There is a spot in Hawai`i, on our island of Kaua`i, where the past has been preserved for 10,000 years. The record of life goes back not only to the time before Europeans arrived but also to a time before any human walked the island’s seashores.
Drs. David and Lida Burney have been working in Makauwahi Cave for 16 years and have collected a wealth of archaeological, fossil, and cultural artifacts. They perform environmental and anthropological research while honoring our host culture as they apply the knowledge they gain to help restore the Hawai`i of long ago to its pre-contact natural state.
During their investigations at Makauwahi, the Burneys discovered a deep layer of ash that baffled them. This layer of ash was described by a descendant of Keahikuni Kekauonohi, original title holder to the cave under the Mahele (King Kamehameha III’s land distribution act which included the right of commoners to own land). The story, as it was passed down from one generation to the next through oral history telling, is that of the Makauwahi Cave and its importance as a site of ancient divinations. The Burneys were told that the family’s great ancestor was a kahuna – a Hawaiian priest and spiritual counselor -- who read the patterns of the smoke stained walls caused by the great fires that had been set. Makauwahi or “smoke eye”, like all Hawaiian place names, is a name that holds deeper meaning. Makauwahi refers to the visions sought in the smoke from the “spiritual fires” and the patterns that would have swirled about the ceiling of the cave. It was these sacred fires that left the mysterious layer of ash throughout the interior of the cave.
Today the cave is a reserve, off the beaten path of even the most seasoned traveler to Hawai`i, associated with the National Tropical Botanical Garden. In this brief clip taken from the program on http://science.pacificnetwork.tv/hot-picks our host, Jan Tenbruggencate, talks with David and Lida who states, “We had the idea to re-construct the environment to what it was like before the early Polynesians arrived.”
While extinct species will certainly never be seen again The Garden has restored many species to their former habitats to thrive once again in as unspoiled an environment as can be provided many centuries later. To view more on this subject and other fascinating "green science" that is on-going in Hawai`i visit our Science & Environment Channel on Pacific Network – the Native Hawaiian Portal to the world at www.PacificNetwork.tv.