Chad Blair: Ancient Hawaii, Cradle of Civilization?

Civil Beat

One does not normally think of ancient Hawaii when thinking about the early societies of Egypt and China, Mesopotamia and Mesoamerica, the Indus Valley and the Incas.

But a new scholarly work argues that pre-contact Hawaii — in particular, the society that developed in the 17th and 18th centuries on the Big Island — should join the recognized list of "cradles of civilization," primary states from which "all modern nation states ultimately derive."

That's the thesis of The Ancient Hawaiian State: Origins of a Political Society, published this year by Oxford University Press.

At minimum, the book gives reasons for Hawaii, and perhaps Hawaiians, to be viewed in a new and dramatic light.

"What I am talking about here is a major revolution in human history," the book's author, Robert J. Hommon, tells me. "Once primary states developed, then the organization is already in place. It's basically the same as what we live under today, except that we live in much larger societies. And this was a Native Hawaiian accomplishment."

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