Saturday, February 22, 2014

Plain of Numbering

At about the same time of Christopher Columbus crossing the Atlantic to America (he was looking for an alternate trade route to the East Indies,) exciting stuff was happening here in the Hawaiian Islands.

The political governance and land management system by Aliʻi-ai-moku, was expanding and developing after two centuries since its inception, and there was a wake of progress taking place on our shores.

It was a natural progression, which began with three brothers as the first Aliʻi-ai-moku in the 12th century; Kumuhonua on Oʻahu, Olopana on Hawaiʻi, and Moikeha on Kauaʻi, as grandsons of Maweke.  (Yardley)

When they arrived from Tahiti with their new system, their first cousins were already serving as High Chiefs – “Laʻakona, High Chief of ʻEwa; Nuakea, Queen Consort of Molokai; Mōʻī, kaula (prophet) of Molokai; and Hinakaimauliawa, High Chiefess of Koʻolau.” (Beckwith, Yardley)

Then, in the time of Columbus, the new Aliʻi-ai-moku were: Māʻilikūkahi on Oʻahu, Piʻilani on Maui, ʻUmi-a-Līloa on Hawaiʻi and Kukona on Kauaʻi.

ʻUmi-a-Līloa (ʻUmi) from Waipiʻo, son of Līloa, defeated Kona chief Ehunuikaimalino and united the island of Hawai‘i.  He then moved his Royal Center from Waipi‘o to Kona.

At about the time of ʻUmi, a significant new form of agriculture was developed in Kona; he is credited with starting it.  Today, archaeologists call the unique method of farming in this area the “Kona Field System.”

The Kona Field System was planted in long, narrow fields that ran across the contours, along the slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualālai.  As rainfall increases rapidly as you go up the side of Hualālai, the long fields allowed farmers to plant different crops according to the rainfall gradients.

In lower elevations all the way to the shore, informal clearings, mounds and terraces were used to plant sweet potatoes; and on the forest fringe above the walled fields there were clearings, mounds and terraces which were primarily planted in bananas.

This intensive agricultural activity changed farming and agricultural production on the western side of Hawai'i Island; the Kona field system was quite large, extending from Kailua to south of Honaunau

In the lower reaches of the tillable land, at elevations about 500-feet to 1,000-feet above sea level, a grove of breadfruit half mile wide and 20 miles long grew.  Sweet potatoes grew among the breadfruit.  Above the breadfruit grove, at elevations where the rainfall reached 60-70 inches or more, were fields of dry land taro.

The Kona Field System was described as “the most monumental work of the ancient Hawaiians.”  The challenge of farming in Kona is to produce a flourishing agricultural economy in an area subject to frequent droughts, with no lakes or streams for irrigation.

The field system was not the only contribution of ʻUmi.

The history of data processing in Hawaii covers almost five centuries, from the legendary census of King ʻUmi (c. 1500) to the present time.

It embraces at least five forms of technology: pre-contact manual methods, post-contact manual methods (including the abacus and slide rule,) the adding machine and desk calculator, punched-card equipment and the modern computer.  (Schmitt)

No statistical record of pre-contact population still exists, unless you look at the legendary census of ʻUmi.  ʻUmi’s census, taken at the beginning of the 16th century, was an early example of data processing.

For this census, each inhabitant of the Island of Hawaiʻi was instructed to come to a place called the "Plain of Numbering" to put a rock on the pile representing his own district. The result, still visible today, was a three-dimensional graphic portrayal of population size and distribution.

ʻUmi collected all the people of Hawaiʻi at a small plain between the cones on the inner side of Hualālai.  Two small hills are said to have been the seats of the king and queen, with their retainers, while the census was being taken

Later all the people went down on the plain, where each deposited a stone, the strongest the largest, making huge stone-pile memorials around the heiau, one for each district and on the sides toward the districts.  (Baker)

Here are some early accounts getting there.  “… after a day’s travel they reached the site of the ancient temple … These ruins lie equally distant from three mountains, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualālai.  This temple is said to be built by ʻUmi ….”  (Wilkes, 1841)

“Up the long slope of Hualālai we ascended to Kaʻalapuali, following the old Judd trail through fields of green cane, through grass lands, through primeval forests, over fallen monarchs, finally out on that semi-arid upland which lies between Hualālai and Mauna Loa.  Here we turned up the slope of Hualālai, climbing through a forest cover of ʻōhiʻa lehua and sandalwood carpeted with golden-eyed daisies - another picture of Hawaii, never to be forgotten.”

 “Farther up the Judd trail, we came to that unique "Plain of Numbering", where King ʻUmi built his heiau over four centuries ago and called his people together from all the Island of Hawaiʻi. There is a romantic glamor hanging around those heaps of rocks which numbered the people who gathered at Ahu a ʻUmi that will remain as a fond memory throughout eternity.”  (Thrum, 1924)

 “… we unexpectedly fell upon an ancient temple of the Hawaiian gods, built in a dreary wilderness, far from the habitations of men. … (it) is a square, 100 feet on a side. Its walls, built of the fragments of ancient lava, were eight feet high, and four feet thick. … Around the principal structure, and at the distance of ten to twenty feet, there were eight pyramids, about twelve feet in diameter, and twelve to fifteen in height.”  (Hiram Bingham, 1830)

The piles (pyramids, as Bingham called them) showed the relative size of the population of the districts.  “Kona is the most populous of the six great divisions of Hawaiʻi.” (Kohala is next.)  (Lots of information here from Baker, Schmitt and Thrum.)

The image shows Ahu a ʻUmi in 1890.  In addition, I have added other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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