2017 Archaeology of Kauai: Travel Archaeology Part II

The first half of this travel archaeology class focused upon Big Island sites. When tides were too high to document petroglyphs and other shoreline features, inland sites were visited.  Discussions about political allegiances and trade with foreigners, at the interisland and international levels, figured prominently.  The importance of this southernmost island was highlighted, with in depth discussions of Captain Cook, King Kamehameha, and other history making individuals.

The second part of the adventure began the next month.  At that time, we visited the northern island of Kauai. Here, we concentrated on two areas of history.  One was the geopolitical separation between Kauai and the other islands, and the other was the significance of a Russian presence on Kauai.  This included our exploring the remains of a Russian Fort, now being restored, and which overlooks Cook’s landing area. We also visited the ponds where salt is still collected.  As salt was a necessary commodity during the fur trade, the economics of its production and the positioning of the Sandwich Islands were discussed.  The story of how Cook’s records got into Russian hands, and the subsequent alliance between Kauai’s King Kaumuali’i and the Russians was explored.

Site stewards invited our group to tour the inside of the fort area, including the steps leading to a view of Cook’s early landing area. The star shaped fort walls are slowly being exposed by local volunteer groups who are removing the intrusive vegetation.
Within the walls of the fort are the remains of rock lined paths, that lead to officer’s quarters and other areas.


Salt ponds that supplied people in prehistory also were utilized as an exchange commodity during the fur trade. When not being worked, the salt ponds appear as vast, shallow lakes.
Taro fields are viewed from above, showing the different growing environments and staggered planting areas.
A deep cavern that opens into several small caves was also visited. Within the recesses of the cave are rock art images. Since our visit several years ago, sand from storms has coated the cavern floor.
Elevation is helpful in identifying some previous use areas, although distinguishing prehistoric from historic areas can be challenging.
The trip ended with a birthday dinner celebration for one of the participants. Planning also began for the next travel archaeology class.