I touched on this before, but some waaay cool stuff has been going on at Keauhou, on the Big Island, so I wanted to give a little more detail on it.
Over the past several years, Kamehameha Investment (a for-profit arm of Kamehameha Schools) has been restoring heiau on its Keauhou Resort properties.
As background, formalized worship, offerings and/or sacrifice by chiefs took place in temples, or heiau.
These structures were typically stone-walled enclosures containing several houses and open-air temples with terraces, extensive stone platforms, and numerous carved idols in which ruling chiefs paid homage to the major Hawaiian gods.
There were several types of heiau: including agricultural, economy-related, healing or the large sacrificial war temples.
Erecting heiau was the prerogative and responsibility of the Ali‘i, for only they could command the necessary resources to build them, to maintain the priests and to secure the sacrifices that were required for the rituals.
Though temple worship was primarily an affair of the royalty, the whole land depended upon the effectiveness of these rituals.
Three significant heiau have been restored at Keauhou: Hāpaiali‘i Heiau, Ke‘ekū Heiau and Mākole‘ā Heiau. Using modern-day technology coupled with ancient techniques, restoration of the heiau using the Hawaiian art of uhau humu pōhaku (dry stack masonry) have rebuilt the massive stone platforms.
Information suggests that Hāpaiali‘i Heiau was built by Ma‘a, a kahuna of Maui, who later left for Kaua‘i.
The period of Ma‘a was said to be later than that of Pa‘ao. Carbon dating indicates the heiau was built on a smooth Pāhoehoe lava flow sometime between 1411 and 1465. The heiau was for prayers only.
Ke‘ekū Heiau is an imposing, heavy-walled enclosure surrounded on the west, north, and east by the ocean at high tide.
Tradition indicates that, after building it, Lonoikamakahiki attacked Kamalalawalu, king of Maui, who had invaded Hawai‘i, and that after defeating Kamalalawalu, Lonoikamakahiki offered him as a sacrifice at Ke‘ekū.
The spirits of his grieving dogs, Kauakahi‘oka‘oka and Kapapako, are said to continue to guard this site. Outside the entrance to the heiau and towards the southwest are a number of petroglyphs on the pāhoehoe. One of them is said to represent Kamalalawalu.
During restoration, it was discovered that the heiau also served as a solar calendar. On the winter solstice, from a spot directly behind the temple’s center stone, the sun sets directly off the southwest corner of the heiau; at the vernal equinox, the sun sets directly along the centerline of the temple and at summer solstice, it sets off the northwest corner.
Mākole‘ā Heiau (also known as Ke‘ekūpua‘a,) is located 600 feet from the ocean, on the same tidal flat as Hāpaiali‘i Heiau and Ke‘ekū Heiau.
The backwater nearly encircles Ke‘ekū Heiau at high tide does not quite reach Mākole‘ā. Tradition indicates that the heiau had been built (or consecrated) by Lonoikamakahiki and that it was used for prayers in general.
Historic Hawai‘i Foundation awarded Preservation Honor Awards for these efforts.
I applaud Kamehameha Investment for these restorations. While ruins of a heiau are impressive, I really think people today can get a far better appreciation of what heiau are, after they have been restored.
The photo notes the before and after of the restoration of Hāpaiali‘i Heiau (photos primarily from Keauhou Resort.) In addition, I have added other images of the Keauhou heiau restoration in a folder of like name in the Photos section of my Facebook page.