CAR Seminar series - Fieldnotes and the Easter Island Statue Project (EISP)

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences and ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

Katherine Routledge's Fieldnotes and the Easter Island Statue Project (EISP): The Importance of Reconstructing Excavations and Recovering Records.

Dr. Jo Ann Van Tilburg

Early Easter Island reconnaissance and surface survey by several individuals or institutions was undertaken without the benefit of modern methods but, in fact, a great deal was accomplished. Excavations, however, were often conducted randomly and without proper care or oversight.  In Rano Raraku statue quarry alone, the EISP research team has established that ~100 excavations took place but were perfunctorily reported. At least 50% of these interventions were carried out by the Mana Expedition to Easter Island, led by Katherine Routledge (1913-1915). The only source of alternate or supplementary archaeological data is provided by Routledge's unpublished field notes. During pre-excavation research leading up to on-going excavations and re-excavations, the EISP research team was required to 1) recover specific details from Routledge's unpublished fieldnotes and 2) reconstruct as fully as possible the extent of unreported interventions. An image catalog (90,000 images) was amassed and a descriptive database for ~5,000 megalithic objects created. Together, these materials constitute a major comparative data set that facilitates documentation and preservation initiatives.  Routledge personally took measurements of moai in seven attribute categories with known Rapanui assistants. Other measurements of site or feature types were taken by her husband while she acted as recorder. These metrics are entered in the database. Museum studies have re-contextualized artifacts and aided in establishing Routledge's excavation levels and statute distances. Thus, we have updated Routledge's fieldnotes, described her methods, clarified her oversights, united our own fieldwork with archival preservation, and enabled our own excavations to proceed with greater control.