Here I am, an archaeologist working in the State of Hawaii, City and County of Honolulu – and I’ve barely shared a bit about what I do. My job is to monitor construction and infrastructure sites – primarily looking for burials and artifacts of significant cultural value. That being said, here is a bit about … Continue reading “Ancient Hawaiian Death and Burial Practices”
Here I am, an archaeologist working in the State of Hawaii, City and County of Honolulu – and I’ve barely shared a bit about what I do. My job is to monitor construction and infrastructure sites – primarily looking for burials and artifacts of significant cultural value. That being said, here is a bit about ancient Hawaiian death and burial practices.
When a person died in pre-contact Hawai’i – a kapu was imposed (kapu is taboo) during the time between death and burial. A couple of days for a regular person and ten days or more for a chief or chiefess. So the house and family of the dead became taboo for this period and were not to be touched or interacted with or the interactor would be defiled – in Hawaiian HAUMIA. A haumia person was also kapu until the defilement was lifted. Lots of loud weaping and tears and those most pained would show it by cutting their hair. Not a nice style or fancy do, but an ugly cutting that showed the grief and pain. A tooth might be knocked out with a stick. Ears might be cut off and tattoos might be placed. Personally, the tattoo and the hair sound reasonable to me, ears and teeth, that’s pretty extreme grief. There was also a sort of blistering branding with the ends of burning sticks. Ouch.
The dead were sometimes wrapped in kapa (tapa aka barkcloth). Sometimes the bodies were laid out extended and more often they were put in a fetal position. Some bodies were salted and if the cause of death was sorcery (which happened a lot more than you might think), then a kahuna kuni was brought to cut out the liver, chop it up, put it in dogs and birds, and then burn them to ashes. After this, the body was clean enough to be buried.
Hawaiians were also known to keep the long bones and skulls of their loved ones as momento-mori. The other bones would usually be burned with the flesh. Chief bones were especially valuable because they contained the mana (spiritual power) of the chiefs and so these bones were hidden by trusted retainers who in some cases were said to then kill themselves so that no one would find the bones or know the location.
All of the above explains why it’s not uncommon to find a tooth or a bone disarticulated from the rest of the body. Bone bundles were wrapped in kapa and sometimes tied with a braid of human hair – possibly from the head of the deceased. It is said that Captain Cook was treated this way and confusion over the custom led to the belief that he was eaten – in point of fact, he may have been eaten as it was not unknown to eat a tiny portion of a powerful enemy or ally in order to gain their mana. We will never know if Cook was eaten raw, cooked, or not at all.
In Hawaii, human bodies were sometimes burned, sometimes dessicated and distributed, sometimes buried in the sand, sometimes buriend in the earth, sometimes fetal – sometimes laid out, and occaisionally buried in stone cysts – piles of rocks to mark grave sites. Faces were usually pointed upwards. There are various cave burials scattered through the islands and also a number of royal mausaleums – mostly from the post contact period. Two known mausoleums were moved or destroyed after Queen Kaahumanu forced the abandonment of the old Hawaiian religion on her people in 1830.
The creepiest and coolest of the burials of old Hawai’i are the sennit caskets which are a sort of woven casket reminiiscent of the Egyptian sarcophagi. There are only a few of these that have ever been found. I would love to find one. And of course, when you have something like that – you are not far from making your kings and queens into immortal gods.
One of the most striking implements associated with Hawaiian death and burial are the tall feathered staffs known as Kahilis – it is believed they evolved from fly swishers but they came to signify important and powerful mana.
The photo above shows a large number of artifacts that were plundered from Hawaiian burial caves in 1905. A hundred years later they were repatriated and returned to the cave only to be taken from the cave again at a cost of several million dollars. They are currently back where they were before they were put back in the cave – at the Bishop Museum where no one can see them.
In case you have been wondering what the fuck is going on in the United States – we have elected a fake president. I’m not saying he isn’t really the president – he is that. There’s no doubt about that one now. I’m saying that Trump himself isn’t real. He’s like Max Headroom. He’s an illusion. The person who speaks on the stage is an actor, paid to say the outrageous things he says. Notice he doesn’t really DO anything. I mean, he gets on stages and performs like a trained dog. He sends out ‘tweets’ which is questionable because has anyone ever actually seen him tweeting – and even his Twitter handle is a study in irony realdonaldtrump… Remember FakeSteveJobs? He was more real than RealDonaldTrump. There is a reason that nothing on his agenda has been accomplished, there is a reason he hasn’t filled scores of government jobs, there is a reason that he doesn’t do press conferences or have white house media or a thousand other things that REAL presidents of the USA have done – it’s because he is not real.
There’s a reason you don’t see him with his wife, why she rebuffs him, why you don’t see him with his kids having family moments, why you don’t see him being a real human being. It is because he is a robot covered in makeup – an actor – quite possibly not even a real human being.
Max Headroom, by the way, predicted Trump would be President.
Never fear folks. Now we got the solution to everything. It’s so easy now that Trump is putting it into action.
Got a problem with young people protesting? Start a war of if you already have one, just expand it.
Got a problem with opium based addiction? Start a war with the largest opium producer on the planet.
Got a problem with Muslims? Start a war with an opium producing, Islamic nation bordering another Islamic nation and then bring a hindu nation into it which borders the other Muslim nation.
Got a problem with black people? Start a war and get em fighting for the motherland – hey, get the black people to kill the Islamic people and you got a two birds with one stone situation because both populations are going to get smaller.
Got a problem with a nuclear rogue state? Start a problem between two less stable nuclear states.
Got a Global Warming problem? Cool things down with a Nuclear Winter!
Here it is…the Trump plan…unfolding before our eyes…combine the war on opiods with the war on terror, reinstate the draft at some point, bring on the nuclear winter, and whitey on the moon.
Coming back to Hawaii – there are lots of obvious changes – there are now lots of really expensive trendy shops. Whole Foods is here and you can spend a fortune on groceries if you choose to, Bed Bath and Beyond, Gucci, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc – the list goes on and on. There is no shortage of expensive shops here – and seeing all of that, it’s easy to forget what used to be in those spaces. Same goes for restaurants – every famous chef you can think of has a great little corner location and all the little great cheap places that used to be here – they’ve all grown into bigger, multi-location restaurants – so you can find the same great food on all the different corners of the island. Here’s the thing though – the quality in those little hole in the wall places that have grown so big has gone down and the prices have gone up. And guess what all those fancy retailers have replaced? Affordable stores. And guess what’s happened to the rents in those little places where you could buy everyday things for living cheaply? They’ve gone up – so no more cheap sponges and coffee in Chinatown – no more cheap produce from Farmer’s Markets – no more dollar stores, no more Grocery Outlets, no more big affordable Daiea markets or semi-affordable Don Quixote – instead those stores are closed and moved off island and Don Quixote is no longer a bargain. Those who have stayed here through the last 10 years may not have noticed – like looking in the mirror each day and missing the ten years of wrinkles – but all the little shops that used to make it affordable to get by each day – those shops are gone. I notice it because I went looking for them – and instead found Chuck E Cheese and an upscale boutique or found higher prices than I get on Amazon. Safeway doesnt do $5 Friday on Oahu. This island has seen real estate prices skyrocket since the recession and at the same time these systemic changes – where affordable shampoo, rice, or toilet scrubbers are no longer available – they are stealing the pennies and dimes. Parking downtown costs $30/hr and an expired meter will cost you $35-$50 depending on where it happens. I’ve always said that Hawai’i was worth what it takes to live here – but I’m not sure about that any longer. It seems that the truth may well be that it has reached the point where paradise is only available to those who already have enough money to not worry about paying $15 for a jar of peanut butter.
In light of the recent spate of cars being used as terrorist weapons, I think it bears consideration to look at banning all automobiles. Britain and France have already chosen to ban all gas and diesel vehicles by the year 2040. Self driving vehicles with built in safeguards are a reality already that only needs a push from governance to become a reality. Bike share programs are taking off. Rail and hyperloop are realities. It would be good for the environment, it would be good for our mental health, and I think it would be good for our security. I support a ban on cars starting right away.
When we moved to Hawai’i, I knew that money was going to be tight. I knew I would need a second or third source of income – and I kept hearing about how good Lyft and Uber were for the drivers…so instead of buying a cheap older car, I bought a 2015 Nissan Versa Note with low mileage. Definitely not the most expensive car on the market, but holds five people, can hold some luggage, and is small, gets nice gas mileage, and I can usually find parking for it. I got my insurance, license, and registration all in order and I applied to Lyft and Uber. Most websites said the wait was a week or less, since I have a clean driving record, no criminal record, and a newer car with all the paperwork – I thought I would be qualified quickly. It’s been nearly a month now – finally, I got curious as to why it was taking so long and started digging around on the internet – it indeed seemed that people get approved quickly – unless they have cars that are already common in the Uber or Lyft marketplace – so in Honolulu, I would have been way better off with a five year old mini-van than I am with the car I bought to be a Lyft/Uber car. Lyft and Uber don’t say this – they say that they are still doing my background check – but since the FBI and the military bases I have to access for my work as an archaeologist already came back with approval (and I applied afterward) I think it’s pretty clear that something else is going on. I like my little car and it has worked better than expected for our family – but it would have been nice to know that the rideshare companies judge you by your vehicle before I bought it. I can’t claim credit for this information – it was on the internet – the orginal poster said that when they have a lot of the same cars in a driving area – they tend to make you just wait and wait and wait…go figure. At least I have a good car.