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Ceremonial architecture and the spatial proscription of community: location versus form and function in Kaupō, Maui, Hawaiian Islands.

Alexander Baer

JPS, Vol 125, No 3 pg (289-306)


Recent work in the district of Kaupō, Maui, has demonstrated the presence of a highly intensified dryland agricultural system, extensive residential sites and a range of ceremonial structures that include some of the largest temples (heiau) in the Hawaiian Islands. In this paper I discuss the ritual sites of Kaupō and how their placement on the landscape demonstrates a unique expression of elite power. Using formal architectural features to define two basic classes of ritual sites, I show that the nutrient-rich core of the district is bounded on either side by a network of monumental temples, effectively proscribing the highly productive interior. In contrast to these major heiau around the exterior, the interior of the district is dominated almost exclusively by small, relatively simple ceremonial spaces. Understanding the differential distribution of the ritual structures in Kaupō offers insights into how pre-contact Hawaiian rulers sought to centralise and control highly productive regions.


Hawaiian Islands, landscape archaeology, ceremonial architecture, agricultural intensification, social complexity, remote sensing

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