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1Keanakolu (The Three Caves)

UH Hilo Home > Faculty > Peter R. Mills

In 2001, 2003, and 2005, UH Hilo archaeological field schools were conducted in the area of Keanakolu ("the three caves") between 5,300 ft. and 6,400 ft. in elevation on the slopes of Mauna Kea near the border of the North Hilo District and Hamakua District. Students have collected oral histories and conducted regional survey, mapping, and preliminary testing of various sites. Significant aspects of the project included: 1) mapping and sampling of wood charcoal deposits in the Keanakolu Caves complex (site 50-10-15-24249, photo to right); 2) mapping a stone corral and several nearby foundations (site 24250) one of which is the ruins of a stone house with a fireplace and chimney (~1860s-1890s) that was partially excavated in 2005 (see below); 3) identification and test excavation of a house platform, cistern, and privy (~1860s-1870s) at Lahohinu (site 24251); 4) documentation and limited soil-coring of a late nineteenth century koa log cabin homestead (site 07642) ; 5) photo-documentation of various Civilian Conservation Corps structures currently managed by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (site 24252); and finally, 6) mapping the ruins of a nineteenth century-to early twentieth century paniolo camp (site 24253). The overall anthropological focus has been to consider how foreign immigrants fused their cultural practices with indigenous social structures to create a new form of subsistence and livelihood on the upper mountain, giving rise to the celebrated paniolo ranching culture of Hawai`i. These hinterland communities differed from, but interacted with, plantation communities closer to the coast. Such interactions led to complex social, economic, and ecological relationships that greatly transformed the natural and cultural landscapes of 19th century Hawaii. The pervasive effects of globalized economies are also strongly reflected in the artifact inventories.

Select artifact photos from 50-10-15-24250 Stone Corral Complex


Small stoneware food jar and lid.


Glass bottles and containers

Top left to right- Lubin Parfumeur Paris; Burnett's Boston; Ayer's Cherry Pectoral, Lowell, Mass.; unidentified paneled bottle. Bottom row: unidentified fragments.



Below: Detail of Lubin Parfumeur Paris, note the drill-hole (not shot) on the reverse side (late 19th century). A drill-hole is also present on the Burnett's bottle.6 7

Small sample of the bird bone and fishbone collected from the house floor (the latter of which was most unexpected 6000 ft!



"Old Cognac" bottle cap

Percussion caps recovered from the house floor, with a detail photo of the various types (below).



A .69 caliber musketball (with sprue still attached) and various other pieces of lead sprue (right).


Small lead shot (much of which appears to have been produced on site), either from shotguns, or "buck and ball" combinations which could also be fired from smooth-bore muskets. In this context, small lead shot also seems indicative of bird-hunting.


Decorative lion motif