Born in Honolulu, Dr. William Kenji “Pila” Kikuchi (1935-2003) graduated from Kaimuki High School and then went on to earn BA and MA degrees in Anthropology-Archaeology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where esteemed Hawaiian scholar, educator, composer and dancer Mary Kawena Pukui presented him with his nickname “Pila,” meaning William in Hawaiian.
His dissertation at the University of Arizona — by which he earned his Ph.D in Archaeology-Anthropology — was titled “Hawaiian Aquacultural Systems,” and remains to this day the basic scientific reference work for fishponds in Hawaii.
As a volunteer at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Kikuchi worked with renowned archaeologist Dr. Kenneth Emory on the museum’s archaeological expedition to Nualolo Kai on the Na Pali Coast of Kauai during 1958 and 1959.
The Nualolo Kai excavations were meticulously staked and mapped, with tons of soil yielding artifacts such as tattoo needles, fish hooks, adzes, grindstones and bone pickers, house floors, fireplaces and posts.
And, through radiocarbon dating of these artifacts, it was discovered that Hawaiians had inhabited the area since at least 1389, plus or minus 150 years.
Kikuchi likewise did archaeological fieldwork in Samoa and in the Hawaiian Islands; notably, on Kauai, he was chief investigator of the Waimea Russian Fort study group in 1969, and for years worked on the Makauwahi Sinkhole project at Mahaulepu, Kauai, which has produced numerous plant and animal fossils, in particular, many species of mostly extinct or nearly extinct birds and a new bat species, as well as artifacts.
Kauai Community College students from 1972 to 1998 fondly remember him as a popular instructor and later, professor of Anthropology.
He was also the author of a number of publications, including his newsletter, “Archaeology On Kauai,” and “Russian Forts On Kauai” with his wife, Dolores, and “Cemeteries Of Kauai” with now retired Waimea, Kauai, librarian Susan Remoaldo.
Readers may wish to visit his interesting website, “Pila’s Pages” at www.kauaianthro.org.
Dr. Kikuchi and his wife, had three daughters: Kathleen, Michelei and Kristina.