were built more recently and more rapidly, over a span of no more than 150 years, ending around the year 1700.“First of all, the new dates are important just because of their high precision,” Kirch said.
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“[Maui] is one of the few places in the Hawaiian islands where the archaeological landscape of an entire ancient district is still intact, not disturbed either by plantation agriculture or modern tourism or housing developments,” Kirch said. “When in use, they had thatched buildings to hold temple paraphernalia, wooden images, wooden oracle towers, et cetera, but all of those perishable superstructures are now gone.
“What we see as archaeologists are the stone foundations — generally platforms or terraces, or sometimes walled enclosures.” [See another find recently made in the islands: “Monster Surf Exposes Rare Petroglyphs in Hawaii“] And with his colleagues, Kirch has been investigating these sites in search of a unique and durable artifact: pieces of a small, stony coral known as .
So although the Fragments of coral were sometimes left as offerings at the altars of heiau, or were even built into the construction of the temples, useful for archaeologists because it can be scientifically dated.
(Photo by Patrick Kirch) And this can be a crucial clue in tracing the island’s political development, Kirch said.
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But Kirch and his colleagues dated the sites using a different technique.
Instead of analyzing carbon, they studied the corals’ levels of uranium, which decays into the element thorium at predictable rates.
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