Speaking Stones of the Past

by Veronica S. Schweitzer

Hawaiian petroglyphs can be found at various points along the coast.

There is an unusual activity available for the more adventurous tourist on the Big Island, it's called petroglyph hunting. On such a hunt, bring water, good shoes, and sunscreen. Leave all ideas behind about wanting to reproduce, alter, or "improve" the petroglyph. Leave all pre-set thoughts about Hawaiian history behind. The stones will talk, allowing the mystified visitor to listen. I've done it. (In all honesty, I didn't find one single petroglyph, but even so, the experience was worth it. I found Hawaiian and universal wisdom by listening to the ancient stones.

Petroglyphs date as far back as the first settlers on the Hawaiian Islands, in the 4th century AD. They were the earliest written forms of communication with the gods, the spirits, and with fellow travelers and viewers.

The figures were most frequently carved on the smooth pahoehoe lava. Other stone sources were large boulders and the walls of lava tubes.

No one knows for sure what all the different symbols and figures mean. No one knows for sure the exact date of each petroglyph, or why there are so many on the Big Island.

One thing we do know: They are never randomly located. Isolated petroglyphs might mark a burial site, or an important trail junction. Groups of petroglyphs often accentuate a powerful place on the land. T he Hawaiians believed that mana , the cosmic force, was concentrated and available in specific locations, which became places of prayer and respect.

In chronological order, three subsequent shapes depicted the human figure. At first there was the stick form, basic, and sexually explicit. Later, the form became columnar, with a wider torso. The most recent form was of triangular shape. Often, however, petroglyphs were altered by newer artists. Additions were made, and lines were deepened.

Apart from these human figures there are the animals, representing the aumakuas or guardian spirits. Some pictures offer the variety of tools, ornaments, and objects, available to the Hawaiian, such as fish hooks, paddles, capes, helmets, and sandals. The konane board game is found along the entire Kona coast.

And there are those incomprehensible symbols that, because of their frequency, must have had a meaning, but that is entirely lost to us today.

Petroglyphs will keep their secrets into eternity. Unless, of course, we teach the stones to speak.

The best locations to easily view these ancient oracles are:
Anaeho'omalu Bay (access via the Royal Waikoloan and Hilton-Waikoloa resorts)
Puako (access via the Mauna Lani and Ritz Carlton resorts)

Many tourist guide books describe detailed routes to other petroglyph sites along the Hawaiian shores.

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