Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs

Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs
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Address Chain of Craters Rd, Pahoa, HI 96778
Archaeological site with over 23,000 petroglyph images.

• General: Photo Opportunity • Cultural & Historical: Heiau / Sacred Site

The Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs are located near mile marker 16.5 on Chain of Craters Road at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visitors may park alongside the road, and take .7 mile walk through relatively level lava bedrock. A wooden walking path surrounds the main area of the petroglyphs to protect them from damage. There are over 23,000 motifs containing "cupules" or holes, circles, human shapes, canoes, sails, and other geometric shapes.

Pu'u Loa is considered sacred to the people of Hawai'i, and those of Kalapana in particular. Petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa are interpreted to have recorded travel around the island of Hawaii.

The petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa were first written about in 1823 by a missionary visiting the area. Nearly 100 years later in 1914, anthropologist Martha Beckwith visited Pu'u Loa and made this observation:

"July 1, 1914. Rode out to Puuloa on the line between Kealakomo and Apuki. Here is a large pahoehoe mound used as a depository for the umbilical cord at the birth of a child. A hole is made in the hard crust, the cord is put in and as stone is placed over it. In the morning the cord has disappeared; there is no trace of it. This insures long life for the child. Mrs. Kama, born in 1862, was a native of Kamoamoa. Her mother brought her cord there. She had 15 children and for each one at birth the visit was made to Puuloa. Another mound, on the southern boundary of Apukiu., called Puumanawalea, was similarly used….Puuloa is especially rich. There are holes, pictures, initials chiseled into the rock."

Beckwith interpreted that:

A dot was " the hole for a child"
A dot in a circle "the hole for the first born"
A dot with two circles "the first born of an ali'i [a ruling chief]"
A plain circle was a "calabash"
A jagged line was a "mo'o [a lizard]"
A circle with a long line was a "puloulou [ a tapa covered ball on a stick carried by an ali'i as a symbol of taboo]"
A cross with a dot at each end was " a cross before a chief at night in traveling."