The Māʻohi Hinterlands

Regional Variability and Multi-scalar Socio-economic Networks in the Pre-Contact Society Islands

  • Jennifer G. Kahn College of William and Mary


I draw upon current research highlighting the agentive role that hinterland zones could have on both local and regional dynamics. In my case study on the Society Islands, I consider hinterland variability at multiple scales, that of the local, community, and regional or meta-regional scale. Synthesis of historic texts and oral traditions provide an emic view into how the Maʻohi themselves conceptualized their social landscapes. I develop a multi-scalar view of hinterlands and hinterland to core relations, exploring island specific, archipelago-specific, and extra-archipelago “far” hinterlands in the Society Island context. Finally, I use both ethnohistoric and archaeological data to imagine both push and pull factors leading to certain social actors inhabiting specific hinterland regions. My multi-scalar view of Māʻohi hinterlands illuminates their diverse socio-economic roles as well as their relational quality. As I argue, elites reached deep into the hinterlands as a form of political aggrandizement and as an expression of economic power. Such places also served as elite refugia for Māʻohi chiefs, priests, and ‘arioi. Yet agency was not restricted to core regions, as hinterland communities likewise reached deep into these zones in order to maintain their own economic viability through precious socio-political alliances and networks.

How to Cite
Kahn, J. (2020) “The Māʻohi Hinterlands”, Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 11(1), pp. 41-52. Available at: (Accessed: 1December2021).
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