Household Archaeology and ‘House Societies’ in the Hawaiian Archipelago


  • Jennifer Kahn University of Otago


household archaeology, house societies, Hawai‘i, social status, micro-scale


The house society model can serve as an important tool for testing models of increasing social complexity at the microscale in Polynesia. In this paper, I discuss the house society model in relation to household archaeology studies carried out in the Hawaiian archipelago. Hawaiian household archaeology studies commonly follow materialist approaches, which while touching upon ideational themes such as site proxemics, gender, or the kapu system (social proscriptions), typically privilege material data for establishing household wealth as a proxy for household rank and status. Given that the micro-scale level of the household allows for archaeologists to access traces of people’s everyday lives, including features of social life such as domestic ritual, links to the ancestors, and cosmogony, more humanistic interpretations are possible. It is here that the strength of the house society model comes into play, as a heuristic device for modeling the social lives of houses and the people who lived, worked, slept, ate, and worshipped within and around them. I explore
these themes through an analysis of household archaeology case studies in Hawai‘i, including those from Kawela (Moloka‘i), Kohala (Hawai‘i), and Miloli‘i (Kaua‘i).




How to Cite

Kahn, J. (2014) “Household Archaeology and ‘House Societies’ in the Hawaiian Archipelago”, Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 5(2), pp. 18–29. Available at: (Accessed: 28 September 2023).