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Tsunami uncovered signs of ancient Hawaii

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KAILUA-KONA >> Tsunami waves that surged through Hawaii’s Keoneele Bay last week have uncovered centuries-old structures and cooking sites at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park on the Big Island.

Since the tsunami that hit Friday, archeologists have been surveying the area, identifying and recording what’s been revealed, Eric Andersen, the park’s chief of interpretation, told West Hawaii Today.

“Almost as if stepping into a page of history, we have been given the opportunity to look back at a time, one which we have only heard or read about prior,” he said. The discoveries “confirm oral accounts and serve as a reminder of the tremendous multigenerational, rich story of this place.”

Seismic waves of up to 6 to 7 feet pushed hundreds of feet inland on Friday and raced through the national park’s palace grounds and fish ponds after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off Japan.

Defeated warriors, noncombatants in time of war and those who violated sacred laws sought refuge in this area in ancient times.

Anderson told the newspaper that he doesn’t know everything that’s been found so far, but what has been found, has been inventoried. Andersen said the evidence will be covered with sand and left undisturbed afterward.

The water toppled rock walls, washed tilapia out of ponds, knocked over a coconut palm and exposed tree root systems, Andersen said.

Many other resources were untouched.

All of the kii, or wooden images, are still at the park, including the one located roughly 3 to 4 feet above sea level near the edge of the bay.

Hale o Keawe, an oceanfront temple and mausoleum that once held the bones of 23 alii, or royals, was also unscathed. A massive 10-foot high, 17-foot thick wall that separated the royal compound from the puuhonua, or place of refuge, is still standing.

“It’s been interesting see how the ocean came in, moved and spared,” said Kathy Billings, superintendent of Puuhonua O Honaunau and Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Parks. “It’s amazing that things built hundreds of years ago continue to survive through different events and extremes of the ocean, sun and wind. This event is another reminder of the power of this place.”

The park’s royal grounds, puuhonua, picnic area, coastal trails and the historic 1871 trail are closed. Visitors man still use the visitor center, parking area, amphitheater and canoe halau from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Crews have been cleaning up debris and reopening areas when they’ve been deemed “all clear,” Andersen said.

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