Solar Nadirs in Pre-Contact Hawaiian Cultural Astronomy


  • Martha H. Noyes Independent Scholar



astronomy, Hawai’i, Kukaniloko, pre-contact, solar nadir


Pre-contact Hawaiian cultural astronomy, including the major stations of the Sun, remains understudied. K?kaniloko, on the island of O'ahu in the Hawaiian Islands, is recognised as the piko, the navel, of the island - that is, not only the geographical centre, but also culturally the centre. The island's geography includes features that serve as landscape markers for the rise and set of the Sun at the Sun stations and for the rise and set of stars which centre on K?kaniloko. The site thus offers a window into pre-European-contact Hawaiian astronomy and shows the attention paid to the eight tropical Sun stations. This paper considers least-known of these stations, the solar nadir, and the resulting cultural functions from the point of view of K?kaniloko.


Download data is not yet available.


Andrews, L., 2003 [1865]. A Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language. Honolulu: Island Heritage Publishing.

Beckwith, M., trans., 1951. The Kumulipo. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Beckwith, M., 1976. Hawaiian Mythology. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Best, E., 1924. The Maori, vol. 1. Wellington: The Polynesian Society.

Biggs, B. 1964. “The Oral Literature of the Polynesians”. Te Ao Hou 49: 23–25, 42–47.

Chauvin, M., 2000. “Useful and Conceptual Astronomy in Ancient Hawaii”. In Astronomy Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Astronomy, edited by H. Selin, 91-125. Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic.

Darrin, A. and B.L. O’Leary, 2009. Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology, and Heritage. New York: CRC Press.

Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation, 2018 [online]. Accessed April 4, 2016,

Edwards, E. and A. Edwards, 2010. Rapanui Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy. Flag #83 Expedition Report February-June, 2010. Accessed 30 July, 2018,

Fischer, S., 1997. Rongorongo: The Easter Island Script. History, Traditions, Text. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Gill, T. M., P. V. Kirch, C. Ruggles and A. Baer, 2015. “Ideology, Ceremony, and Calendar in Pre-Contact Hawai‘i: Astronomical Alignment of a Stone Enclosure on O‘ahu Suggests Ceremonial Use During the Makahiki Season”. The Journal of the Polynesian Society 124: 243–268.

Google Earth Pro, 2018 [online].

Grimble, A., 1972. Migrations, Myth and Magic from the Gilbert Islands. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Gullberg, S. R., 2010. “Inca Solar Orientations in Southeastern Peru”. Journal of Cosmology 9: 2078–2091. Accessed 12 January, 2018,

Handy, E. S. C., 1927. Polynesian Religion. Bishop Museum Bulletin 34. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press.

Hunter Research and Technology, 2017. “Theodolite HD”, Vers. 6.1. Apple App Store.

Johnson, R. K., 2000. The Kumulipo Mind: A Global Heritage. Honolulu: self-published.

Johnson, R. K. and H. Kurth, n.d. The Birthstones of Kukaniloko Heiau: Are They Oriented to Sky Phenomena? Unpublished manuscript written 1989, held at Division of State Parks, Kapolei, State of Hawaii.

Johnson, R. K. and J. Mahelona, 1975. Nā Inoa Hōkū: A Catalogue of Hawaiian and Pacific Star Names. Honolulu: Topgallant Publishing.

Kamakau, S., 1964, Ka Poe Kahiko: The People of Old. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press.

Kamakau, S., 1991. Tales and Traditions of the People of Old: Na Mo’Olelo a Ka Po’E Kahiko. ed D. B. Barrère, trans. M.L. Pukui. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press.

Kirch, P. V., 2004. “Temple Sites in Kahikinui, Maui, Hawaiian Islands: Their Orientations Decoded”. Antiquity 78 (299): 102–114.

Kyselka, W., 1993. “Preliminary Thoughts on Ku-kani-loko”. Memorandum at State Historic Division, Department of Land and Natural Resources, State of Hawaii.

Lenchanko, J. L., 2015. Kūkaniloko: A Hālau of Ākeaakamai of Kāne. MA diss., University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

Lévi-Strauss, C., 1966. The Savage Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Makemson, M., 1938. “Hawaiian Astronomical Concepts”. American Anthropologist 40 (3): 370–383.

Makemson, M., 1939. “Hawaiian Astronomical Concepts II”. American Anthropologist 41 (4):589–586.

Makemson, M., 1941. The Morning Star Rises. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Malo, D., 1971 [1903]. Hawaiian Antiquities. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press.

Mendez, A. and C. Karasik, 2014. “Centering the World: Zenith and Nadir Passages at Palenque”. In Astronomy and the Maya, edited by Gerardo Aldana y Villalobos and Edwin L. Barnhart, Oxford: Oxbow Books.

National Centers for Environmental Information, 2018. Magnetic Field Calculators [online]. Accessed 18 December, 2016 and after,

Noyes, M. (compiler), 2011. Polynesian Star Catalog, Revised. Honolulu: Barefeet Productions.

Noyes, M., 2013. “Sirius in the Hawaiian Sky”. Time and Mind 6 (2): 159–174.

Noyes, M., 2015. Precontact Hawaiian Cultural Astronomy Associated with Kūkaniloko, the Piko of the Island of O’ahu in the Hawaiian Islands: Stars of Cosmogony and Sun Stations. MA diss., University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Noyes, M. 2017. “From Kūkaniloko: The Celestial Rulers of Space and Time”. Te Kaharoa 10 (1): 56–88.

Oliveira, K.-A. R. K., 2014. Ancestral Places: Understanding Kanaka Geographies. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press.

Pukui, M. K. and S. H. Elbert, 1986. Hawaiian Dictionary. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. First published in 1957.

Ruggles, C., 2010. “Cosmology, Calendar, and Temple Orientations in Ancient Hawai’i”. In Skywatching in the Ancient World: New Perspectives in Cultural Astronomy, edited by C. Ruggles and G. Urton, 287–330. Boulder: University of Colorado Press.

Sahlins, M., 1985. Islands of History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Science with Android Tools, 2018. “Surveyor Tools”, Vers. 1.3. Google App Store.

Starry Night Enthusiast 6.4.3, 2009 [online]. Minnetonka, MN: Simulation Curriculum.

State of Hawaii, Department of Accounting and General Services, 2018. “Land Survey Map Search” [online]. Accessed 21 July, 2017,

State of Hawaii, Division of State Parks, 1999. Kūkaniloko Interpretive Plan. Honolulu: Division of State Parks, State of Hawaii.

Tawhai, T. P., 2002. “Maori Religion”. In The World’s Religions: The Study of Religion, Traditional and New Religion, edited by P. Clarke and S. Sutherland, 96–105. London and New York: Routledge.

Time and Date, 2018. [online]. Accessed 11 October, 2017,

Tregear, E., 1891. Maori and Polynesian Comparative Dictionary. Wellington: Lyon and Blair.

United States Department of the Interior, 1994. “Registration Form for the National Register of Historic Places, Kukaniloko Birthstones”. Accessed September 2018,

Valeri, V., 1985. Kingship and Sacrifice: Ritual and Society in Ancient Hawaii. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

White, J., 1890. The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions. Tai-Nui, vol. 6. with: Ko Nga Tatai Korero Whakapapa A Te Maori Me Nga Karakia O Nehe A Nga Tohunga O Tai-Nui, Na Hone Waiti. Wellington: George Didsbury.

Yent, M., 1995. Kukaniloko Birthstones State Monument, Wahiawa, Oahu. Honolulu: Division of State Parks, Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Zaro, G. and J. C. Lohse, 2005. “Agricultural Rhythms and Rituals: Ancient Maya Solar Observation in Hinterland Blue Creek, Northwestern Belize”. Latin American Antiquity 16 (1): 81–89.

Zuidema, T., 1982. “The Sidereal Lunar Calendar of the Incas.” In Archaeoastronomy in the New World: American Primitive Astronomy, edited by A. Aveni. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.



How to Cite

Noyes, M. H. (2019). Solar Nadirs in Pre-Contact Hawaiian Cultural Astronomy. Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, 4(2), 201–228.



Research Articles