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HOA HAKANANAI'A: A NEW STUDY OF AN EASTER ISLAND STATUE IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2014

Mike Pitts
Affiliation:
11 Silverless Street, Marlborough SN8 1JQ, UK. Email: mike@diggingdeeper.co.uk
James Miles
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, Avenue Campus, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BF, UK. Email: james.miles@soton.ac.uk
Hembo Pagi
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, Avenue Campus, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BF, UK. Email: h.pagi@soton.ac.uk
Graeme Earl
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology, Avenue Campus, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BF, UK. Email: graeme.earl@soton.ac.uk

Abstract

A digital survey, combining photogrammetry and reflectance transformation imaging (RTI), offers significant new insights into the British Museum's Easter Island statue called Hoa Hakananai'a. These include the likelihood that it was made with a tapering base to stand in the ground, as seen by the crew of HMS Topaze in 1868, and that a nearby stone described a century ago was a pukau, a stone ‘hat’. Petroglyphs consisting of two komari (stylised female genitalia) were subsequently added. Succeeding these were bas-relief carvings, here interpreted as a single composition that narrates the island's birdman myth as recorded in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This reading is supported by photographs of Hoa Hakananai'a taken in Chile in 1868. A new model is presented for the relationship between the statue and the birdman cult. As it now stands, in a nineteenth-century plinth, Hoa Hakananai'a appears to lean slightly from its intended placing.

Résumé

Un relevé numérique, associant la photogrammétrie et l'imagerie par transformation de la réflectance (reflectance transformation imaging – RTI), permet de tirer d'importantes nouvelles conclusions sur la statue de l’île de Pâques appelée Hoa Hakananai'a, qui est conservée au British Museum. Il est probable, entre autres, qu'elle possédait une base fuselée permettant de la placer debout sur le sol, de la manière décrite par l’équipage du HMS Topaze en 1868, et qu'une pierre voisine décrite il y a un siècle était un pukau, un chapeau de pierre. Les pétroglyphes composés de deux komari (organes génitaux féminins stylisés) ont été ajoutés par la suite. Après eux, des bas-reliefs ont été sculptés, qui sont interprétés ici comme formant une composition unique relatant le mythe de l'homme-oiseau de l’île tel qu'il a été rapporté au XIXe siècle et au début du XXe. Cette interprétation est confirmée par les photographies de Hoa Hakananai'a prises au Chili en 1868. Une hypothèse nouvelle est présentée concernant la relation entre la statue et le culte de l'homme-oiseau. Tel qu'il se dresse, sur un socle du XIXe siècle, Hoa Hakananai'a semble légèrement incliné par rapport à la manière dont il devrait être placé.

Zusammenfassung

Eine Digitaluntersuchung, bei der Photogrammetrie und Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) kombiniert wurden, bietet bedeutende neue Einblicke in die Osterinsel-Statue des British Museums, Hoa Hakananai'a genannt. So u.a., dass sie wahrscheinlich ursprünglich mit einem zugespitzten Sockel im Boden stand, wie dies von der Mannschaft des Schiffs Topaze im Jahre 1868 bezeugt wurde, und dass es sich bei dem vor einem Jahrhundert beschriebenen nahegelegenen Stein um einen pukau, einen steineren “Hut” handelte. Petroglyphen bestehend aus zwei komari (stilisierten weiblichen Genitalien) wurden nachträglich angebracht. Später folgten Basreliefs, die hier als eine alleinstehende Komposition interpretiert werden, die den im 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert aufgezeichneten Mythos des Vogelmannes zum Thema hat. Unterstützt wird diese Interpretation durch Photographien des Hoa Hakananai'a, die 1868 in Chile aufgenommen wurden. Ein neues Modell wird für die Beziehung zwischen der Statue und dem Vogelmann-Kult präsentiert. So, wie die Statue jetzt auf ihrem Sockel aus dem 19. Jahrhundert steht, scheint sich Hoa Hakananai'a leicht von dem für ihn ursprünglich beabsichtigten Standplatz wegzuneigen.

Type
Papers
Copyright
Copyright © The Society of Antiquaries of London 2014 

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