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The Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdoms (New Studies in Archaeology) Paperback – 13 Jul 1989


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'… most comprehensive and analytical review of Polynesian archaeology to appear in the literature so far …'. Archaeology

'A fascinating, authoritative account of the development of pre-European political systems in the central and eastern Pacific … a major achievement.' John Terrell, Reviews in Anthropology

'This is archaeology as it should be.' Man

'This well-illustrated book with its extensive bibliography should continue to be an important book for scholars and students of Polynesia for years to come.' Journal of the Polynesian Society

Book Description

This is an archaeological perspective on the elaborate system of chiefdoms found in the islands of Polynesia. Using comparative ethnography, lexical reconstruction and direct archaeological evidence, the author reconstructs Ancestral Polynesian Society and details colonization, adaptation to changing environments, development of intensive production and social conflict and competition.

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Descendants of a common ancestor, all Polynesian societies share certain basic features-for example-in subsistence and technology, social organization, land tenure, and religion. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
A definitive source 18 Mar. 2013
By L. Holcombe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book likely won't interest casual readers. It is dense, dry, and contains no anecdotes or witticisms. It is an academic study, through and through, consisting of social science and real research. However, if that's what you're looking for, look no further. This book will explain why pottery is only found at certain archaeological sites, why Hawaii could sustain greater populations than Rapa Nui, and why the Polynesians were willing to undergo such long and dangerous sea voyages in order to establish new homes. Not with stories or myths, but with hard scientific facts presented in easy-to-read tables.

I'm not an archaeologist or an anthropologist - I came to this book because I was geeking out on the subject of Polynesian migration. Paul Theroux actually mentions the book by name in his popular travelogue "The Happy Isles of Oceania" (1992), and I really wanted to learn more. This book was the perfect answer - clear and evidential. As a total amateur, I wasn't familiar with the concepts of primitive agricultural intensification or tribute systems, but both were laid out very clearly by the author. It seems to me that feedback loops inherent in the cycles of tribute and intensification can explain a lot more of human history than just the Polynesian migrations - the rise of the Mongolian and Roman Empires, for example. That's the kind of critical thinking that this hard analysis is capable of inspiring.

This book is generalized, and includes evidence from all the Polynesian archipelagos, but there are specific chapters devoted to case studies in Hawaii, Tonga, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
Fascinating, not excessively technical. Sort of a condensed ... 8 Aug. 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fascinating, not excessively technical. Sort of a condensed version of human history, except the Polynesians generally lost the race between population and technology, whereas for humanity in general the race is still on. Presents (among other things) a very strong hypothesis about the origins of social hierarchy.
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