Sunday, October 14, 2012

History at your feet: Petroglyphs on Hawaii's Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii has thousands of acres of smooth (pahoehoe, "pa-hoi-hoi") lava, where rock etchings tell the history and happenings from about 2,000 years ago up to the late 19th century. This field, the Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs, is well-marked, off Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. At times (as pictured) volcanic activity makes driving park roads difficult.

Some half-dozen sites on the island are signed and protected. Adventure seekers can find twice that many petroglyph fields, mostly on the Kona (west) side of the island. Just look for the pahoehoe lava, as opposed to the jagged slag-heaps (called a'a, "ah-ah"), the second form the molten earth takes when it reaches the surface. The carvings tell of births, deaths, and significant happenings, such as the most recent drawings that depict Western sailing ships and rifles. All the recognized sites are noted in Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer. If you find a site that is "off the map," be sure to take care not to step on or disturb the etchings.

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