Large petroglyphs discovered on Waianae coast
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Large petroglyphs discovered on Waianae coast

  • COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

    Large petroglyphs were discovered etched into sandstone on the Waianae Coast last month. At least 17 figures, believed to be created by aboriginal inhabitants of the Waianae coast, stretch over about 60 feet of beach.

  • COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

    Large petroglyphs were discovered etched into sandstone on the Waianae Coast last month. At least 17 figures, believed to be created by aboriginal inhabitants of the Waianae coast, stretch over about 60 feet of beach.

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Two visitors last month discovered large petroglyphs etched into sandstone on the Waianae Coast. At least 17 figures, believed to be created by aboriginal inhabitants of the Waianae coast, stretch over about 60 feet of beach, the U.S. Army and Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a news release today.

The DLNR State Historic Preservation Division and the U.S. Army have been working together to record and document the petroglyphs.

Though it’s likely that these petroglyphs have been exposed before, it is the first time they have been brought to the attention of the DLNR and the U.S. Army.

Visitors Lonnie Watson and Mark Louviere from Fort Worth, Texas noticed the petroglyphs last month while wandering the coastline.

“For some reason there was a beam of light … just a beam. It landed right on one of them and for some reason I just turned my head,” Watson said. “I said, ‘Look!’ It was just a stroke of luck.”

Army archaeologist and Waianae native Alton Exzabe said it was the first archaeological site in Hawaii with petroglyphs directly on the shoreline that the Army manages, calling it “quite a significant find.”

“We can now come up with a plan to further protect and preserve this site,” Exzabe said. “The ones with the fingers, for me, are pretty unique. I believe there are some elsewhere with fingers, but fingers and hands are pretty distinct, as well as the size of them. We find a lot of petroglyphs that are a foot or so tall, but this one measures 4 to 5 feet from head to toe. It’s pretty impressive.”

He and fellow archaeologists encourage people to look and not touch. Even the process of scraping sand away by hand or with brushes can damage the integrity of the figures, Exzabe said.

Glen Kila, a lineal descendant of the aboriginal families who first settled on the Waianae Coast, said petroglyphs record genealogy and religion.

“It’s very important to know about the lineal descendants of the area and their understanding of these petroglyphs,” Kila said. “The interpretation of these petroglyphs can only be interpreted by the lineal descendants who are familiar with its history and culture.”

Sand has since covered the petroglyphs, but the Army and DLNR are committed to protecting the discovery.

“They are an important part of Hawaii’s culture and while sands have covered them again, in time they will reappear and we want to make sure people know that they are fragile and culturally sensitive and should only be viewed; not touched,” said Dr. Alan Downer, administrator for the DLNR State Historic Preservation Division.

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    • It was “discovered” before. Since there is no written history of most Native Hawaiian archaeological sites, and unfortunately not many Native Hawaiians around that have any knowledge of ancient history, people somehow think that in 2016 they are the only ones who know and therefore “discovered” it. And to be fair no one will come forth to dispute that because there are still a few gems of Hawaii some of us would like to remain hidden.

      I should stop here, but at the risk of sounding arrogant and disrespectful (which I am trying not to be) this blonde haired, blue eyed haole farmer has told many a folk legend and shown many Native Hawaiians things they have never seen or heard of before. And I have this knowledge because I am respectful to Hawaiian culture and the aina and in return have been shown many things by locals that have never been “discovered”. And I “pay it forward” to those that I feel should know too.

    • From Hawaii News Now “It’s very likely that this is not the first time these particular petroglyphs have been exposed, but the DLNR State Historic Preservation Division says this is the first they’ve learned of them.

    • It would be good to try to date the site so we might know who drew them. The statement by a Hawaiin from Waianae that only people of “da blood” can understand the markings because it is in “da blood.” is, of course, absurd. Archaeologists of all races and ethnicities, including Asian-Americans and whites, have a profound understanding of what the markings mean. Enough of racial division, racial identity theory, and shibai.

        • It is best to call out racial identity statements that are simply unfounded. There is no cultural gene that enables any group to acquire or process knowledge differently from other groups. This racial identity theory has plagued the Hawaiin Studies Dept. at the UH and many of our Charter immersion schools both of which are heavily funded by the public. It is a false, divisive theory. Call it out and stop ignoring things like this that are not challenged for fear you will be ostracized.

      • mahalo, farmer dave. And dear allie, native Hawaiians are not a race. Not to be confused with Hawaiians, who were reviewed in Rice as in ancestry can be a proxy for race and it is that proxy here. This was referring to an old Inouye trick of verbalism wherein he patched in whites and chinese in a statue so the state of Hawaii could rake off funds actually meant for Native Americans. And many a true blood native can tell you things about the lay of the land you would never be able to see on your own, even with a PhD. Morton v Mancari (google it allie) exempts natives from racial categories.

        • ethnic Polynesian. But this does not in any way invalidate my points about identity theory. This is a big issue in post-modernism.

        • au contraire, cherie, you were mixing apples and oranges. Notice the word “modern”. American “identity” law and policy started in 1778, not the nineteen forties or fifties. Have the good grace to accept criticism and learn something then move on and teach someone something you might know to return the favor. Maybe you should try the military instead of teaching so you could become a general and have everyone obey you without question.

  • “Army archaeologist and Waianae native Alton Exzabe said it was the first archaeological site in Hawaii with petroglyphs directly on the shoreline, calling it ” quite a significant find.”

    Not really sure why or how he came to this conclusion (and no fact checking) but this is false. Yes it is quite a significant find, but there are plenty of shoreline petroglyphs. A few years ago my wife got to see the ones(yes directly on the shoreline) across from the old school on the North Shore (I think they call it Sunset Beach Community Center now). They were only there for a day, something she will cherish for a lifetime. And I guess this guy never heard of the shoreline petroglyphys along Kings Trail Big Island where there are plenty along the shoreline but most do not get covered with sand do to no sandy beaches in most places. They don’t actually know how many are on Big Island, it’s estimated at 10’s of thousands.

  • I gotta ask — because the article neva make mention — how they can be sure these are aboriginal. They say certain aspects are unique or “almost unique”. That’d raise my suspicion that somebody in recent times might have made them and gotten them “almost right”. Would hardly be the first time something like this has happened.

    • According to NASA’s JPL scientists, the sea level has been receding consistently since the 1960’s on the West Coast despite the melting glaciers. Not sure if the same effect also applies to the West Coast of the islands but it is a fact on the mainland!

  • We have to protect the these petroglyphs from over exposure. Too many valuable artifacts have been mistreated by those who have good intentions…but moreso by those who do not.

    • I too have the same perception. Since paint will not last long being submerged under salty sea water, I’m suspecting some bored kids created these probably not too long ago with a hammer and chisel!

  • One of the more interesting stuff I encountered in the sand was at Tracks in Ewa Beach. I would dig up large sand crabs on the shore for kicks. Two or three feet down I hit something metal and as I dug more it was part of an aircraft. It was aluminum painted army green and had some numbers on it. I think it was part of a Japanese plane involved in the Pearl Harbor attack. Must be long gone by now but at the time why would you notify anybody?

  • I’ve seen these many times, didn’t really pay attention to what they were. As for protecting them, they are at the low water mark of the shore, I don’t see how the Army can protect them from the ocean. The water always wins.

  • This is at Army Pililaau Rec Center in Waianae AKA Rest Camp. The area is the more towards the Boat harbor side, by the keiki surf area. Sand erosion is due to recent high surf lately caused storm activity, sand will restore by end of summer by Sept. No Panic the ocean not risen!