Manawai Archaeological Project
on Moloka‘i Archaeology
The island of Moloka‘i has not received equal archaeological attention
as other islands in the main Hawaiian group. O‘ahu and the Big Island
have been the focus of archaeological studies conducted in Hawai‘i.
The high proportion of work on these islands is in part due to the development
of land, and the environmental impact assessments that development requires.
Many cultural resource management (CRM) reports have been generated for
Moloka‘i as well; these reports far outnumber the research-based
investigations that have been carried out on the island. To date, three
academically based archaeological studies have been undertaken using modern
archaeological techniques (Bonk 1954, Kirch & Kelley 1975, Weisler
& Kirch 1985). Pia Anderson, another member of the OAL also wrote
her dissertation (House of the kama‘aina: historical anthropology
in a rural Hawaiian valley, 2001) based on work she did in Halawa,
Moloka‘i. These projects stand in contrast to the work of earlier
scholars (Stokes 1909, Thrum 1909, Fowke 1922) who relied heavily on the
knowledge of native Hawaiian informants.
to Bonk's (1954) work at Mo‘omomi, anthropologists such as G. Fowke,
J. F. G. Stokes, and amateur scholars like T. G. Thrum had done island
wide investigations, involving the description and recording of heiau
(temples). One of their goals was the accumulation of data regarding ancient
Hawaiian remains, in an attempt to salvage such information before it
was "lost" to advancing civilization or forgotten. Another goal
was the collection of evidence for cross cultural comparisons, in order
to develop sequences of island colonization throughout Polynesia. That
is, the route and sequence by which the Polynesian islands were settled
by people. Beginning with the Mo‘omomi study, the methods used and
the research questions asked changed significantly. This involved systematic
survey and excavation of the study areas, and research goals geared toward
the cultural adaptation of the Hawaiians to their environment and the
manner in which people organized themselves on the landscape.
The projects discussed above have made important contributions to Moloka‘i
archaeology, and Hawaiian archaeology in general. However, many other
issues and regions needed investigating. Previous work was done on the
northwest coast (Mo‘omomi), the north coast (Halawa Valley), and
the south coast (Kawela). However, the southeastern shore of Moloka‘i
was densely populated in prehistory and at contact (Kirch 1985), yet this
area has not received archaeological attention, with the exception of
the Kawela study (Kirch & Kelly 1975) and CRM initiated projects.
My work entailed a settlement pattern analysis within Manawai ahupua'a
(traditional land division) along the southeastern coast of Moloka‘i.
Many cultural sites have been recorded in this area, and this data compiled
by C. Summers in her 1971 volume, Molokai: A Site Survey. These
site-specific investigations (the emphasis on individual sites) lacked
spatial and temporal context, which provides a fragmentary view of the
lives of people who lived in this area. By conducting a multiscalar settlement
pattern analysis of Manawai Valley better reconstructions and interpretations
could be produced.
In the summer of 1998 I directed a small crew (Steve Eminger, Kalei Nathaniel,
Craig Stahl, and Tania Stellini), which carried out a month long survey
of the lower portion of Manawai Valley. The survey involved a walking
inspection of the land, using closely spaced transects. Sites encountered
were recorded on a survey form, which included a formalized checklist
of site features, a drawing of the site (generated from tape and compass
measurements), and a verbal description. Global Positioning Station (GPS)
points were also taken for each site. The Hawai‘i State Historic
Preservation Division (SHPD) was generous enough to loan a GPS receiver
to the project, in exchange for the sharing of information. What we found,
much like what researchers found in Halawa Valley, was a patchwork of
sites connected by walls and terraces, essentially forming one continuous
site. Some 50 sites were recorded, to a distance of roughly 1 km inland
from and 60 m above the coast. Much of the coastal flat has undergone
modern development, such as the building of a condominium, so the number
of sites prehistorically was likely much higher than what we located.
My research into the Mahele records places the majority of kuleana plots
in this lower segment of the valley, so I'm fairly certain that we are
not getting the full picture in this area of Manawai. In a month of work
we made a small dent in the total survey area, which is approximately
5.5 km in length, and rises to a height of 1200 m.
2001 House of the kama‘aina: historical anthropology in a rural
Hawaiian valley. Ph.D., University of California – Berkeley.
Bonk, William J.
1954 Archaeological excavations on west Molokai. M.A., University
of Hawai‘i – Mänoa.
1922 Archaeological work in Hawaii. Bureau of American Ethnology.
Kirch, Patrick V., and Marion Kelly
1975 Prehistory and ecology in a Hawaiian windward valley: Halawa
Valley, Moloka‘i. Pacific Anthropological Records No. 24. Honolulu:
Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Press.
Stokes, John F. G.
1909 Heiaus of Molokai. Honolulu: Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
1971 Molokai: a site survey. Pacific Anthropological Records
No. 14. Honolulu: Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum Press.
Thrum, Thomas G.
1909 Tales from the temples, part III. The Hawaiian Annual for
Pp. 44 – 54.
Weisler, Marshall, and Patrick V. Kirch
1985 The structure of settlement space in a Polynesian chiefdom: Kawela,
Molokai, Hawaiian Islands. New Zealand Journal of Archaeology. 7: