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This story is from UCLA Right this moment, a discontinued print and internet publication.
There’s extra to the world-well-known heads of Easter Island than meets the eye.

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

As the director of the Easter Island Statue Undertaking — the longest-continuous collaborative artifact stock ever carried out on the Polynesian island that belongs to Chile — Van Tilburg has opened a window on one in all the best achievements of Pacific prehistory on one of the most remote inhabited islands on the earth.

She and her team of resident Rapa Nui have spent 9 years locating and meticulously documenting the practically 1,000 statues on the island, figuring out their symbolic which means and perform, and conserving them using state-of-the-artwork methods.

After spending four months over the past two years excavating two of the statues and posting the results of their digs on the project’s website, Van Tilburg was shocked to discover that a large section of most of the people hadn’t realized that what they knew only as the Easter Island “heads” really had bodies.

The 2 “heads” within the quarry the place Van Tilburg’s staff dug are standing figures with torsos, truncated at the waist, which have grow to be partially buried by eroded dirt and detritus over centuries.

When Van Tilburg posted photographs of the excavated statues on the project’s webpage about 4 months in the past, the blogosphere lit up with shock, generating a mass flurry of emails. Three million hits later, the Easter Island Statues Mission (EISP) website crashed.

“I was completely blindsided,” said Van Tilburg, who’s back in Los Angeles, however will return to Easter Island in October to proceed excavating. “However now I quite understand it, because most of the images that are broadly available on the web, and positively in books, deal solely with the very photogenic statues that are positioned on the slopes of the quarry by which they have been carved.”

Buried to mid-torso, she mentioned, the statues (which the Rapa Nui name moai, pronounced MO-eye) “do appear to be heads only. And, certainly, through the years, the statues have been usually referred to because the Easter Island heads. However now people are conscious they have our bodies. I think that’s fabulous. I find it irresistible when good science can be turned into public information so shortly.”

Whereas many of the statues were moved by their creators to ceremonial websites, about half of the statues stay in and across the quarry, the Rano Raraku volcano crater. Attempts have been made to excavate more than 90 of the 149 statues which are upright and buried to their torsos there. However the EISP’s two excavations are the primary in that location to be methodically done and documented in accordance with archaeological requirements, Van Tilburg stated. The excavations, which began in 2009, are funded by the Cotsen Institute, the Archaeological Institute of America and EISP.

From her research of these two statues, the archaeologist is satisfied that the statues had been partially buried naturally by eroded dirt, not by the Rapa Nui. She discovered roughly the same quantity of dirt that partially buried the statues also crammed the quarries positioned close to where they stood.

The excavations also revealed different information about these megaton behemoths.
While petroglyphs have been seen before on elements 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 especially intrigued by the repetition of crescent shapes that characterize Polynesian canoes, she stated.

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

“Over time, it seems, more of those canoes had been etched onto the statue in a continuing repetition of identification reasserting who they were. As the group lost a way of id over time, maybe they needed to mark these statues as their very own,” she stated.

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Explorer Thor Heyerdahl excavated this Easter Island statue in 1954-55. The UCLA mission is the first, legally permitted archaeological mission in the quarry since Heyerdahl’s dig. Photograph is from Heyerdahl’s e-book, “Easter Island: The Thriller Solved.”

Between the two statues, the diggers also uncovered evidence of the know-how that was used to maneuver the large statues upright — one of many statues Van Tilburg worked on stood 21 ft (about two stories ) tall.

“We found a round, deep submit gap into which the Rapa Nui had inserted a tree trunk,” she stated. Van Tilburg mentioned ropes have been hooked up to the tree trunk and to the partially carved statue. “We found a rope information that was actually carved into the bedrock near the statue.” The Rapa Nui then used the tree trunk to boost the statue upright. Before the statue was upright, they carved its entrance. Once it stood erect, they finished the again, Van Tilburg explained.

The excavation workforce also found about 800 grams of pure purple pigment — almost two pounds — in the burial hole, along with a human burial. Van Tilburg believes the pigment was used to paint the statues, just because the Rapa Nui used pigment to paint their our bodies for sure ceremonies. The unusually massive quantity of pigment discovered signifies that it may need been utilized by a priest or chief, maybe as a part of mortuary practice, she said. Human bones had been found throughout the dig, indicating that folks buried their dead around the statues.

To guard the statues from water harm, Van Tilburg’s team, which included Monica Bahamondez, director of Chile’s Nationwide Center of Conservation and Restoration, applied a chemical answer to the floor and then refilled the hole that they had dug. Cotsen Analysis Associate Christian Fischer, working with the UCLA/Getty Master’s Program on the Conservation of Ethnographic and Archaeological Materials, aided on this effort.

“Conservation is a extremely essential part of what we’re doing,” the archaeologist said. She said she hoped that Rapa Nui younger folks may be skilled and employed to deal with the remaining statues standing in the quarry. The Rapa Nui National Park, the agency in charge of this World Heritage site, really cheap stone island jackets and Van Tilburg and her crew are planning collectively to make that a reality.

“All the workers that I work with on Easter Island are from Rapa Nui. I’m very pleased with that,” said Van Tilberg.

To learn more concerning the Easter Island Statue Challenge and see extra images, including these of the Rapa Nui excavation group, go right here. A 2009 story in Backdirt, a journal from the UCLA Cotsen Archaeological Institute, focuses on the project to save the moai.