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Rock Material

On Mauna Kea, our ancestors were quarrying almost exclusively a single vein of rock, a stone material that was the result of rapid cooling of lava erupted beneath glacial ice.
When you have ice, a glacier, capping a hot lava eruption, you have what they call hydrothermal activity. The lava comes up and it can’t expand. Lava wants to expand and get air into it. When it has air into it, you have ‘a‘a and you have pahoehoe. If it has no air in it, it becomes very dense. It becomes basalt. It becomes adzes. That’s where the adzes came from, directly from this battle between Poli‘ahu and Pele.
Keawe Vredenburg

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A great many names were used to distinguish the different kinds of rocks. In the mountains were found some very hard rocks which probably had never been melted by the volcanic fires of Pele. Axes were fashioned from some of these rocks, of which one kind was named uli-uli, another ehu-ehu. There were many varieties.

The stones used for axes were of the following varieties: ke-i, ke-pue, ala-mea, kai-alii, humu-ula, pi-wai, awa-lii, lau-kea, mauna. All of these are very hard, superior to other stones in this respect, and not vesiculated like the stone called ala.
The term ala is generally applied to the material, the kind of stone of which the Hawaiian ax was made, and the ax was often called ko‘i ala. Ala is a dark, heavy, close-grained basalt.

In the Maori language the same dark, close-grained basalt is named ka-ra and is used in making the finest axes.

Hawaiian Antiquities
by David Malo
page 19

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Dense waterworn volcanic stone, as used for poi pounders, adzes, hula stones; hard lava, basalt. Kinds of ‘ala rock, as used for adzes, are qualified by the phrases pia maka hinu, shiny-faced arrowroot; mahinu, shiny; and maka hinu, shiny face.

Hawaiian Dictionary
Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert
University Press of Hawaii
Honolulu, 1971

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There remain to be mentioned the adzes used by ka po‘e kahiko for shaping the canoe and its parts. They were made of stone, compact water-worn basalt, ‘ala — ‘ala lelekepue, ‘ala piamakahinu, or ‘ala haumeku ‘olokele. Wherever such stones were to be found the expert stoneworkers went there to examine the quality and the grain of the stones to see which would make good solid adzes.

The Works of the People of Old
Samuel Manaiakalani Kamakau

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Hawaiians had to know how to find and extract the best raw materials. Suitable basalt for adze making is not distributed evenly over the area. Rather, it occurs in large quantities only in particular exposures and outcrops with the greatest concentration located discontinuously along an escarpment at 12,200 to 12,400 feet. In some cases, efforts had to be made to quarry subsurface deposits of unweathered basalt.

The quarry’s most conspicuous features are huge accumulations of stone debris. Blue-grey piles of waste flakes stand out against the more mottled shades of natural weathered rock. Certain areas contain vast heaps of preforms and cores, some too large for one person to lift. In some cases, these stones are found close to pits cut as much as fifteen feet into the bedrock.

July 1977
Patrick McCoy/Richard Gould




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