Patrick V. Kirch

Patrick V. Kirch's picture
Professor
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 have held the Class of 1954 Chair since 1994. 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.

During my fifteen years at Berkeley, I have actively pursued research in all of these areas. A continuing focus 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 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. Since 2001, this project has been supported by a major grant from the National Science Foundation_s _Biocomplexity in the Environment_ program. Our research now includes inter-disciplinary collaboration with ecologists, soil scientists, paleobotanists, and quantitative modelers based at five different universities, with U. C. Berkeley as the lead institution. Another recent and on-going project is an archaeological study of the remote Mangareva Archipelago in French Polynesia. 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 in several ways, including 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 (life) member of the Prehistoric Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences. I have been a Miller Institute Professor at Berkeley, and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto. In 1997, my research accomplishments were honored with the awarding of the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science by the National Academy of Sciences, and the J. I. Staley Prize of the School of American Research (the latter jointly with Marshall Sahlins).

Office: 
2251 College, Room 206; Lab in Room 14
Phone: 
3-8346
Office Hours: 
Wed 10:30-11:30, Thurs 1:15-3:15 (ARF)
Representative Publications: 
  • 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.

Books