Petroglyph Documentation Research in National Parks: Case Studies from Hawaii

Prehistoric native Indian petroglyphs are one of the most unique and threatened archeological resources in the National Park Service (NPS). These endangered sites represent a significant addition to understanding prehistoric North American art, Native American belief systems, and cultural landscapes. Across the NPS system, petroglyphs range from those that are well-studied to those with little to no documentation. Conditions of petroglyphs range from near pristine to highly-eroded, and some are visible to even the trained eye only during certain lighting and weather conditions. Nearly all are at risk as they are inexorably being worn and abraded by anthropogenic impacts and natural effects of weathering, acid-rain, and waterborne sediment erosion. Others are also threatened by climate change, including inundation by rising sea level, impact from expanded fire areas, volcanic and seismological concerns including lava flows, and impacts from unprecedented rainfall and run-off.

This cooperative project documented several site locations across three regions, with the Pacific West Region shown here.  Our survey efforts worked in conjunction with the Southeast Archeological Center (NPS SEAC), with field efforts centering on geospatial, imaging and 3D survey and GIS approaches to documentation, using new and previously collected records to provide critically needed updates and baseline data for threatened NPS petroglyph archeological sites and features. These datasets are being used to produce a 3D and 2D high-resolution digital records of threatened petroglyph sites and to generate computer modeling and visualizations for interpretative development. Parks in the Pacific West Region where documentation occurred include Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (PUHO) and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (HAVO).

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Hale o Keawe heiau (Hawaiian temple) reconstruction, showing carved wooden images known as ki’I that act as sentinels at the Hale o Keawe site at PU’UHONUA O HONAUNAU NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK (PUHO) 

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