Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Ancient Hawaiians Independently Developed States

Monday, December 16, 2013

King Kalaniopuu Greeting Cook 1781HONOLULU, HAWAIIArchaeologists consider the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and Mesoamerica as societies that each independently developed sophisticated, multi-layered governments that scholars call primary states. Now archaeologist Robert J. Hommon argues in a new book that ancient Hawaii belongs on that same list, which also includes the Indus Valley and Andean cultures. According to Homon, Hawaiian society evolved from several independent chiefdoms to one that was governed by a few kings who collected taxes, one of the hallmarks of the state. "The point I am making is that this was an organizational revolution," said Hommon. "Once primary states developed, then the organization is already in place. It's basically the same as what we live under today, except that we live in much larger societies. And this was a Native Hawaiian accomplishment."