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Stone technology par excellence

23 February 2012

Fallen moai at ahu Mahiki

Sue Hamilton, who is leading the AHRC-funded Rapa Nui Landscapes of Construction project, has been interviewed for the Times about Rapa Nui's (Easter Island's) outstanding creativity with stone.

Since its first European discovery by Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Day 1722, Rapa Nui has fascinated archaeologists and anthropologists alike. The research project brings together the first British team of archaeologists to work on Easter Island since 1914. They have recently returned from another very successful field season on the Pacific island, excavating at the ancient volcano crater of Puna Pau, site of the 'statue hat’ quarry. The work provides new perspectives on the chronology and the apparent abandonment of activities at the island’s ‘statue quarries’. It challenges the popular view of a sudden collapse of Easter Island society and cessation of monument construction activities due to over exploitation of the landscape.

Sue Hamilton, Jago Cooper and their collaborative research partners are suggesting that a new narrative is possible for the history of Easter Island in which quarrying activities were associated with sacred landscapes where statues and statue hats were not abandoned but were instead left and positioned to monumentalize the quarry craters. Alongside this, the wider archaeological evidence suggests that the islanders learned to manage and adapt to their changing environment and landscape and that Rapa Nui's story should be seen as one of human ingenuity overcoming apparently insurmountable ecological challenges.

The Rapa Nui Landscapes of Construction project offers new perspectives on the organisation and meaning of the monumental construction activities on Easter Island and seeks to unify previously isolated research foci of statue quarries, transport roads, monumental and settlement architecture into an integrated interpretative framework.

  • "Through our research we aim to work with Rapa Nui archaeology students and communities to support their abilities to be gatekeepers of their own remarkable past and the lessons it offers for the future". [Prof Sue Hamilton]

Read more about the research on Rapa Nui on the Times website (£)»