skip to Main Content

Molokai residents complete UH archaeological training

New technicians qualify to work in field surveys throughout the state

University of Hawaiʻi
Michael Graves, (808) 956-8415
Department of Anthropology
Posted: Oct 21, 2005

As part of a Molokaʻi Rural Development Program, 20 Molokaʻi residents are the first to complete an innovative two-year archaeological training program designed specifically for residents of the island. The training allows them to qualify to work as paid archaeological field technicians on survey projects on Molokaʻi and throughout the state. The program was conducted by archaeologists from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in partnership with the Society for Molokaʻi Archaeology (SFMA).

The island of Molokaʻi has a rich history and has a vast array of archaeological sites that have been preserved. Systematic documentation of these sites has long been a goal of SFMA. Such surveys have often been undertaken without the involvement of residents, except as unpaid volunteers. The goal of the program was to train Molokaʻi residents to participate in archaeological inventory surveys, required by the State of Hawaiʻi for most land development projects.

The students participated in a combination of classroom instructions and field work, under the direction of Dr. Michael Graves, Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology. Windy McElroy and Theresa Donham, UH Mānoa doctoral students in anthropology, served as instructors for the program.

"We were amazed and gratified by the interest and commitment of Molokaʻi residents to this training program," said Graves. "They are to be commended on their dedication to preserving the island‘s cultural properties. I was also pleased with the collaborative effort this project generated with SFMA, the Molokaʻi Education Center and MCC, the Rural Development Program staff on Molokaʻi, and Kamehameha Schools on whose property the first survey was conducted."

From fall 2004 through summer 2005, three field training sessions were held on Molokaʻiin the lower valley of Kamalō, along the western ridge above Kamalō stream, and in Wailau Valley on the windward side of the island. Because Wailau can only be accessed during the summer by boat, it required the students and one of the instructors, McElroy, to camp out in the valley for a month at a time.

At Wailau, the students surveyed eight parcels of land, comprising a variety of wetland agricultural systems. In addition to survey techniques, the students practiced mapping with global positioning system (GPS) units, with instruments (plane table and alidade), and tape and compass. They also conducted test excavations to recover organic remains for possible radiocarbon dating. Four major wetland systems were mapped in detail.

In lower Kamalō Valley, they documented a number of archaeological features, some of which had been previously identified as prehistoric habitation sites, but was discovered to have probably been agriculturally-related terraces with a single habitation feature. The survey above Kamalō Stream revealed numerous features, including several thought to be habitation areas, long with a possible religious structure and numerous temporary use features.

Since completing the training program, a number of participants have found archaeology jobs on Molokaʻi and elsewhere with private consultants and with the National Park Service. Archaeological consulting firms that have worked on Maui have also expressed interest in hiring the participants.

For more information about the program, contact Michael Graves at 956-8415.