Cub Scout Pack 55 of Kihei experienced a tour of historic Native Hawaiian home sites, religious shrines and farm terraces in the Honua'ula project area (formerly called Wailea 670) on Friday, Oct. 11.
Archeologist Ian Bassford of Scientific Consulting Services (SCS) Archeology led the scouts along with local cultural historian and Cub Scout Den Leader Daniel Kanahele.
Bassford is the field archeologist who has documented over 500 archeological sites found within the southern 190 acres of the proposed Honua'ula project. Bassford and Michael Diega, also an archeologist with SCS, have been working tirelessly to understand and document every artifact they find.
Archeologist Ian Bassford (wearing orange shirt) and Cub Scout Pack 55 of Kīhei trekked through the dry kiawe and wiliwili forest and the remains of intricate terrace systems used in Native Hawaiian agriculture.
Bassford and the scouts, ages 8 to 10, trekked through the dry kiawe and wiliwili forest to explore the remains of intricate terrace systems used in Native Hawaiian agriculture. Endemic wiliwili trees are present here, among the kiawe, representing the remnants of the rare, low, dry-land forest that still exist there.
The Cub Scouts were able to climb into a cave shelter, although its walls have been trampled by cattle and axis deer. According Bassford, grazing of feral and domestic animals has taken a huge toll on all of South Maui's archeological sites and native plant habitats. The animals knock down the rockwork placed hundreds of years ago by the native people who lived in this area.
Among the platforms of former home sites, the scouts saw two shrines, one with a large rock monolith.
The scouts were surprised to discover that in what looks like a kiawe and lava wasteland, ancient people once lived, harvested food and worshipped their gods.
"The terraces are kind of hard to make out," said Cub Scout Charlie Hill. "Without the archeologists pointing it out, I never would have realized they were there."
The lingering mystery remains: Where did the Native Hawaiians get water to grow crops in this intricate system of rock terraces?
Archeologists and local cultural practitioners hypothesize that 100 to 200 years ago, this part of Wailea received significantly more rainfall than it does today. The land was terraced to hold that rainfall, and perhaps there were seeps under rock overhangs where the Hawaiians collected water in hollowed out gourds.
Of particular interest to the scouts were two hearth sites, both made of four rock slabs sunk in the earth in a rectangular configuration, like a large box. These would have functioned as both oven and cook stove of the native people who once inhabited South Maui, said Bassford.
"A corner of one of these hearths was partially bulldozed years ago," said Diega. He explained that without a trained eye, it is difficult to appreciate the intricate history behind these rock artifacts; as a result many of them have been unintentionally destroyed.
The Cub Scouts and leaders of Pack 55 expressed their gratitude to the developers of Honua'ula for granting them access to the property and for taking a thorough inventory of these irreplaceable cultural resources.
Scout Leader Patti Domingo said, "This was a great opportunity for our scouts to walk with an archeologist and have hands-on learning to discoveries of the past. Much of what we learn of the past is taught in books and the media, but to be with an archeologist is something they won't forget."
"I'm really thinking I'll be an archeologist when I grow up," said Cub Scout Thomas Hill.
Charlie Jencks, the developer's representative and former Cub Scout leader, was also on-hand to answer questions from the group.
When Jencks was asked how long it will take until construction on this site begins, he said, "We are just beginning the process."
Jencks indicated that there is still much work ahead to complete the documentation and preservation of the site's cultural artifacts, before the developers can apply for permits from the county.
Jencks said his company has committed to setting aside 130 acres of the Honua'ula development as a cultural and native plant preserve.
Jencks and the SCS archeologists hold a community update meeting on the site every Friday at 3 p.m. to discuss each week's new archeological finds. The public is welcome to attend these meetings.
Contact Lucienne de Naie at 214-0147 for more information.
Editor's note: Thomas and Charlie Hill are the sons of Rebecca Hill, a Cub Scout volunteer and the author of this article.