Dwelling Among the Gods: A Late Pre-Contact Priest’s House in Kahikinui, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

  • Patrick V. Kirch University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720
  • Sidsel Millerstrom Archaeological Research Facility, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720
  • Sharyn Jones Department of Anthropology, University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL 35294
  • Mark D. McCoy University of Otago
Keywords: household archaeology, priests, Hawaiian religion, lithic analysis, zooarchaeology

Abstract

We report on the excavation of an upland habitation site in Kahikinui, Maui, interpreted as the residence of a priest (kahuna) in the traditional Hawaiian religious system. The site, consisting of a large stone terrace and walled house foundation, lies within a ceremonial precinct incorporating several temple (heiau) structures. Six radiocarbon dates bracket the period of occupation between AD 1650 and 1820, although the duration of use was probably shorter. Lithic analysis indicates that the house occupants worked both local and imported basalt; retouching of fine-grained basalt adzes within the house suggests wood-working activities. Some of the fine-grained basalt has an off-island origin traced to O'ahu Island. A cache of black and white pebbles may be either gaming pieces or stones used by a priest in divination and disease diagnosis. The faunal assemblage reveals access to a wide variety of status foods, including the prized black-foot limpet, a variety of fishes, wild birds, and domestic pigs, dogs, and chickens. Some of the birds may have been taken for their black or yellow feathers, these colours being associated with Hawaiian deities. In total, the cultural assemblage from site KIP-117 provides a window into the daily life of a Hawaiian priestly household.

Author Biographies

Patrick V. Kirch, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720

Class of 1954 Professor,

Departments of Anthropology and Integrative Biology

Sidsel Millerstrom, Archaeological Research Facility, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720
Research Associate
Sharyn Jones, Department of Anthropology, University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL 35294
Assistant Professor
How to Cite
Kirch, P., Millerstrom, S., Jones, S. and McCoy, M. (1) “Dwelling Among the Gods: A Late Pre-Contact Priest’s House in Kahikinui, Maui, Hawaiian Islands”, Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 1(2), pp. 145-160. Available at: https://pacificarchaeology.org/index.php/journal/article/view/27 (Accessed: 10December2019).
Section
Articles