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.