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  • Gardens of Lono: Archaeological Investigation at the Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanic Gardens, Kealakekua, Hawai'i
  • Joan A. Wozniak
Gardens of Lono: Archaeological Investigation at the Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanic Gardens, Kealakekua, Hawai'i. Melinda A. Allen, ed. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 2001. 167 pp, illustrations, maps, bibliography. Paperback. ISBN: 1-58178-008-7.

Gardens of Lono is the story of the founding of the Amy Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, and the story of how the Kona Coast of Hawai'i gained importance in both Native Hawaiian and Euroamerican Hawaiian history. The Amy B. H. Greenwell Garden is significant because it was a part of an ahupua'a (Native Hawaiian agronomic land unit) known as Kealakekua—"pathway of the god"—referring to the Hawaiian fertility god, Lono, and the ahupua'a was at the center of the expansive prehistoric Kona field system (Major, p. 23).

Although Kona became famous for its coffee during the historic period, it was also an important center of dryland agriculture prior to Euroamerican contact. Kona was the power base and central arena for political and religious ritual, and Kealakekua, being in the center of this Kona field complex, was crucial in the political and economic development of chiefs, beginning in the fifteenth century and extending into the late eighteenth century, when Kamehameha I united the Hawaiian Islands under his leadership.

The story begins with Amy Greenwell, the granddaughter of a nineteenth-century Kona Coast settler. Because of her keen [End Page 301] interest in traditional plant use, she willed her home and surrounding gardens to the Bishop Museum in the 1970s with the intent that it be preserved specifically as an example of "pre-Cookian" gardens of Kona (Van Dyke, p. ix). Given that the integrity of at least half of the Native Hawaiian gardens was intact, archaeologist Kirch and ethnobotanist Yen initiated an archaeological study of the Greenwell land in the late 1970s. Archaeological research carried out over the next 25 years by numerous experts (including at least 12 years by Allen herself) is presented in Gardens of Lono. The research results include detailed site maps, descriptions of excavation work, artifact analysis, and associated botanical studies, as well as an ethnohistorical review of the agronomic use of the Kona Coast.

Gardens of Lono is a very readable account and provides a set of archaeological reports put together to produce a more comprehensible and holistic understanding of the history of the Greenwell property. In Gardens of Lono, Allen discusses the topographic, environmental, and climatic zones of Kona. M. Major presents the oral history and ethnohistoric accounts of the political and economic operations of the Kona Coast and its agricultural practices and organization. P. Kirch, M. Allen, and M. Major supply extensive reports that describe the mapping of architectural features, surface collections, and excavations within the prehistoric gardens on Greenwell land. D. I. Olszewski and S. A. Lebo describe the lithic (volcanic glass and basalt) assemblages and "nontraditional" (historic) artifacts collected from the surface and subsurface sediments, and H. A. Lennstrom and J. V. Ward supply the macrobotanical and pollen analyses. In the final chapter, Allen assesses the presented data and provides spatial and temporal perspectives of the Kona field system.

This history of the gardens of Lono documents the economic roles of Kona in general and Kealakekua in particular. Even before Kona's historical entrance into the global market, a prehistoric field system had been in place. A series of agricultural practices, which began in the twelfth century, were recognized during the archaeological work. The sequence includes shifting cultivation practices (pp. 137–139), cross-slope terraces (pp. 139–140), parallel walls called kuaiwi, which were perpendicular to the cross-slope terraces (pp. 140–141), and lastly variously sized stone mounds placed between the kuaiwi (pp. 141–142).

The most impressive features of the Greenwell Gardens and the Kona field system are the kuaiwi, which are long mounds, wider than tall, in a series of closely spaced parallel structures. Kuaiwi extend hundreds of meters so they were probably not the work of individual gardeners, but the result of managerial input. The kuaiwi system is extensive, but is found only in association with fertile soils...