Modeling life expectancy and surplus production of dynamic pre-contact territories in leeward Kohala, Hawai'i

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Hawaiian territoriality evolved in response to the ecodynamics of changing populations set within shifting socio-political structures. Modeling agricultural surplus production and life expectancy of various prehistoric and protohistoric territorial configurations in the leeward Kohala dryland field system identifies the costs and benefits associated with dynamic territorial units. The results of the modeling indicate that if people lived autonomous lives within their territories the 18-km long landscape containing the field system would have been optimally divided into 14 territories. The archaeological and ethnohistorical data suggest that at European contact the area was divided into 32 generally smaller territorial units. This configuration, while lowering average life expectancy and increasing levels of spatial variability in surplus production, maximized average yearly surplus and reduced its temporal variability. Dividing the field system into 32 units provided opportunities for elite managers to monitor production and control the redistribution of resources. The modeling and archaeological data suggest selection occurred differentially among social units, with certain segments of society having enhanced fitness in terms of agricultural resources at the expense of others, while maximizing the potential for surplus generation and possible redistribution. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.




Ladefoged, T. N., Lee, C. T., & Graves, M. W. (2008). Modeling life expectancy and surplus production of dynamic pre-contact territories in leeward Kohala, Hawai’i. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 27(1), 93–110.

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