Archaeology at Haleakala National Park
Written by: Rachel Steffen
Mountains on Maui
The past month I’ve spent my time as an archaeology technician intern at the House of the Sun, or Haleakalā National Park in Maui, Hawai’i. Archaeological and cultural resources at the park are incredibly diverse, including pre-contact and post-contact archaeological sites. Hawai’i archaeology ranges from pre-contact sites, such as traditional Heiau (ritual site) or dryland agricultural terraces that once held Kalo (taro) and ʻUala (sweet potato). Other sites, post-contact or after 1778, can include sites such as historic stone ranching walls to churches.
One of my first projects when I arrived was assisting the park archaeologist, Rachel Hodara, with creating a proposed hiking and interpretive trail within the park. This was a wonderful first project as it showed the great variety of Hawai’i archaeology and Hawai’i cultural heritage.
Stone Catholic Church
The site I wanted to highlight is a stone Catholic church that was likely built upon a pre-contact traditional Hawaiian site. While people built the structures that are today’s archaeological sites, we must consider traditional landscapes and why these spaces are so important, both in ancient times and modern. In addition to the church, my internship has taken me to the front country of the park at 8,000 ft. elevation, conducting archaeological site assessment surveys to ensure the safety of the sites. Other projects include traveling to the Kīpahulu district where the archaeological sites are near beautiful waterfalls, or discovering sites in the dense Maui jungle. I am looking forward to the next seven weeks of more archaeology.
Rachel Steffen during fieldwork at Haleakalā National Park