PTA staff preserve, protect fragile sites
Staff members with the Cultural Resources section, Environmental Division, Directorate of Public Works, U.S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa Training Area, investigate Native Hawaiian cultural artifacts located inside one of PTA’s extensive lava tubes. At 32 percent, lava tubes represent the largest percentage of PTA’s Native Hawaiian cultural sites.

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii -- A tall, thin woman stood atop sharp-as-broken-glass volcanic rock, here, as she pointed in different directions to bring attention to Native Hawaiian cultural sites, here, recently.

Dr. Julia Taomia’s audience, comprised of 15 Army civilians, listened as she explained the cultural artifacts left behind by Native Hawaiians.

Taomia is an Army archaeologist, here, and works for the Cultural Resources section, Environmental Division, Directorate of Public Works, U.S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa.

The Army civilians are in the USAG-Hawaii Fellows Program.

Overseen by USAG-Hawaii’s Workforce Development Division, the yearlong Fellows Program helps leaders, supervisors and staff grow.

During the program, fellows visit USAG-HI directorates and activities to learn more about the garrison’s mission of supporting Soldiers and their families.

PTA, one of USAG-HI’s 22 installations, is the largest military training area in the state. PTA’s extensive high-altitude maneuver area replicates the harsh conditions that Soldiers and Marines will encounter in Afghanistan.

Taomia told the fellows about the efforts she and six full-time contract archaeologists conduct.

“Here, at PTA, we occasionally find pottery,” she said. “Three thousand years ago, Polynesians were making pottery. The preservation (here) to me is just amazing.”

The Cultural Resources section manages more than 300 state-registered archaeological sites and monitors more than 35 archaeological sites for effects from troops and hoofed mammals, such as pigs and goats.

Taomia said that carbon dating shows that Native Hawaiians spent time in the area as far back as the 1400s-1600s A.D. These Native Hawaiians left behind cultural shrines, habitation caves, burial sites and pictographs.

“This is one of the sites that we try to protect,” Taomia said, as she described a habitation area to the fellows. “Somebody had a house, and then other people were camped out in the lava blisters. There’s one here, and there’s another one back there with another flat area, with a terrace up next to it. There’s actually a wall back there with a fire pit, and the wall has a volcanic glass blade stuck in it.”

Taomia said that the Cultural Resources section will place deadwood or barbed wire over the lava blister pit to keep out animals, but it has recently learned that animals can still sneak through.

Located on the saddle between the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea mountains, PTA is home to one of the world’s rarest ecosystems: a tropical, sub-alpine, dryland ecosystem.

While Taomia’s section discovers, preserves and protects PTA’s cultural resources, natural resources are also protected and preserved.

Natural Resources staff work to identify, manage and protect 15 threatened and endangered plant species through a cultivation and planting program.

Page last updated Thu July 7th, 2011 at 16:43