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  • Abundance and Resilience: Farming and Foraging in Ancient Kaua‘i ed. by Julie S. Field, Michael W. Graves
  • Summer Moore
Field, Julie S. and Michael W. Graves (Eds). Abundance and Resilience: Farming and Foraging in Ancient Kaua‘i.
Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2015.
262pp. ISBN 978-0-8248-3989-5. $65 (cloth).
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Beginning in the 1990s, archaeology faculty and students from the University of Hawai’i-Mānoa, several of whom are contributors to this book, embarked on a project to complete the analyses of the artifacts and faunal remains from Nu’alolo Kai. This stratified coastal site on Kaua’i Island’s remote Nā Pali Coast was excavated by Bishop Museum archaeologists over several field seasons between 1958 and 1964. The site produced an immense and remarkably well-preserved collection of artifacts and faunal remains. Although the archaeologists made a substantial effort to analyze the excavated material, a complete report was never published. The current book represents the second of two compilations describing the University of Hawai‘i’s reanalysis of these collections. While the previous volume (Carson & Graves 2005) covered a diverse set of topics related to the Nu‘alolo Kai excavations, the present work examines one overarching theme. Drawing on the site’s large faunal assemblage, this volume investigates change and continuity in human-animal interactions over time. Based on combined data from the contributors’ individual studies, the editors infer that Nu‘alolo Kai’s residents managed their local environment in a strategic and sustainable way. Moreover, they argue, subsistence strategies changed subtly through time in response to observations about the local environment. Completing the analysis of the Nu‘alolo Kai collection and tying these results to a chronological framework was truly a massive project and one that benefits the study of archaeology in Hawai’i and the Pacific region as a whole. The editors and chapter authors have undoubtedly succeeded in integrating an enormous volume of data into a focused and coherent work of scholarship.

In the first of the book’s eleven chapters, the editors Field and Graves outline the history of archaeological work at the site and situate the current publication within this context. In Chapters 2 and 3, Field discusses the ecological and cultural setting of Nu‘alolo Kai and the results of earlier investigations. Chapters 4 through 9 address the individual categories of faunal remains. O’Leary’s chapter (Chapter 4) on fish remains compares changes in dominant taxa and fish size through time. In Chapter 5, Graves et al. discuss modified and unmodified sea turtle remains. Esh’s chapter (Chapter 6) on avifauna provides a comprehensive overview of modified and unmodified bird bone from Nu’alolo Kai. In Chapter 7, Field and Jolivette discuss the mammal remains, which include primarily domesticated species such as pig and dog. Next, Field and McElroy present analyses of the modified coral assemblage (Chapter 8) and shell, bone, and invertebrate ornaments (Chapter 9). In Chapter 10, Morrison and Esh move beyond the strict analysis of faunal remains and use population data for shellfish and seabirds over time to make applied recommendations for modern conservation practices on the Nā Pali Coast.

In the final chapter (Chapter 11), Field and Graves synthesize the results of these analyses in terms of broad patterns by analytic zone. In short, they argue that settlers initially arrived at Nu‘alolo Kai around AD 1300. Between about AD 1300 and 1500, residents relied primarily on wild animal foods such as fish and seabirds. There is also limited evidence for the raising of domesticated animals and crops. Between AD 1500 and 1700, consumption of pig and dog increased substantially, together with a decrease in the proportion of wild animal remains, i.e., fish and birds, in the faunal assemblage. After AD 1700, the faunal evidence shows that pig and dog exploitation remained high, even as a few foreign species were introduced. Because most of the volume’s analyses show no evidence for population declines of particular species, the editors suggest that residents of Nu‘alolo Kai strategically managed available natural resources over several centuries. In cases of possible resource depression, such as O’Leary...


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