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How Chiefs Became Kings

How Chiefs Became Kings: Divine Kingship and the Rise of Archaic States in Ancient Hawai'i

Patrick Vinton Kirch
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    How Chiefs Became Kings
    Book Description:

    InHow Chiefs Became Kings, Patrick Vinton Kirch addresses a central problem in anthropological archaeology: the emergence of "archaic states" whose distinctive feature was divine kingship. Kirch takes as his focus the Hawaiian archipelago, commonly regarded as the archetype of a complex chiefdom. Integrating anthropology, linguistics, archaeology, traditional history, and theory, and drawing on significant contributions from his own four decades of research, Kirch argues that Hawaiian polities had become states before the time of Captain Cook's voyage (1778-1779). The status of most archaic states is inferred from the archaeological record. But Kirch shows that because Hawai`i's kingdoms were established relatively recently, they could be observed and recorded by Cook and other European voyagers. Substantive and provocative, this book makes a major contribution to the literature of precontact Hawai`i and illuminates Hawai`i's importance in the global theory and literature about divine kingship, archaic states, and sociopolitical evolution.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94784-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 From Chiefdom to Archaic State: Hawai‘i in Comparative and Historical Context
    (pp. 1-28)

    For more than nine-tenths of our history as a distinct species, we humans organized ourselves exclusively in small social units, in which social distinctions were dictated largely—if not indeed exclusively—by age and gender. Then, during the early Holocene, with the domestication of plants and animals, and the creation of agriculturally based economies and the population growth this spurred, we embarked on a series of experiments in social organization, with new kinds of status positions, including heritable rank. By around fi ve thousand years ago in Mesopotamia and Egypt, slightly later in China and the New World (specifi cally...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Hawaiian Archaic States on the Eve of European Contact
    (pp. 29-76)

    Through the use of controlled comparison constrained by a phylogenetic model (Chapter 1), we know that in several critical respects contact-era Hawaiian society had departed radically from the structures of economic, social, political, and religious organization typical of most other Polynesian groups. To comprehend the nature of Hawaiian archaic states more fully, however, requires a closer engagement with the ethnohistoric details. I will focus on several criteria that have played a central role in the archaeological literature on archaic states: issues of scale (both demographic and territorial); the existence of class stratification; concepts of divine kingship; elite art and ideology;...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Native Hawaiian Political History
    (pp. 77-124)

    Evidence for the precontact transformation of Hawaiian society over several centuries derives from two distinct sources. One, representing an “insider” or emic perspective, consists of indigenous Hawaiian oral traditions, collected and codified in the nineteenth century by several Hawaiian and Haole (foreign) scholars. An earlier generation of scholars relied heavily on these traditions for its interpretation of Hawaiian history (Fornander 1916–20, 1996). The other represents an “outsider” or etic perspective in the form of archaeological data, accumulated gradually over the past century. Most scholarly writing in the later half of the twentieth century dealing with Hawaiian precontact history and...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Tracking the Transformations: Population, Intensification, and Monumentality
    (pp. 125-176)

    Just as the Hawaiian traditions, themo‘olelo, offer an “insider” perspective on historical change, the archaeological record offers a complementary “outsider” perspective. While the traditions offer insights into the cultural logic underlying human actions and therefore reveal something of the force of human agency, so the material record of archaeology privileges larger systemic contexts and long-term processes. Thanks to more than a century of research, the Hawaiian archaeological record and its literature are impressive; they have been bolstered in recent decades by a wave of cultural resource management (CRM) projects (the latter resulting in a formidable “gray” literature as partly...

  8. CHAPTER 5 The Challenge of Explanation
    (pp. 177-222)

    In preceding chapters, I have endeavored to show how historical anthropology can address the challenge posed by Marshall Sahlins, that “no one knows, when, how, or if” a radical transformation of Hawaiian society had occurred sometime prior to the arrival of Captain Cook in 1778. Applying a multifaceted triangulation approach, it is possible to demonstrate not only that a fundamental transformation in Hawaiian economic, social, and political structures occurred, but that the timing of these changes was between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries AD. But if historical anthropology also aims to produce a scientific account of cultural change,...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 223-238)
  10. Glossary of Hawaiian Terms
    (pp. 239-242)
  11. References
    (pp. 243-266)
  12. Index
    (pp. 267-273)