Rapa Nui Landscapes of Construction
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Has principal investigator Susan Hamilton
Has co-investigator
Impact The project collaborates with the Island's museum (MAPSE) and Chilean National Parks Authority Rapa Nui (CONAF) in documenting, interpreting, presenting and conserving Rapa Nui's heritage. It will enhance the provision of heritage information for Rapanuians and provide Rapanuians with knowledge and skills to manage and interpret their heritage independently of foreign agendas. Areas in which our work will impact are:\n\nNational Government Policies\nThe Chilean government has recently begun returning land to Rapanuian residents, implemented through the Island's land development commission. Our survey records of the densities of prehistoric sites on the landscape will be given to the commission to assist in land management decisions and the distribution of land parcels to lesser archaeologically sensitive areas. \n\nLocal Identity/Self-determination\nOur research contributes to an integrated understanding of the Island's prehistory. It will promote awareness of Island identity through enhancing heritage databases and providing accessible information - for Rapanuians, non-Rapanuian residents and visitors by:\ni) Our databases being freely accessible. They will be input into MAPSE's public-access databases and added to the Rapa Nui Archaeological Database: http://www.rapanuidatabase.org/, as well as being placed with ADS in the UK\nii) A Rapa Nui-Spanish-English MAPSE exhibition of our findings (Year 4) and notice board displays and pamphlets in preceding years \niii) Adding to MAPSE's collections major cultural objects discovered during surface survey/excavation \niv) Trilingual on-site information boards and on-site talks \nv) Public lectures and presentations to the Island's bodies.\n\nSkills Transfer\nWe will employ Rapanuians on our fieldwork and provide training in mapping, survey, excavation, environmental sampling, and finds processing. We will train CONAF park rangers in laser scanning and geophysical survey and the utilisation of these technologies and their datasets for conservation.\n\nRapanuian Youth\nOur fieldwork will support the training of local students in Rapa Nui's archaeology and aid the development of generic skills- mapping, and computing/technical. We will do this by: \ni) Providing Rapa Nui-Spanish school powerpoint packs explaining our work and its context\nii) Hosting school visits to the excavations\niii) Working with the 'A Pó Rapa Nui Youth Involvement Program (http://www.chauvet-translation.com/apo.htm) to equip the Island's high school students to be an integral part of the documentation, study and conservation of their island's past. Our project co-director, Francisco Torres is a co-director of this programme.\n\nHeritage Management and Conservation \nIt is more than ten years since Rapa Nui was placed on UNESCO's World Heritage list of cultural sites, but its management plans are still under discussion. We are working with CONAF on the development of management plans for Puna Pau and Rano Raraku. Our work at the quarries will provide focal points for tourist tours and aid CONAF's current initiatives to create new information boards and position tourist walkways to minimise site damage.\nWe will assist CONAF in using our laser scanning equipment to document and monitor sun and salt erosion and deterioration to quarry surfaces, statue hats and the Orongo ceremonial village. In particular we will provide high precision laser documentation of the petroglyphs of the sacred precinct at Mata Ngarau, Orongo. Mata Ngarau is located at the top of precipitous sea cliffs, which are under of threat of imminent collapse. Although sections of these petroglyphs and the associated houses of Orongo have been scanned by commercial companies they have never been fully digitally documented. \n\nCultural Tourism\nOver 50,000 tourists visit Rapa Nui each year. The project has the potential to transform the narrative of
Status Active
Identifier AH/I002596/1
abstract The most prominent archaeological features of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) are the colossal stone statues (moai) dating to c. AD 1000 to AD 1600 that once stood on stone ceremonial platforms (ahu) positioned around the coastline of the island. The project aims to develop new interpretations on the organisation and meaning of these monumental construction activities and to unify the hitherto isolated research foci - of statue quarries, statue transport roads, and ahu, into an integrated Island-wide programme of landscape study, survey and excavation.\n\nExtant moai research focuses upon the socio-economic significance of monument production, particularly the pragmatics of competing access to resources, and the mechanics of how moai were transported to the ahu. Our project offers a different perspective by investigating construction as being socially-articulated, taking place at ideologically meaningful places, with the activities being as important as the final product. The fieldwork integrates five prospecting elements: i) Landscape Survey of ahu, statue roads and statue quarries including detailed topographic mapping; ii) mapping of the audio-visual qualities of locations; iii) Geophysical and deep-ground penetrating radar prospecting to locate buried quarry workings and obscured statue transport roads and associated features; iv) Laser scanning of quarry surfaces; and v) excavation of quarry floors and spoil.\n\nRapa Nui is at a fragile moment in its socio-cultural history. The island has a World Heritage status and tourism is rapidly growing with weekly air flights from Santiago and Tahiti. Concurrently, the Chilean Government is in the process of returning land, all of which is dense with archaeology, to the indigenous population. The majority of Rapa Nui's monumental archaeology is deteriorating from salt damage and the vulnerability of the island's archaeology is compounded by a lack of coordinated island-wide databases or co-operative research.\n\nOur aims are:\n1. To date the chronology of statue quarrying, and compare it with known construction chronologies of the ahu .The longevity of Rapa Nui's statue production is a focus of debate. Our excavations aim to date key phases of the pre-eminent statue quarry of Rano Raraku, and of Puna Pau - the quarry for the large red 'hats' (pukao) that adorned the moai on the ahu. Rano Raraku is the only quarry to have had any excavation - by Heyerdahl's team in the 1950s, but the resulting radiocarbon dates are not refined enough to be useful. No absolute chronology exists for the use of pukao.\n2. To explore the social organisation of Rapa Nui's monumental construction, particularly the organisation of quarrying. Visual inspection suggests that the Rano Raraku quarries were divided into distinct clusters of working units. We will investigate this through surface survey and geotechnical survey (see iiii) above).\n3.To better understand the relationships between the landscape locations of statue quarrying, statue transport and ahu with statues. Work at the ahu has either been linked to reconstruction and conservation, or to characterising architectural components and their sequences. Our work instead focuses on them as landscape places and aims to characterise their topographic positions - together with the evidence from environmental reconstruction, and to elucidate their possible intervisibility and inter-audibility with quarries and roads.\n4. For the processes and results of our work to transcend single methodological and academic traditions of the interpretation and public understandings of Rapa Nui's archaeology, and in doing so to aid broadly-informed management of the Rapanuian landscape and support Rapanuians in the self-determination of their own heritage. \n\n
Type Project
Label Rapa Nui Landscapes of Construction
homepage http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk:80/projects?ref=AH%2FI002596%2F1
Title Rapa Nui Landscapes of Construction

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