Monday, June 20

Exploring Ancient Hawaii with Island Boy

I mau ka 'ike kupuna o ke au I hala iā kākou nā hanauana o ke au nei. (May the ancestral understandings of the past live on through the practices of the present generation.)

The islands that make up the Hawaiian archipelago were formed by volcanic eruptions that began more than 80 million years ago.  Heat, by convection currents, causes tectonic plates to move, and these sliding movements create stresses on the boundaries, resulting in earthquakes and potential breaks in the rock, known as faults.  When tectonic plates move apart from each other, a rift is formed, allowing magma from deep in the Earth to harden into solid rock, known as basalt.  Volcanoes can also be formed by hotspots, which are naturally caused veins to reservoirs of magma in the upper mantle of the Earth. 

The Hawaiian Islands are a result of volcanic activity from a hotspot.  As the plate moves across the hotspot, magma erupts and creates volcanoes that eventually become islands.  The oldest island is Kure Atoll at the most northern point of the Hawaiian Islands, and the youngest island is Hawaii at the southeastern end of the archipelago.  As the tectonic plate moves northwest, the older islands move farther away from the hotspot. 

Ancient Hawaiʻi is the period preceding the unification in 1810 of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi by Kamehameha the Great.  Archeologists believe Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands, about 2000 miles to the south of Hawaii, began voyaging there around 450 AD.  The islands were perfect for colonization; they had no predators, mosquitos, or disease.  These voyagers brought with them what was needed to survive – banana, coconut, sweet potato, taro, breadfruit, pigs, chickens, and dogs. 

Around 1200 AD, the islands were invaded by Tahitian priests and warriors.  Led by a priest named Paao, they established a caste based social system and warrior society known as the Kapu system.  A kapu chief’s bloodline connected them directly to the gods, and the ruling class of families spread their power and control throughout the island chain through war and marriage.  Soon each island was ruled by multiple chiefs, temples were built, and human sacrifices were performed.  Eventually this resulted in what scholars have estimated to have been close to 100 years of intermittent war for control of multiple islands and the entire Hawaiian archipelago.

Over time, Hawaiian society grew as distinct as it had been left to evolve in isolation.  Captain James Cook made the first known European contact with ancient Hawaiians in 1778.  He was followed by many other Europeans and Americans.

One fascinating fact is that Hawaii is the only state whose landmass is still growing.  The islands sit on a geothermal “hot spot” located deep under the surface of the ocean.  As the tectonic plates move over the hot spot, the rock is turned to magma, which gushes upward, hits sea level, and adds landmass to the islands every day.  Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano located on the Big Island, continuously erupts.  Each year, its lava increases the land of Hawaii by over 40 acres!

Hawaiian Myths and Legends

Hawaii is full of myths and legends - stories that are full of passion, betrayal, loyalty, birth and death.  Some of these myths and legends were similar to the stories told in Tahiti, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, and other islands in the Pacific Ocean.  The ancient Hawaiians, like most indigenous peoples, felt a deep connection with nature and explained everything from the creation of the Earth to the lava flowing from the volcanoes through the stories of their gods and goddesses.  The many gods of Hawaii and Polynesia were often represented by tikis.  Tiki statues were carved to represent the image of a certain god and as an embodiment of that specific god's mana, or power.

Some of the Hawaiian gods include:
  • Kane: Father of living creatures. Kane is the highest of the four major gods.
  • Ku: God of war. Human sacrifices were made to Ku in ancient times.
  • Kanaloa: God of the underworld and a teacher of magic. Ruler of the ocean. Complementary power and close companion of Kane.
  • Lono: God of agriculture. Associated with fertility, rainfall, music and peace.
  • Pele: Goddess of the volcanoes, as well as fire, lightning and wind.
  • Hina: Goddess of Moon.
  • Laka: Goddess of the hula.
  • Kuula: God of fishermen.
  • Papa: Fertility goddess. Earth mother.
  • Poliahu: One of the four goddesses of snow. The rival of Pele.
  • Million BP - The main Hawaiian Islands began to form as the Pacific tectonic plate moved over a "hotspot"in the Earth's mantle. The 5 largest islands formed in order: Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Maui and the Big Island. Molokai and Maui were originally joined.
  • 800,000 - The Haleakala shield volcano on Maui, Hawaii, appeared about this time.
  • 200,000 - About this time a major earthquake in Hawaii caused a large tsunami that crossed the Pacific in 4 hours and up the shoreline of Japan for 300 yards. 
  • 100,000- About this time another major earthquake in Hawaii caused a large tsunami that crossed the Pacific in 4 hours and up the shoreline of Japan for 300 yards. 
  • c38,000BCE - Volcanic activity on Kauai ended. 
  • 200-300CE - The original Polynesians arrived probably from the Marquesas. They brought with them edible plants and animals.
  • c600CE - Small porkers came to Hawaii with the Polynesians some 1400 years ago, and big pigs arrived with the Europeans.
  • c600CE - Early settlers from the Marquesas built the Alakoko fishpond and taro fields on Kauai. 
  • 1100 AD - Migration from the Society Islands
  • c1297 - A temple was built near the Kilauea Volcano that is believed to have been used for human sacrifice. The Waha'ula Heiau temple near Volcanoes National Park was one of the first temples built on the islands, supposedly by a foreigner, who brought brutal religious rituals to the islands. 
  • c1550 -A Great Wall was built on the Big Island behind which refuge, sanctuary and purification could be sought. Puhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park later marked the area.
  • 300 - 900 AD - Polynesians arrive by outrigger canoe from Tahiti.

Our spine read for this unit is Island Boy (Robert Harry)  

Get the entire unit in the World History Bundle!

Includes ten unit studies (plus a bonus!) covering World History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning from Ancient Hawaii to modern-day. There is also a study of archaeological concepts. Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.
  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

Product samples:   Motel of the Mysteries & Encounter

  • Motel of the Mysteries
  • Island Boy
  • Encounter
  • The Odyssey
  • A Loyal Foe
  • Indigo Girl
  • Gold Rush Girl
  • Around the World in 80 Days
  • Number the Stars
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • House of the Seven Gables (bonus)

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