The Ancient Hawaiian State: Origins of a Political Society

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

Book by Hommon Robert J

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"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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Historians and archaeologists define primary states—"cradles of civilization" from which all modern nation states ultimately derive—as significant territorially-based, autonomous societies in which a centralized government employs legitimate authority to exercise sovereignty. The well-recognized list of regions that witnessed the development of primary states is short: Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, China, Mesoamerica, and Andean South America. Drawing on archaeological and ethnohistorical sources, Robert J. Hommon demonstrates that Polynesia, with primary states in both Hawaii and Tonga, should be added to this list.

The Ancient Hawaiian State is a study of the ancient Hawaiians' transformation of their Polynesian chiefdoms into primary state societies, independent of any pre-existing states. The emergence of primary states is one of the most revolutionary transformations in human history, and Hawaii'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 East Polynesian contemporaries, 4,000 kilometers to the south. In contrast to the other six regions, in which states emerged in the distant, pre-literate past, the transformation of Hawaiian states are documented in an extensive body of oral traditions preserved in written form, a rich literature of early post-contact eyewitness accounts of participants and Western visitors, as well as an extensive archaeological record. Part One of this book describes three competing Hawaiian states, based on the islands of Hawai`i, Maui, and O`ahu, that existed at the time of first contact with the non-Polynesian world (1778-79). Part Two presents a detailed definition of state society and how contact-era Hawaii satisfies this definition, and concludes with three comparative chapters summarizing the Tongan state and chiefdoms in the Society Islands and Marquesas Archipelagos of East Polynesia. Part Three provides a model of the Hawaii State Transformation across a thousand years of history. The results of this significant study further the analysis of political development throughout Polynesia while profoundly redefining the history and research of primary state formation.

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