CRDIP | Archaeology and Agricultural Sites in Haleakalā National Park

Written By ACE'r

On March 26, 2021
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Archaeology and Agricultural Sites in Haleakalā National Park

Written by: Rachel Steffen


As an archaeological technician intern at Haleakalā National Park, I’ve had the opportunity to document and learn about the diverse types of archaeological sites at the park. Archaeology sites at the park range from functions such as habitation, trail markers, agricultural, religious, post-contact sites and others. The rich variation of archaeology sites at Haleakalā is one of the many reasons why the park is so culturally significant. 

Rachel Steffen in front of a historic wall feature
Rachel Steffen in front of a historic wall feature

One type of site I wanted to highlight was the innovative agricultural sites. These archaeology sites would have once been home to traditional Hawaiian food staples, dryland kalo (taro) and ‘uala (sweet potato). While these food staples were not traditionally grown in dryland environments, the Hawaiians had to adapt their agricultural practices as they moved into drier climates of Maui. As populations grew in Maui during the pre-contact period, communities needed to migrate to other parts of the island. Perhaps to areas that are less suitable for traditional agriculture. 

Rachel Steffen completing a site form during the survey of an agricultural site
Rachel Steffen completing a site form during the survey of an agricultural site

One area where they expanded to was Kaupō located in southeastern Maui, west of the Kīpahulu district of the park. This area of the park is where a large portion of my field work has been conducted. The sites I have been documenting showcase the brilliance of traditional Hawaiian practices. One technique that has been documented at Haleakalā, is the use of the natural landscape as agricultural features. This includes topographic features such as slopes and gulches, where the agricultural terraces would be built into. This method allows for a greater accumulation of rainwater, which was especially important in drier regions of Maui. 

Rachel Steffen during a site survey in Kaupō, Maui
Rachel Steffen during a site survey in Kaupō, Maui

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