Mauna Kea
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Adze Quarries
Adze quarries and workshops are known on all the major Hawaiian islands, notably at Mauna Kea on Hawai‘i island, Pu‘u Moiwi on Kaho‘olawe and Kaluakako‘i on Moloka‘i.


 
 
 
Lae-o-Kala‘au on Molokai was one of the places where the stoneworkers made adzes. Another place was at Ka-lua-o-Pele [Kilauea Crater]; the stones of that place were the ho‘okele and the makai‘a, also called mahikihiki.
The Works of the People of Old
Samuel Manaiakalani Kamakau

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On Mauna Kea — and probably such places have been found elsewhere — has been found a quarry, from which must have been taken in ancient times the material for stone axes. Judging from the quantity of chips and debris the amount of material removed from the place was very great. Broken axes and axes in various stages of finish and partial completion were also found. An ax-quarry anciently existed on Mauna Loa at the western end of Molokai, at a place named Ka-lua-ka-koi.

Hawaiian Antiquities
by David Malo
(notation by Nathaniel B. Emerson)

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The second known source on Hawai‘i island is located in the Pololu Valley in North Kohala…beside the main stream in the valley floor. In general the Pololu material is coarser grained than stone from Mauna Kea.
A third quarry site is believed to have existed on Kilauea Volcano, perhaps in or near Keanakako‘i Crater. It was destroyed by volcanic activity in the late 19th century. Several polished and unpolished flakes were collected at a previously reported habitation site near Kilauea. Three artifacts from this site, the "Big ‘Ohi‘a Shelter," were submitted for petrographic analysis and found to be olivine basalt, which is typical of the stone produced by Kilauea lavas.

Prehistoric Distribution of Stone Adzes on Hawai‘i Island: Implications for the Development of Hawaiian Chiefdoms
by Barbara M. Withrow
Asian Perspectives
Volume xxix, number 2, 1990

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In 1975, a new road going in for the observatories at the summit opened the Mauna Kea adze quarry to increased public access. Archaeologists, fearing theft of artifacts, carried out the first extensive investigation of the Mauna Kea quarry complex.

Diggers mine Mauna Kea for knowledge
by Bruce Benson
Honolulu Advertiser
Nov. 23, 1975

Hawaiian Adz Quarry on Mauna Kea Studied
by Helen Altonn
Star Bulletin
July 31, 1975

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Basalt adze quarries and workshops are known on all the major Hawaiian islands, but by far the largest, most complex, and best preserved is that on the island of Hawaii on the south slope of Mauna Kea, extending from about the 8,600 to the 13,000 foot elevation.

The Mauna Kea Adze Quarry Complex (author's designation) is composed of a series of extraction areas and chipping stations — large, clustered areas as well as smaller, isolated ones — with associated religious shrines, habitation rock-shelters, overhang shelters, and open-air shelters.

The quarries extend over an area of approximately 7 1/2 square miles, although most sites are contained in a 1 and 1/2 square mile area between the 11,000 and 12,400 ft elevation.

The degree of specialisation implied and the extent of manufacturing activities at this one locality strongly hint that adze production exceeded local needs and that some adzes made on Mauna Kea were traded outside the island of Hawaii.

The Mauna Kea quarries are unparalleled in the rest of Polynesia, and probably in the world. The area is a National Historic Landmark.

The Mauna Kea Adze Quarry Project: A Summary of the 1975 Field Investigations
Patrick McCoy
Bernice P. Bishop Museum

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There is little written or oral history about the adze makers of Mauna Kea. Only one historical reference to the Mauna Kea quarry exists, recorded in an 1873 boundary dispute. Some evidence suggests that the quarry was abandoned by 1800.

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Now come new kinds of axes from the lands of the white man. Iron is plentiful now. The stone-ax (koi-pohaku) is laid aside.
Hawaiian Antiquities
by David Malo


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Despite the obvious importance of the Mauna Kea quarries as a centre of large-scale adze production, there is no ethnographic or ethnohistoric information on the use of the area. This is not surprising in view of the almost universal absence of recorded information on quarrying and stone-tool manufacture for most areas of the world. It also hints at the probable abandonment of the isolated quarries on Mauna Kea before 1800.

The Mauna Kea Adze Quarry Project: A Summary of the 1975 Field Investigations
Patrick McCoy
Bernice P. Bishop Museum


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Radiocarbon dates in the quarry complex indicated initial use by about AD 1100 with more intensive use after AD 1400 (Cleghorn). Use of the quarry diminished substantially prior to Western contact.

~excerpts from
Mauna Kea – Kuahiwi Ku Ha‘o i ka Malie
A Report on Archival and Historical Documentary Research
Ahupua‘a of Humu‘ula, Ka‘ohe, districts of Hilo and Hamakua, Island of Hawai‘i
by Kepa Maly
Appendix D, D-12, ©1997 Kepa Maly, Kumu Pono Associates and Native Lands Institute

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But stone adzes continued to be used even after the quarrying stopped.

Stone adzes were used even after the introduction of metal. In the hands of the skilled user, they may have exceeded some functions of the metal ones. Ellis reported, "Though they now use an axe in felling trees, the adze is still their favorite tool and many of them use no other."

And William T. Bingham, director of the Bishop Museum in 1901, wrote of his firsthand experience, "In watching the shaping of a canoe I have seen the old canoe maker use for the rough shaping and excavating an ordinary foreign steel adze, but for the finishing touches he dropped the foreign tool and returned to the adze of his ancestors, and the blunt looking stone cut off a delicate shaving from the very hard koa wood."
The Top Of Mauna Kea
Story and photos by Pat Duefrene
Aloha
August 1, 1984, v7 n4
See also
Digging Into History
 

 

 

 

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