States without Archaeological Correlates? A Report from Hawaiʻi
Two recent archaeological narratives of ancient Hawaiian society apply a neo-evolutionary approach to political development to argue that a primary state evolved prior to contact with Europeans in the late 18th century. Our analysis demonstrates that this finding is based on interpretations of indigenous oral traditions and contact-period historical accounts but lacks archaeological warrant. The Hawaiian archaeological record does not yield the conventional neo-evolutionary correlates of statehood. Moreover, archaeological evidence for the neo-evolutionary model of ladder-like transformation is also lacking. A chronological analysis of Hawaiian political development inferred from the archaeological record reveals that it was a seamless process, with no evidence of a disjuncture when a statehood event might have occurred. We advocate a historical approach to investigating political development in Hawai‘i that articulates directly with the archaeological record, and is sufficiently developed and general to be applicable elsewhere in the world.