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The Hawaiian Fishing Village of Lapakahi


Tuesday, August 08, 2023

DD Hawaii Lapakahi AerialStanding beside a cove on the northwest coast of the island of Hawaii, the fishing village of Lapakahi, which is surrounded by black lava stone walls, was once home to generations of fishers and farmers known throughout the archipelago for their mastery of la‘au lapa‘au, or the practice of traditional Hawaiian medicine. “Lapakahi is one of the best-preserved villages of its kind in Hawaii,” says Hawaii State Parks archaeologist Tracy Tam Sing. “Many seaside fishing villages have been lost to coastal erosion, and there aren’t many other sites quite like it.” He estimates some 70 to 100 people lived in the village at any one time. According to oral histories, those numbers swelled when people from other islands traveled to the village for a yearly event dedicated to la‘au lapa‘au. “People came from all over to Lapakahi to learn and exchange knowledge about beneficial plants,” says Tam Sing. Guests from different islands even maintained their own dwellings in the village, whose last inhabitants lived there until the early twentieth century. A group dedicated to la‘au lapa‘au still gathers at the site every year to continue the tradition.


DD Hawaii Lapakahi MapThe first settlers probably beached their canoes at Lapakahi around 1350, when the earliest voyagers from the Society Islands in what is now French Polynesia are thought to have reached Hawaii. Tam Sing says the villagers initially focused on fishing, but they eventually began to cultivate taro and sweet potatoes in fields away from the coastline. They also poured salt water into hollowed-out stones to make salt crystals that were an important trade item.


Excavations were first carried out at the site in the late 1960s, and a team revisited Lapakahi in 2019 when coastal erosion threatened some of the village’s structures. In both cases, the overwhelming number of artifacts archaeologists discovered were fishhooks, lures, and sinkers fashioned from stone and bone.


THE SITEDD Hawaii Lapakahi Boardgame

Lapakahi State Historical Park features a half-mile-long path that takes visitors past many hale, or houses, as well as a fishing shrine and the ruins of structures once used by villagers to store canoes. Other visible remains of life at Lapakahi include rock salt pans, an effigy of the fishing god Ku‘ula, and a stone board used to play a game similar to checkers.



Visitors can swim and snorkel at Mahukona Beach Park, just a four-minute drive north of Lapakahi. If you’re in the area, don’t miss Pu‘ukohola Heiau National Historic Site. It features a massive heiau, or temple, built in the late eighteenth century on the orders of King Kamehameha I (reigned 1795–1819), who united the islands of Hawaii. The royal site makes for an interesting visit after seeing how commoners lived at Lapakahi. Tam Sing also recommends stopping at the nearby town of Kawaihae. He says the Seafood Bar and Grill there is one of the best restaurants on Hawaii thanks to its proximity to one of the island’s two harbors. Be sure to get there when the catch has just come in and you’ll be able to eat as well as the villagers of Lapakahi did.


DD Hawaiii Puukohola Heiau

A More Comfortable Ride


Tuesday, August 08, 2023

DD China SaddleAlthough the date is much debated, most scholars believe people began to ride horses around 5,000 years ago. For thousands of years after that, they did so without saddles. “In comparison with horse riding, the development of saddles began relatively late, when riders began to care more about comfort and safety in addition to the horse’s health,” says University of Zurich archaeologist Patrick Wertmann. A team led by Wertmann has now dated what they believe to be the world’s oldest known saddle. The horse tack was unearthed in the Yanghai cemetery in Turfan in northwest China, which is mainly associated with the Subeixi culture of the first millennium B.C. Arid conditions in the area preserve organic material that rarely survives for so long. The saddle has been radiocarbon dated to between 727 and 396 B.C.


Even though the tack was found in a common woman’s grave, it’s exceptionally well made. “The saddle clearly shows that it was manufactured by a specialist very familiar with both needle- and threadwork, as well as with horse riding and the anatomy of both rider and horse,” Wertmann says. “This includes using the same type of saddle stitch used today.” It’s also noteworthy that the saddle was buried with a woman. “When thinking about horse riding, traditional historical narratives generally associate it with men engaging in warfare, but our find clearly changes this assumption,” Wertmann says. “The discovery of this saddle inside a woman’s tomb strongly suggests women participated in every activity of mobile pastoralists, which included herding and traveling.”

Dramatic Entrance


Tuesday, August 08, 2023

DD Jordan Jerash MasksFour miniature terracotta masks found in the Roman city of Jerash in Jordan shed light on its theater district in the second century A.D. Excavators from the University of Jordan unearthed the masks in a doorway of a structure. The four-inch-tall artifacts depict a bearded Hercules, two horned and goateed faces—likely satyrs—and a curly-haired man who researchers believe is a slave. Such masks were common offerings to Dionysus, the god of theater, and were collected as souvenirs. The masks, whose designs are unique to this location, were probably produced locally. They may have hung on the wall of the structure in whose doorway they were found, which United Arab Emirates University archaeologist Saad Twaissi believes could be a temple dedicated to Dionysus, based on its architectural decorations and proximity to Jerash’s northern theater. The finds challenge previous assumptions that this area was used for industry or dumping refuse and was marginal to Jerash’s center. “Now we can understand the plan of the city better and the relationship between its northern and southern halves,” says Twaissi.

Preventing the Return of the Dead


Tuesday, August 08, 2023

DD Turkey UndeadDD Turkey Undead CoinsAn archaeological team excavating a necropolis at the site of Sagalassos in southwest Turkey uncovered an unusual and very eerie tomb. The burial held the cremated remains of an adult male who lived between A.D. 100 and 150 and whose interment was given special treatment. Normally, after an individual was cremated, the remaining bones, ash, and debris were placed in an urn and deposited in another location. However, in this case, the pyre was immediately sealed with bricks and covered with a thick layer of lime. Additionally, a bronze coin and more than 40 nails had been scattered around the human remains. Researchers believe the nails were placed in the burial as charms to ward off evil forces and to affix the deceased’s spirit to the ground. The bricks and lime covering the grave may have been an additional precaution to ensure the dead could not rise and harm the living. “None of these practices has been observed in any other burials excavated at Sagalassos,” says archaeologist Johan Claeys of KU Leuven. “It can only be explained as a deliberate attempt to impact the fate of the deceased.”


DD Turkey Undead Nails

A Very Close Encounter


Tuesday, August 08, 2023

DD Montana Rock ArtNew research has shown that human figures painted in red on a rock art panel in central Montana depict individuals engaged in a life-or-death encounter during an especially fraught historical moment. Archaeologists had previously thought the scene showed a figure carrying a shield and possibly an atlatl, or spear thrower, hunting an animal. New analysis carried out by a team including archaeologist Larry Loendorf of Sacred Sites Research shows that it actually depicts an archer fleeing from a shield-bearing warrior.


Dating of the pigment and the minerals under and on top of the painting reveals that it was created during the Late Archaic period, around A.D. 240 to 425, a time when a people archaeologists call the Avonlea culture first introduced the bow and arrow to the northern Plains. “We think the Avonlea were intruders,” says Loendorf. “This scene captures a moment in time when people who still used atlatls were in conflict with the Avonlea.” A nearby scene shows a figure with a bow who could be part of a larger narrative pitting the archer against the warrior. Perhaps, speculates Loendorf, the depictions illustrate the story of an Avonlea archer venturing onto the hunting grounds of people with deep roots in the region who chased the intruder away. “It wouldn’t surprise me if an event like that took place nearby,” he says. “Then the winners celebrated it by creating this scene.”




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