Fishponds and Aquaculture in the Ancient Hawaiian Political Economy

Author(s): Patrick Kirch

Year: 2017


The political economy of ancient Hawai'i, prior to European contact in 1778-79, has often been characterized as based primarily on a "staple economy" with highly intensified forms of both irrigated and dryland agriculture. Less appreciated is the role of intensive aquaculture of two species (milkfish and mullet) using several kinds of often extensive fishponds. This paper explores the role and significance of such aquaculture in the late pre-contact Hawaiian political economy, drawing especially upon extensive archaeological and ethnohistoric data from the island of Moloka'i. It is argued that on Moloka'i, fishponds rivaled pondfield irrigation in their ability to provide the elite ruling class with a dependable source of surplus.

Cite this Record

Fishponds and Aquaculture in the Ancient Hawaiian Political Economy. Patrick Kirch. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430930)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14486