Petroglyphs unearthed along Hawaii's Waianae coast

Story highlights

  • Petroglyphs, carvings etched in stone, have been unearthed by the ocean
  • Scientists believe some of the figures date back as far as 400 years

(CNN)There's some pretty special rock art underneath some parts of a Hawaii beach.

Shifting sands on Hawaii's Waianae coast on the island of Oahu have revealed petroglyphs that some experts believe date back more than 400 years, according to a statement by Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources.
    The petroglyphs, images carved into rock, are considered a rarity, the department said.
    A Texas couple stumbled upon the engravings in July while walking along the beach to watch the sunset.
    "For some reason there was a beam of light, just a beam. It landed right on one of them and for some reason I just turned my head. I said, 'look,' it was just a stroke of luck," Lonnie Watson said in a statement.
    What the couple was looking at was a petroglyph that had been etched into the sandstone hundreds of years ago. And there wasn't just one.
    Up to 10 carvings have been discovered along 60 feet of beach. Experts said they think the figures were carved by the Island's aboriginal inhabitants. Hawaii's State Historic Preservation Division and the US Army are working together to document the findings.
    "What's interesting is the Army in Hawaii manages several thousand archaeological sites, but this is the first one with petroglyphs directly on the shoreline," US Army scientist Alton Exzabe, one of the first experts to examine the carvings, said in a statement.
    "What's exciting for me is I grew up coming to this beach and now as an archaeologist working for the Army, helping to manage this site, we discovered these petroglyphs that have never been recorded. Some people have said they've seen them before, but this is quite a significant find."
    It's possible tourists and locals may have stumbled on a few of these petroglyphs before, but the recent find was considered new by several state and federal agencies.
    "We can now come up with a plan to further protect and preserve this site," Exzabe said.
    Some of the most distinctive parts of the petroglyphs are the human features, he said.
    "The ones with the fingers, for me, are pretty unique. ... Fingers and hands are pretty distinct, as well as the size of them," he said.
    Typically, petroglyphs are about a foot tall, but the ones on Waianae measure 4 to 5 feet tall, a "pretty impressive" size, Exzabe said.
    Glen Kila, a lineal descendant of aboriginal families who settled in the area, said the discovery is historically significant.
    "They record our genealogy and religion. It's very important to know about the lineal descendants of the area and their understanding of these petroglyphs. The interpretation of these petroglyphs can only be interpreted by the lineal descendants who are familiar with its history and culture," Kila said.
    As exciting as the findings are, experts are urging tourists and locals to not touch the carvings. Even scraping sand off the petroglyphs can damage the artifacts, archeologists said.