Easter Island Statue Project Official Website

Excavation Season IV July-August 2011

Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Ph.D.

Jo Anne Van Tilburg presents the Datashare project to the park directors

Statue RR-001-156, EISP 2011.

We have just returned from Excavation Season IV and statue (moai) RR-001-156 in Quarry Two, Rano Raraku, Rapa Nui (Easter Island)!  The reports of previous field seasons are filed in the EISP Archives as Excavation Season I, Season II, and Season III or Conservation Season I and Conservation Season II.

Our three main goals for statue (moai) RR-001-157 were to audit our drawings of very complex stratigraphic profiles, augment our existing photo-documentation as follow-up to Conservation Season II, and then to backfill the statue.  We accomplished all of these goals.

In May, 2011, our colleagues Chris Fischer and Monica Bahamondez treated  both statues with water repellant. On drizzly days or days with intermittent rain we were amazed to see how well the repellant did its job!  Droplets quickly beaded up and didn’t penetrate the surfaces of either statue. We noted that the stone surfaces usually dried within a maximum of ten minutes. These are subjective observations, of course. We await the detailed analysis by Chris and Monica of the extensive on-site environmental and stone condition data being downloaded bi-weekly by Tahira Edmunds.

Our continued excavation of RR-001-156 revealed more about the artisans, image-carvers, and ritual concerns of those who frequented Rano Raraku interior quarry over a long period of time.  We uncovered an egg-shaped mass of concentrated, intensely pure red pigment (kie’a) tucked away under an overhang of bedrock (papa) carved with petroglyphs. Red pigment was an indispensable part of Rapa Nui ritual life, and remains today a valuable part of personal display during performance art.  Along with the “signature stone” we uncovered earlier during excavation of RR-001-157, this find gives us a tantalizing glimpse into the past.

Both statues, as you know from our previous letters, are intriguing because they are nearly unique on Easter Island.  They and only one other statue—of over 1,000 we have documented—have complex petroglyphs carved on their backs, faces, and arms.  The carvings are often variants of a narrow range of elements and are arrayed in very interesting compositions.  Most are well within the norm of Rapa Nui iconography, but some are very unusual.  Many are crescent designs referred to as vaka (canoe), but they may be rei miro (gorget). Cristián Arévalo Pakarati, co-director of EISP, has spent hundreds of hours on site over the past months painstakingly measuring and drawing the elements.  In January of 2012 the UCLA Rock Art Archive will host a Rapa Nui student who will use Cristián’s drawings and our EISP rock art database to initiate a comparative study.

We hope you continue to follow our progress over the next few years on this web site.  Although we are partially funded by a generous grant from the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA; www.archaeological.org) , we need your help.  Please join Friends of EISP.  Click on support to become a member of our team as we work to conserve the stone giants of Rapa Nui.

Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Ph.D. — Archaeologist; Director, UCLA Rock Art Archive, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology; Project Director, Easter Island Statue Project Conservation Initiative

Posted on August 16th, 2011 by Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Ph.D. | Category: Letters from the Director |