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Residential Chronology, Household Subsistence, and the Emergence of Socioeconomic Territories in Leeward Kohala, Hawai‘i Island

Julie S Field, Thegn N Ladefoged, Warren D Sharp, Patrick V Kirch


Previous research in leeward Kohala, Hawai‘i Island, has determined that the Leeward Kohala Field System (LKFS), a vast agricultural zone covering ~60 km2, developed between the 14th and 18th centuries AD. Additional analyses have documented the establishment of traditional socioeconomic territories, known as ahupua‘a, in tandem with the expansion of the field system. This article further refines the chronology of human settlement and socioeconomic development in leeward Kohala through the analysis of deposits associated with prehistoric residences. Based upon survey and excavation, we present a chronology for Hawaiian household transition and economic development in 2 study areas of leeward Kohala, spanning the field system to the coast. Forty-nine radiocarbon dates from short-lived plant materials and five 230Th dates on corals from residential and ritual features are synthesized into 3 temporal periods, which allow for comparison of residential size, distribution, number, and associated faunal materials from archaeological deposits. Changes in household composition and economy are suggested to have developed in tandem with the establishment of individual ahupua‘a and land divisions within them, and the further development of agricultural production.

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