with him, violation of which could result in death. For example, it was prohibited to let one’s shadow fall on the paramount’s house or possessions, to pass through his door ahead of him, or to put on his robe. Commoners were generally prohibited from touching anything used by the chief. In his presence, others were expected to prostrate themselves on the ground in a demonstration of extreme humility. When he traveled, people were warned of his coming so they could properly prepare themselves.
Politically, intensive horticultural societies have quite often been organized into chiefdoms. In simple horticultural societies, the various villages of a tribe are usually politically autonomous, and politics is limited to the local level. The chiefdom, on the other hand, is marked by the integration of many separate villages into a centrally coordinated complex whole governed from the top down. In aboriginal Polynesia chiefdoms were common, and the most advanced of these were found on the islands of Tonga, Tahiti, and Hawaii (Sahlins, 1963; Kirch, 1984). Here were sovereignties that included as many as tens of thousands of persons spread over areas as extensive as hundreds of square miles. The classical Polynesian chiefdom was a pyramidal arrangement of higher and lower chiefs. These chiefs were regular and official holders of offices and titles, and they claimed genuine authority over permanently established groups of followers. Authority resided in the office itself, and not merely in the person holding the position. Chiefs gained access to their positions through a line of hereditary succession. Chiefs used their large storehouses of food to support a permanent administrative apparatus created to carry out a variety of political functions.