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Coral Magunuson

The Canoe House In Traditional Hawaii.

(Under the direction of Professor Lawrence E. Babits) Department of History, November 1998.

Hawaiian canoe houses were examined in order to understand their roles in traditional Hawaiian villages and to determine the types and sizes of the vessels stored within.  The first step was the identification of canoe houses using historical and archaeological descriptions.  The second step was the identification of the boat house remains in an archaeological field context.  The final step involved gathering data from previous archaeological projects and the survey conducted for this thesis at Kahikinui, Maul.

Identifiable by their long shape, canoe houses were located outside the littoral zone and close to canoe landings.  Historical documents indicate that some canoe houses likely functioned as men's houses as well, an understandable conclusion since fishing and canoe manufacture were men's activities.  Coastal villages were built around canoe landings and thus canoe houses.

Canoe house lengths appear to reflect canoe lengths.  The latter conclusion receives support from the correlation between the average length of canoes recorded in historic documents with the average size of canoe houses recorded in the archaeological record.  It is more problematic to determine the type of canoe stored within, since double and outrigger canoes could have similar lengths and were sometimes stored together.  However, it is likely that double canoes, vessels belonging exclusively to the chiefly class, were stored in larger canoe houses.