Pu’uhonua o Honaunau

Hawaii (The Big Island), Hawaii, 25 February 2015

Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

In the previous post we were driving up the west coast of the island of Hawaii but I omitted the visit to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau and I will cover this now.  It is alternatively known as the Place of Refuge and this starts at the wall in the distance.  In the foreground is part of the adjoining zone of royal residence.  Of course the appearance of everything is no doubt very different to what it was 200 years ago.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

These are Halau, long open-ended structures equivalent to schools.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

This is one of the fish ponds which would have been stocked with choice specimens for the consumption of royalty only.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

Apart from warriors, servants and slaves, this was an area for royalty only.  Behind are the walls of the Place of Refuge.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

A closer look at the walls of Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, around 10 feet high and 17 feet thick.  Although know as a Place of Refuge, it is more accurately a place of Absolution, particularly for those in danger of their life.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

There were many ways your life might have been forfeit in ancient Hawaii.  You might be a warrior from a losing side or a member of their family.  You might have contravened kapu and in some cases this would mean you were implicitly sentenced to death.  (Kapu is tapu in the rest of Polynesia and is the source of the word taboo).  There were many ways to break kapu.  Some activities and some foods were kapu for women, as was men and woman eating together.  Some fish and timber were kapu at certain times for conservation reasons.  A commoner could not look directly at an ali’i (a chief, equivalent to ariki for Maori), be visible with their head higher than the ali’i, or have their shadow touch the shadow of the ali’i.   Restrictions such as the last were particularly acute when the mana (prestige, power) of the ali’i was magnified because their parents were siblings.

Once a person who had contravened kapu made into the Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, however, they were safe.  They could not then be harmed and a priest would perform a ceremony to absolve them of the taint.  They could then return past the walls and their restored status would be respected by all.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

Several tsunamis have broken over the site over the years and destroyed the structures.  Also, Kamehameha II abolished the system of kapu in 1819 by eating with his female relatives and the site was abandoned after that.  In some places it is difficult to make out the structures that would have originally stood.  In front of the palm trees is the scant remains of an ancient heiau wiped away by tsunamis.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

This is a stone that one of the wives of Kamehameha I is said to have hidden under.  They had a disagreement and she fled to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau.  He came searching for her, she was given away by the barking of her dog and they made up.

You can also see the corner of a heiau that would originally have had wooden buildings on top.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife Sections on the stonework in the heiau wall.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife .

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

Not far from the heiau, a green turtle was pulled up on the lava.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife .

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

Nearby, another was swimming around at the edge of the rocks, seemingly feeding on the seaweed in the cracks.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife .

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife .

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife .

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

This is Hale o Keawe, a rebuilt temple and mausoleum that would originally have held the bones of twenty-three ali’i.  These bones were what made Pu’uhonua o Honaunau sacred and their mana was the source of the power to absolve transgressions of kapu.

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife .

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife .

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Archaeology, Green Turtles, Hawaii, History, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Place of Refuge, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, seascape, The Big Island, Travel, Wildlife

A half-sized reconstruction of the original Hale o Keawe temple.  The original was built around 1650.

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10 comments on “Pu’uhonua o Honaunau

  1. Thom Hickey says:

    Thanks. Pleased to have found your distinctive and informative blog. More visits in store. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox (plugged in and readynto play).

    Like

  2. badfish says:

    these are all excellent photos…again. Love them all. And the relevant history.

    Like

  3. […] Pu’uohonua O Honaunau […]

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