Ancient Drawings Revealed Beneath Hawaii Sand

Rare stone carvings have been uncovered hidden underneath the sand on a Hawaii beach after huge waves washed them clean.

The carvings, also known as petroglyphs, are thought to be of animals and humans, although the exact story behind the images is unknown.

Experts predict that they were carved before contact with European colonists, and could date from anywhere between 80 AD to 1778, local news KHON2 reported.

Usually, there is around a 10-foot layer of sand on the beach where the petroglyphs were found, situated between Ke Iki and Pipeline on the island of Oahu's North Shore.

Residents told KHON2 that they hadn't seen these petroglyphs so clearly for over seven years, with many never having seen them at all.

hawaii petroglyphs
Stock image of petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa in Hawaii. On a beach in Oahu, the tide has washed out enough sand to reveal more stone carvings below. iStock / Getty Images Plus

Petroglyphs are carvings made into rocks by people centuries ago, often thought to depict recordings of births, battles and other significant events.

They have been found across the world from a number of different cultures across human history, often carved using stone tools. On Hawaii in particular, the petroglyphs are carved into lava rocks.

"They're man made images, called kiʻi pohaku, literally, 'stone images' that were carved and I would say through pecking, using harder stone tools on the softer sort of substrate rock," Kekuewa Kikiloi, an associate professor at the Center for Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii Manoa, told KHON2.

There are many petroglyphs across Hawaii, with more than 23,000 carvings in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii's Big Island, and several others at Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park and Puakō Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve.

Near these newly revealed petroglyphs on Oahu, there have also been others found in the area.

"We can probably assume that they depict a story, just because of human nature, but then some people have sort of hypothesized because the name kiʻi generally means statue, it might be some kind of spiritual function that they are thought to possess," Kikiloi said.

"Like how you have wooden images at museums, those religious images, kiʻi, are thought to fetch the spirits of the ancestral gods to that place and to that image, and so the image in the rocks may serve as a similar function but we're not entirely sure," he added.

These petroglyphs in particular are harder for researchers to preserve due to them usually being buried beneath several feet of sand.

"I think the main thing is that people try to protect them by not stepping all over them," Kikiloi said. "Just observe them, photograph them, and enjoy them so that they can be here for future generations."

These Oahu carvings have since returned to their protection under the sand, as the high tide on Monday washed back a layer of beach. Until a swell large enough to uncover them again washes in, they will remain hidden.

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