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Visualising Hawaiian Sacred Sites: The archives and J.F.G. Stokes’s pioneering archaeological surveys, 1906–1913

James Flexner, Mara A. Mulrooney, Mark D. McCoy, Patrick V. Kirch


In the early 1900s, Australian-born archaeologist John F.G. Stokes was the first to extensively use modern surveying techniques and photography to document Hawaiian archaeological sites. Stokes carried out fieldwork for a Bishop Museum-based research program driven by interests in Polynesian origins and Hawaiian religious change, focusing specifically on the monumental temple sites called heiau in Hawaiian. Using a sample of the visual record of plan maps and photographs from Stokes’s work, we examine how Stokes represented sacred sites, including the variable level of architectural detail offered. Stokes’s reliance on Native Hawaiian informants is notable, as it may have played an important role in shaping his view of the archaeological landscape. Stokes’s survey record provides an important dataset for understanding the paradigms at work in Polynesian archaeology in the early 20th century, and the influences of this work in subsequent approaches to monumentality in the archipelago and beyond.


Hawaii; heiau; visualisation; history of archaeology; Polynesia

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ISSN (print) 1179 4704; ISSN (online) 1179 4712
Published with the assistance of the Department of Anthropology & Archaeology, University of Otago.
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