Agora-SHS Ateliers gouvernance et recherche Appliquée
Nouméa, Sunday 19 May 2024

Sciences Sociales Nouvelle Calédonie Sciences Humaines

KAHN, Jennifer

Jennifer G. Kahn
Assistant Anthropologist, Research Archaeologist
Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice Street
Honolulu, HI. 96817-2704
Work Phone: 808-847-8285
Fax: 808-848-4132

Discipline: Archaeology

Domain: Evolution of social complexity in Oceania, Household Archaeology, Monumental Architecture, House Societies

My archaeological studies in French Polynesia have focused on multi-scalar research organized around the development of rank and status hierarchies in the transformation of smaller-scale heterarchical chiefdoms into larger scale hierarchical ones. For the last ten years my work in the Society Islands, recognized an one of Eastern Polynesia’s most complex chiefdoms, has been guided by a “House Society” theoretical orientation (sensu Levi-Strauss) (Kahn 2005a, 2007; Kahn and Kirch 2004). Through large scale archaeological excavations of ancient house sites of varying form and function (as interpreted via their surface architecture, proxemic location on the landscape, sub-surface features, and artifact assemblages), I have defined the material expressions of rank and status in ancient residential sites in the ‘Opunohu Valley, Mo‘orea (Kahn 2003, 2005a). This analysis has refined the ‘Opunohu settlement chronology (Kahn 2006, in review) and functional interpretations of rectangular and round-ended house sites as either habitation sites, specialized activity areas, or specialized locales for elite ritual activities; it has also allowed for demographic estimates of prehistoric populations in the valley to be refined utilizing a “house count” approach (Hamilton and Kahn 2007). In my current project I have taken a “landscape approach” to studying the development of social complexity in the ‘Opunohu Valley by comparing settlement patterns in two socio-political districts (mata‘eina‘a). Through mapping, excavating, dating, and interpreting the function of ancient house sites, temples, and agricultural complexes, and integrating this data with information gleaned from ethnohistoric accounts and traditional genealogies, this on-going project strives to link socio-political changes at the local level, within adjacent communities in the ‘Opunohu Valley, to larger socio-political shifts seen at the archipelago-wide scale (Kahn 2005b, in press, in review; Kahn and Kirch 2008).

Hamilton, B, and J.G. Kahn 2007. Pre-Contact Population in the ‘Opunohu Valley,

Mo‘orea: An Integrated Archaeological and Ethnohistorical Approach. In “The

Growth and Collapse of Pacific Island Societies: Archaeological and Demographic Perspectives,” (P. V. Kirch and J.-L. Rallu, eds.), pp. 129-159.

Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Kahn, J.G. 2003. Maohi Social Organization at the Micro-Scale: Household Archaeology in the ‘Opunohu Valley, Mo‘orea, Society Islands (French Polynesia). In “Pacific Archaeology: assessments and prospects. Proceedings of the International Conference for the 50th anniversary of the first Lapita excavation (July 1952), Koné-Nouméa 2002,” (C. Sand ed.), pp. 353-367. Nouméa: Le Cahiers de l’Archéologie en Nouvelle-Calédonie 15.

Kahn, J.G. 2005a. Household and Community Organization in the Late Prehistoric

Society Islands (French Polynesia). Ph.D. dissertation, Department of

Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.

Kahn, J.G. 2005b. An Archaeological Survey of the Upper Amehiti Sector, ‘Opunohu

Valley, Mo‘orea, Society Islands. In “Bilan de la recherche archéologique en

Polynésie française 2003-2004, ” (H. Marchesi, ed.), pp. 33-40. Punaauia, Service

de la Culture et du Patrimoine: Dossier d’Archeologie polynésienne 4.

Kahn, J.G. 2006. Society Islands (Central Eastern Polynesia) Chronology: 11

Radiocarbon Dates for the Late Prehistoric Expansion and Proto-Historic Periods in

the ‘Opunohu Valley, Mo‘orea. Radiocarbon 48(3): 409-419.

Kahn, J.G. 2007. Power and Precedence in Ancient House Societies: A Case Study from

the Society Island Chiefdoms (French Polynesia). In “The Durable House: House

Society Models in Archaeology,” (R. Beck, ed.), pp. 198-223. Center for

Archaeological Investigations Occasional Paper No. 35. Carbondale: Southern

Illinois University.

Kahn, J.G. In Press. Excavation Data and Site Construction Sequences for ‘Opunohu Valley Marae (Windward Society Islands). “Bilan de la recherche archéologique en Polynésie française 2005-2006, ” (B. Mou, ed.). Punaauia, Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine: Dossier d’Archeologie polynésienne.

Kahn, J.G. In Review. Multi-phase Construction Sequences and Aggregate Site

Complexes of the Prehistoric Windward Society Islands (French Polynesia).

Submitted to Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology for review.

Kahn, J.K. and P.V. Kirch 2003. The Ancient ’House Society’ of the Opunohu Valley,

Mo’orea: Overview of an Archaeological Project, 2000-2002. In Bilan de la

Recherche Archéologique en Polynésie française 2001-2002, edited by H.

Marchesi, pp. 21-36. Service de la Culture et du Patrimoine: Dossier d’Archéologie

Polynésienne 2, Punaauia.

Kahn, J.G. and P.V. Kirch 2008. Settlement Pattern Data and Site Construction Sequences for the Windward Society Islands, French Polynesia. Paper presented at the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology, Hilo.

My archaeological studies in New Caledonia include household archaeology excavations of Kanak house mounds in the Gouaro Deva region. While the analyses of these data are on-going, preliminary results suggest that Kanak house mounds retain well preserved sub-surface features that can de dated to retrieve information about site construction sequences and episodes of site renovation (including house and house mound enlargement). The excavated house mounds also had varying artifact assemblages, suggesting their differing function.

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