Late Pre-Contact Construction and Use of an ‘Archaic’ Shrine at the Pālehua Complex (Honouliuli District, O‘ahu Island, Hawai‘i)


  • Jillian A. Swift Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum
  • Patrick V. Kirch Anthropology Department, University of HawaiÊ»i, Mānoa
  • Alexander Baer Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, JBPHH
  • Jennifer Huebert International Archaeological Research Institute, Inc
  • Timothy M. Gill Archaeological Research Facility, University of California, Berkeley


The PÄlehua enclosure in upland Honouliuli (O‘ahu Island, Hawai‘i) is a celestially-significant ritual structure believed to be associated with the annual Makahiki harvest period. Near the enclosure is an alignment of six basalt uprights typical of simple Central East Polynesian marae (temples), and early ‘shrine’ sites found in other geographically isolated regions of the Hawaiian archipelago. Here, we report on the first excavation of this shrine along with continued excavations at the PÄlehua enclosure. A Bayesian chronological model combining 14 new AMS radiocarbon dates from the shrine and the enclosure with six dates from previous excavations indicates that both the PÄlehua shrine and the adjacent enclosure were constructed in the mid-17th century and continued to be used until at least the early 19th century. Our model indicates that the shrine site was constructed significantly later than similar structures elsewhere in the archipelago. This suggests that simple marae-like shrines persisted alongside the development of monumental architecture used for ceremonial purposes, rather than being replaced later in time by more elaborate forms. These results have implications not only for site activity at PÄlehua, but also for chronologies of ceremonial architecture and religious practices across the Hawaiian archipelago.


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How to Cite

Swift, J. A., Kirch, P. V., Baer, A., Huebert, J. and Gill, T. M. (2019) “Late Pre-Contact Construction and Use of an ‘Archaic’ Shrine at the Pālehua Complex (Honouliuli District, O‘ahu Island, Hawai‘i)”, Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 10(2), pp. 1–18. Available at: (Accessed: 10 December 2022).