Kūkulu manamana : ritual power and religious expansion in Hawaiʻi the ethno-historical and archaeological study of Mokumanamana and Nihoa islands

Kikiloi, Scott Toshio
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2012]
This dissertation examines a period in the late expansion phase (A.D. 1400-1650) of pre-contact Hawaiian society when formidable changes in ritual and social organization were underway which ultimately led to the emergence of Hawaiʻi as a powerful complex chiefdom in East Polynesia. Remotely located towards the northwest were two geographically remote and ecologically marginal islands called Mokumanamana and Nihoa Islands. Though quite barren and seemingly inhospitable, these contain over 140 archaeological sites, including residential features, agricultural terraces, ceremonial structures, shelters, cairns, and burials that bear witness to an earlier occupation and settlement efforts on these islands. This research demonstrates that over a four hundred year period from approximately ca. A.D. 1400-1815, Mokumanamana became the central focus of chiefly elites in establishing this island as a ritual center of power for the Hawaiian system of heiau (temples). These efforts had long lasting implications which led to the centralization of chiefly management, an integration of chiefs and priests into a single social class, the development of a charter for institutional order, and ultimately a state sponsored religion that became widely established throughout the main Hawaiian Islands. The ideological beliefs that were developed centered on the concept of the cord (ʻaha) as a symbolic connection between ancestors and descendants came to be a widespread organizing dimension of Hawaiian social life. Through commemorative rituals, the west was acknowledged and reaffirmed as a primary pathway of power where elite status, authority, and spiritual power originated and was continually legitimized. This research utilizes an interdisciplinary approach in combining ethno-historical research with archeology as complimenting ways of understanding the Hawaiian past. Through these approaches ritual power is established as a strategic mechanism for social political development, one that leads to a unified set of social beliefs and level of integration across social units. Ethno-historical analysis of cosmogonic chants, mythologies, and oral accounts are looked at to understand ritualization as a historical process one that tracks important social transformations and ultimately led to the formation of the Hawaiian state religious system. Archaeological analysis of the material record is used to understand the nature of island settlement and the investments that went into developing a monument at the effective edge of their living universe. A strong regional chronology is created based on two independent chronometric dating techniques and a relative ordering technique called seriation applied to both habitation and ceremonial sites. An additional number of techniques will be used to track human movement as source of labor, and the transportation of necessary resources for survival such as timber resources through paleo-botanical identification, fine-grained basalt through x-ray fluorescence, and food inferred through the late development of agriculture. The results of this study indicate that Mokumanamana and Nihoa islands were the focus of ritual use and human occupation in a continuous sequence from ca. A.D. 1400-1815, extending for intermittent periods well into the 19th century. The establishment and maintenance of Mokumanamana as a ritual center of power was a hallmark achievement of Hawaiian chiefs in establishing supporting use on these resource deficient islands and pushing towards greater expressions of their power. This island temple was perhaps one of the most labor intensive examples of monumentality relying heavily on a voyaging interaction sphere for the import and transportation of necessary outside resources to sustain life. It highlights the importance of integration of ritual cycles centered on political competition (and/or integration) and agricultural surplus production through the calibration of the ritual calendar. The creation of this ritual center of power resulted in: (1) a strong ideological framework for social organization and order; (2) a process in which a growing class of ramified leaders could display their authority and power to rule; and increased predictability and stability in resource production through forecasting-all of which formed a strong foundation for the institutional power of Hawaiian chiefdoms.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2012.
Includes bibliographical references.
Mokumanamana Island, Nihoa Island
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