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This story is from UCLA In the present day, a discontinued print and internet publication.

There’s extra to the world-famous heads of Easter Island than meets the eye.

Ask archaeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg, a analysis associate on the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and director of its Rock Artwork Archive, who has been lecturing and writing about Easter Island’s iconic monolithic statues for years.

Because the director of the Easter Island Statue Project the longest-steady collaborative artifact stock ever conducted on the Polynesian island that belongs to Chile Van Tilburg has opened a window on one among the greatest achievements of Pacific prehistory on one of the most distant inhabited islands on the earth.

She and her team of resident Rapa Nui have spent nine years locating and meticulously documenting the nearly 1,000 statues on the island, determining their symbolic which means and function, and conserving them using state-of-the-artwork methods.

After spending 4 months over the last two years excavating two of the statues and posting the outcomes of their digs on the project’s web site, Van Tilburg was stunned to discover that a large segment of the general public hadn’t realized that what they knew only as the Easter Island “heads” actually had our bodies.

The two “heads” in the quarry where Van Tilburg’s crew dug are standing figures with torsos, truncated on the waist, which have develop into partially buried by eroded dirt and detritus over centuries.

When Van Tilburg posted pictures of the excavated statues on the project’s webpage about four months in the past, the blogosphere lit up with surprise, generating a mass flurry of emails. Three million hits later, the Easter Island Statues Undertaking (EISP) webpage crashed.

“I used to be completely blindsided,” mentioned Van Tilburg, who’s back in Los Angeles, however will return to Easter Island in October to proceed excavating. “But now I quite perceive it, as a result of many of the photographs which are widely available on the web, and definitely in books, deal solely with the very photogenic statues that are located on the slopes of the quarry by which they were carved.”

Buried to mid-torso, she stated, the statues (which the Rapa Nui name moai, pronounced MO-eye) “do seem like heads solely. And, indeed, over time, the statues had been normally referred to because the Easter Island heads. But now persons are conscious they Island have bodies. I believe that’s fabulous. I adore it when good science might be turned into public information so quickly.”

Whereas lots of the statues were moved by their creators to ceremonial sites, about half of the statues remain in and around the quarry, the Rano Raraku volcano crater. Attempts have been made to excavate greater than 90 of the 149 statues that are upright and buried to their torsos there. But the EISP’s two excavations are the first in that location to be methodically accomplished and documented based on archaeological requirements, Van Tilburg mentioned. The excavations, which began in 2009, are funded by the Cotsen Institute, the Archaeological Institute of America and EISP.

From her studies of these two statues, the archaeologist is convinced that the statues had been partially buried naturally by eroded dirt, not by the Rapa Nui. She found roughly the same quantity of dirt that partially buried the statues additionally crammed the quarries located close to where they stood.

The excavations additionally revealed other information about these megaton behemoths.

Whereas petroglyphs have been seen earlier than on parts of the statues that were above floor, Van Tilburg’s excavations prolonged right down to the bottom of the statues and revealed etched petroglyphs on the backs of the figures. She was particularly intrigued by the repetition of crescent shapes that symbolize Polynesian canoes, she mentioned.

“What we found beneath the bottom of one of the statues was a signature stone, a basalt rock with an incised drawing of a crescent, or canoe motif” she stated. Van Tilburg believes this was the mark of its carver or the household group to which the carver belonged.

“Over time, it seems, more of those canoes were etched onto the statue in a relentless repetition of identity reasserting who they had been. As the community misplaced a way of id over time, maybe they wanted to mark these statues as their very own,” she mentioned.

“Easter Island: The Mystery Solved”
Explorer Thor Heyerdahl excavated this Easter Island statue in 1954-fifty five. The UCLA challenge is the first, legally permitted archaeological mission within the quarry since Heyerdahl’s dig. Photo is from Heyerdahl’s book, “Easter Island: The Thriller Solved.”

Between the 2 statues, the diggers also uncovered proof of the expertise that was used to maneuver the large statues upright one of the statues Van Tilburg worked on stood 21 ft (about two tales ) tall.

“We found a spherical, deep post hole into which the Rapa Nui had inserted a tree trunk,” she said. Van Tilburg stated ropes had been hooked up to the tree trunk and to the partially carved statue. “We found a rope guide that was truly carved into the bedrock near the statue.” The Rapa Nui then used the tree trunk to lift the statue upright. Before the statue was upright, they carved its entrance. Once it stood erect, they completed the again, Van Tilburg explained.

The excavation staff also found about 800 grams of natural red pigment nearly two pounds in the burial hole, along with a human burial. Van Tilburg believes the pigment was used to paint the statues, simply because the Rapa Nui used pigment to paint their bodies for sure ceremonies. The unusually large quantity of pigment discovered indicates that it might need been used by a priest or chief, maybe as a part of mortuary apply, she stated. Human bones have been discovered all through the dig, indicating that individuals buried their useless around the statues.

To guard the statues from water damage, Van Tilburg’s crew, which included Monica Bahamondez, director of Chile’s Nationwide Heart of Conservation and Restoration, applied a chemical resolution to the floor and then refilled the hole they’d dug. Cotsen Analysis Associate Christian Fischer, working with the UCLA/Getty Master’s Program on the Conservation of Ethnographic and Archaeological Supplies, aided on this effort.

“Conservation is a really necessary a part of what we’re doing,” the archaeologist mentioned. She said she hoped that Rapa Nui young individuals might be educated and employed to deal with the remaining statues standing in the quarry. The Rapa Nui Nationwide Park, the agency in command of this World Heritage site, and Van Tilburg and her crew are planning collectively to make that a reality.

“The entire workers that I work with on Easter Island are from Rapa Nui. I’m very happy with that,” mentioned Van Tilberg.

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To be taught more concerning the Easter Island Statue Mission and see extra photographs, including those of the Rapa Nui excavation crew, go right here. A 2009 story in Backdirt, a magazine from the UCLA Cotsen Archaeological Institute, focuses on the project to save the moai.

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