The Role of Short-Term and Catastrophic Climatic Events and Human-Induced Landscape Change in Society Island Cultural Transformations
Author(s): Jennifer Kahn
As studies of sustainability and resilience in pre-contact Polynesian societies proliferate, records of small-scale and large-scale environmental change are being refined. Yet the question of what drives social change, human actions or climatic factors, is still quite hard to discern. My case study focuses on non-human agency, particularly eroding landforms and climatic conditions, as forces of change in pre-contact East Polynesia. A Society Island case study outlines varied human responses to expected events, such as soil creep onto agricultural terraces, and cataclysmic ones, such as major landslides, tropical cyclones, and flooding. Some cataclysmic events had remarkably deleterious short-term effects, but in the long-term created more advantageous residential and agricultural conditions for the indigenous Ma'ohi. Other short-term cataclysmic events were successfully buffered with new adaptations, spurring cultural innovation. Maʻohi efforts to combat soil erosion, due to both natural and human causes, led to remarkably labor-intensive inputs into the pre-contact socio-economic system. From a behavioral ecological perspective, both nature and culture shaped Ma'ohi habitats. East Polynesian case studies support that decision makers often lacked information about the long-term consequences of their actions, yet could sometimes rapidly adapt and integrate new forms of traditional ecological knowledge into their socioecosystems.
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The Role of Short-Term and Catastrophic Climatic Events and Human-Induced Landscape Change in Society Island Cultural Transformations. Jennifer Kahn. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444452)
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min long: 153.633; min lat: -51.399 ; max long: -107.578; max lat: 24.207 ;
Abstract Id(s): 20868