Sandalwood (ʻiliahi) has been highly prized and in great demand through the ages; its use for incense is part of the ritual of Buddhism. Chinese used the fragrant heart wood for incense, medicinal purposes, for architectural details and carved objects. Trade in Hawaiian sandalwood began as early as the 1790s; by 1805 it had become an important export item.
In order to measure how much sandalwood to harvest and move down the mountain, they dug “Lua Na Moku ‘Iliahi” (sandalwood measuring pits) in the forest. The pits were used to measure an amount of sandalwood that would fit in a ship’s hold. The wood was cut and placed in the pit. When the pit was filled, the logs were carried down the mountain to a waiting ship.