This is an archaeological perspective on the elaborate system of chiefdoms found in the islands of Polynesia. While the growth and development of complex social and political systems in this region have long interested anthropologists and ethnographers, the islands' rich sources of archaeological data have since been exploited. The author combines this fresh archaeological data with comparative ethnographic and linguistic materials to present an innovative and perceptive account of the processes of culture change in the islands over three millennia. Using comparative ethnography, lexical reconstruction and direct archaeological evidence, the author reconstructs the broad outlines of Ancestral Polynesian Society, from which the diverse societies of the Polynesian region descended. Major processes of cultural change are analysed in detail, including colonization, adaptation to changing environments, development of intensive production and social conflict and competition.