Research Highlights - Hawaiian Archeology
Using the Carnegie Airborne Observatory, scientists from the Universities of Auckland, Hawaii, Otago, California, Stanford, and the Carnegie Institution have mapped archeologically important regions to unveil patterns previously unseen in ground-based studies. Along the leeward slopes of Kohala mountain on Hawaii Island, they used the CAO to map the geographic distribution, extent and density of agricultural or wind-break walls considered essential to the development of dryland agriculture in pre-historic Hawaiian society.
Patterns in these walls tell a story spanning centuries of how Hawaiian leaders developed their agricultural systems to control and manage food resources. Hawaiian ability to support large armies required huge quantities of food for relatively short periods of time. The analysis of CAO LiDAR data from leeward Kohala identifies different modes of agricultural development throughout a 63 km2 region. Highly intensified agricultural areas were located in zones where precipitation and production were most predictable. In contrast, the least productive and most risky zones were dominated by lower intensity, extensive agricultural development. Significant agricultural surpluses in these fringe zones were infrequent, but given the relatively short and intense nature of military activities, the zones could be exploited during optimal climatic years to support political and military aspirations. Successful political integration and state development was achieved through short-term pushing of agriculture into areas that were unsustainable over extended periods of time.
Other CAO archeological studies are ongoing throughout the Hawaiian Islands as well as in parts of Central America.
Archeological map of Kohala mountain showing two distinct volcanic substrates (blue, brown areas), the regional rainfall gradient (red lines), and the overall extent of pre-historic Hawaiian agriculture.
CAO-based map of agricultural wall density, from high values in red to low values in blue.