Saturday, March 03, 2007

Whatever-Day-This-Is Archaeology Blogging
Fun with petroglyphs edition!

First of all, this edition of Friday Archaeology Blogging will have nothing to do with ossuaries believed by some to contain the remains of a particular middle-eastern family. This is for two reasons. First of all, I haven't seen the documentary yet. Secondly, I rather skeptical of the whole Biblical Archaeology thing to begin with.

The earliest human inhabitants of Hawaii seem to have arrived on the islands about 1400 years ago, probably journeying from points south and west. This relatively recent date for the arrival of humans is probably related to the remoteness of the Hawaiian islands. The early Hawaiians lived under a very stratified caste system referred to as "kapu". In terms of material remains, they did not leave much, although some worship sites (Hawaiian word: Heiau) have survived.

Pu'ukohola Heiau - click to enlarge

What these early inhabitants did leave behind are quite of lot of petroglyphs, images carved into the volcanic rock of the islands. Subject matter includes people in canoes,

people by themselves (very often sexually explicit, as in the case the petroglyph shown below),

and some that seem to be simply geometric shapes.

Animals, including starfish, turtles, and tiger sharks, were also represented, although I couldn't find a really satisfactory image of such a petroglyph. Nor did the arrival of Captain James Cook, in 1778, put an end to the practice of carving petroglyphs, although the kapu system fell apart not long after the arrival of the Europeans. The example below quite clearly shows a fully-rigged ship, and therefore must date to after Cook's visit.

The meaning of the petroglyphs is, not surprisingly, somewhat open to interpretation. They were believed to bring good luck, as long as the stone upon which they were carved was not moved. In general, they have survived fairly well; however, there is a problem in that the petroglyphs are generally outdoors, and thus exposed to the elements. Hawaii's copious rainfall has eroded some of them almost to the point of invisibility.

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