Wendell C. Bennett 1905-1953

Wendell C. Bennett (1905–53) was an American anthropologist; born in Marion, Ind. He was educated at the University of Chicago. As a staff specialist in Andean archaeology at the American Museum of Natural History in the 1930s, Bennett led many expeditions, publishing, among other important reports of his excavations, The Tarahumara (1935). After 1940 he taught at Yale. The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995.

Bennett in his archaeological survey of Kauai, refers to Kiki-a-’Ola (Menehune Ditch) near the town of Waimea, as “the acme of stone-faced ditches” (pp. 22-23). “It is clear from his description of the aqueduct as he saw it in 1928 that considerably more of this remarkable archaeological relic–certainly one of the most interesting, and perhaps historically the most significant, existing in the Hawaiian Islands–was to be seen in that year than is at present visible. Many of the cut stones have since been taken for a foundation for the Protestant Church in Waimea, and others may be recognized here and there in various modern structures. Bennett prefaces his detailed description of the aqueduct by saying that of all the irrigation ditches studied, the “Menehune Ditch alone… has any record preserved of its construction–and that is a myth.” Bennett, Wendell C, 1931. Archaeology of Kauai. Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Bulletin 80, Honolulu Hawaii.

(Handy and Handy, 1972, pp. 403-404) “(Bennett) has reference of course, to the tradition of the Menehune, the little folk believed to inhabit mountain and forest, who worked only in the nighttime and were never (or seldom) seen. And yet, the first part of his statement is inexact, for most of the stoneworks of ancient Hawaii, including certain heiaus , dams, roads, causeways, and aqueducts, are also attributed  to the Menehune. These “records” from prehistoric times are often entirely specific in placing the event in the time of a given ali’i whose name and reign identified the story for later generations…

Such was the case with the Menehune Ditch of Waimea. It is explicitly recorded in ancient chants of Kaua’i as having been built at the behest of ‘Ola, high chief of Waimea, the same chief celebrated also for ordering the construction of the stone-paved road to Kalalau Valley, through or along the Alaka’i Swamp in the upper reaches of the canyon.”

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