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Everywhere on Mauna Kea, from the mountain top to the sea, shrines and altars can be found, where food, songs and chants are offered to the deities. About forty shrines have been located within the Mauna Kea adze quarry complex.

Historic accounts indicate that Hawaiians had rituals for most technical enterprises, such as planting, canoe building and fishing. It would not be surprising, therefore, to discover evidence of ritual activities related to stoneworking.

We located forty small structures that we have interpreted as shrines on the basis of their similarities to religious structures common throughout eastern Polynesia. Although they vary in size and shape, their placement seems constant — they are usually located on top of rock outcrops overlooking major workshop areas.

All these structures contain rows of upright rock slabs, in some cases enclosing or partly enclosing a small, flat area. In at least one instance, a chunk of coral had been placed beneath one of the uprights; a lock of human hair was found at the base of another. Hammerstones, waste flakes, rejected adze blanks and preforms frequently lie in and around the structures, indicating that some stoneworking took place at the shrines. This may be evidence of ritual behavior intended to predict or influence the flaking qualities of basalt extracted from various parts of the quarry.
July 1977
Patrick McCoy/Richard Gould
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In the immediate vicinity of the work shops and quarries we discovered shrines consisting of single upright stones, and lines of upright stones planted in a low platform. Dr. T. A. Jaggar, in 1919, photographed on the west slope of Mauna Loa, an alignment of upright stones, which he called Umi's altar, near the head of the Alika lava flow, at 7,000 feet elevation.

Such structures have much in common with the prehistoric altars, or shrines, of lonely Necker Island, about 300 miles NW of Kaua'i, and belong to the earliest type of sacred structure in the Tahitian region of Polynesia from which we are quite sure the Hawaiians came. The adz makers, clinging to the ancient form of shrine at which to approach their patron gods, have preserved a most important link with their ancestral home. Each upright stone at a shrine probably stood for a separate god. The Hawaiian dictionary describes ‘eho as "a collection of stone gods" and this is the term which the Tuamotuans, the neighbors of the Tahitians, used to designate the alignment of upright stones on the low and narrow platform at their maraes, or sacred places.
The Adze Makers of Mauna Kea
by Kenneth P. Emory
Paradise of the Pacific
April 1938, v50 n4
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Shrines are simple arrangements of unworked, tabular basalt slabs oriented in upright position, but varying greatly in number. Adze preforms, hammerstones, and waste flakes are frequently present on one side of the upright alignments.
The Mauna Kea Adze Quarry Project:
A Summary of the 1975 Field Investigations

Patrick McCoy
Bernice P. Bishop Museum

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