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Ethnohistoric and Geoarchaeological Landscape Chronology at Kawaihae, Leeward Hawai‘i Island


  • Mike T. Carson

    Corresponding author
    • Visiting Scholar, Department of Archaeology and Natural History, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
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  • Scientific editing by Patrick Nunn

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The royal court of the Kamehameha Dynasty in Kawaihae, Hawai‘i Island, presents an unequalled opportunity to examine the ethnohistoric rendering of a cultural landscape, in comparison to the geoarchaeological record of physical transformation of this same landscape. Beneath the surface, earlier occupation layers predate the historic royal precinct of the A.D. 1790s through 1820s. Drawing on results of 19 controlled excavations, point-specific cultural activities are situated within the last several centuries of natural terrain formation, beginning A.D. 1200–1400 and ending A.D. 1830–present. Geoarchaeological excavations provide the means to place the stratified cultural deposits, occupational horizons, and activity areas in the context of depositional history, environmental transformation, and changing social circumstances in a continuous sequence. The material-based geoarchaeological landscape chronology and the ethnohistorically defined cultural landscape are combined for a more holistic view than either one could provide independently.