Publication Date

Spring 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Marco Meniketti


Hawaiian archaeology, historical agriculture, North Kohala, political ecology

Subject Areas

Archaeology; Behavioral Sciences


This thesis examines the processes of agricultural intensification in the eastern gulch region of windward North Kohala district, Hawai`i Island. The intensification of agricultural production was essential for Hawai`i's transition from a collection of loose tribelets into an archaic state. To meet the growing demands of social paramounts, ancient farmers in North Kohala innovated novel technologies to improve their capacity to produce surpluses. In windward North Kohala, the chief innovation was intricate irrigation systems that transferred water from the region's gulch beds to the adjacent elevated tablelands, first identified by the Hawai`i Archaeological Research Project in 2008 and further explored in 2009. This technology, along with developments in leeward Kohala, appears to have emerged just prior to the period of contact, during a period of agricultural expansion and intensification, between1400 A.D. and 1650 A.D.

Political ecology provides a framework for the analysis of agricultural innovations and their impact on Hawaiian society. Geographic information systems were applied in order to build a model to describe the potential for agricultural land use in the eastern gulch region. Initial results suggest that large portions of the windward tablelands could have been dedicated to agricultural production, based on the landform and proximity to flowing water.