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Century-old map plots island used by Hawaiian royalty

September 30, 2016 - 8:43 AM

WAILUKU, Hawaii - Archaeologists have uncovered several sections of rock walls that are helping define the perimeter of the buried island of Mokuula, where Hawaiian royalty once lived.

The rock walls were discovered with help from a 100-year-old map. Previous studies of the site didn't have access to the map, which was found in a 19th-century printing shop on the grounds of a western Maui high school, The Maui News reported (

Members of the community in Lahaina say they hope the discoveries will lead to restoration of the island.

"It's exciting. My father had a dream about doing this in the '80s," said local musician Willie K, who grew up in Lahaina. "To see it completed would be awesome in our lifetime."

The island was a 1-acre sandbar island within a 17-acre freshwater pond that served as the home of the high chiefs of Piilani in the 16th century, according to the non-profit Friends of Mokuula. While Lahaina was the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the group said King Kamehameha III ruled from Mokuula between 1830 and 1845.

After the capital moved to Honolulu and sugar plantations began opening up around Lahaina, the pond became a stagnant marsh and was filled in 1916 to prevent it from harbouring mosquitoes. A ballpark that was later built on top of the site eventually closed in hopes of restoring the site.

The archaeological survey began in September 2015.

"Everyone takes it very seriously," said Tanya Lee-Greig, Maui island director of Cultural Surveys Hawaii. "Finding a pohaku (rock wall), I can't even describe it. It's neat, exciting, you get chicken skin. Everything about it is cool."

Theresa Donham, historic preservation consultant, said officials are working on a restoration plan for Mokuula.

"The idea is, let's get (the wall) fixed so it can function again as the retaining wall that protects the island," Donham said.

Maui County Councilman Don Guzman said the council has set aside $400,000 for the restoration effort.


Information from: The Maui News,

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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