Kawakiu Archaeological Findings

Community Contributed

By Leihiwahiwa Ritte

Kawakiu is a subsistence fishing area that many depend on to feed their ʻohana. Gathering paʻakai, fishing, throwing net, diving, or harvesting ʻopihi along its pristine shoreline are common practices of subsistence in the area. However, beyond its beauty and the abundance it provides, Kawakiu is also a historical site with significant archaeological findings.

Several structures can still be seen today. Archaeologist Marshall Weisler published a study identifying house sites, fishing shrines, stone mounds, stone walls, and grinding slabs. Near the center of the point, south of Kawakiu Bay, there is a rock-walled structure. Weisler refers to it as “the most substantial structure in the Kawakiu Nui area.” Weisler notes, “it was probably a heiau.” 

A total of 110 indigenous manufactured artifacts were unearthed. One site alone had the largest collection of fishhooks and fishhook manufacturing tools ever recorded in Hawaii. Besides fishhooks, cowry shell octopus lures, sinkers, hammerstones, adzes and coral abraders were also discovered. Evidence of imported goods was present in the area as well due to Western contact. Iron-manufactured fishhooks and ones made from nails, in addition to glass bottles, ceramicware, flint and glass trade beads were found.

It is evident that Kawakiu was a very productive and extensively used area for subsistence. Subsistence fishing and gathering continues to be an important way of life for Molokai. It is the kuleana of kanaka to malama and preserve Kawakiu for generations to come.

All information is found in Marshall Weisler, A Second Look At the Archaeology of Kawakiu Nui, West Molokai, Hawaiian Islands.


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