Patrick Kirch

Ph.D. Yale University, 1975

Interests: 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 impact of indigenous peoples on the island ecosystems of the Pacific.

During my eleven 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. In 1989 and 1991, I led an interdisciplinary team on two expeditions to Mangaia Island in the southern Cooks, to investigate the Holocene record of paleoecological change and the role that colonizing humans have had in this record. That research has led to some ten publications and also spawned a graduate student dissertation project. Theoretical work on agricultural intensification, combined with an ethnoarchaeological test case at Futuna in Western Polynesia is frequently cited in the theoretical literature on intensification. Long-term and continuing research on the evolution of Polynesian sociopolitical structures has been another facet of my research that has continued at Berkeley. Since 1994 I have directed a substantial field program on the island of Maui, again involving both graduate and undergraduate student participation, which focuses on protohistoric transformations in environmentally marginal landscapes.

Ongoing research projects in Oceanic archaeology and pre-history are coordinated through my Oceanic Archaeology Laboratory and include a major survey and excavation project in Kahikinui, Maui, a study of household archaeology in the Society Islands, and continuing research on human impacts on island ecology.

My research program at Berkeley has been supported by major grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Society, 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 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 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.

Representative publications:

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.

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