Hawaii November 26, 2017
History Left A Definite Mark At This One Fascinating Spot In Hawaii
The Hawaiian Islands are steeped in history, from the first Europeans visiting the islands in 1778 and the establishment of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1795 to Hawaii’s admittance to the United States of America in 1959. But Hawaii’s history goes back much further than that, as evidenced by this one culturally and historically significant site hiding in plain sight near Hawaii Island’s southern shore. These are the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs and it is easily one of the most historic and fascinating locations you’ll find in Hawaii.
Found off the breathtaking Chain of Craters Road within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this petroglyph site is not only gorgeous but historically and culturally significant. More than 23,000 petroglyph images can be found in this expansive field, and you will see many of them along the 1.5-mile (round trip) boardwalk trail.
The petroglyphs found here include a variety of motifs, though more than 80 percent contain cupules, in which a portion of an infant’s umbilical cord was placed in order to ensure a long life. The other portion includes everything from circles and other geometric designs, to human representations, canoe sails, and even feathered capes.
In the center of Pu’u Loa is a volcanic pressure dome with outlying areas of ancient, relatively level fields of pahoehoe lava bedrock. The lava here has been geologically dated to AD 1200 - 1450, and the earliest petroglyphs are said to have been created as early as the 1600s, more than 100 years before Western contact.
The earliest written observation of the petroglyphs was recorded in 1823 by a missionary to the Hawaiian and Society Islands, Reverend William Ellis, who wrote that: "Along the southern coast, both on the east and west sides, we frequently saw a number of straight lines, semicircles, or concentric rings, with some rude imitations of the human figure, cut or carved in the compact rocks of lava. They did not appear to have been cut with an iron instrument, but with a stone hatchet, or a stone less frangible than the rock on which they were portrayed. On inquiry, we found that they had been made by former travelers, from a motive similar to that which induces a person to carve his initials on a stone or tree, or a traveler to record his name in an album, to inform his successors that he had been there."
The petroglyphs at Pu`u Loa are interpreted to have documented the life and culture of the native Hawaiians who lived here. The ki`i pohaku (or images carved in stone) recorded travel across the island, communicate events both present and past, even marked boundaries and trails.
Pu’u Loa translates to "hill of long life" in Hawaiian, and is a place considered sacred to the people of Hawaii, and the residents of Kalapana, in particular. Walk in the footsteps of the kapuna (elders) to witness that particularly awe-inspiring collection of lava etchings once used in various rituals.
To protect this precious landscape, a boardwalk was constructed above the ground surface for visitors to walk and experience a section of this extensive area, as well as the petroglyphs found here, without damaging this incredible slice of history.
Located 16.3 miles from the start of the Chain of Craters Road, the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs trail will lead hikers approximately .7 miles through a field of the oldest petroglyphs found in the state of Hawaii.
Instead of just hiking the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs while visiting this area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we suggest you stop at the plethora of fascinating sites found along the
Chain of Craters Road.
Want to learn more about Hawaiian history? Read about
these 14 little-known historic facts, or consider a visit to these 13 sites steeped in history.