Wednesday, December 29, 2010


On October 23, 2010, we were given a tour of the Honolulu area by my cousin Rob and one of the sites that we located was the Nu’uanu petroglyphs. They are located in Nu’uanu valley which is where the deciding battle of King Kamehaha I’s drive to conquer Oahu and thus unify the Hawaiian islands occurred in 1795.
Nu'uannu Stream, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Peter Faris, Oct. 23, 2010.
According to Wikipedia the battle “is known in the Hawaiian language as Kalelekaʻanae, which means "the leaping mullet", and refers to a number of Oahu warriors driven off the cliff in the final phase of the battle. Kamehameha I had begun his campaign to unify Hawaii in 1783, but prior to 1795 had only managed to unify the Big Island. In February 1795 he assembled the largest army the Hawaiian Islands had ever seen, with about 12,000 men and 1,200 war canoes. Kamehameha initially moved against the southern islands of Maui and Molokai, conquering them in the early spring. Then he invaded Oahu”. ('uanu)

Nu'uannu petroglyphs, dogs and human figures. Honolulu,
Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Peter Faris, Oct. 23, 1020.

Kamehameha I prevailed and at the climax of the battle, caught between the Hawaiian Army and a 1000-foot drop, “over 400 Oahu warriors either jumped or were pushed over the edge of the Pali” ('uanu) - the leaping mullet. This had been the last major challenge to Kamehaha I and afterword the combined islands were known as the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Dog petroglyphs, Nu'uannu, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.

The Nu’uanu petroglyphs consist of three sites along the Nu’uanu stream behind the Nu’uanu Memorial Park Cemetery and the Royal Mausoleum, near Alapena pool. They have a total of as many as forty carved images mostly human figures and dogs. The number of dog images is somewhat surprising as there are no wild canids on the Hawaiian Islands to commemorate, so they have to be representations of the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris).

While the meaning of these dog images is not known for sure there are a number of possibilities in mythology listed in Traditions of O’ahu: Dog Gods of the Ko'olau Mountains. A number of the tales involve a supernatural dog named Poki. Seeing Poki was an ill omen and a traveler who saw the dog would be wise to return home to avoid disaster. In other tales Poki was the pet of an evil spirit living in the mountains.

Nu'uannu petroglyphs, dogs and human figures. Honolulu,
Oahu, Hawaii. Photo: Peter Faris, Oct. 23, 1020.

There is another interesting myth involving a dog. In this myth Kane, the chief god of the Hawaiian pantheon used to party with his companions at night in the mountains over Wai-pi’o valley and each drink of awa (the intoxicating drink known as kava in the Pacific islands ) was accompanied by a blast on their conch shell horns (pu). Kane’s horn, the famed kiha-pu, was of divine origin and possessed supernatural power, as well as being louder than any other. These loud sessions disrupted the whole countryside and kept the inhabitants awake all night. To deal with these disruptions King Liloa sent a dog named Puapualenalena to steal Kiha-pu, which subsequently became a prized possession of Hawaiian monarchs. ( This Kiha-pu can be seen on display at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu.
One myth directly related to the Nu’uannu petroglyphs claims that they portray a mythical dog named Kaupe who had once been a human who had ruled Nu’uanu valley. During his reign he ate a lot of people and later Kaupe became a malevolent spirit in dog form that calls out to people at night to lure them to their deaths. (Reference:
Whichever story we choose to believe this concentration of dog petroglyphs seems totally unique and is off the beaten path so it may not be visited as regularly as more publicized sites.


Traditions of O’ahu: Dog Gods of the Ko'olau Mountains, Asia-Pacific Digital Library, Kapi’olani Community College, (


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