The Ancient Hawaiian State: Origins of a Political Society

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9780199916122: The Ancient Hawaiian State: Origins of a Political Society

The well-known list of "cradles of civilization" primary states from which all modern nation states ultimately derive, has traditionally been limited to Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, China, Mesoamerica, and Andean South America. However, by drawing on archaeological and ethnohistorical sources, Robert J. Hommon demonstrates that Polynesia, with primary states in both Hawai`i and Tonga, should be added to that list. The Ancient Hawaiian State offers a history of the ancient Hawaiians' transformation of their Polynesian chiefdoms into primary state societies. The emergence of primary states is one of the most revolutionary transformations in human history, and Hawai`i's metamorphosis was so profound that in some ways the contact-era Hawaiian states bear a closer resemblance to our world than to that of their closely-related Eastern Polynesian contemporaries. In contrast to the other six regions, in which states emerged in the distant, proto- or pre-literate past, the transformation of Hawaiian states is documented in an extensive body of oral traditions preserved in written form, a rich literature of early post-contact eyewitness accounts by participants and Western visitors, as well as an extensive archaeological record. Tracing the roots and emergence of the Hawaiian states, this innovative study offers a detailed model that will advance the analysis of Polynesian political development and shed light on the nature and dynamics of primary state formation.

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About the Author:


Robert J. Hommon, (Ph.D., University of Arizona), retired archaeologist and Senior Cultural Resource Scientist for the Pacific Islands Office, National Park Service, has conducted research on seven of the eight major Hawaiian Islands focused on the cultural, social, and economic roots of the Hawaiian kingdoms' emergence.

Review:


"Hommon's masterful integration of archaeological and documentary records demands attention from scholars beyond Oceania who must interpret the world's early states without eyewitness accounts. Hawai'i offers a perspective that is rarely accessible to archaeologists who study complex societies solely through material records."--James M. Bayman, University of Hawai'i at Manoa


"Robert Hommon offers us not only a comprehensive description of the ancient Hawaiian state, but a model for state emergence that draws upon a wealth of comparative data from other Polynesian societies. Hommon moves longstanding debates over the nature of Polynesian political organization to a new level of understanding."--Patrick V. Kirch, University of California, Berkeley


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