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Kilauea Lava Finally Engulfs Ancient Temple

August 13, 1997|From Associated Press

HONOLULU — Lava flowing from the Kilauea Volcano toward the ocean Tuesday destroyed a 700-year-old temple that had been used as a place of human sacrifice.

Lava had begun inching toward the Wahaula Heiau, one of the state's oldest temples, over the weekend.

By early Monday, the red-orange lava had covered a five-foot outer wall, and it eventually engulfed the temple, leaving only the top of its walls visible.

Lava has been flowing sporadically from Kilauea since January 1983, cascading down the slope to the ocean.

The temple, on the island of Hawaii, had escaped the flow four times since 1989, when it destroyed the temple's visitor center. During the flows, lava got as close as the walls and then stopped, said Jim Martin, superintendent of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Hawaiians for years held firm to the ancient belief that Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, had permanently spared the sacred site.

But Monday, a park ranger standing guard in the early morning hours caught the flow on video covering the temple.

The Wahaula Heiau is believed by some to be the first Hawaiian temple where human sacrifices were performed. It is also thought to be the place where the Hawaiian class structure was developed. Royalty, including Kamehameha I, worshiped there until 1819.

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