Kuaaina Kahiko: Life and Land in Ancient Kahikinui, Maui
336pp. April 2014
Kuaaina Kahiko: Life and Land in Ancient Kahikinui, Maui
Author: Kirch, Patrick Vinton;
In early Hawai‘i, kua‘āina were the hinterlands inhabited by nā kua‘āina, or country folk. Often these were dry, less desirable areas where much skill and hard work were required to wrest a living from the lava landscapes. The ancient district of Kahikinui in southeast Maui is such a kua‘āina and remains one of the largest tracts of undeveloped land in the islands. Named after Tahiti Nui in the Polynesian homeland, its thousands of pristine acres house a treasure trove of archaeological ruins—witnesses to the generations of Hawaiians who made this land their home before it was abandoned in the late nineteenth century.

Kua‘āina Kahiko follows kama‘āina archaeologist Patrick Vinton Kirch on a seventeen-year-long research odyssey to rediscover the ancient patterns of life and land in Kahikinui. Through painstaking archaeological survey and detailed excavations, Kirch and his students uncovered thousands of previously undocumented ruins of houses, trails, agricultural fields, shrines, and temples. Kirch describes how, beginning in the early fifteenth century, Native Hawaiians began to permanently inhabit the rocky lands along the vast southern slope of Haleakalā. Eventually these planters transformed Kahikinui into what has been called the greatest continuous zone of dryland planting in the Hawaiian Islands. He relates other fascinating aspects of life in ancient Kahikinui, such as the capture and use of winter rains to create small wet-farming zones, and decodes the complex system of heiau, showing how the orientations of different temple sites provide clues to the gods to whom they were dedicated.

Kirch examines the sweeping changes that transformed Kahikinui after European contact, including how some maka'āinana families fell victim to unscrupulous land agents. But also woven throughout the book is the saga of Ka ‘Ohana o Kahikinui, a grass-roots group of Native Hawaiians who successfully struggled to regain access to these Hawaiian lands. Rich with anecdotes of Kirch’s personal experiences over years of field research, Kua'āina Kahiko takes the reader into the little-known world of the ancient kua‘āina.

80 illustrations, 5 maps
"Like his recent work, A shark going inland is my chief (2012), [Kua‘āina Kahiko] is intended to open up to the public what he has previously published in the scholarly literature and to paint a picture of what it was like to do archaeology on Maui; by these measures it is a definitive success. . . . While not intended as a book about ethics, this is nonetheless the story of an academic archaeologist’s efforts to be, in Hawaiian terms, pono (righteous, proper), at a time when to be an archaeologist in some circles was to be a social pariah. For undergraduate students, this is a lesson in archaeological ethics in practice that should be read alongside the literature on clashes over archaeology in Hawai‘i, as well as the growing role of community-driven archaeology." —Mark D. McCoy, Antiquity, Vol. 89, Issue 344 (April 2015)

"One of the great strengths of Kua‘āina Kahiko is its accessible, almost conversational style, while at the same time presenting a great deal of scholarly content and little-known facts about Hawaiian archaeology. The reader shares in the excitement as Kirch enthusiastically described his discovery of a pānānā, or notched wall used for navigational purposes, a site type never before documented in the archaeological literature. . . . The quality of the storytelling served to virtually transport me from my stuffy office to Kirch’s world of adventure and discovery. To a fellow archaeologist of Hawai‘i, the sheer volume of research undertaken and presented in this volume is extremely impressive." —Windy Keala McElroy, Journal of Pacific Archaelogy, 6:1 (2015)

"Kirch’s special relationship with the kama‘āina, or residents of the land, as well as his anecdotal prose, should make his book appeal to a general readership while still being instructive to specialists in Hawaiian archaeology, history, and the natural sciences. . . . The strengths of the book lie in its exceptional writing, the evidence supplied to support hypotheses and conclusions, and the interesting topics of discussion. . . . Kirch delightfully conveys a sense of what it is like to be an archaeologist working in the Hawaiian Islands. . . . This book presents the professional journey of one of Hawaiian archaeology’s most renowned scholars. Full of scientific information and cultural investigation, the large data sets are neither overwhelming nor too technical for the general reader. Anecdotes sprinkled throughout the book lighten the mood whenever the science becomes too serious. From cover to cover, the information here should be useful for all archaeologists working in Hawai‘i and anyone interested in archaeology or Hawaiiana in general." —Michael Dega, Asian Perspectives, 53:2 (Fall 2014)

Author: Kirch, Patrick Vinton;
Patrick Vinton Kirch is the Class of 1954 Professor of of Anthropology and Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.