In ancient Hawai`i, very high ranking chiefs had very special care taken of their bodies after death. Their bodies were buried in a shallow hole and covered up. A large fire was then made on top of the body to help separate the flesh from the bones. The flesh was gathered and put in a container, and the bones were held separately in another container. These containers were then taken by two men who hid them in a secret cave.

One of the men was the keeper or kahu of the cave. His job was to maintain the secrecy of the location and to take care of the area also. The other person was the moe puu, which means sleeping together. He was sacrificed by the kahu because it was believed that the blood would help to protect the deceased’s body from evil. This also ensured that no one but the kahu would know the location of the body. In some cases, the burial caves were only accessible by rope along a cliff’s face and the kahu would make the sacrifice of the moe puu by simply cutting his rope to have his blood fall below on the rocks.

The reason that great care was taken to keep these burial places secret was that the Hawaiians believed that there was spiritual powers or mana in the bones of people. Puholoholo had more mana, and creating something out of their bones, like a hook or spear, was believed to be more powerful and lucky than a normal hook or spear. If his bones fell into the wrong hands, it wasn’t only helping out the possibly warring groups, but was also a great disrespect to the family of the puholoholo.
In this activity we will use a map to find a hidden treasure. Note that we are not using traditional Native Hawaiian measurements, which make use of your body parts to measure things.

Materials Needed:

  • Measuring tape
  • String
  • Some field area
  • A treasure
  • A few decoy items

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