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Materialising island landscapes: the case of rehistoric Rapa Nui (Easter Island)

Hamilton, S; (2016) Materialising island landscapes: the case of rehistoric Rapa Nui (Easter Island). In: Conrich, I and Mückler, H, (eds.) Rapa Nui - Easter Island. (pp. 129-148). Frank & Timme: Berlin, Germany. Green open access

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Abstract

“Architecture expressed the choices, preferences and predilection of the people who create it. In short it is an expression of the human spirit” (Morgan 1988: xiii) Rapanui is a small, very remote island that within the twentieth century has emerged as a prehistoric warning of the potential fragility of environmentally circumscribed island communities. The island’s prehistoric power structures were maintained through labour and much research has been put in to considering the role of carving colossal statues and their transport in materialising the relationships of hierarchical societies on Rapanui. Equally, and perhaps more important, is the role of multi-part monuments in providing an arena for maintaining the corporate ideologies of a contained island society and the flexibility of architectural complexity for providing components open to reconfiguration into new understandings of the world. This article considers the case of Rapanui’s ahu, prehistoric ceremonial platforms on which statues were set up in uniting the community as a whole into a resilient ideology that was not simply dependant on a specific resource. Ahu were places where the worlds of the living and the dead were replicated, maintained, overseen and transformed. There are lessons in this for isolating how islands are conceived of by their inhabitants – as articulated entities, and how the practical and ideological functioning of island communities can remain robust through the medium of a ritual architecture that is complex and adaptable enough to metaphorically constitute a microcosm of the island. Rapanui’s ahu had a multi-scalar relationship with their surrounding landscape, variously related to their topographic locations, their sensory impact on the landscape, the divisions and boundaries they created in landscape space, and the materials of their architecture that drew upon the island’s geology as a whole.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Materialising island landscapes: the case of rehistoric Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
ISBN-13: 978-3-7329-0265-1
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.frank-timme.de
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10085198
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