Easter Island Statue Project Official Website
EISP History

An introduction to the history of EISP

EISP Mission Statement

The Easter Island Statue Project (EISP) was founded by Jo Anne Van Tilburg in 1982. Since 2000 she has served as EISP co-director with her Rapa Nui colleague, Cristián Arévalo Pakarati. Their collaboration represents the longest, continuous international scientific collaboration inRapa Nui history.

The founding goal of EISP was the field and museum inventory of all Easter Island monolithic sculpture.  The resultant survey, mapping, and excavation activities, along with the associated database and archive, are the basic analytic tools now supporting our research into the structural analysis of chiefdoms, the integration of symbolism and identity, and the interactive cultural roles of art, history, and ecology in Rapa Nui Society. These same resources, however, allow us to save the statues.

The Easter Island Statue Preservation Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established by Johannes Van Tilburg and Jo Anne Van Tilburg.  Its principle mission is to support the research, education, and conservation initiatives created by and through the Easter Island Statue Project (EISP).  Implicit in this mission is the recognition that our specific research—along with the body of data we have generated and the scientific insights we have achieved—are the main tools required to promote Rapa Nui site preservation and encourage economic sustainability.

We follow best practices to achieve

  • innovation of original research projects in the fields ofRapa Nui archaeology, anthropology, education, preservation and restoration;
  • collaboration with indigenous Rapa Nui community leaders and groups;
  • collaboration with other U.S.-based not-for-profit entities.

Our interests and goals include:

  • conservation and preservation of archaeological remains, specifically the statues of Easter Island,
  • local community involvement in permit and oversight procedures and processes,
  • teaching, training, and employment opportunities,
  • targeted dissemination of data and the sharing of research knowledge
  • site preservation through the study of impact control, resource availability, sustainable archaeology, and education.

Our main support mechanism is the Mana Gallery.  Exhibitions support Rapa Nui artists and artisans. Our teaching and lecture programs communicate our findings to the Rapa Nui community, and a portion of our sales income supports EISP field and research programs.

Posted on May 23rd, 2012 by EISP Staff | Categories: About EISP, EISP, EISP History |

What is the Easter Island Statue Project?

Empty eyesockets of a bearded moai standing near Ahu Tongariki are magically filled with sunbeams.  Photo by David C. Ochnser, copyright EISP, 1989.

Empty eyesockets of a bearded moai standing near Ahu Tongariki are filled with sunbeams. Photo by David C. Ochnser, 1989.

The monolithic statues of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) are called moai in the Rapanui language. Carved on the island by the ancestors of the current population, approximately 50% of the total of 887 statues documented to date still remain in the immediate vicinity of Rano Raraku, the quarry in which they were produced. The majority of the remaining statues were transported to and erected upon a variety of ceremonial structures called ahu. This feat is one of the greatest megalithic achievements of Pacific prehistory.

EISP is the longest collaborative and evolving artifact inventory ever conducted within the context of the Easter Island archaeological survey. Our primary goals are scientific. Our basic purpose is to shed light on the complexities of prehistory, and to integrate the moai into the unfolding time line of Rapa Nui prehistory. We aim to locate, describe, and understand the original context and use of all statues, including those in museums. Context and use, it is hoped, will reveal meaning. Our methods include archaeological survey, artifact description, research into the meaning of symbols, and cultural history interpretation. Our tools have always included camera, compass, measuring tape, and field notebook. Over time we have added large-scale calipers, the latest in GPS mapping technology, and advanced computer data management. [Read More...]

Posted on May 6th, 2009 by Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Ph.D. | Categories: About EISP, EISP, EISP History |

EISP History: 1980s

  1. Ahu Akahanga 07-581
  2. Ahu Akahanga 07-584
  3. Ahu O’Pepe 20-001
  4. Ahu Tongariki: Moai 14-548-009
  5. Ahu Vai Mata 32-059 & Moai 32-023-001
  6. Ahu Vaihu 06-255
  7. Ahu Vinapu: Moai 02-210-004
  8. Bas-relief Dorsal Designs
  9. Basalt Statue, PSE 84
  10. Easter Island Quadrangle Map
  11. Easter Island Statue Project History: 1981
  12. Easter Island Statue Project History: 1982
  13. Easter Island Statue Project History: 1983
  14. Easter Island Statue Project History: 1984
  15. Easter Island Statue Project History: 1985-1988
  16. Easter Island Statue Project History: 1989
  17. Fieldwork on the Islands of Oreor and Babeldaob, Republic of Belau (Palau), Micronesia, 1987
  18. Measuring Calipers
  19. Moai A Hani
  20. Palau Statue Survey Map & Data Table: 1987
  21. Rano Raraku Exterior Quarry: Moai sketches and neck tracings (RR-002-077)
  22. Rano Raraku Slope, Small Moai “Little Tukuturi”
  23. Sketch of Rano Raraku Exterior Quarry
  24. Smithsonian Moai SI-WDC-001
  25. Statue Shape Variation
  26. Trachite Statue, Ahu 1, Poike
  27. Trachite Statue, Poike
  28. Vinapu Pukao, 02-210

EISP History: 1990s

  1. Statue Material & Base Shape Distribution Histograms
  2. Documenting Objects in Museums and Collections
  3. Easter Island Statue Project History: 1990s
  4. Megaliths and Mariners: Experimental Archaeology on Easter Island
  5. Rano Raraku Exterior Quarry: Moai sketches and neck tracings (RR-002-077)
  6. Statue Distribution Map
  7. The Rapanui carver’s perspective: Notes and observations on the experimental replication of monolithic sculpture (moai)
  8. Transport Experiment: Measurement Diagrams & Models

EISP History: 2000s

  1. Ahu O’Pepe 20-001
  2. Ahu Tangi Uka
  3. AIA Conservation Project Reconnaissance
  4. Hoa Hakananai’a Laser Scan Project
  5. Field Season I
  6. Field Season II
  7. Easter Island Statue Project History: July-August 2002
  8. Easter Island Statue Project History: October-November 2002
  9. Easter Island Statue Project History: 2003
  10. Easter Island Statue Project History: 2004
  11. Easter Island Statue Project History: 2005-2006
  12. Conservation Report Season I
  13. Field Dispatches 2002-2003: Three New Moai Discovered!
  14. Field Dispatches: July 2003
  15. Field Dispatches: July 2004
  16. Field Dispatches: November 2007
  17. Field Season III
  18. Field Season IV
  19. Field Season V
  20. Fly to our Excavation Site!
  21. GPS Mapping of Rano Raraku Interior
  22. Join Us in a Monumental Task
  23. Makemake Rock Art Motifs
  24. Conservation Report Season II
  25. Meet our EISP Excavation Crew!
  26. Moai Paro Digital Reconstruction
  27. Rano Raraku Interior, Moai RR-03C-011
  28. Statues Along Transport Roads

Dispatches from EISP team members during the field season

  1. Field Dispatches 2002-2003: Three New Moai Discovered!
  2. Field Dispatches: July 2003
  3. Field Dispatches: July 2004
  4. Field Dispatches: November 2007