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Morai in Atooi (Kauai)

by Captain Cook's Hawaii

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A Morai, in Atooi (Kauai)

Artist: John Webber
Plate: 33
Engraver: Leperneret

Printed by: Lahaina Printsellers, Ltd., 2016

Captain Cook, accompanied by the expedition's artist, John Webber, proceeded inland from their beachside anchorage to Waimea, on the south coast of Kauai (known then as Atooi). Their intention was to examine an elevated object visible from the ship. It proved to be a morai (temple), similar to ones they had seen in Tahiti and other South Pacific islands. This structure was nearly 20-feet high and covered in a thin, light-grey cloth, which likely had ceremonial significance.

The temple rested on a platform and consisted of thousands of rough-edged lava rocks piled in a tight, mortarless fashion. In the center is the spindly-legged oracle tower, where the kahuna (priest) might pray or seek counsel. Carved figures with tapa and leaf offerings are seen outside thatched huts topped with pili, the tall grass that grew throughout the lowlands.

In his journal, Cook took particular note of several stone objects he had observed: "About the middle of the Morai," he reported, "there were three of these places in line. We were told three chiefs had been buried there, and before them was another that was oblong. This they called tanga (taboo or kapu in Hawaiian) and gave us clearly to understand that three human sacrifices had been buried there, that is, one at the burial of each chief" *

We custom-print this facsimile on waterproof canvas in our Lahaina studio using the finest archival inks, which are tested and guaranteed not to fade or shift under normal circumstances for over 100 years. Modern printing techniques allow us to improve and enhance the historical subject matter, even as we're careful to preserve and maintain its historical and artistic integrity.

* Cook's Journal - January 21, 1778