Kauakahi Adze Quarry

Keahua, Kaua'i - The First Documented Adze Quarry-Workshop on Kaua'i by

William K. Kikuchi


The presumptuous title of the first documented adze quarry and workshop on Kaua'i was given to this site, based on my inability to find the previously reported quarries at Kilohana, Waimea and Nounou, Wailua. When Kauakahi Quarry was reported to me by its finder, Mr. George Kauakahi, I believed it to be the Nounou Quarry, but my trip to the site proved otherwise.

Kauakahi Quarry-Workshop

On February 13, 1988 a hunter, George Kauakahi, phoned me and asked me if I would be interested in going with him to a large quarry that he had found. This was exciting news, and I immediately decided to take him up on his offer.

The site is located in the ancient district of Puna and in the ahupua'a of Wailua. This is an area called Keahua, after a stream of the same name. The elevation of the site is between 500 and 560 feet above sea level and has an annual average rainfall of 95 inches.

An inspection of the Kaua'i geological map indicates that the site is of the Koloa Volcanic series although the basalt cobbles and boulders may be the remnants of the older Waimea Canyon Volcanic Series, NaPali formation. The flows of olivine and picrite basalt which formed the original flanks of the ancient shield volcano may be the source of the basalt which eroded out and formed the boulder and cobbles in the stream bed. The ridges around Keahua site are composed of non-calcareous, alluvium sediments of the Koloa volcanic series.

Previous to its discovery, the area was covered by a dense cover of hau trees. After bulldozing had been carried out in the area, bulbs and flakes could be seen scattered over the cleared ground. At the banks of nearby Keahua Stream, large boulders and cobbles were clearly exposed suggesting that this was the source of the adze metal (In Depth) .

All of the material seen was heavily patinated to a light gray color. Fresh stone could occasionally be seen where the bulldozer had nicked or broken a small boulder. When taken to the laboratory to be cleaned, simple brushing readily cut into the soft patinated surface.

When the debitage was inspected in the field, all showed evidence of having been worked directly from the cobbles and small boulders seen at the stream bank. Many of the samples showed the rounded surfaces of the original water-rounded stone. Some of the stones showed very visible flow patterns.

In October of 1988, Ms. Martha Yent surveyed the site and undertook test excavations there. She was able to determine that the area covered around 20 acres. Test pits showed that cobbles and flakes extended to a depth of 25 cm. A charcoal lined fire pit, with a depth of between 4 and 11 cm., definitely indicated some sort of habitation in this area. As Ms. Yent correctly noted, the quarry-workshop probably extended further up slope. Several of my students went beyond the Keahua workshop area and found similar flakes and preforms uphill. The heavy growth, however, prevented any further survey (Carbon Dates).

A total of 57 samples were collected in the initial field survey. The best preforms were collected and donated to the total samples by Mr. Kauakahi. From those samples, 12 small flakes were used for petrographic analysis.

The samples were found to consist of 5 drills and awls and 26 adze preforms (6 were quadrangular, 16 showed reverse-triangular cross sections, and 4 were too gross to fit into any category). One sample showed initial grinding of its surfaces, while another was perfectly formed and ready for grinding (Lab Analysis).

The majority of the adze preforms were of the butt and middle sections ranging from 5.0 to 9.5 cm. in length. The modal measurement of length was 7.0 cm. Adzes found in lower Wailua were similarly short and small, suggesting Kauakahi as the source site.

Of the flakes cut for petrographic analysis, only 6 were sent to the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics, for a reading. Dr. George Sinton was kind enough to look at the specimens.