Institute of Archaeology


Felipe Armstrong

Bodies, Persons and Worlds: Approaching prehistoric and early historic anthropomorphic art of Rapa Nui (Easter Island)


Email: felipe.armstrong.11@ucl.ac.uk
Section: World Archaeology


Bodies, Persons and Worlds: Approaching prehistoric and early historic anthropomorphic art of Rapa Nui (Easter Island)

People from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) produced a large number of artworks before and after the contact with Europeans in the 18th century. Among these artworks, anthropomorphic objects and objects with anthropomorphic features are some of the most numerous, produced as rock art, colossal statues, small figurines and as part of other objects such as clubs, pendants or paddles. Nonetheless, this kind of art has not been addressed in a comprehensive way, and my research intends to overcome this, by approaching the art shaped in human form as a whole, a corpus that can shed light onto the ways in which the body was constructed and understood in the past, as well as how these particular objects both expressed and shaped particular ways of being a person in Rapa Nui. Both body and personhood constructions are embedded within a particular ontological framework, which will also be addressed.

Considering the abundant and diverse group of anthropomorphic objects on Easter Island, and drawing on contemporary archaeological and anthropological theory, my research focuses on understanding the relation between this particular group of objects and deep cultural and ontological constructions. In this sense, my research departs from traditional views that have seen the human body figures as representations of ancestors, deities and/or spirits, interpretations based mainly on ethnographic data. On the contrary, my aim is to address these objects as what they basically are: things shaped in a human form or with human body attributes; I am more concerned with the role they played in the construction of ideas and perceptions about the human body and the characteristics of persons, than with the specific meaning they might have had. These objects are considered as part of a broader Polynesian tradition and therefore, some comparison between different Polynesian islands will be key in the understanding of the Rapa Nui anthropomorphic objects.




    • Banchelor in Anthropology, with specialisation in Archaeology, Universidad de Chile, 2007
    • Archaeologist, Universidad de Chile, 2010

    Journal Publications

    Francisca Moya, Felipe Armstrong, Mara Basile, George Nash, Andrés Troncoso, Francisco Vergara 2014. On-Site and Post-Site Analysis of Pictographs within the San Pedro Viejo de Pichasca Rock Shelter, Limarí Valley, North-Central Chile. Proceedings of the University of Bristol Speleological Society, 26(2):171-184.

    Felipe Armstrong Bruzzone 2012. Engraved Memory: Petroglyphs and Collective Memory at Los Mellizos, Illapel, Chile. Rock Art Research, 29(1):19-34.

    Felipe Armstrong 2010. Deconstruyendo el arte rupestre del sitio Tuququre 10: Lógicas simétricas y cambio sociocultural en el valle de Putaendo (Región de Valparaíso, Chile). Werken, 12(1):9-28.

    Andrés Troncoso, Felipe Armstrong, Francisco Vergara, Paula Urzúa, Pablo Larach 2007. Arte Rupestre en el Valle de El Encanto (Ovalle, Región de Coquimbo): Hacia una Revaluación del Sitio-Tipo del Estilo Limarí. Boletín del Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, 13(2):9-36.


    Armstrong, Felipe and Rosario Cordero 2012. Imágenes del pasado. Difundiendo el patrimonio visual de la prehistoria de Alto del Carmen. ATG, Santiago

    Armstrong, F., R. Espinosa y E. Vidal. 2009. Memorias de Río Hurtado. Impreso en ATG, Santiago.

    Vidal, Estefanía, Felipe Armstrong and Raúl Espinosa. 2012. Viviendo el Espacio: Una historia de tradiciones y usos del territorio en el Huasco Alto. ATG, Santiago.

    Book Chapters

    Andrés Troncoso and Felipe Armstrong (in press). Ontología, Historia Y La Experiencia Del Arte Rupestre En El Centro-Norte De Chile. In Roberto Pellini, Andres Zarankin and Melissa Salerno (eds.) Sentidos Indisciplinados. JAS

    Conference papers

    Felipe Armstrong: Arte Rupestre como memoria. Una Aproximación Teórica. Rock art as memory. A Theoretical approach. VIII Simposio Internacional de Arte Rupestre, Tucumán, Argentina; 2010

    Felipe Armstrong: Rock Art as Memory. A Theoretical-Methodological proposal. XVI International IFRAO Congress, Sao Raimundo Nonato, Brazil; 2009