Stone Mounds

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Our ancestors lived in a world of parallel and intersecting lines associated with the heavens. The rising and setting of the sun, moon and stars, lines of sight all integrated into the construction of their houses, walls, agricultural efforts and even above ground burials. It was a world of symbols and signs that manifest themselves in a sense of presence. One only need to recognize it. It is personal.

Amongst the many archaeological features at the Kalaeloa Heriage Park are coral mounds. They are described in a subsistence manner. There are many. Some easy to see and recognizable, others more obscure. Some just a pile of stones. However, they all appear to be set in place by hands. Not by the wind, not by the moving of the ground or water but by one’s hands. This article is only meant to help us see as we once did and develop in us an appreciation of how life once was and those who are no longer.

These piles of stones can help us understand their spiritual world. Burials most often occurred along the shoreline for those communities whose subsistence world and gathering was one of ocean resources. However, during this period of evolution during the 1800 when water no longer was as abundant as those pre-contact years people began to abandon these shoreline communities. They left their loved ones in the immediate areas where they once lived. Oftentimes it was in a sinkhole or an ahu or alter, most often however stone mounds. These stone mounds however possess the secrets of their spiritual beliefs, life after death and redemption.

There are many piles of stones in the Kalaeloa Heritage Park that are identified in the archaeological surveys as agricultural mounds, burial mounds and even probable burials because of their similarity to known burials. Some with the same orientation, some with a coral stone shaped like an arrow seemingly pointing in the same direction.

With this orientation in mind let me help us understand the correlation between this orientation and their spiritual world, life after death and redemption. These burials are seemingly pointing in the direction where the day turns into night and light into darkness. They are pointing in the direction of the setting sun. On every island there are 2 places identified in terms of life after death. If one lived a good life he would have the benefit of his aumakua (guardian spirit) carrying him to the Leina Ka Uhane or leaping places into the next world. On the island of O’ahu the Leina Ka Uhane is at Kaena Point. If one did not live a good life he would not have the benefit of his aumakua carrying he or she to the Leina. He would be banned to barren and desolate places. These places are referred to as an aokuewa or places of “wandering spirits”. On the island of Oa’hu that place was referred to as Kaupe’a or today’s Kapolei. Anciently Kaupe’a had 2 meanings, one it made reference to the lone star of the southern cross pointing the direction to the south. It also made reference to places of “wandering spirits” or as places of redemption.

It is not something to fear but to embrace. For these are our stories…

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