Shifting sands reveal Hawaiian petroglyphs believed to be 400+ years old

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The U.S. Army and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources are working together to record and document a series of petroglyphs discovered along the Waianae coast.

Lonnie Watson and Mark Louviere, who are frequent visitors to Hawaii from Texas, were watching the sun set when something caught Watson’s attention.

“For some reason there was a beam of light,” Watson said. “It landed right on one of them and for some reason I just turned my head. I said, look, it was just a stroke of luck.”

What Watson saw was a large petroglyph, etched into the sandstone. Upon further investigation, they discovered at least 10 figures, stretching over roughly 60 feet of beach.

The DLNR State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) and the U.S. Army are working together to record and document the petroglyphs; which now number at least 17 figures.

Army archaeologist and Waianae native Alton Exzabe was one of the first to arrive at the site.

“What’s interesting is the Army in Hawaii manages several thousand archaeological sites, but this is the first one with petroglyphs directly on the shoreline,” Exzabe said. “I grew up coming to this beach and now as an archaeologist working for the Army, helping to manage this site, we discovered these petroglyphs that have never been recorded. Some people have said they’ve seen them before, but this is quite a significant find.”

Since their initial viewing, sand has moved back in to cover the petroglyphs, however the Army and SHPD are committed to protecting the “new” discovery whether visible or not.

If the petroglyphs surface again, the public is urged to look and not touch as officials come up with a plan to further protect and preserve the site.

Even the process of scraping sand away by hand or with brushes can damage the integrity of the figures.

“In time, they will reappear and we want to make sure people know that they are fragile and culturally sensitive and should only be viewed; not touched,” stressed Alan Downer, SHPD administrator.

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