Tracing the origins of the Hawaiians and other Polynesians back to the shores of the South China Sea, archaeologist Patrick Vinton Kirch follows their voyages of discovery across the Pacific in this fascinating history of Hawaiian culture from about one thousand years ago. Combining more than four decades of his own research with Native Hawaiian oral traditions and the evidence of archaeology, Kirch puts a human face on the gradual rise to power of the Hawaiian god-kings, who by the late eighteenth century were locked in a series of wars for ultimate control of the entire archipelago.
This lively, accessible chronicle works back from Captain James Cook’s encounter with the pristine kingdom in 1778, when the British explorers encountered an island civilization governed by rulers who could not be gazed upon by common people. Interweaving anecdotes from his own widespread travel and extensive archaeological investigations into the broader historical narrative, Kirch shows how the early Polynesian settlers of Hawai'i adapted to this new island landscape and created highly productive agricultural systems.
About the Author
Patrick Vinton Kirch is Class of 1954 Professor of Anthropology and Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and author of On the Road of the Winds and How Chiefs Became Kings (UC Press), among other books.
“A tale told for everyone. . . . This personal account by Kirch, the world’s foremost authority on the prehistory of the Hawaiian Islands, is based on a lifetime of research. . . . His account is both engaging and accessible. . . . It is a fascinating narrative, impossible to put down.” — CHOICE
"An exemplary prehistory written for a popular audience." — Archaeology in Oceania
"This volume provides a valuable source." — Journal of Historical Geography
"The writing, like the book's title, is engaging; it inspires reflection." — Journal of Pacific History