Iconic Heritage and Resilience: Past and Now on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Eastern Polynesia
Sue Hamilton (UCL Institute of Archaeology)
Professor Sue Hamilton FSA is Director of the Rapa Nui Landscapes of Construction Project
Rapa Nui is small, remote, Pacific island, famed for its colossal statues, which were carved and set up between AD 1200 and 1600. Associated with these is a remarkably coherent landscape of ceremonial and domestic stone architecture. All are at risk from multiple forms of land-based and sea erosion; contemporary loss is at a dramatically growing pace. The island’s small size and very restricted biomass, the clustering around its vulnerable coastline of the majority of one of its primary categories of heritage monument (the ahu or ceremonial platform), its near total economic reliance on heritage tourism, and a strongly-revived interest of the Rapanui in their Polynesian heritage heightens a prescient need to develop policies on the complex relationships between environmental risks, cultural and economic resilience, heritage and conservation, tourism, and academic research. Sensitive monitoring, control, and management of these threats requires a sustained familiarity with Rapa Nui’s deep-time landscapes, multi-disciplinary input, and the coordinated discussion and consensus of many stakeholders. While these various factors can relate to Polynesia as a whole, Rapa Nui provides perhaps the richest material microcosm for studying and exploring these concerns.