or a pen, or the
enclosure of a well. Naluahine, 95 years of age, gave us as the name
of this heiau, Ma'o, which he said was the name of a bird, later he
called it 'Oma'o. Panui, of equal age, knew of the heiau, but
said he did not know the name, and doubted if Naluahine really did.
. . . Stokes, in 1906, noted this Keokea structure, but obtained no
information about it.
The platform actually
measures 62 feet by 45 feet. Oma'o is smaller than Alahaka, but is composed of larger rocks. Its
builders used the rocks of a volcanic squeeze-up as the basic building
foundation for the solid rock platform. Alahaka, built with pao
construction, has a longer, wider, and higher platform built with
smaller rocks. Whether this difference is a result of different
construction periods is unknown. Pacific Area (NPS) Archeologist Gary
Somers suggests it is likely that the materials available in the
immediate vicinity, that is, large squeeze-up rocks for Oma'o and
columnar basalt for Alahaka, determined construction techniques.
Altogether seven features were identified on the heiau, with the
dominant feature being the basalt megalith, or natural rock column, that
was apparently shaped from a lava squeeze-up or pressure ridge.
The megalith occupying the position of the 'anu'u makes this
heiau unique. It is clearly visible from the 1871 trail and offers
numerous possibilities for interpretation, especially in comparing its
construction to that of Alahaka.
South of Oma'o Heiau
Emory noted the walls of a large enclosure that contained only one small
paved house platform.
|Illustration 186. Oma'o
Heiau, view to northwest. Note basalt megalith. NPS photo, 1989.
F. Description of Resources: Central
1. House Lot
Returning to the shore
from Oma'o Heiau, Emory found a large modern enclosure with attached
corral in its southeast corner (Map 5). Surrounded by the enclosure were
a terraced house platform, a well, and concrete salt vats, which can
still be seen today.
Just to the west, near the shore, lay a rectangular stone platform
probably originally a fishermen's shrine. Emory stated the adjoining
platform and enclosure might have been quarters for a kahuna pule.
2. Keawe House Site
Southeast of this
enclosure lies Keawe's House Site (Map 5), an important resource both
because of its age and because it shows the layout of a chief's
residence, including spaces for a hale mua where the men ate and
worshipped; a hale noa, the family sleeping house; and a hale
'aina, where the women ate. Remains of a canoe shed lie between two
of the house platforms, probably used for storage. Artifacts found
showed some historic-period use of the site. One informant told Emory
that the occupant of the site in the 1870s had built the large goat pen
northwest of Alahaka Heiau. Another told Emory this was originally the
residence of Keawe-nui-a-'Umi (Keawe I), and was later occupied by
Kiwala'o. Just south of the complex is a small rectangular platform
identified as a fishermen's shrine.
'Ilio Point contained an
indentation on its southern edge. In about eight feet of water Emory
found a stone formation resembling a dog. An informant told him its name
was Keokea, hence the name of the ahupua'a, although this is
questionable. The formation is connected with Hawaiian legend.
From Ki'i Point the shore curves in to form Alahaka Bay. A lava arch
here is referred to as Ka-wai-o-Pele (the water of Pele). A trail
leading from the end of the beach road east toward the 1871 trail passes
between the north end of Keawe's House Site and the south wall of the
enclosure to its north. Between these house sites and, the 1871 trail,
Emory found the foundation remains of a stone and mortar chapel and
|Illustration 189. Ground
plan of King Keawe's House Site. Figure 15.3 in Emory,
"Hinterland and Keamoali'i," p. 231.
3. 1871 Trail
This trail (Map 5) runs
from the end of Honaunau Bay to the south end of the Keanae'e Cliff,
which it ascends by the stone Alahaka ramp, and then continues south
toward Ho'okena. Through the park the raised bed of the trail is about
ten feet wide and paved occasionally with coral, sand, and pebbles.
Emory was sure the trail was modified to accommodate horseback travel,
but noted remnants of an earlier alignment at its southern end
approaching the Alahaka ramp. (High surfs from Hurricane Waiki
demolished this section in September 1992.) This route is referred to on
Land Commission Awards of 1853 as Alanui Aupuni (Road of the
b) Hawaiian Trail System
A short discussion of the
early Hawaiian trail system was presented earlier in the Kaloko
Honokohau section of this report. The author will repeat only that early
routes on Hawai'i Island were built for foot traffic in the pre-horse
days. Canoes were used for interisland and intervillage coastal travel,
while trails within the ahupua'a provided access between the
uplands and the coast. An ancient coastal trail circumvented the island.
Ladd likens the situation to a wagon wheel, the mountains being the hub,
the seacoast the rim, and the mauka-makai trails the spokes.
Smooth, waterworn slabs
of rock served as steppingstones over rough places. Causeways were not
common features of Hawaiian trails until historic times. Prehistorically
they were used occasionally to cross low spots. Usually they indicate
modification or construction in historic times. With the introduction of
horses, old trails were accommodated to their use and new trails were
also constructed. Modifications to existing ancient foot trails
consisted of adding curbstones; new construction entailed building
straighter trails marked with curbstones or "two-horse" curbed trails.
c) Types of Trails in the Park
Russell Apple's extensive
study of trails has been previously cited in this report. He has
designated five types of Hawaiian trails, all of which are represented
within this park:
Type A (foot trails),
prehistory to 1819
Type AB (modified trails for
horses closely following the prehistoric foot routes; usually with
curbstones and ramps added), 1820-1840
Type B (new horse trails —
one- and two-horse width with curbstones), 1820-1840
Type C (new two-horse trails —
wider and straighter with curbstones), 1841 to 1918
Type D (Type C improved for
wheeled vehicles), after 1918.
During his archaeological
investigations at Honaunau in 1919, Stokes mapped and discussed several
Type A trails within the present park boundary. Many of them either have
been obliterated or are so well covered by vegetation that later
searchers could not find them.
d) Trails Around the Pu'uhonua
Before the abolition of
the kapu system in 1819, the early foot trail system in the
Honaunau area, which was a semi-permanent home of the Hawaiian kings,
had to be modified to honor the requirements of its prohibitions. As
mentioned, the southern shore of Kapuwai Cove and particularly Keone'ele
inlet were part of the royal palace grounds. This forced commoners going
south to detour around this area, passing along the shore in the morning
and behind the village later in the day to prevent their shadows from
falling on sacred ground. Apple surmises that the "morning" trail used
by Honaunau residents was probably the same route used by people seeking
refuge, who had to swim across Honaunau Bay from Puu o Ka'u and then
veer over to the shoreline. Travelers going south then swung around the
west end of the pu'uhonua's south wall. (Originally, it is said,
this wall reached clear to the sea and contained wide entrances facing
south. Probably the shoreline path would have used one of those
Apple believes that these early foot trails must have routed travelers
around the top end of the holua, because commoners would not have
been allowed to cross royal sled tracks. By means of aerial photos, he
thought he could distinguish some early trail locations on the upper
e) Beach Trail System
Apple found remains of
the original prehistoric foot trail along the beach, which had been
modified for horse travel probably between 1820 and 1840. The trail
follows the shore just above the high tide line. This led Apple to
believe that the present beach road south of the pu'uhonua lies
on top of, or very close to, the prehistoric alignment. This AB trail,
susceptible to innundation by high seas, was probably abandoned after
1871 when the inland trail was improved.
Stokes had also found parallel trails leading to the Alahaka ramp, and
Apple also located them. One was the older, curbstone-lined beach trail
(AB), found by Apple to be much impacted by heavy seas, lack of use, and
heavy grazing by cattle and goats. Next to it lies the curbed, two-horse
1871 trail (Type C), often incorrectly referred to as the "Old
Kamehameha Highway," the "King's Trail," the "King's Highway," and the
Apple believes that after
the abolition of the kapu system and its associated strict rules
of behavior, the pu'uhonua area no longer served as part of the
beach trail system. Instead commoners crossed the beach around Kapuwai
Cove, turned inland of the Great Wall, and joined the prehistoric foot
beach trail near the ahupua'a boundary between Honaunau and
Keokea, approximately the route of an existing road.
f) Trails Change to Accommodate
The introduction of
horses to Hawai'i in 1803 precipitated other changes to the trail
system. Apple thinks that probably Kuakini, Governor of Hawai'i Island
from 1819 to 1844, who was very aggressive in building roads with prison
labor, took the initiative in modifying A trails into AB trails for
horse travel. This often involved throwing out the steppingstones and
adding curbstones, probably at the suggestion of John Young. (Curbstones
enabled animals to follow a path without the rider's constant guidance.)
In addition, new B trails were constructed, designed to accommodate
horses and following a more direct line from point to point rather than
following along the coast. These AB and B trails were used for only a
short period and were replaced by C trails that were designed
specifically for horses.
g) Inland Trail Ascends Keanae'e
Both the AB beach trail
and the later C trail from Honaunau led toward the lowest point of the
Keanae'e Cliff, referred to as Alahaka, just north of Ki'ilae Village.
According to local tradition, in prehistoric times travelers had to use
a ladder at this point to ascend the cliff and continue on south. Apple
found documentary evidence indicating that the earliest ramp there,
probably much narrower and steeper than the present one, was built
between 1820 and 1840 under the direction of Governor Kuakini. The
ascent was made wider and more substantial (its present form) in 1868,
having been the scene of numerous accidents.
At the top of the ramp, Apple noted traces of the long abandoned
prehistoric foot trail that took off from the ladder. The later B and C
trails veered to the right at the top of the ramp.
h) Inland Trail Improved
Wheeled vehicles did not
enter Honaunau until 1918, travel in that area continuing to be by
horses, mules, and donkeys as well as by foot. Although the area
remained somewhat isolated due to the lack of a cart road, better trails
continued to be built for mounted traffic.
In 1866 Mark Twain traveled a "road" from the pu'uhonua to the
Keanae'e Cliff, probably the B and AB trail system south begun after
abolition of the kapu. He described the route as a "raised
macadamized road of uniform width . . . paved with flat stones. . . .
Saying its construction was attributed to Kamehameha, he likened it to
ancient paved Roman highways, although he did not describe it as the
straight roadbed that came later. Apple surmises that either just the AB
portion or both the AB and B portions of the trail were in the condition
described in the mid-1860s.
Shortly after Twain's
visit, the Alahaka ramp was repaired to its present state. Between 1850
and 1863, construction began on a type C trail from Napo'opo'o, on the
south shore of Kealakekua Bay, that would join an earlier type B trail
on into Honaunau Bay. From there, the route south would have involved
following the B trail inland of the pu'uhonua to its intersection
with the coastal AB trail, which could be followed to the Alahaka ramp
and on south. Probably none of the B or AB sections of this trail system
were in as good shape or as suitable for mounts as the newer type C
section near Napo'opo'o. It was evident that the Napo'opo'o C trail
needed to be extended straight through to the improved Alahaka ramp. The
new section of road from Honaunau Bay to the ramp was completed in 1871,
and the AB trail leading to the ramp was abandoned. Apple believes that
the entire project in 1871 consisted of building this section of new
road from Honaunau Bay to the ramp and improving the B trail north out
of Honaunau to meet the Napo'opo'o C trail. This C trail within the park
has a built-up causeway over a low area just inland of the Great Wall,
which the Park Service has restored. The road runs straight from the
causeway to the Alahaka ramp and then in a generally straight line to
Ho'okena, bypassing coastal settlements.
i) Stabilization Work on Alahaka
Edmund Ladd performed the
archeological excavations and Gordon Vivian did the stabilization work
on the Alahaka horse ramp in 1963. This project consisted of rebuilding
a portion of trail near the top of the ramp that had collapsed and been
washed away during earthquake activity in 1951.
Ladd found no evidence of the ca. 1840-period ramp. He surmised it was
probably a short, narrow, steep incline to the first ledge, arriving
level with the opening of a large lava tube, and that the remainder of
the ascent involved scrambling from ledge to ledge to the top. A former
county supervisor told Ladd this was known as the "One. Foot Out Trail."
Cowboys feared the hazards associated with the trail and always kept one
foot out of the stirrup so they could jump off if their horses were in
danger of falling.
|Illustration 191. View to
south along 1871 trail. NPS photo, 1989.
|Illustration 192. View of
1871 trail from top of Alahaka ramp. NPS photo, 1989.
As mentioned earlier, the
longest holua in the park (1,290 feet) terminates behind a house
platform in the Paumoa area (Map 5). Its beginning point is outside the
park boundary back of the pali, and the 1871 trail crosses its
lower section. Emory found the upper part of the slide almost intact and
the traceable boundaries of the lower stretch.
5. Keanae'e Cliff Burial Caves and
Another area of interment
in the park is the Keanae'e Cliff section (Map 5), which contains
several caves used for disposal of bodies. Emory noted three major
burial caves and several shelters. William Ellis, proceeding on his 1823
journey after a restless night in a leaky house at Keokea inhabited by a
group of boisterous natives intoxicated on 'awa, was extremely
impressed by the "singular appearance of the lava:"
As we passed along
this vaulted avenue, called by the natives Keanaee, we beheld
a number of caverns and tunnels, from some of which streams of lava
had flowed. The mouths of others being walled up with stones, we
supposed were used as sepulchres.
Mats, spread upon the
slabs of lava, calabashes, etc. indicated some of them to be the
habitations of men; others, near the openings, were used as
workshops, where women were weaving mats, or beating cloth. Some, we
also saw, used as storehouses or depositories of sandal wood.
The first shelter site
Emory mentions is at the north end of the cliff where it begins to
recede. There the mouth of a lava tube forms a large natural shelter
reached by two entrances. The floor of the shelter was paved with
waterworn stones, and various artifacts and animal bones indicated its
early use. A small, walled-off lava tube leading from it held the
ancient skeletal remains of at least twelve persons. Farther around the
bend to the south, Emory found a small shelter with a platform and wall
in front. Farther south he found another shelter behind a small,
primarily natural, platform. Above this was a twelve-foot-deep cave
containing five infant burials in gourd containers. A small stone cairn
stood above the cave near the edge of the cliff.
Emory found two other
important burial caves, one where the cliff began to dip lower that
consisted of a walled entrance leading into a wide tube in whose walls
shelves had been built. The burials of at least twelve individuals laid
on the shelves dated from prehistoric to historical times. Southwest of
this cave was one thought to have originally contained prehistoric
burials but whose heavy use up until the turn of the century seemed to
have obscured earlier evidence. Modern coffins there had been burned,
the cave showing signs of intrusion and vandalism. Emory noted that
natural shelters all along this cliff, formed by arching lava flows,
offered ideal workshop areas because the shade and dampness facilitated
working with plant materials. At the upper end of the Alahaka ramp, a
shelter opening in the cliff leads into a lava tube called Waiu-o-Hina.
One hundred sixty feet long, two to six feet high, and varying in width
from ten to fifteen feet, it emerges in a hanging entrance in the cliff
about thirty to forty feet above the ocean at Pukakio Point.
Within the first few
years of the park's establishment, archeological field excavations and
salvage projects took place in connection with the park's long-range
planning and development program. Recovered skeletal material was
initially placed in a shed in the park. This was acceptable neither to
preservationists nor to the public concerned about ancestral remains.
Another solution was sought that would meet the requirements of safe,
permanent storage as well as the emotional needs of the Hawaiian people.
In 1966 a shelter cave in
the Keanae'e Cliff, identified as Cave C58, was decided upon as a
repository for skeletal material. Previous occupation in front of the
cave was evidenced by several low stone terraces, a low stone fence,
burned areas, and scattered animal bones. Salvage work on the site
suggested that the shelter predated the European contact period,
functioned as a workshop, and was abandoned soon after Ellis's visit.
6. Alahaka Heiau
The best known heiau
within the park are the four located in the pu'uhonua enclosure:
the "Old Heiau, 'Ale'ale'a Heiau, Hale-o-Keawe, and Hale-o-Papa, all of
which have been investigated archeologically.
Two other heiau
exist in Keokea ahupua'a that are very important although little
studied — Oma'o Heiau, previously described, and Alahaka Heiau (Map 5).
In 1985 NPS Pacific Archeologist Gary F. Somers and Cartographer M.
Melia Lane cleared vegetation from the structures and mapped them.
Stabilization work on Alahaka consisted of rechinking the wall and
stabilizing the loose rubble at the base of the breaks to prevent
During his 1930 survey of
Hawaiian structures along the west coast of Hawai'i Island, John
Reinecke found at Alahaka a platform measuring about 95 by 60 feet
surrounded by vertical walls from 5 to 7-1/2 feet high. No individual
platforms or other divisions could be seen on the surface. Reinecke
surmised that many of the platform stones had been taken to construct a
large goat pen that stood 110 feet northwest of the platform. In terms
of construction techniques, Reinecke observed that
The lava in this
neighborhood is of columnar basalt and the vertical walls have been
built by laying the columns on their side, with the original
fracture outward.... Thinner columns were used in the form of
bridgework and hanging pavements to fill the interior of the
platform. . . . For the completion of the floor or hanging pavement,
it may be said that other horizontal columns were laid side to side
at right angles to and flush with the horizontal stones resting on
the uprights. The finish was then added, in the form of small stones
which filled in the cracks and covered the stone beams to the depth
of 3 or 4 inches.
Reinecke was given the
name Heiau Walahaka for this structure.
Emory, working in the park in 1957, noted that
Lying within the
amphitheater formed by the cliffs of Alahaka is the stone platform
of an ancient heiau, 60 by 90 ft, and at its highest point
above the surrounding lava floor, 8 ft high. It is remarkable for
its facing of carefully fitted lava stones with a flat, vitreous
surface exposed in the face of the wall, and for its pao
(vaulted) construction. All through the greater part of the
platform, glimpses into the hollow underpinning may be had, where
the pavement has been torn up perhaps by curiosity seekers, perhaps
for stones to build the goat pen 150 ft northwest. The southern end
was lower, and distinct divisions in the pavement were originally
Stokes was told in 1906
that this was not a heiau and therefore only looked at it from a
distance; in 1919, however, an elderly former resident of the Keokea
beach area stated that it had functioned as a Hale o Lono, an
agricultural temple, not requiring human sacrifices.
Henry Kekahuna found the name 'I-maka-koloa, that of a famous Hawaiian
chief, associated with the structure.
Emory believed that
Alahaka was probably contemporaneous with 'Ale'ale'a because both had
the same pao type of construction. If this similarity in construction indicates a contemporary time period,
then Alahaka may date from ca. A.D. 1500. 'Ale'ale'a Ill and IV,
attributed by Barrère to 'Umi, who dates from that time period,
illustrate pao construction also.
This heiau has
good interpretive potential because it has more integrity than many of
the structures in the park that have been restored or reconstructed or
that are in complete ruin. Its good state of preservation and easy
access via the 1871 trail make it a good place to interpret heiau
construction and classifications.
|Illustration 193. Alahaka
Heiau remains. NPS photo, 1989.
7. House Platform at Base of Alahaka
Still visible today are
the remains of an ancient house platform that Emory noted (Map 5) where
the 1871 trail turns to mount the ramp up the cliffside. The ruins
comprise one platform on top of a larger one. Reportedly the person
living there served as a guard (for the burials?) or possibly as a
tollkeeper for the road or was the one who helped travelers ascend the
ladder to the top of the cliff.
8. Fisherman's Shrine
A fisherman's shrine once
stood at the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea on Pukakio Point.
Originally there was a pair of gods here, but both have been stolen. The
last one taken was a 2-1/2-foot-high carving of natural stone with a
human face. Only the hole for the stone remains.
|Illustration 195. Site of
fishermen's shrine on the edge of the cliff at Pukakio Point.
Only a hole in the rocks remains. NPS photo, 1989.
F. Description of Resources: South
1. Outskirts of Ki'ilae Village
After mounting the
Alahaka ramp, Emory passed back of Pukakio Point and Hinalea Cove and
headed through the outskirts of Ki'ilae Village. The village site
stretches southward from the Alahaka horse ramp on the 1871 trail in the
south Keokea ahupua'a, along the cliffs through Ki'ilae
ahupua'a, to the park boundary and beyond. Emory's account of his
findings will be presented later, but first this report will provide
some background material on the settlement.
Concrete tomb at Ahu homestead along the path to Ki'ilae
Village. NPS photo, 1989.
2. Ki'ilae Village
a) Research Accomplished and
Types of Remains
Hawaiian village sites can be found in the remote coastal areas of the
Hawaiian Islands. Ki'ilae Village was one of the last isolated coastal
villages where a few Hawaiian families chose to live a more traditional
way of life rather than try to adjust to Western ways. After Emory's
work, study concentrating on the village began with Russell A. Apple's
interviews of former residents in 1963 and 1964 and continued with NPS
archeological excavations by Edmund Ladd. Research and interviews
conducted in 1965 by Historian Frances Jackson under contract with the
NPS resulted in an oral history of Ki'ilae Village and life there. Ladd
completed archeological maps of the village in 1968 that show all the
major walls and stone structures.
Today the village site
comprises a multitude of house lots, a few on the makai side of
the "main street" 1871 trail and a vast number northeast of this on the
mauka side of the trail. Remains consist of stone walls, house
platforms, graves, animal pens, and other structures and features.
This village is located
in the coastal section of two ahupua'a along the edge of Ki'ilae
Bay. Some of the village is in south Kkea, but more is contained in
Ki'ilae. Ki'ilae Bay is one of three anchorages in the area and the best
developed. Alaihi Cove in Ki'ilae Bay is deep and sheltered. At its
northern end a lava ledge somewhat protected a landing area equipped
with a ramp and rollers. Canoes were stored on a flat on the south side
of the point. The bay was deep enough for small steamers and whalers to
use. The steamers landed there to unload lumber and other goods in
exchange for salt and hides. Most of the year the natural rock shelf
along the edge of the cove could be used to load and unload passengers
The missionary Cochran Forbes described the event of landing there in
After taking some
refreshment we left for Honaunau, and on our way stopped at Kilae
which, as many other villages, is perched upon high rocks almost
inaccessible from the sea unless when smooth. In attempting to
spring on the rocks, I unhappily stepped just as a surf raised the
canoe some four or five feet from its position and of course missed
my calculation, when having to descend instead of stepping
up, I fell prostrate on the rocks and should have rolled into the
sea had not one of the natives caught me & supported me till I
recovered enough to sit erect. The shock was so great as to quite
deprive me of all power for a time tho' no bones were broken.
Other canoe landings
existed on either side of Halakahi Point and at Popa'a Cove. These are
not known to have had ramps or rollers and were probably used only by
small fishing canoes.
c) Early History
Kamehameha gave the
ahupua'a of Ki'ilae to John Young as a reward for his faithful
service. After his death, his children and those of Isaac Young, whom he
had adopted after their father's death, shared in the distribution of
his various properties. In 1848, when land ownership was being
registered during the Great Mahele, the Privy Council approved
the Ki'ilae lands passing to Davis's son, George Hueu.
He lived primarily at Waimea, but remained the taxable owner of Ki'ilae
at least until 1893. By 1902 Lucy Peabody, the granddaughter of George
Hueu Davis and the High Chiefess Kaha'anapilo, was listed as land owner
with the notation that the ahupua'a had been let to the Ki'ilae
Land Co. In 1905 Peabody was still listed as owner, having an agent,
Edgar Henriques, with offices in Honolulu. Peabody died in 1929. No
kuleana awards were registered for the house lots in Ki'ilae
ahupua'a that were part of the village, although a few are listed
for Ki'ilae villagers in Keokea ahupua'a. Most of the people in
the village were squatters, but evidently established some sort of tax
arrangement with Peabody until her death.
It is unclear when the
village first began, because it is not mentioned in legends, chants, or
oral history and appears infrequently in historical records. This would
have been, in many respects, a good place to live in early Hawai'i.
Within easy access were the fishing grounds of the ocean, while fields
mauka could be reached for procurement of supplemental food
items. Water was not a major problem, with brackish wells located nearby
and potable water available from the uplands. The village was also
within reasonable walking distance of the large religious and cultural
center of Honaunau. It is not unreasonable to assume that the area was
inhabited from early times.
d) Later History
No frame houses had been
built in Ki'ilae or Keokea by 1889. According to the 1890 tax records,
Ki'ilae and Kauleoli ahupua'a immediately to its south supported
eight landowners between them. Livestock consisted of cattle, horses,
donkeys, and dogs. The land was used for pasture and as house lots. A
year later the first Japanese resident was listed; Chinese had been
present since 1871. By 1892 John H. Ahu paid taxes on land and some type
of store. The village only had one other house that was taxed. Keokea
had more crops, some animals, and several taxable houses.
The Ahus had become the major taxpayers in Ki'ilae by 1896, owning
several houses and assorted livestock. Nine other Hawaiians and five
Chinese were also taxpayers in Ki'ilae. Keokea showed the wealth
distributed more widely.
During the last two years of the century, Ki'ilae had seventeen taxable
residents, including eight Chinese and two Japanese. Keokea contained a
larger number of Orientals, listing several as "tramps." By 1906
depopulation of the coast had occurred, with only three taxable persons
living in Ki'ilae and few in Keokea.
Former residents of the
area provided Frances Jackson with miscellaneous information on life in
Ki'ilae Village and surrounding areas. By the turn of this century,
about one hundred people lived in Ki'ilae Village, comprising ten
extended families. Kealia ahupua'a to the south had the highest
coastal population at this time; the landowner of Keokea ahupua'a
to the north, the Bishop Estate, meanwhile, had permitted people to
build shacks on the beach there. A great change occurred in the area
between 1890 and 1900 with the construction of houses of ohi'a
wood, measuring about twenty-two feet square. A mauka-makai trail
system served Ki'ilae, connecting the upland agricultural area of the
ahupua'a with the coastal village. The cross trails in Ki'ilae,
located at several levels to connect various houses in the kula
gardens, were later bulldozed during McCandless Ranch activities
mauka of Ki'ilae. Both economic and decorative plants grew in the
Its paths remained fairly clear of vegetation due to constant use and
animal grazing, except for low lantana and some kia we. These
trails have since become overgrown with a thick vegetative cover.
|Illustrations 199 and
200. Walls at site of Ki'ilae Village. NPS photo, 1989.
e) Houses and Furnishings
House lots were usually
completely enclosed by stone walls. By means of a large stone on either
side of the wall, access to the interior of the lot was gained by
stepping up and over the low wall; sometimes gates were used. House
yards contained both decorative and economic plants. Specific areas,
sometimes walled, were designated for garbage collection. Washing took
place in the sea or on the house lanai. The presence of several
house platforms in the lots today suggest they were occasionally
rebuilt. Three types of houses stood on the platforms — the old-style
grass house with thatch sides either all the way to the floor or down to
a low stone wall that formed the lower portion of the walls; more modern
lumber houses with a tin roof, either built on the platform or over a
cellar, as at the Ahu site; and a "transitional" house type that had
thatch walls and a tin roof over either lumber or log framing.
Evidently the building of
traditional grass houses in the village ended in the early 1900s. Some
informants stated that by 1900, houses mauka of the trail were of
pili, while those makai were of lumber and one was grass
with a tin roof. Frame houses had an A-shaped roofline with tin roofs
that shed water into a pipe or gutter leading into a cistern, barrel, or
other type of water storage facility. The "better" houses had glass
windows, no curtains, and wood floors. Others just had pebbled pavement
floors covered with grass and mats. Lumber and nails were store-bought.
Both the lumber and grass houses contained only one large room with door
space (no doors) with no windows or with windows permanently open,
shuttered, or glassed. The typical grass house mauka of the trail
was about twenty-two feet square with a door at least thirty inches
high, thatched with pili over peeled ohi'a log purlins.
The one "transition" house mentioned had pili sides and a tin
roof and was constructed on a level house platform about three feet
Houses had few
furnishings other than mats, although some had rough-sawn lumber tables
or benches. Kukui nuts or kerosene lanterns supplied light.
Valuable possessions were stored in calabashes and hung in a corner near
the roofline. Other storage items consisted of carved wooden containers
and gourds. Fishing equipment, a valuable subsistence-gathering item,
was carefully stored in special containers. Two other essential items
were a poi board and stone pounder. The former was stored in the
house or just outside in the yard leaning against a wall; the stone was
hung in a net in a corner of the house.
f) Water Supply
Ki'ilae Stream, which
passed through Keokea next to the Ki'ilae boundary, only accumulated
enough water to run during periods of very heavy, constant rainfall. The
well mentioned earlier, wai ku'i o Kekela, south of the village,
provided brackish water used in washing and cooking. The well was
divided by a stone wall into two sections, one side for drinking, the
other for washing and bathing. Later, when a platform was constructed to
hold pump machinery, the stone wall was removed. Two sources of fresh
water were the cistern at the Ahu house and water carried down from
mauka. Mauka water was brought to the beach in five-gallon kerosene
tins, fitted two to a side into a pack frame laid over a donkey. The
lumber houses with tin roofs usually had a catchment arrangement of
barrels that could supplement the mauka supply. The Ahus filled
their cistern with water from the roof or water transported from
mauka on donkeys. Water in wells and cisterns was raised by means of
a rope with pail attached. The first pump used was the one the
McCandless Ranch installed at the Kekela well. Water from Honaunau was
brought in gourds and calabashes and sometimes glass bottles.
Fishing, usually from a
canoe, provided the main source of livelihood for Ki'ilae villagers. At
the top of the Alahaka ramp, as mentioned, was a ku'ula (stone
god) for attracting opelu. Wires strung between trees and bushes
enabled the drying of nets, which were also spread on the rocks when
wet. After fishing, the canoes were brought ashore and stored above high
tide lines. At Ki'ilae they were carried nearly to the top of the cliff
if the weather appeared very stormy. As mentioned, canoe landings were
available in three places — at the north side of Ki'ilae Bay at Alaihi
Cove, and on the south side at Halakahi Point and Popa'a Cove. Halakahi
Point also had a depression back of the landing in which fish could be
piled before drying on the adjacent rocks.
Offshore fishing for
opelu was a major source of income; they were sold fresh door to
door or dried and sold to stores. Other fish caught were ahi and
squid. Some of the older men participated in shore fishing only, one
gentlemen fishing Halakahi Point with a koa wood spear with metal
point. Bamboo poles and lines were also used, and some diving was done.
Other food came from the kula (uplands) and kalo (taro)
gardens, to which frequent trips were made to tend the fields and bring
products home. These upslope fields above the Government Road received a
steady supply of rain and provided sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins, and
squash, as well as sugarcane, papaya, and bananas. Higher up were the
dryland taro fields that were harvested, with large quantities of this
product brought back in gunny sacks by donkey. Money from selling fresh
fish went for the purchase of necessary store articles, such as fishline
and hooks, garden tools, cotton fabric, blankets, kerosene lanterns and
fuel, lumber, and tin, all transported by donkey. Sometimes dishes were
bought, as well as utensils, supplemental food supplies such as rice and
flour, and tobacco. The small general stores often had a Chinese or
Japanese owner. "Plantation" stores also enjoyed some of the local
|Illustration 201. View
north of Ki'ilae Village site. NPS photo, 1989.
|Illustration 202. Salt
pan at Ki'ilae Village. NPS photo, 1989.
h) Livestock and Other Animals
Most families at Ki'ilae
used a donkey to carry goods; they were not used for personal
transportation. One informant stated that none were kept at Ki'ilae
village, although they were found at Honaunau and Kealia settlements.
Another area resident remembered donkeys being kept at the beach
tethered along the trail mauka, where food was carried to them. A
few families had horses for riding. There are no references to keeping
goats for either meat or milk, although ranchers used mules to round up
wild goats for their hides, which were sold in Honolulu. There are no
references either to keeping cows for milk. Pigs, which evidently ran
wild and foraged, were found near the beach and also farther inland.
According to one informant, the walls around the houses served to keep
out pigs. Only a few chickens were kept. Most families had pet dogs.
i) Food Preparation
Meals for the Ki'ilae
villagers consisted mainly of sea resources, a few vegetables, sometimes
meat or fowl, and store-bought items. Fish was eaten fresh or dried.
Fresh beef was rare, although fresh and dried goat and dried donkey meat
were common. Infrequently pig was eaten, but evidently little fowl was
utilized. Food items were eaten either raw, raw but dried or salted,
boiled in a pot with water, or cooked directly on the fire, on a hot
rock, or on a grill arrangement. Vegetables were cooked in an imu
or by roasting in a fire. Also cooked in the imu were taro,
squash, bananas, sweet potatoes, and ulu. Papaya and other fruits
were eaten fresh. As mentioned, taro was harvested in large quantities
to last a family a week. Other vegetables were harvested as needed.
Starchy store-bought foods supplemented the taro and ulu poi.
Condiments included seaweed, roast kukui nuts, honey from wild
hives, and salt, the latter being obtained from salt cups along the
beach. Cooking facilities included a simple, open rock fireplace,
possibly with a grill; hot stones; the imu; and for more
acculturated families, kerosene and wood-burning iron stoves.
j) Society and Culture
Ki'ilae Village, in the
later period, at least, constituted primarily a loosely interrelated
group of people who lived in the same area and owed some sort of
obligation to the landowner, Lucy Peabody, or her agent, Henriques. It
was not actually a social or political unit. Just what the
landowner-tenant arrangement involved is unclear. The tenants appear to
have had little association with government officials other than
schoolteachers (an 1895 map shows a school site in Ki'ilae Village).
With a general lack of enforcement of rules and regulations, only the
church exerted some influence. The first South Kona Protestant mission
station had begun eight miles north of Ki'ilae Village at Ka'awaloa, on
the north shore of Kealakekua Bay; it later moved to the south shore at
Napo'opo'o. Another station started in 1834 at Kealia, two miles south
of Ki'ilae Village, but its isolated lifestyle precluded a resident
missionary. The nearest churches were at Puka'ana, near Ho'okena;
Ho'okena Catholic Church; Napo'opo'o and Honaunau Protestant churches;
and the Mormon church at Kealia. Games and recreational sports were
minimal, but included races into the water at Halakahi Point, baseball,
marbles, and some playing of the ukulele. Medical aid consisted of home
remedies and neighborhood specialists. Mortuary practices included cave
and ground burials with the bodies wrapped in mats. The Ahu yard
contains a vault burial. In regard to working patterns, most family
groups seemed to work independently of others, each member doing his
share. Fish hauling might involve larger groups.
k) Decline of Village
By the first decade of
the twentieth century, the population of Ki'ilae Village was definitely
in decline. The improved belt road around the island, which provided
access to trade centers, effectively isolated the shoreline settlements,
causing much of their population to move inland nearer to the road and
the kula garden areas. They returned to the shore and their
traditional beach lands occasionally, but only to visit or fish. Those
who stayed concerned themselves primarily with fishing, farming
remaining only a minimal activity, and were more concerned with
retaining the old way of life than changing to the new cash economy. One
woman born in the village in 1913 remembered that the only residents
then were members of her immediate family, seven individuals of three
However, although resources still existed in the sea and farming could
still take place upland, the Western economic system almost required a
money making job. The last family left Ki'ilae Village by the 1930s. The
last frame house in the village, built by the Ahu family, and later
moved into by the Kahikinas, was dismantled and rebuilt near Honaunau
Bay, where it stands today. The grass houses simply disintegrated,
leaving only stone platforms and other surface indications of individual
house lots and improvements.
l) Individual Sites
associated four house lots with individual owners with the help of some
of her informants:
(1) Kahikina House Lot
This was located on
Halakahi Point and was the house site of several of the informants,
it contains a platform paved with 'ili'ili. The former
residents disagreed about whether the original structure had been
pili grass or lumber with a tin roof. It had comprised one room
with a door in the middle of the wall facing west. Cooking took
place outside the house in a ring of stones. Eating transpired on
the platform in front of the house. The walled area back of the
house served as the garbage dump. The yard was walled, with access
over the top, and contained a yellow plumeria, monkeypod trees, and
(2) Ahu House Lot
According to an
informant, John Ahu was a "Pake"-Chinese (meaning a foreigner or
possibly that he was part white) and formerly a whaler. After the
Ahus moved away, the Kahikina family moved into their house.
(Frequently after a family abandoned their land and improvements,
the house, if in good shape, was appropriated and occupied by
remaining individuals.) This wooden house with tin roof was built
(ca. 1890s?) over a slight depression that formed a cellar. Cooking
took place north of the house next to the concrete grave vault. The
vault, which the NPS has repaired, was built for the remains of the
father of John Ahu, Jr. A large kettle for whale blubber was kept on
the southwest side of the house. A concrete-lined cistern held the
water supply. Steps from the house platform lead down to the Ki'ilae
landing, but some are damaged. The site was walled, but the back of
the house platform opened to the trail mauka. This house was
rebuilt north of Honaunau Bay in the 1930s.
(3) Pipi House Lot
located in the lot next to the Ki'ilae-Keokea boundary, was a wood
house according to one informant, although others stated only
pili houses existed mauka of the main trail in the 1890s.
This site had been recently occupied, as evidenced by modern
(4) Manunu House Lot
This high stone
platform held a pili house that was evidently still occupied
ca. 1913. Artifacts suggest recent occupation.
m) Kenneth P. Emory's Fieldwork
Emory noted several
interesting features as he walked along the cliff toward Ki'ilae Village
in 1957 (Map 6). On the outskirts of the settlement he identified
numerous house lots enclosed by stone walls. Before reaching the
boundary line between Keokea and Ki'ilae ahupua'a, Emory recorded
five house lots on the mauka side of the trail. Little was
evident on the first two, but the third contained two old house
platforms and a concrete tomb. The fourth contained a typical house
platform, while the last one, abutting the boundary, had supported a
more modern establishment as shown by later historical-period artifacts.
Also on the property, however, were signs of ancient paving and the
foundation stones of an old house. This lot had been in family ownership
Kekela-o-ka-lani, mother of Kamehameha IV's wife Queen Emma, lived at
Ki'ilae Village in the early to mid-1800s. Her house platform (Map 7)
stood just above the well, mauka of the main road. Emory believed
it to be one of the finest remaining examples of an early Hawaiian house
foundation, with a paving of large, flat, waterworn stones and beach
An ancient legend connected with the well states that a couple found out
about the water available here by watching their dog going into a
certain cave and then reappearing with wet fur. Kekela directed that the
cave be enlarged until water was reached, and the residents accomplished
this by pounding through the rock to the spring. Emory and his party
explored the Cave of the Dog ('Ilio Cave) leading from the well and
found it to be a refugee cave with three entrances inland. The passage
into the uppermost eastern entrance had been artificially narrowed by a
stone wall. It is outside the park boundary.
Other features noted by
Emory in this part of Ki'ilae Village included two small structures east
and south of Kekela's house site that Henry Kekahuna had labelled as
heiau, one named Pua-hala and used to increase the food bounty and
the other used as an astronomical temple. Emory believed the one farther
south might have been a ko'a, or fisherman's shrine.
Across the highway from
the well and proceeding north (Map 7), Emory noted Pa-wai's house site
with a poi pounder in front; an ancient terrace faced with heavy
boulders; another small enclosure fronted by a paved terrace that
Kekahuna called a ku'ula (fisherman's shrine); a platform with an
upper terrace and a pathway on a lower terrace of waterworn slabs, which
was given the name Heiau Ka'akapua by Kekahuna's informant; an
artificial basin for watering stock; and other remains of ancient house
platforms, some occupied into historic times. Turning east inland and
crossing the road, Emory followed along a wire fence marking the
boundary line. South of the fence he found house pavements, a small cave
shelter, and finally a rough pavement Kekahuna designated as Kumu-ko'a
Heiau, where men received advanced training for the priesthood. East of
this was a smaller platform named Kole-aka Heiau by Kekahuna, who was
told priests here received preliminary training before advancing to
Kumu-ko'a. Nearby to the southeast was a burial platform.
Coming back down the
mauka Ki'ilae trail toward the main road (Map 7), Emory passed large
walled pasture enclosures. On the north were a group of three small
platforms rising in two tiers and marking recent graves; through a gate
were a pen and a house site. Across a wall to the north was an ancient
platform paved with waterworn stones and rising in three terraces. The
lower platform had most recently supported a frame house. To the north
of that was the frame house site of Manunu (mentioned also by Jackson),
with an old platform similar to that of the residence of the chiefess
Kekela. It had a concrete tomb on its north side. South of the mauka
Ki'ilae trail, Emory found in the first lot an enclosure behind a paved
terrace, which Kekahuna was told was a kapa-making shrine (heiau
kuku-kapa). Also in this lot were two paved areas and, facing on the
main road, a two-level house foundation facing a wide terrace. The next
lot to the south contained in its mauka half a rough platform and
two small pens, and in its makai half, separated by a stone wall,
an old two-level house platform. Concrete tombs in the southwest corner
of the enclosure were not identified.
n) Edmund J. Ladd's Fieldwork
The test excavations that
Edmund Ladd performed were done because a portion of the village was
slated for restoration. It was hoped the archaeology would provide
insight into total occupation patterns and the extent and duration of
occupation. In addition the crew intended to examine some of the house
compounds in detail to acquire data to guide restoration. Ladd
rediscovered many of the sites the Bishop Museum found in 1957 and
discovered many more that had been covered by dense vegetation. Twelve
sites representing a cross-section of type sites in the village were
selected for excavation or study, including house platforms, house
enclosures, grave sites, and midden areas. Attempts were made only to
sample each site.
One of Ladd's most
important finds was a holua in the Keokea ahupua'a about
240 feet north of the Keokea-Ki'ilae boundary line. The slide, almost
300 feet long and about 6 feet wide, extends outside the east boundary
of the park. Its walls are fairly well preserved in some sections, but
most of the surface paving stones are missing.
Ladd has suggested that this sport was in vogue between 1793 and 1840,
and that the use of stone tracks was a late development of that period.
It should be noted that none of the interviewees mentioned this slide,
suggesting that its use may go farther back in time.
Ladd found that the house
compounds, or pa hale, between the 1871 trail and the ocean and
those closest to the Keokea-Ki'ilae ahupua'a boundary were in the
best state of preservation, with nearly intact boundary walls between
lots. The area farther north and mauka of the trail was more
chaotic, containing a jumble of short wall sections, terraces, platforms
(some of which were grave sites), and animal pens. Many different grave
types were represented in Ladd's sampling. He found the largest number
of graves toward the north end of the village, indicating this area
might have been used as a cemetery after abandonment of the house lots
Two house enclosures, one in Keokea and the other in Ki'ilae (Manunu
house site), were cleared of vegetation and their features located and
mapped as being typical of the house complexes in the village.
The first lot excavated
lies just mauka of the 1871 trail and just north of the
Keokea-Ki'ilae ahupua'a dividing line. Excavations there seemed
to bear out Jackson's oral history that only pili houses existed
mauka of the trail in the 1890s.
Structures in that complex included three house sites, three grave
sites, two possible graves, and a possible garden terrace. The second
lot had been identified by the Bishop Museum in 1957 as Manunu's house
site. That complex included a goat pen, a possible grave site, an
"ancient" stone platform, possibly for a pili house,
and several concrete grave crypts. The house sites sampled were
classified as the platform type with lanai (site D-140), an ancient
style also used into modern times; the walled, or enclosure, type
(D-160), also an ancient form used into modern times; and the platform
type without a stone platform (D-162 and 163), which is a purely modern
Ladd's conclusion, based on artifacts found, house types, and grave
sites, was that Ki'ilae Village was not that old, possibly having been
settled as early as the late 1700s, but more likely not until the early
Conjectural drawing of House Site D-140 (Manunu's House),
Ki'ilae Village. Figure 33 in Ladd, Ki'ilae Village, p.
Conjectural drawing of House Site D-160, Ki'ilae Village. Figure
30 in Ladd, Ki'ilae Village, p. 46.
Conjectural drawing of typical historical-period house (Site
D-163), Ki'ilae Village. Figure 31 in Ladd, Ki'ilae Village,
G. Significance of Resources and
Establishment of a National Historical Park
Planning for the
acquisition of land in the area and the setting aside of the Pu'uhonua o
Honaunau as a national park began as early as the late 1940s. The City
of Refuge National Historical Park was established on July 1, 1961,
persuant to an Act of Congress approved in July 1955 (Public Law 177,
84th Congress, 69 Statute, 376) after a decade of dedicated study and
planning by a wide variety of interested private individuals, the
Trustees of the Bishop Estate, institutions such as the Bishop Museum,
and the National Park Service. The area set aside contained the ruins of
the ancient pu'uhonua and the village of Ki'ilae. It was referred
to as the City of Refuge in accordance with the name bestowed by William
Most visible and
impressive of the cultural resources is the pu'uhonua, enclosed
on two sides by a massive stone wall, one of the largest stone
constructions in the islands.
The primary visitor attraction is the reconstructed Hale-o-Keawe. In
addition there are palace grounds, royal fishponds, stone platforms for
the houses of chiefs, ancient trails and roads, canoe landings, burial
caves, heiau temple platforms, house sites, cave shelters,
holua, stone walls, and other typical aboriginal Hawaiian structures
representing an extended time span. Within the pu'uhonua are two
early temple sites, the Keoua and Ka'ahumanu stones, the remains of a
Women's Heiau, petroglyphs, and a spring.
This park is considered one
of the most significant archeological and historical complexes in the
The adjoining village of Honaunau served as the cultural and religious
center of the Kona District and eventually of the entire island until
its ali'i moved to Kealakekua Bay. In addition, this was the
early seat of the paramount chiefs of western Hawai'i Island descended
from 'Umi and Liloa and was the ancestral home of the Kamehameha
Within the park's 180 acres
stretching southward for about three miles from Honaunau Bay are
archeological and historical structures and features dating from
pre-European contact times to the early 1920s and representing almost
all phases of early Hawaiian religious, social, economic, and political
The park is especially dedicated to protecting archeological structures
and features associated with the ancient Polynesian practice of asylum.
The park's significance stems from the fact that "the archeological
remains document various aspects of ancient Hawaiian culture which gave
rise to a sophisticated and elaborate socio-political-religious system
long before Captain James Cook rediscovered these islands in 1778-79."
The lands around Honaunau illustrate a now-extinct way of life — the
highly-structured society of aboriginal Hawai'i that began disappearing
with Cook's arrival in Hawai'i and whose demise was speeded by the
abolition of the kapu system. That lifeway included the concept
and practice of refuge as well as a belief in the god-like status of
chiefs and kings, a belief that reached its climax on the Kona Coast as
an elaboration of an earlier Polynesian culture. The sites and features
in the park also illustrate the rise of one chiefly family to power,
their tie to the Kamehameha dynasty resulting in their being rather well
recorded in early historical times. The cultural landscape of the park
reflects Hawaiian society as depicted by early European visitors,
retaining much of the flavor of its ancient setting and purpose.
Excavation and study of
park resources has already added much valuable information to regional
studies on the archeology and history of Hawai'i Island because all
groups of Hawaiian society, including commoners, priests, chiefs, and
royalty, took part in activities there. Also contributing to the
research significance of these resources is their excellent state of
preservation. The pu'uhonua has survived almost intact compared
to similar sites on the island and elsewhere in Hawai'i. This park is an
extremely significant component of our national park system.
In February 1976 the
Statewide Association of Hawaii Civic Clubs requested a name change from
City of Refuge NHP to Pu'uhonua o Honaunau NHP. Upon agreement by the
Regional Director, State Director, and Superintendent, the name was
changed when Congress passed and the President signed the National Parks
and Recreation Act on November 10, 1978.
H. Contributing and Non-Contributing
Generally, there is no
historical significance attached to structures, roads, buildings, or
other features built within the boundaries of this park since 1926.
Exceptions are the reconstructed Hale-o-Keawe, the stabilization work on
pre-existing structures, features developed for interpretive programs,
and the "modern" housing sites at Ki'ilae Village, where
transition periods as reflected by architectural patterns are an
integral part of the site's significance.
The Pu'uhonua o Honaunau
area was recorded by the National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
in 1962. That survey recorded 321 significant archeological and
historical features within the boundaries of the historic district.
Fifteen of them are listed separately on the National Register of
Historic Places inventory form as being major archeological and
historical structures and features. The following descriptions are given
on the form:
Hale-o-Keawe — temple
mausoleum for ruling chiefs of Kona; served as major temple for
pu'uhonua in historic times; house and associated images
restored in 1967;
(Great Wall) — marks boundary of refuge, over 1000 feet long, 12
feet high, and 18 feet wide; reconstructed in 1902 and 1963-64;
'Ale'ale'a Heiau —
first of its type and class excavated in Hawai'i; excavated and
stabilized in 1963; had six structural modifications;
Ancient Heiau ("Old
Heiau") — although originally thought to be the oldest temple on
site, there is now some evidence that 'Ale'ale'a was constructed
earlier; little known about this structure; portions excavated by
Stokes in 1919; [NPS conducted excavations here in 1979 and 1980];
Chief's House Site
(Thompson House Site) — excavated in 1968; one of two sites
identified as chief's residences; composed of several contiguous
platforms for men and women's eating and sleeping houses, as well as
cook house; occupied from prehistoric to modern times;
Keawe's House Site —
several contiguous stone platforms with low wall around ruin;
evidence of later use; fisherman's shrine (ku'ula) associated
with it; coastal trail runs between site and ocean; associated with
one of high chiefs of Kona;
Oma'o Heiau —
probably Lono class; only temple making use of natural feature —
lava squeeze at one end of platform probably used as 'anu'u
(prayer) tower; constructed of lava chunks with rubble fill;
Keanae'e Heiau — also
called Alahaka Temple; located in Keokea in center of village
complex of surface dwellings and cave shelters; measures 60 by 90
feet and is about 8 feet high; classed as Lono-type agricultural
Honaunau Holua —
stabilized in 1968;
Keokea Holua —
longest and best preserved of tracks; over 1000 feet long and from 5
to 12 feet wide;
Ki'ilae Holua —
located in ruins of village; is small, 300 feet long and from 5 to 8
Alahaka Ramp — point
in Keanae'e Cliff at which in prehistoric times ladder provided
access to top of cliff; reportedly gatekeeper helped people and
stone platform nearby is his house site; ca. 1848 a ramp built to
accommodate horse travel, later modified ca. 1871; ramp and cave
shelter behind it excavated and stabilized in 1963;
1871 Trail —
sometimes called "King's Highway" — built ca. 1871 for horseback
travel; portion in park reconstructed;
Ki'ilae Village —
Thriving village in 1823 and abandoned by 1926; was village
patterned after old traditions, using "modern" methods and
techniques; some thatched houses with corrugated tin roofs and glass
windows; several tested house sites; contains famous spring of Queen
Emma's mother (not within existing park boundaries);
Keanae'e Shelters —
numerous caves that Ellis noted being used as dwelling and work
areas in Keanae'e pali.
There exist numerous
"lesser" features in the area, including canoe-mooring holes; basins
used for dying fishnets or for evaporating salt; mortars used for
pounding salt, seaweed, and the like; kapu-stick holes; papamu;
and other resources that are excellent illustrations of early lifeways
and that are crucial parts of a complete interpretive story.
I. Threats to Resources
1. Sea Action
The ocean is immediately
next to the pu'uhonua and its related features, constantly
hammering them with high surf, carving the shore, rolling in huge basalt
boulders, creating tidal pools, and forming beaches. Several tidal waves
have been recorded in historic times that have wrought various changes
in the pu'uhonua area. In addition, the low-lying lava flats at
the head of the bay and along its south side are often covered at high
tide and very susceptible to sweeping tidal wave action during storms.
Tidal waves have been held responsible for destruction of the "Old
Heiau" platform, the northwest corner of the 'Ale'ale'a platform, and
the west end of the south Great Wall; for filling in fishponds, springs,
and pools; for destruction of the Hale-o-Keawe foundation; and for
breaking down the northern end of the Great Wall.
Elderly Hawaiians who
spoke to Stokes referred to the Kai mimiki o Naihe (tidal wave of
Naihe) that wreaked great havoc on this area. Although Naihe was the
ruling chief of South Kona and guardian of the pu'uhonua until
his death in 1831, most of the pu'uhonua destruction appears to
have occurred after 1846, none of it being suggested in Chester Lyman's
drawing. Emory believed the tidal waves were associated with Naihe
because of an ancient surfing chant that mentions him in connection with
"great waves." Stokes found that two destructive tidal waves
(tsunami) hit the island of Hawai'i after 1846, one in 1868 and the
other in 1877. The latter was especially severe, causing great damage
all over the islands. Emory believed that both these tidal waves did the
damage ascribed to the "tidal wave of Naihe." Another tidal wave in 1946
broke down part of the Hale-o-Keawe platform and nearby walls.
2. Exotic Vegetation and Animals
Other problems for park
management involve the control of exotics, both plants and animals. The
1991 Statement for Management says that the NPS objective is "to restore
and maintain the historic scene of the Pu'uhonua, Palace Grounds, and
house complexes in the park to the year 1819." To further that goal,
there have been efforts to kill the heavy vegetation that comprises
mostly imported, exotic varieties. This nonnative flora needs little
moisture and thrives on barren land in fertile, humus-filled cracks and
flats in the pahoehoe outcrops. In order to return the area to
its early condition as a barren landscape supporting only a few endemic
plants, shrubs, and trees, the NPS must continue to remove exotics. Some
clearing of these has been carried out in the past in Keokea and
Ki'ilae, resulting in the extermination of a tangle of exotic trees,
shrubs, vines, and grasses. In the course of this work, numerous
archeological features have been exposed. This clearing work is a
continuing battle, but an important management activity. Vegetation
tends to break down fragile resources in addition to hiding important
ones from view.
3. Visitor Recreational Activities
The refuge and the nearby
heiau are sacred to many present-day Hawaiians. The NPS must have
sensitivity to the conflicts between public use, the sanctity of sites,
and respect for Hawaiian beliefs. The NPS has committed to allowing
fishing, swimming, and picknicking to continue, the only uses in the
park not related to its historical qualities. A threat potential does
exist from these activities to living things in the bay, including the
coral. The same is true of visitor use of Honaunau Bay. Boats anchoring
there not only affect the historic scene but destroy coral beds. No
state or federal control exists concerning the anchoring of boats in
Honaunau Bay. Therefore, they sometimes anchor in the midst of the coral
gardens and destroy pieces of this fragile resource. Resultant garbage
and sewage also pose a problem.
practices will be ensured (via compliance with the Native American
Religious Freedom Act of 1978 and the Graves Protection and Repatriation
Act of 1991. The NPS should increase visitor awareness of these values
related to certain structures.
4. Unprotected Related Resources
The original setting
aside of land for the park did not include sufficient area to protect
all cultural resources associated with the refuge and surrounding
ancient land uses. Resources outside the present park boundary, such as
the top of the long holua, are threatened by natural
deterioration and by commercial development unless cooperative
preservation agreements can be worked out with landowners. The important
archeological sites around Honaunau Bay, which are closely tied to the
refuge's history, are also constantly threatened by development.
5. Park Development
Any type of park
development affects its resources. When the area at the park entrance
was being cleared for a parking lot in the 1960s, for instance, about
thirty graves were found, dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s. In
addition, numerous petroglyphs had to be avoided.
J. Management Recommendations
1. Further Archeological Surveys
No further archeological
surveys appear to be needed in this park. Any new site features found,
of course, need to be recorded (such as locations of new konane,
papamu, etc.) Petroglyphs should be noted also to further document
this resource in this part of Hawai'i Island. So far, the dominant motif
in the park is a human figure with widespread arms and legs. Interpreted
originally as aboriginal boundary markers, all petroglyph locations need
to be noted to determine if this holds true. The further study of these
is also important in comparing intra- and interisland design elements.
2. Treatment of Resources
The heiau in the
park need no further stabilization at this time, but the NPS should
institute a program of periodic checks to ensure there is no slumping of
walls and to monitor the regrowth of vegetation. If sites are kept clear
of vegetation, future stabilization needs will be minimal. Preservation
at Ki'ilae Village should consist of monitoring vegetation growth and
stabilizing weakened walls. Identification, plotting, measuring, and
recording of intact areas at Ki'ilae Village has been accomplished,
along with some stabilization. This type of detailed mapping and
photographing to identify weaknesses, broken areas, and preservation
treatment has been accomplished at many areas in the park.
Proposals have been made
to restore and reconstruct such resources as the holua track and
the chief's house complex as well as Alahaka Heiau. It has been assumed
that a detailed study of alignments and original surface pavements would
enable a reasonably good restoration. The suggestion has been made for a
partial or full restoration of the slide nearest the visitor center to
illustrate the royal sport of sledding. Because this is thought to have
been only a practice slide, improving it might be contrary to its
original appearance. The NPS should consider only performing
preservation treatment through stabilization and repair, using
interpretive devices in the visitor center to explain this sport. The
park's Statement for Management says that "partial or full restoration
of the slide nearest visitors to explain this unique and dangerous sport
may need to be done in the future to satisfy interpretive needs."
Interpretive needs, however, may be addressed satisfactorily through
visual or other means in the visitor center or on site without impacting
the resource's integrity.
stabilization of ruins rather than restoration or further reconstruction
should be stressed. Preservation combined with imaginative
interpretation and limited development will not only protect resource
integrity but will provide for enhanced visitor enjoyment of the ancient
structures in the park. Appropriate literature, guide service, and
museum presentations can do much to enhance the pre-historic and
historical values of the site.
3. Preservation of Resources Outside
The NPS is exploring the
realignment of boundaries in an effort to adequately preserve and
protect the highly significant cultural and scenic values found in a
wide area around the park. Future preservation hopes include acquiring
(possibly by lease) lands east of the park for an entrance road and
parking and for administrative, interpretive, and sanitary facilities.
The administration/maintenance complex now rests on prime historical
lands and should be relocated. The NPS also needs to look at the area
around Honaunau Bay that supported the residences of the court, lesser
chiefs, and common people when this was a large cultural, religious and
political center. Additional lands to the south around Ki'ilae Village
need preservation in order to retain intact the story of this
settlement's transition from early to modern times. All these sites are
related to the pu'uhonua as part of a complete Hawaiian cultural
The 1977 Master Plan for
the park proposed a boundary expansion of 204 acres of land and 112
acres of intertidal and water area. These 204 acres included the 61
acres between Honaunau Bay and Highway 160, north of the present park
boundary, containing important Hawaiian cultural sites, including those
comprising the support village for the palace grounds and the
pu'uhonua. Lloyd J. Soehren of the Bishop Museum, while studying
that area for the state in 1967, found it contained archeological
features and historical associations comparable to those on the south
shore of the bay included within the national park. It has been
estimated that the northern shore of Honaunau Bay comprises about
one-third of the total complex of the ancient village of Honaunau. The
inclusion of the seashore lands on both ends of Honaunau Bay would
create a self-contained physical entity that could be more easily
protected from adverse uses on adjacent land and water areas and from
the changes current residents are making on the land. An NPS study is
currently ongoing to analyze the feasibility of protection of these
adjacent lands by lease or cooperative agreement to protect them and to
provide a buffer for the land and resources within the park.
A portion of the
ahupua'a lands east of the pu'uhonua also need to be
protected in order to preserve a variety of resources, including grave
sites, house sites, walls, the upper reaches of two of the holua,
possible prehistoric subsistence gardens, and other features not yet
mapped or studied.
An area of twenty-five acres adjacent to the southern boundary includes
the site of the home of Queen Emma's mother (John Young's daughter), the
spring used by villagers of Ki'ilae, two heiau, and a cave system
used by the Ki'ilae villagers. All these features are on land owned by
the McCandless Ranch.
Most of these lands
remain relatively undisturbed by modern development. Individually none
of their resources is as outstanding as the Great Wall or the Hale-o-Keawe,
but collectively they would be invaluable in the overall interpretation
of the cultural history of the Honaunau area. Their importance also lies
in their potential for adding to our research knowledge of the
prehistory of the Kona area.