A Millennium of Human Activity at Makauwahi Cave, Māhāūulepū, Kauaūi
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A cave system in the eolianite deposits of the Māhā′ulepū/Pā′ā area of Kaua′i, Hawai′i, contains a rich fossil record of prehuman Holocene conditions and also preserves a thousand-year record of human activity. Details concerning pre-Contact Polynesian life have been extracted from subaqueous middens and artifacts, including perishable materials such as wood, gourd, and cordage. Oral traditions concerning the cave and vicinity generally show good agreement with the archaeological and paleoecological record and provide rich stories said to derive from as early as the fourteenth century A.D. Fossil evidence highlights biotic and landscape changes before, during, and after initial Polynesian and subsequent European settlement. The approximate temporal coincidence of evidence for human arrival and last occurrence of some now-extinct species is too great to ignore the possibility that humans played a role in some extinctions of native taxa before European colonization. Old maps, an 1824 sketch, records of the Land Court Awards, and old photographs confirm stratigraphic inferences and oral accounts concerning demographic and ecological conditions of the early historical period. Feral livestock proliferated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with loss of vegetative cover to overgrazing, decline of most of the native flora, and subsequent dune reactivation. Sedimentation rates reach their peak later in the twentieth century after the establishment of agricultural and mining operations nearby.
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- A Millennium of Human Activity at Makauwahi Cave, Māhāūulepū, Kauaūi
Volume 34, Issue 2 , pp 219-247
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- human settlement
- ecological change
- prehistoric diet
- perishable artifacts
- Author Affiliations
- 1. Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University, Bronx, NY, 10458, USA and National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kalaheo, HI 96741
- 3. National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kalaheo, HI 96741, USA
- 2. Deceased, Formerly with Division of Science and Mathematics, Kaua′i Community College, University of Hawaii, Lihu′e, HI, 96766, USA