Patrick V. KIRCH

Patrick V. KIRCH

Chancellor's Professor Emeritus |Archaeology
Office
Room 206, 2251 College Building
Office Hours
By appointment

Current/Future Courses

Archaeology of the South Pacific

Spring 2015 |Undergraduate

Special Interests

Prehistory and ethnography of Oceania, ethnoarchaeology and settlement archaeology, prehistoric agricultural systems, cultural ecology and paleoenvironmentalism, ethnobotany and ethnoscience, development of complex societies in Oceania.

Research

Patrick Kirch is interested in the origins and diversification of the cultures and peoples of the Pacific, in the evolution of complex sociopolitical formations (especially "chiefdoms"), in prehistoric as well as ethnographic subsistence systems (especially those involving some form of intensification), and in the reciprocal interactions between indigenous peoples and the island ecosystems of the Pacific. He is engaged in inter-disciplinary collaboration with ecologists, soil scientists, paleobotanists, and quantitative modelers. A continuing focus has been on the Lapita Cultural Complex of the western Pacific, widely regarded as the "foundation" culture underlying the later diversity of island Melanesian and Polynesian cultures. A long-term field program in the Kahikinui district on the island of Maui focuses on protohistoric transformations in environmentally marginal landscapes. Another on-going project is an archaeological study of the remote Mangareva Archipelago in French Polynesia.

Profile

I joined the Berkeley faculty at the beginning of 1989 and I held the Class of 1954 Chair from 1994 until 2014. In July 2014 I retired from the regular faculty, becoming Chancellor's Professor Emeritus and Class of 1954 Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Integrative Biology. I also hold an appointment as Professor of the Graduate School. At this time I still maintain the Oceanic Archaeology Laboratory, and am supervising two graduate students (Jillian Swift and Kirsten Vacca).

Geographically, my field of research encompasses the Pacific Islands, with particular concentrations in Melanesia and Polynesia. Substantively and theoretically, I am interested in the origins and diversification of the cultures and peoples of the Pacific, in the evolution of complex sociopolitical formations (especially "chiefdoms"), in prehistoric as well as ethnographic subsistence systems (especially those involving some form of intensification), and in the reciprocal interactions between indigenous peoples and the island ecosystems of the Pacific. Much of my recent and on-going research is based on the concept of "islands as model systems."

A continuing focus of my research has been on the Lapita Cultural Complex of the western Pacific, which is widely regarded as the "foundation" culture underlying the later diversity of island Melanesian and Polynesian cultures. Since 1994 I have also directed a long-term field program in the Kahikinui district on the island of Maui, involving both graduate and undergraduate student participation, which focuses on protohistoric transformations in environmentally marginal landscapes. This project has been supported by a major grant from the National Science Foundation's Biocomplexity in the Environment program. My continuing research on the evolution of island socio-ecosystems has expanded more recently to several islands of French Polynesia, including Mo'orea and Mangareva,and involves inter-disciplinary collaboration with ecologists, soil scientists, paleobotanists, and quantitative modelers. The Mangareva work is being carried out in collaboration with the Universite de Polynesie Francaise. Ongoing research projects in Oceanic archaeology and pre-history are coordinated through the Oceanic Archaeology Laboratory.

My research program at Berkeley has been supported by major grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Pacific Rim Grant program of the UC Office of the President. My research has been recognized by election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. I have also been elected an Honorary  member of the Prehistoric Society of Great Britain and Ireland, a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, and Foreign Member of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. I have been a Miller Institute Professor at Berkeley, and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto. I was awarded the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science by the National Academy of Sciences, the J. I. Staley Prize of the School of American Research (the latter jointly with Marshall Sahlins), and the Herbert E. Gregory Medal for Distinguished Service to Pacific Science by the Pacific Science Association.

Representative Publications

  • 2015. Unearthing the Polynesian Past: Explorations and Adventures of an Island Archaeologist. University of Hawaii Press
  • 2014. Kua'aina Kahiko: Life and Land in Ancient Kahikinui, Maui. University of Hawaii Press.
  • 2012. A Shark Going Inland Is My Chief: The Island Civilization of Ancient Hawaii. University of California Press.
  • 2010. How Chiefs Became Kings: Divine Kingship and the Rise of Archaic States in Ancient Hawai'i. University of California Press.
  • 2001. Hawaiki: Ancestral Polynesia: An Essay in Historical Anthropology. Cambridge University Press. (with Roger Green)
  • 2000. On The Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands Before European Contact. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • 2000. Historical Ecology in the Pacific Islands. Yale University Press.
  • 1999. The Lapita Peoples. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • 1994. The Wet and The Dry: Irrigation and Agricultural Intensification in Polynesia. University of Chicago Press.
  • 1992. Anahulu: The Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawai'i (with Marshall Sahlins). University of Chicago Press.
  • 1985. Feathered Gods and Fishhooks: An Introduction to Hawaiian Archaeology and Prehistory. University of Hawaii Press.
  • 1984. The Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdoms. Cambridge University Press.

Books

The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of the earth's surface and encompasses many thousands of islands, the home to numerous human societies and cultures. Among these indigenous Oceanic cultures are the intrepid Polynesian double-hulled canoe navigators, the atoll dwellers of Micronesia, the statue carvers of remote Easter Island, and the famed traders of Melanesia.
Were there major population collapses on Pacific Islands following first contact with the West? If so, what were the actual population numbers for islands such as Hawai‘i, Tahiti, or New Caledonia? Is it possible to develop new methods for tracking the long-term histories of island populations?