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[TIMELINE] Hawaiian Society United Around 1565 and 1638

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  • madchinaman
    Temples Indicate Swift Rise of Hawaiian Society By Karen Kaplan, Times Staff Writer http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2005
      Temples Indicate Swift Rise of Hawaiian Society
      By Karen Kaplan, Times Staff Writer
      http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-sci-
      temple8jan08,1,7884216.story


      -

      Researchers employed an unusual technique to test the age of eight
      temples on the islands of Maui and Molokai and found that all were
      apparently built from about 1565 to 1638.

      Polynesians first came to Hawaii in double-hulled canoes from the
      Marquesas Islands around A.D. 700, or possibly earlier. Agricultural
      chiefdoms emerged as the population grew from a few hundred to
      approximately 400,000 by the time Captain Cook arrived at the end of
      the 18th century.

      -


      The transformation of ancient Hawaii from a loose collection of
      chiefdoms into the beginnings of a formal society may have happened
      in as little as 30 years, according to new evidence from 400-year-
      old temples.

      Researchers employed an unusual technique to test the age of eight
      temples on the islands of Maui and Molokai and found that all were
      apparently built from about 1565 to 1638.

      Anthropologists had previously believed the temples — which served
      as religious and economic centers — were built over a period of 250
      years.

      "When all the results came back within a tight time span, that was
      an unexpected finding," said Patrick V. Kirch, a professor of
      anthropology at UC Berkeley and co-author of the study published in
      the current issue of the journal Science.

      Kirch and Warren D. Sharp of the Berkeley Geochronology Center used
      a technique called thorium-uranium dating to measure the age of
      branch corals tucked among the stones of the temple foundations.

      Like other Polynesians, ancient Hawaiians plucked coral from shallow
      ocean waters and offered it to their gods in shrines and temples.
      Kirch and Sharp reasoned that if they could determine when the coral
      from the temple foundations died, they would know the age of the
      structures.

      Temple construction on Maui was particularly rapid, occurring during
      a 30-year period beginning in the early 1600s, the researchers said.
      The time frame coincided with the rise of Chief Pi'ilani, who is
      credited with unifying two Maui chiefdoms into an enduring
      political, religious and economic system that went on to encompass
      nearby islands, according to oral histories taken in the 1800s.

      "This can occur within the lifetime of a single ruler," Kirch
      said. "A single charismatic, dynamic leader can accomplish this."


      ===


      Hawaiian temples tell tale of social change
      Corals provide clues about the rapid rise of an elite
      By Daniel B. Kane
      http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6792150/


      WASHINGTON - "Architecture is the will of an epoch translated into
      space," renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once said, and
      the discovery of a sudden wave of temple building on Maui at the
      turn of the 17th century provides new insights into the will of the
      ruling class at a critical crossroads in ancient Hawaiian society.

      Maui's temple system emerged over a surprisingly short period of
      time — perhaps within one generation, around the year 1600,
      according to a new study. The authors suggest that this surge in
      temple building occurred along with an equally rapid shift to a more
      class-conscious society, in which elites who claimed the gods as
      their ancestors managed the temple rituals.

      The scientists determined when the temples were built by measuring
      the age of corals found inside.

      These findings appear in Friday's issue of the journal Science,
      published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

      Hawaii, before European contact
      Polynesians first came to Hawaii in double-hulled canoes from the
      Marquesas Islands around A.D. 700, or possibly earlier. Agricultural
      chiefdoms emerged as the population grew from a few hundred to
      approximately 400,000 by the time Captain Cook arrived at the end of
      the 18th century.

      Religion touched nearly every aspect of Hawaiian life, including
      birth, marriage, death, house construction, fishing, agriculture and
      war. Hawaiians participated in ritualized worship in their homes,
      agricultural temples and grand temples dedicated to the gods of war.
      A multilevel hierarchy of classes emerged within Hawaii's religion-
      dominated chiefdoms, with professional priests and chiefs at the top.

      At some point before contact with Europe, ancient Hawaiian society
      shifted away from chiefdoms where rulers and peasants were thought
      to be of the same blood line and land was held in families. In
      the "archaic states" that emerged next, class lines were drawn more
      clearly, and the king and high-ranked chiefs controlled the land.
      Rulers described themselves as descendants of gods, agriculture
      intensified, forced labor emerged and rulers implemented a tax
      system linked to temple rituals.

      Hawaiian temples to the gods of agriculture and war — monumental
      platforms and terraces made of boulders composed of cooled lava —
      provide tangible archaeological evidence for this transition from
      chiefdoms to archaic states, according to study author Patrick Kirch
      from the University of California at Berkeley.

      Clustered dates for temple construction
      With no written historical record prior to European contact,
      determining the timing and speed of this fundamental shift in
      society has been difficult. Past attempts to calculate the rise of
      the Hawaiian temple system relied on carbon-dating techniques that
      yielded estimates with more than 200 years of uncertainty.

      In their new study, Kirch and co-author Warren Sharp from the
      Berkeley Geochronology Center used a uranium-decay dating technique
      to generate high-precision age estimates of corals found in temple
      walls and presented at dedication ceremonies. The scientists dated
      corals from seven agricultural temples in a remote district on the
      island of Maui and from a territorial boundary temple on the island
      of Molokai.

      The ages of the corals suggest that the temple system emerged
      rapidly between 1580 and 1640.

      "We didn't expect the dates to all come back in a tight range. The
      temples are not being gradually constructed and dedicated over
      several hundred years, but over 30 to 40 years — 60 years if you're
      being cautious," Kirch said.

      Temples emerge as chiefdoms merge
      The temple-building boom coincides with oral traditions describing
      the merger of two independent Maui chiefdoms under the control of a
      single leader named Pi'ilani.

      The fact that two chiefdoms merged around the time of the temple-
      building boom strengthens the idea that the temples do, in fact,
      provide physical evidence for important shifts in ancient Hawaiian
      society.

      Agricultural temples, for example, were the site of annual tribute-
      collection rituals that are associated with archaic states. As a
      part of religious ritual, high priests from the ruling class
      collected surplus pigs, sweet potatoes, feathers and other
      agricultural products and status objects from the commoners. This
      tribute supported the bureaucracy and the households of the chiefly
      classes.

      `Cauliflower coral' clocks
      The dates for the temple-building boom come from the ages of small
      branching corals called "cauliflower corals," found in the temples.
      The exact symbolic value of temple corals to the Hawaiians —
      archived in the memories of oral historians — was probably lost when
      European diseases decimated the population at the end of the 18th
      century. The corals themselves were not objects of veneration,
      according to Kirch; rather, they may have served as symbolic
      offerings, like votive candles in a Catholic church.


      Science
      The base of this branch coral from a Kahikinui archaeological site
      has been dated to the year 1601, plus or minus seven years. The tip
      has been dated to 1608 with the same margin of error. The
      preservation of the specimen indicates that living coral was
      collected from the sea bottom.

      The researchers are confident that coral ages provide temple ages.
      Delicate surface structures on temple corals indicate that these
      corals were collected live and brought almost immediately to the
      temples. If the corals were collected dead from the beach, these
      tiny surface structures would be damaged or absent.

      The kinds of corals found in the temple pull uranium from the
      seawater into their skeletons. Over time, the uranium inside coral
      skeletons naturally decays to lead in several steps, and one of the
      intermediate products is the element thorium.Sharp estimated the
      ages of temple corals by measuring the concentrations of thorium
      versus uranium present in the coral skeletons.

      This temple-dating approach is an improvement over carbon-14 dating
      techniques that have been used to estimate the age of charcoal
      remains of pig bones and other organic materials found at the
      temples. Dating these charcoals requires scientists to take
      atmospheric carbon-14 fluctuations into account, which increases the
      uncertainty of temple construction dates considerably. In contrast,
      coral age estimates are not influenced by changes in the carbon-14
      content of the atmosphere through time.

      Sharp dated the outer tips of the corals to get as close as possible
      to the "death date" — the date someone harvested the coral from the
      ocean and brought it to a temple construction site or temple
      dedication ceremony.

      The surprising swiftness of the transition in ancient Hawaiian
      society, revealed by the new temple construction dates, raises the
      possibility that similar transitions elsewhere in the world may have
      been equally abrupt, the authors say.

      © 2005 American Association for the Advancement of Science
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