One hundred yards from the intersection of Whitmore Avenue and Highway 80 on the island of O’ahu lie a group of rocks known as the Kukaniloko Birthing Stones. This site has witnessed Hawai’i’s royal births and powerful struggles for centuries, and which may have also served an astronomical function.
Located near the geographic center of O’ahu, the Kukaniloko birthing stones were placed in a spot where the ancient islanders believed the life force of the land was strong. The English translation of Kukaniloko roughly means “to anchor the cry from within.”
When a new chief was to be born, the mother would be brought to the rocks and, under the watch of anywhere from 36 to 48 chiefs, the birth would take place. Most of the leaders were there to observe the births for the oral historical record, but a small number may have assisted with the birth. When the birthing was complete, the child would be swept away, not to be seen by the mother until they had reached maturity. This was practiced to reduce the chance of murder from rival chiefs.
The important spot was also home to a number of battles between tribes that would decide the fates of their entire communities. Children born at Kukaniloko would learn leadership and the traditions of their ancestors at the sacred site and its surrounding lands.
While the stones have been thought to have served a largely ritual purpose to native Hawaiians, recent research has uncovered patterns on the rocks that could have served an astrological purpose. It is now believed that the stones may have acted as a sort of Pacific Island henge.
The Kukaniloko Birthstones site was officially recognized and protected by a group called the Daughters of Hawaii in 1925. In 1960, care of Kukaniloko was passed to the Hawaiian Civic Club of Wahiawa.
In the modern-day, rows of other stones have been added to represent the ranks of chiefs that would come to witness the births or defend their land, but the original stones also still rest on the site, waiting to usher the next big Kahuna into the world.
Update as of January 2022: The stones are currently closed to the public, but can be easily seen from the road.