Category Archives: Travel Classes


Exploring the many periods of Hawaii’s past is a big part of these classes.  While pre-historic events often dominate these discussions, historic times are also investigated.  The area’s prehistory and history are richly detailed through archaeological features, and many are accessible, giving us a wonderful opportunity to observe physical evidence of earlier periods.  Shared with the group are examples of the diversity of the individual islands and their leaders.  The interwoven and often war fraught histories, between rulers of islands and sections of islands, are shared.  Military, agricultural, and societal aspects are discussed.  It is impossible to do this without including the involvement of Hawaii with old and new world groups.  The connection is strong between Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, but also between the Islands and both England and Russia. All of these parts of Hawaii’s past are recognized during these travel archaeology adventures.

Ancient and more recent paths overlap, and are still used. They have linked inland sites to the sea for centuries.
Stacked and restacked walls are used as boundaries, isolating one area from another. Different uses often occur in the separated areas. Large effigy stones reside near the shore, while an older cemetery is protected by a rock wall enclosure.
A fire hardened spear tip was observed at South Point. Its weight and sharpened edge are impressive, despite years of weathering.
Visiting two different islands allowed us to compare, contrast, and associate people and actions from times past.


This year’s travel archaeology class visited sites that spanned the centuries.  We went first to Pearl Harbor and then on to ancient Hawaiian village sites with house features that are still visible.  Our focus while in the field was to document some of the prehistoric site elements, but Pearl Harbor set the stage for a broad view of Pacific island locations, which were as relevant in prehistory as in the 20th century.

Tour of Pearl Harbor, including a showing of the new film with information about the time leading up to the attack.  A motor launch (boat) tour of the harbor followed.

Stone wall separating the ocean from the anchialine ponds behind.  Visitors are invited to walk the wall for a short distance.  This feature is substantially larger than the original must have been, as one goal in rebuilding this wall was to provide protection for the prehistoric aquaculture ponds just to the east.

Rock gathered from around the site area were used to develop the new wall.  Some of the rock had previously been utilized for other purposes.

Participants preparing to document features by first setting compasses and reviewing a task list.

Photo documenting the interior of a house foundation.  While vegetation obscured some features, others were still apparent.

Most features were not large, and were placed so that substantial area existed between houses, water catchment areas, etc.

Beginning the documentation process. The focus was both wall and interior features, including palm remains and packed shell floors.

Small pond by a village area far to the south. Salt catchment areas are nearby.

A stacked wall at one site forms a large rectangle around interior features.

One of the smaller features inside a large, partial enclosure.

A newly restored path seen in the middle of this photo leads from one habitation area to another, which is  only now being cleared.

One feature leads to another in a huge village to the north.  Hawaii Parks is doing a tremendous job of restoring this area.


This travel archaeology class focused upon relationships between Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island.  Building upon the class information from 2017, participants explored the prehistoric and early historic connections between these separate islands.  As sites were viewed, discussions focused upon the archaeological evidence of change over time.  This included the period toward the end of people’s adherence to the Hawaiian religion, the time of change immediately after, the difficult relationships between King Kamehameha and other rulers, and especially Kauai’s King Kaumuali’i.  Discussions about political allegiances and trade with foreigners, at the interisland and international levels, figured prominently.  The importance of the northernmost and southernmost islands were highlighted, with in depth discussions of Captain Cook, Captain Vancouver, and the Russian connection to Hawaii upon the deaths of Cook and his next in command, Clerke.  

Pu’u o Mahuka is the largest heiau on Oahu, covering nearly two acres. Additional walls actually extend beyond this photo.  This site name translates to “hill of escape”.  However, the remains of several sailors from Captain Vancouver’s ship were sacrificed here.  Importantly, King Kamehameha was said to have attempted to communicate with Kauai from here, in an attempt to unify the Islands, after several failed physical attempts.

While on Oahu, the group also visited Hale o Lono, the surviving heiau dedicated to Lono, the God of agriculture.  It is an exceptional area, with a prehistoric and protohistoric village on the grounds that is now being restored.  The heiau of the God, Lono, is what the people of Kauai thought Cook’s vessel was when it first arrived at that northern island.

Participants then transferred to Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island.  This is the area where, in 2017, this same group documented rock art at the shoreline. (Please refer back to that page to see some of the amazing examples of Big Island petroglyphs, game boards, and other features.)  That 2017 class also included travel to Kauai. Those trips provided a good background to the historical information shared in this 2018 class.

On the Big Island, participants visited a rock shelter.

Section of the King’s Trail that is part of a petroglyph field.  All felt honored to be walking where ancient Hawaiian feet tread hundreds of years ago.


An ancient village, with multiple components, was also inspected.  This was the site of Lapakahi.  Because some had visited the site previously, and had photos for reference, it was possible to compare previous reconstruction efforts to the very recent reorganization.  A tremendous amount more of this site has been exposed, and will become part of the interpretive trail (below).

The site of Lapakahi includes community areas, specific use areas, and a training area for Kahuna. The site extends substantially beyond what is pictured here.

Large basalt basins were used to capture sea water for the extraction of salt.

During reconstruction, some broken artifacts were placed in walls

Other sites were also visited, good food was consumed, and island agriculture is thriving–even in unexpected places.


Guam has a Chamorro Village, as well as a park to feature some of the island’s Latte Stones. Both are accessible to visitors.This is an expansion of our previous travel archaeology classes, shifting our attention far eastward from the Hawaiian Islands.  The focus of this project was to visit archaeological sites on both Guam and the island of Pohnpei, in the Pacific. Vast differences exist between these two islands, both culturally and archaeologically.  Interestingly, each island supports large prehistoric stone features that are unique, and that are still being investigated today.

Guam has a Chamorro Village, as well as a park to feature some of the island’s Latte Stones. Both are accessible to visitors.

Japanese Caves from their occupation of Guam in World War II are also preserved.  These caves are documented as having stored ammunition.  Some caves, however, housed Japanese soldiers until 28 years after the end of World War II.

The remains of a Spanish Fort can be explored, with only occasional groups of school children sharing the site area.  The Fort is accessed from the road that circles around Guam.

A prehistoric use area has continued into modern times, with people still enjoying the sheltered water here.

This onboard flight map illustrates the distance from North America’s west coast to Hawaii, and from Hawaii to Guam.  Pohnpei, part of the Federated States of Micronesia, is partially obscured by the image of the airplane.

The ruins at Nan Madol make up a stunning archaeological complex.  The site is composed of up to 98 man-made islets, separated by canals, which were also developed by ancient people. The structures are made primarily of columnar basalt.

The walls of the structures are of varying heights, with this being one of the lower portions. The beauty and strength reflected at this site complex are stunning, and impressive. Access can be by boat at high tide, or by walking. To take the trail, first check with the Chief and pay the entrance fee. This will be the entrance from Temwen Island.
Impressive lengths of columnar basalt are stacked like a Lincoln log structure, forming enormous outer walls, as well as inner walled chambers. How the movement and onsite manipulation of these basalt columns was managed is still a question to be answered. Within the town of Kolonia, an early historic Spanish Wall is now part of a Park. Visitors are welcome to explore all around it. Kapingamarangi is actually an atoll, and a municipality, within the state of Pohnpei. While the atoll has a population of approximately 500 people, as many as 300 have moved to the city of Kolonia, on Pohnpei. There, they have created a woodworker’s village, although many hand crafted items of other materials are also produced.

Please contact I.A.S., through this website, for information on the next travel archaeology class.

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.

Documenting Prehistoric Sites Along Hawaii’s Shoreline

Hawaii is known to have cultural sites from the shoreline to the mountain peaks.  These include ancient village remains, ceremonial structures, water catchment areas, petroglyphs, and fish traps. But many resources along the shoreline are not yet recorded, and this is especially true of petroglyphs and other rock features.

Many sites near the ocean provide some sort of catchment. Sometimes salt is desired, and sometimes fish or turtles are the focus. Water is often trapped in depressions for salt, or in stacked rock enclosures for marine animals.

Many different forces, from land movement to invasive grasses, put rock art images at risk. The abrasion of sand, too, can erode the images.

These cultural features need to be located by GPS, and documented by photographs.  Because many of these cultural resources are fragile, they need to be identified without putting them at risk.  A professional archaeologist will lead this group effort, and also provide information about inland sites.  Oregon Archaeological Society members, with their training and sensitivity to archaeological sites, are the perfect project volunteers for this project.  The results of all shoreline documentation will be given to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and to the State Historic Preservation Office.

Shoreline resources include ceremonial sites, aquaculture ponds, and canoe access areas.

Participants will be introduced to a variety of archaeological sites, when not documenting shoreline observations.  We plan to visit a partially reconstructed village, aquaculture sites with three different types of aquatic environments, ceremonial sites, and at least one historic site.


This adventure in Hawaii will occur February 16-21, 2017, and is offered through the Institute for Archaeological Studies.  For travel details, please contact Deanna Levinson of World Travel, , or phone 971-404-0338.  The estimated cost for shared hotel, rental car, and airfare is $1,825.00.  Travel miles may be used to offset the cost of the flight.


FEB.19-23, 2016

One of the most popular IAS travel adventures takes people to archaeological sites in the Hawaii Islands. In 2016, we will again escort a very small group to Oahu and then the Big Island (Hawaii Island), to share with them many of the archaeological resources of Hawaii. Each morning we will visit sites, then have the afternoons free to relax or go exploring apart from the group. We will meet again in the evenings to discuss the day’s events, and plan for the next morning’s outings, while enjoying a nice meal. We are limiting the trip to a maximum of 8 participants. There is so much to see and to do that part of our goal is to customize this journey so that the interests of everyone involved are addressed.


The trip is priced to include roundtrip airfare, including interisland travel, transfers, rental cars (one for every two people), hotel room (two people per room), all entrance fees, daily tours and discussions lead by archaeologists, and travel insurance. Although airline prices continually change, our expected package price is $1,795.00 per person. This amount can be reduced by using your airline miles instead of a purchased ticket! Enrollment begins in early September, but the contact form on this website can be used to sign-up before that time.


This adventure could have multiple titles. These include the Archaeological Sites Many People Miss, Touring Archaeological Sites While on Vacation, an Introduction to the Prehistory and Early History of Hawaii, and How Hawaiian Archaeology Fits into the World of Archaeology.




MAY 8-11 2015

In planning for our visit in 2016, the people who help guide our Travel Archaeology program met on the Big Island in early May. The goal was to identify new sites, add to the types of sites we include in the trip, and to look at what access options might be available for people with physical challenges. Happily, all this was accomplished, guaranteeing an exciting journey into Hawaiian archaeology in 2016! In all, we located newly exposed features, observed expanded site boundaries, and learned about some upcoming interpretive programs that should hold everyone’s interest. Please see our posting for the Hawaii class of 2016. We will limit the class size to 8 people, so the things you are interested in will not be missed!

Archaeology on Two Hawaiian Islands

Every year, IAS takes people on travel adventures to visit archaeological sites that are far away. One program takes people to Hawaii, and in 2015, we again partnered with Portland Community College to offer an adventure through their Community Education program. Below are images of some of the sites we visited, on the islands of Oahu and Hawai’i Island. Another opportunity will be next February, with sign-ups beginning in early September. Use the contact form on this website to enroll early.

PCC Hawaii 2014

In 2014, IAS journeyed to the Big Island of Hawaii.  With our site choices custom selected for our class participants, everyone was guaranteed a great time!  We visited rock art sites, fish trap areas, restored and unrestored aquaculture sites, ancient villages, and even learned frond weaving from a Native Hawaiian woman.  We even managed to get in some fabulous meals and great snorkeling.  A few pictures, below, tell the story.