Did you know that there are petroglyphs in Hawaii? Petroglyph carvings are made with one stone used as a hammer and a second stone sharp enough to carve out the image of the petroglyph. Though these stone engravings are more closely associated with other areas of the globe, in fact petroglyph sites can be found as evidence of ancient peoples all over the world.
European petroglyphs are considered to be the oldest, estimated to be more than 10,000 years old. Throughout Polynesia, there are numerous examples of petroglyphs, many dating back thousands of years. Of the island chains, Hawaii has the largest number of known petroglyphs. They are found all over the island.
For identification purposes, the Hawaiian petroglyphs have been separated into three categories or styles: descriptive, symbolic, and cryptic. Descriptive glyphs are easily recognizable objects, such as people, plants, and animals, which need little interpretation to be understandable to modern viewers. Symbolic images are those that, while recognizable, have meanings that could be interpreted in any number of ways. The exact meaning was known only by the creator, and today it may only be possible to guess at the meanings behind the symbols.
Cryptic glyphs are even less clear as to their meaning, and these are the subject of much debate. Some researchers suggest that cryptic symbols have double meanings and in some cases hidden meanings. Certainly these images have a personal or spiritual meaning at which modern man can only guess.
Some of these symbols exist in other form to the present day; these are Hawaiian tribal tattoos inspired by the stone petroglyph carvings. In fact, in modern times it has become very popular with native Hawaiians to wear tribal tattoos taken from the images of the petroglyphs. It is clear that the Hawaiians of today find deep spiritual meaning in these images. Often, it is a point of pride to have one of these ancient images tattooed as a way to connect with ancient Hawaiian ancestry.
The petroglyphs depict everyday life as well as special events and ceremonies. Often, the images are meant to record important happenings. Other instances of petroglyphs were carved during the ceremony itself. One such ceremony occurred following the birth of a baby. During this ceremony, a hole bored into the face of the stone allowed for the insertion of the piko, or umbilical cord, of a newly born child. This ceremony was said to ensure the long life of the baby.
The largest concentration of Hawaiian petroglyphs can be found in the fields of Pu’u Loa, located in Hawaii’s Volcano National Park. Tourists come in large numbers to this area to look at the stone carvings. Other petroglyph sites can be found throughout the island. Sadly, there have been cases of vandalism, and some of the glyphs are damaged due to past attempts at stealing them. These stone carvings, thousands of years old, are also susceptible to the forces of time, making them very fragile. Although there are many tours that will take you to petroglyph sites, care must be taken to treat them with respect.