Easter Island Landscapes of Construction Project
Sue Hamilton (University College London, UK)
Susana Nahoe A. (CONAF, Rapa Nui)
Colin Richards (University of Manchester, UK)
Francisco Torres H. (Museo Antropologico P. Sebastian Englert, Rapa Nui)
Ken Cook (Hawaii Pacific University)
CONAF (Rapa, Nui)
Claudio Cristino (Universidad de Santiago, Chile)
Patricia Vargas (Universidad de Santiago, Chile)
Kate Welham (Bournemouth University, UK)
The most prominent feature of the archaeology of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is the large stone statues (moai) that once stood upon stone platforms (ahu). On some ahu, the heads of the moai were adorned with cylinder-shaped topknots (pukao). The vast majority of moai were sculpted from volcanic tuff quarried from the inner and outer crater of Rano Raraku, situated in the south-east of the island. Conversely, the pukao are exclusively of red scoria from a quarry in the crater of Puna Pau, situated in the southwest of the island.
Ahu Akivi overlooking the west coast of the island.
The outer slopes and quarry bays of Rano Raraku.
Having been awarded a five-year permit in April 2008 to undertake archaeological research on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) by the National Council for Monuments, Chile, and CONAF, Chile, the over-arching research aim of this project is to examine the monumental architecture of Rapa Nui in terms of the process of construction. This embraces questions of landscape position and material constitution of the monuments. It also draws a range of what are considered discrete 'sites' e.g. ahu, 'transport' roads, quarries, into a web of social practices.
For example, the construction of monuments (ahu) with statues (moai) and topknots (pukao) effectively fused production at both quarries together in terms of spatial, temporal and social relationships. However, up until now attention has almost entirely been focussed on the moai quarry at Rano Raraku. This is the only quarry to have seen any form of excavation or detailed archaeological survey, and consequently, it is the only quarry for which there are C14 dates (albeit old dates with huge errors). Therefore there exists a discrepancy in the amount of attention different quarries have received
Susana, Norma and Adrian undertaking geophysical survey at Puna Pau in Feb 2008
The pukao quarry at Puna Pau has seen no excavation and the presence of equivalent discrete working areas is currently unknown. Apart from the need to establish a chronology for the operational life of the quarry, geological characterization of the red scoria within the crater may reveal enough variation to undertake comparative analysis with the pukao present across the island. As with the proposed geological characterization of the Rano Raraku working areas, this could lead to relating different sections of the Puna Pau quarry with different areas of Rapa Nui. Thus, small-scale fieldwork and excavation at each quarry would provide vital dating sequences and geological characterization could establish links between quarries and ahu.
Section of the southern 'Moai road defined by kerbstones.
Also, the identification of 'transportation' roads has focussed on those at Rano Raraku and its immediate environs, and as the name suggests they have been examined solely in terms of their assumed primary role in movement of moai. However, we are also concerned with their role in channelling people towards the Rano Raraku quarry along a formal route where fallen statues now testify to roads once lined by erect moai.
Fallen moai adjacent to the southern road.
Initially, smaller quarries may have produced moai at a local level. One quarry we have surveyed at Otu'u remains an unknown quantity both in scale of use and chronology. However, two moai remain in-situ attached to the parent rock.
Moai lie in the quarry at Otu'u
Susana Nahoe and Kate Welham laser scanning the Out'u moai.
Sue Hamiton undertaking survey at an ahu.
Numerous ahu with fallen moai are positioned along the coastline all around the island. Their position in relation to the topography, their relationship to occupation and practices and their material composition all form part of our enquiries.
Richards, C. 2008. The substance of Polynesian voyaging. World Archaeology 40 (2): 206-23.
Hamilton, S., S. Nahoe A., C. Richards & F. Torres H. 2008. Quarried away: thinking about landscapes of megalithic construction on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), in B. David & J. Thomas (eds) Handbook of landscape archaeology. Walnut Creek Ca: Left Coast Press, pp. 176-86.