By Denise Emsley, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii Public Affairs
PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- Personnel from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii and Navy Region Hawaii along with Hawaiian Civic Club members from Kapolei, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Wai`anae, Mkaha and Kaneohe met with archeologists, May 4, to visit the Nioi`ula Heiau at Naval Magazine Lualualei, Oahu, Hawaii.
Pacific Consulting Services, Inc. (PCSI) was hired by the Navy to clear, survey, document and map the Nioi`ula Heiau. Heiau were places of worship, including shrines to gods and places of refuge, in ancient Hawaii. These structures included stone enclosures and platforms as well as earthen terraces. The Nioi`ula Heiau is considered to be of significance; but exactly what this site was used for is unknown at this time and why archeological work is being conducted in late April/early May.
The visit was coordinated to bring members of the Hawaiian community interested in the heiau together to discuss some of the archeological findings of PCSI and exchange information.
"I am extremely happy that our visit to the Nioi`ula Heiau was so well attended by such interested and thoughtful individuals who are willing to listen and share their considerable knowledge on Hawaiian cultural resources," NAVFAC Hawaii Archeologist Jeff Pantaleo. "It is through this interaction that more of Hawaii's past will be revealed, and it is our responsibility to protect, collect, and pass this information onto our children so they remain connected with these beautiful islands."
The Nioi`ula Heiau is located in the upper portion of the Lualualei Valley and consists of several stacked rock walls and enclosures. These structures have been somewhat disturbed over time and are not as organized as they once were in the past; however, their relevance is visible in the size and scope of the site.
PCSI personnel have spent two weeks investigating the area and have uncovered a few items such as basalt flakes, charcoal and a pig's tooth. The charcoal will be submitted for radiocarbon dating to help determine the age and possible use of the structures. A buried platform was found during this effort and thoughts on whether it is part of an original structure at the site are being considered. The big questions are when was this structure created, why was it situated at its current location, and how was it used.
The heiau was originally recorded during archeological investigations in the 1930s by Bishop Museum (McAllister 1933). Later in the 1980s, the museum mapped the heiau. Thirty years later, it appears the site has remained undisturbed.
Dennis Gosser, an archeologist with PCSI, shared information with the visiting group about previous archeological efforts in the valley which have found evidence of various settlement sites with smaller ritual areas along with living areas throughout Lualualei Valley. The current thought is the Nioi`ula Heiau could be an integrating heiau where the peoples from the whole valley may have come together. The structure appears to be larger and more complex than the smaller individual sites. Archaeological studies conducted in 2000 and 2001 successfully dated some of the other sites in the valley, and it is hoped that the dates from items found at this current excavation will help continue to fill out the story of the people who lived here.
Various members of the visiting Hawaiian community asked questions and shared ideas about the Nioi`ula Heiau emphasizing the need to learn more and educate our youth about their past.
"It is the Navy's intention to continue to consult and share with the Hawaiian community about any archeological findings that may be uncovered at the Nioi`ula Heiau," said Pantaleo. "We see this as a terrific opportunity to work together and learn from each other with the overall desire to preserve cultural resources that are important to us today and to future generations."