Household Architecture And Religious Proscription In Pre-Contact Hawai‘I

by Maria Codlin

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: Hawaii; Hawai'i; kapu; archaeology; household; architecture
Record ID: 1312111
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4862


In ancient Hawai‘i, elites employed ideology as a way of acquiring and stabilising political and economic power. Material evidence of this is found in the numerous temples throughout the islands and in the formalised rules for constructing elite households. Ethnohistoric literature describes Hawaiian households as a collection of buildings with specific functional purposes. By segregating these activity areas, people were seen to observe kapu, a Polynesian ideological concept which, in Hawai‘i, includes restrictions around gender and eating practices. This adherence was particularly vital to the elite as failure to observe kapu could pollute mana, the divine source of authority and power. However, it is unclear how kapu shaped the daily lives of non-elite Hawaiian society. This thesis addresses this problem by employing a high-detail GPS survey and assessment of pre-contact households in a coastal section of Manukā, Ka‘ū district, Hawai‘i Island. A number of attributes were identified from ethnohistoric accounts which would reflect the practice of religious orthodoxy in the home. The results suggest that kapu, and Hawaiian religion more generally, was practiced in remarkably similar ways across the social ranks. Future research in this area will have important implications for how archaeologists view the kapu system, and will provide an avenue for research which has cultural significance for Hawaiian communities today.