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Hawaiian Petroglyphs

Notes from the ancients

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Maui and Lana‘i have some excellent petroglyphs, pictorial messages left by the ancient Hawaiians. These incised images, made about 150-600 years ago, appear in the form of stylized humans, animals and birds. Some seem to be standing with a canoe paddle raised high, as if saluting. Canoes with the characteristic claw-shaped sail, appear on some rocks and, on Lana‘i, axis deer. They were only brought to the island in the mid-1800s, leaving a clue to their age.

Most petroglyphs are hidden. On Maui, look for them behind the Olowalu General Store. This is private land, but the owner has posted a sign at the break in a fence where you can walk about .5 mile from the store. Some people drive in along the track. Always check at the store to see that permission is still given. There used to be a viewing platform, which has deteriorated. Vandals have defaced some of these petroglyphs.

Lana‘i petroglyphs appear in two places accessible by 4-wheel drive only. Ask for directions at Lanai City Service, the Jeep rental agency. The Luahiwa petroglyph site is south of Lana‘i City off Manele Bay Road. They are carved on boulders on the slope below the water tower seen from the paved road. The “Bird Man” or Poaiwa petroglyphs are just behind  Shipwreck Beach. The site gets its name from the human figures with a cocked bird-like head. A small sign near the ground marks the path to the petroglyphs.

And always respect these fragile sites.


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