Friday, August 03, 2007


Ancient Hawaiians walked long distances between important ceremonial and population centers. They slept in half-open caves in the lava rock, especially at one particular location that was a natural stopping place north of Kona, where the last king had a palace. In the flat lava rock, these travelers carved dots, circles, human stick-figures, animals, and other geometric and naturalistic images. No knowledge about how to interpret the images has been preserved.

Alas, respect for this important cultural emplacement has been lacking. On each visit over the last 15 years or so, we have seen increasing numbers of modern additions: people's initials and other unfortunate defacements to the original. Worse yet, the golf course that surrounds the petroglphs and the various rental apartments all around are increasing in size and more and more seem to dwarf the ancient monument -- in the last photo, you can see both golf course and the rocky petroglyph field.

I can only imagine the despair of a people who see their heritage treated this way.

Incidentally, the site of the royal palace in Kona is now a hotel, named for the king -- admittedly, he made the decision to disestablish the native religion and order his subjects to convert to Christianity. The foundation of his royal temple on the hotel grounds now hosts the nightly luau put on for the tourists.

In the National Historical Monuments, one to the south and one to the north of Kona, one finds better treatment of native traces. And we learned today that in building the new condominium complex where we are staying, measures seem to have been taken to respect and preserve the traces of ancient houses and shelters that were mainly on an adjacent preserve, which we see from our windows.

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