The Significance of Religious Ritual in Ancient Hawai‘i


  • Mark McCoy University of Otago


ritual, monumental architecture, ideology, archaic state, Hawai‘i


A volume in honour of Patrick Kirch’s intellectual contribution to the archaeology of Hawai‘i would be incomplete without a discussion of his wide-ranging scholarship on the topic of traditional Hawaiian religion. In this paper, I focus on themes that we can see throughout his career. The first is the incorporation of the study of heiau (temples), shrines, and other sacred sites described in ethnohistory within the historical context of the development of Hawaiian society. The second is his contribution to the interpretation of architecture and ritual practices through close attention to details such as orientation, elaboration, and offerings. The final theme is best captured in the Hawaiian concept of mālama, meaning to take care of, preserve, or protect these sites. Finally, I summarise some of the future directions in research that are now possible thanks to Kirch’s contributions to the field.




How to Cite

McCoy, M. (2014) “The Significance of Religious Ritual in Ancient Hawai‘i”, Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 5(2), pp. 72–80. Available at: (Accessed: 25 February 2024).