Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Patterns of ancient croplands give insight into early Hawaiian society, research shows

Date:
May 16, 2011
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
A pattern of earthen berms, spread across a northern peninsula of the big island of Hawaii, is providing archeologists with clues to exactly how residents farmed in paradise long before Europeans arrived at the islands. The findings suggest that simple, practical decisions made by individual households were eventually adopted by the ruling class as a means to improve agricultural productivity.

A pattern of earthen berms, spread across a northern peninsula of the big island of Hawaii, is providing archeologists with clues to exactly how residents farmed in paradise long before Europeans arrived at the islands.

The findings suggest that simple, practical decisions made by individual households were eventually adopted by the ruling class as a means to improve agricultural productivity.

The research was reported in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Archeologically, this kind of research is really hard to do in most places since there is rarely a 'signature' for the agricultural activity, or a strong connection between the remains of a house and a plot of farmland," explained, Julie Field, an assistant professor of anthropology at Ohio State University.

Field, along with colleagues from California and New Zealand, has spent three field seasons unearthing the remnants of an agricultural gridwork that dates back nearly 600 years. The pattern was formed by a series of earthen walls, or berms, which served as windbreaks, protecting the crops.

"In this part of Hawaii, the trade winds blow all the time, so the berms are there to protect the crops from the winds," she said. "The main crop was sweet potato which likes dry loose soil. The berms protect the soil from being blown away."

The researchers are familiar with the challenges the winds posed. Field said that while they were excavating sites, the wind would "blow so hard, the skin would come off our ears if they weren't covered. It just sandblasts your ears and you have to wear goggles to see." "It is an intense place to work," she said.

Previous work by other researchers has radiocarbon dated organic material found in the berms, establishing a timeline for when the agricultural system was first built. Over time, more walls were built, subdividing the original agricultural plots into smaller and smaller parcels.

At the same time, other researchers were able to date materials from household sites of the early Hawaiians, and link those dates to the building of specific agricultural plots.

This showed that individual households that farmed the land expanded over time and then separated into new households as the population grew.

"Within a 300-year period, 1,400 AD to 1,700 AD, the data suggests that the population at least quadrupled, as did the number of houses," Field said.

The researchers believe the data also provides insight into the structure of Hawaiian society at the time. "We know that there was a single chief for each district and a series of lesser chiefs below that," she said.

Similar to the feudal system of Europe, a portion of the crop surplus was always designated for the chiefs.

"This suggests to us that the field system was originally put in place probably by individual households that produced crops for their own consumption.

"It was then appropriated by the chiefs and turned into more of a surplus production system, where they demanded that the land be put into production and more people would produce more surplus food," she said.

"Our study is unique in that we can trace the activities of very, very small groups of people and, from that, try to glean the larger processes of society," Field said.

"We want to look at parts of Hawaii and treat them as a model for the evolution of Hawaiian society."

The researchers said that the next question is whether the field system was used seasonally, whether they modified it over the year and used different parts of it depending on the season.

"That's what it looks like happened, but we need more dating of different features at the sites to be able to figure that out," Field said.

The National Science Foundation provided support for the project. Along with Field, Patrick Kirch of the University of California, Berkeley, Thegn Ladefoged of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, Shripad Tuljapurkar and Peter Vitousek of Stanford University, and Oliver Chadwick of the University of California, Santa Barbara, worked on the project.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. The original article was written by Earle Holland. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. S. Field, T. N. Ladefoged, P. V. Kirch. Household expansion linked to agricultural intensification during emergence of Hawaiian archaic states. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011; 108 (18): 7327 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1103805108

Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "Patterns of ancient croplands give insight into early Hawaiian society, research shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110516121547.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2011, May 16). Patterns of ancient croplands give insight into early Hawaiian society, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110516121547.htm
Ohio State University. "Patterns of ancient croplands give insight into early Hawaiian society, research shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110516121547.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins