Kauai’s Kanoa Stone

On June 25, 1902, a smooth, dark stone, weighing perhaps 1,000 pounds, arrived at Honolulu Harbor aboard the steamer James Makee from Kauai and was conveyed by dray to Bishop Museum to be entered into the museum’s artifacts collection.

The stone, long known to Native Hawaiians of Kauai, had been shipped by Kilauea Sugar Plantation manager George R. Ewart, who’d removed it sometime earlier from its original location on what would become the grounds of the old Portuguese and Filipino Cemetery, located off Kuhio Highway by Mile Marker 22 just east of Kilauea Town.

Atop the stone is a depression crafted by Hawaiians at some time before Captain Cook’s arrival in 1778, which was used as an awa bowl (a “kanoa awa”) by the chiefs who owned it, and it was given the name Kanoa by them in reference to its use as a bowl.

Likewise, the area where the Kanoa Stone first rested — the site of the present Portuguese and Filipino Cemetery — took its place name, Kanoa, from the name of the stone.

In those bygone days, the land about the stone was forested, and a great house stood nearby, where alii enjoyed themselves by eating poi, oopu fish and dark shrimps, and drinking intoxicating awa from the bowl with another much smaller stone, skillfully fashioned into the shape of a cup and placed alongside of the Kanoa Stone.

Hawaiians also cut axes from the Kanoa Stone that were greatly prized, since the stone is exceedingly hard and could be sharpened to a long-lasting edge.

Interestingly, an article published in Honolulu’s Evening Bulletin newspaper about the time the Kanoa Stone was shipped suggested that the stone may have been a meteorite, but the file associated with the stone at Bishop Museum makes no mention of it being a meteorite.

Cultural Resource Specialist Marques Hanalei Marzan, of Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, recently stated that the Kanoa Stone is currently located on museum grounds under a hala tree fronting the Castle Building.

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