One morning while Alan was at a conference in Hawaii, I determined to track down the illusive petroglyphs, “National Treasures”… “enigma of the Pacific.” They were rumored to be not far from our hotel in Waikoloa, and I’d seen a small sign posting by the Kings’ Shops, so I drove to the back of the mall, parked beside the gas station, and headed out along a beautifully manicured trail, wondering if this could possibly be the right way to find these ancient treasures which were thought to have been etched into stone over a millennium ago by native Hawaiians
(who were thought to have arrived from Marquesas Islands as early as 750 AD). One of the confusing aspects of trying to find the right path
is knowing the right name and just exactly where it is you want to go. For instance, I thought it was supposed to be called
the “Anaehoomalu Petroglyph Field,” but there were no signs by that name. I’d read variously that the trail leading to the petroglyphs was called:
Kiholo Puako Trail, “Ala Kahakai Trail,” and “Mamalahoa Trail.” Most sources also said it was called “The Kings’ Trail,” so I went with that. (Besides, I have trouble pronouncing Hawaiian names correctly.) (If you go, this 32-mile royal road is a little rough, so take good walking shoes!)However, Hawaiians didn’t seem to recognize the name “King’s Trail,” and tourists had no clue what I was talking about! I stopped everybody I saw(which was precious few people early in the morning), but most of them were cheery tourists heading for the golf course who’s never heard of the “King’s Trail” …or “petroglyphs” either, for that matter!They just looked at me curiously, like I was a misguided Indiana Jones who shouldn’t be walking on a paved path running between condos and a golf course
(which— of course—had crossed my mind too). In truth, I’m not sure Hawaiians really want people to find their sacred trail.
(In case you can’t read Hawaiian,”Kapu” means “Forbidden.”) Now, if you’re in the same golf cart with most tourists, the word “petroglyph” comes from two Greek words: “petros” for rock, and “glyphein” to carve. There are petroglyphs on every inhabited continent in our world, including Hawaii, which has the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the Pacific. Hawaiians call this form of rock art k’i’i pohaku, which means “images in stone,” and most of the more than 23,000
(some say 30,000, but I’m not sure who’s counting) images on the Big Island have been carved into the surface of volcanic rocks known as “pahoehoe” lava (which has ropey, corrugated surfaces). The largest petroglyph fields on the Big Island are at
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the east side of the island, and the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological District on the Kohala (western) coast. However, I was theoretically living next door to #3, so that’s what I was going for—if I could find it! Well, after wandering about for a bit, I did wander onto the right path, and after all was said and done, I had a marvelous time observing and learning. There are over 3,000 distinctive carvings and letters found in the petroglyphs, and although their specific meanings can only be conjectured, it is known that many people slept in caves along the road as they traveled, so…were the drawings simply graffiti, or did they have deep significance?A large percentage of the markings are cupules (holes),
thought to be used as depositories for umbilical cords of newborns
as part of a rite to insure long life and “mana” (power) for the child.Although the oldest petroglyphs are dated back over a thousand years, apparently the rock carvings continued well into the 1800’s. Today the petroglyphs are considered sacred, carefully preserved and protected. In some ways, the petroglyphs remind me of the scriptures. Many people are totally oblivious of the Bible’s existence or message,
even though they’re living, working, and playing right next to it every day! Like my search for the petroglyphs, some may be searching for Wisdom but don’t know it by the right name or how to get around all the barriers to find a way in.If they do happen to stumble upon one of the texts, they can’t interpret it, or the meaning seems obscure and hard to see. Later I discovered there was a free tour; I just missed it because I didn’t know! Similarly, if you can find one, a good church will help you learn about the Bible.“And you will seek Me, and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, NKJV).