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Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo sixth grader, Makamae Santana-Morisako, digs down in a trench in search of ancient pā pōhaku.

Digginʻ the 'āina

Ka  'Umeke Kā 'eo haumāna learn rock-solid archaeological skills

April 20, 2018

Contributed by Communication Group Staff

Eleven-year-old Ikaika Kaupu stepped on his shovel and pushed down into the muddy, mucky rectangular patch below him until he literally hit pay dirt.

“When I tapped with my shovel, I hit a rock,” Kaupu said with a broad smile. “It was awesome.”

The rock Kaupu hit was located in the vicinity of known pā pōhaku within the Kumuola Marine Science Education Center on Pauahi’s ‘āina in the ʻili kūpono of Honohononui, East Hawai‘i. He and nearly two dozen fellow haumāna from Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo Hawaiian Immersion Public Charter School took part in a day-long exercise assisting professional archaeologists in search of a section of an ancient system of loko i‘a stone walls.  

“It’s like part of my history. I get to dig into my history – not very many get to do that,” said 13-year-old Kalei Kaleohano, a Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo  eighth grader whose family has lived for generations in the nearby Hawaiian homestead community of Keaukaha.

KS Cultural Resources Program Manager Jon Tulchin, who organized the day, said this exercise was an opportunity for haumāna, kumu, and kiaʻi to learn and apply professional archaeological practices and field methods in order to deepen their understanding of and relationship to the ʻāina.

“We’re looking at things that have changed over time. You want to keep track over time how people used the site,” Tulchin said.

The excavation was supervised by Dennis Gosser, senior archaeologist with the consulting firm PCSI - Pacific Consulting Services, Inc. who gave the student archaeologists reason for excitement when they began scraping away several inches of layers of soil around the newly unearthed stone.

“You’re probably looking at something that people haven’t looked at in a long time,” Gosser said. “The question is – is there a wall that still exists.”

Tulchin, also a trained archaeologist, said the work with the students is part of the continuing research within the boundaries of this loko i‘a system.  “They are now part of the research.”

Ka ʻUmeke Kāʻeo haumāna push mud and soil through a screen looking for potential archaeological finds.

Kalei Kaleohano helps to square off an excavation trench using the Pythagorean theorem.

Archaeologist Dennis Gosser helps to outfit students with tools for the archaeological dig.

The view across the loko i'a of the excavation site for student archaeologists digging through layers of soil to find an ancient rock wall.

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