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The Ancient Hawaiian State Origins of a Political Society

ISBN: 9780199916122 | 0199916128
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pub. Date: 4/5/2013

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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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