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Ref ID: 32949
Ref Type: Journal Article
Authors: Masse, W. Bruce
Carter, Laura A.
Somers, Gary F.
Title: Waha'ula <i>Heiau</i>: the regional and symbolic context of Hawai'i Island's "Red Mouth" temple
Date: 1991
Source: Asian Perspectives (1991)
Abstract: Introduction: Like Dante's query to Virgil as they descended into the depths of Hell, archaeologists arc forever doomed by their profession to stand beside ruined portals and miscellaneous piles of rubble and ask, "Why is this site here? What does it mean?" If we arc lucky, along with the physical remains of the site itself, we may have recourse to inscriptions, historic documents, or oral histories. But even these might be fragmentary and their messages veiled. Too rarely do we have enough data to meaningfully assess the actual function of a site and the site's evolving role within the context of the society that shaped it. This task becomes even more difficult if the site or components of the site have at some point been imbued with special symbolism. This article will attempt to unravel the meaning of one such site, that of Waha'ula <i>heiau</i> on the Puna coast of the island of Hawai'i<sup>1</sup> (Fig, 1). Waha'ula is an important site for several reasons, not the least of which lies in its having been identified in oral histories as the setting for the first <i>luakini</i> (human sacrificial temple) in the Hawaiian Islands, purportedly established by the emigrant Tahitian priest Pā'ao around A.D. 1275. Along with the <i>luakini,</i> came the <i>ali'i</i> and <i>maka'āinana</i> social orders, which strictly divided the populace into royalty and commoners, respectively. This division was enforced by the harsh sanctions of the <i>kapu</i> (taboo) system. It perhaps is significant that Waha'ula was the last <i>luakini</i> to he rededicated by Kamehameha in 1817, shortly before his death, and the last <i>luakini</i> to be dismantled by Liholiho in 1820, after the death of Kamehameha and the overthrow of the <i>kapu</i> system (Fornander 1969: 35-36). Using mythology, oral histories, and historic documents
aspects of the geology and environmental setting ofWaha'ula
previous archaeological studies
and the results of an emergency rescue archaeology program conducted by the authors in June and July 1989<sup>2</sup>, this article will explore how the archaeological record of Waha'ula <i>heiau</i> might reflect its seemingly unique position in Hawaiian culture history. It will also look at the ways in which this archaeological record might reveal aspects of the symbolic structure of traditional Hawaiian society.
Date Created: 12/28/2002
Volume: 30
Number: 1
Page Start: 19
Page End: 56