Colonization and prehistory on the island of Maui : a radiocarbon synthesis of Maui island

Duarte, Trever K.
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A long standing debate on the chronology of the colonization of the Hawaiian Islands has driven archaeological investigations and critical re-considerations in the use of radiocarbon dating (Dye, 2000; Wilmshurst et. al.; 2011a; Rieth et. al.; 2011). Understanding the potential effect of in-built age of unidentified wood charcoal reveals uncertainty in establishing the age of early arrival of Polynesians in Hawai`i. Poor criteria for radiocarbon selection have contributed to both long and short chronologies. In the case of long chronologies, a majority of the evidence of an early colonization are from dates derived from unidentified charcoal, accepting large amounts of error in the process. Short chronologies have relied on dates from paleo-environmental context. These results provide poor association to actual anthropogenic events, which entertain a degree of doubt when used to discuss island settlement. The highest precision of radiometric dating is provided by a conscious selection of short-lived plant taxa and parts, which contain a small degree of error in the dating of a target event, and are ideal in tracing the Polynesian migration to Hawai`i. Dates of the highest precision, assessed through a systematic classification of radiometric dates, have been used to re-construct a 13th century colonization of Hawai`i (Wilmshurst et al. 2011a; Rieth et al. 2011). This project analyzes the results of 831 radiocarbon dates from Maui Island and uses a classification system to assess dates with the highest precision and accuracy for dating initial Polynesian colonization. From the earliest dates of identified short-lived plant taxa and parts, the AD 1214—1255 settlement of Maui is the most reliable date of colonization.
An original research submitted to selected graduate committee members for the partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Applied Archaeology (Plan B). Thesis Committee: Terry Hunt, Chairperson; Ethan Cochrane; Christian Peterson.
48 pages
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