thinking about archaeology

Hoa Hakananai’a: Important online resource

Hoa in BM April 2014

James Miles has posted links to some interactive models of Hoa Hakananai’a deriving from his digital work on the statue. The images are relatively low resolution, pending further moves for accessing very large files, but the opportunities they give to examine the statue are already stunning and unprecedented (and arguably of higher resolution than any previously published images, not to mention the interactivity that allows you to shine a torch into the shadows). Here not only can you explore (and question) our interpretation of the statue and its carvings, as described in our peer-reviewed articles, but you can search for your own discoveries and insights. This is the principle that lay behind our project from the start. At the click of a mouse, someone on Rapa Nui – for example – can now look at Hoa Hakananai’a in ways that before were impossible for any of us, even standing beside the sculpture in the British Museum.

Our interpretation of one of the birdman’s beaks has caused some discussion, so here is an example of what you can do (these are just screengrabs, the model itself will give you better views).

First, the traditional way of reading the two beaks, as drawn by Cristián Arévalo Pakarati:

After Van Tilburg 2006

After Van Tilburg 2006

This is how that area looked in a photo taken in 1868, a few weeks after the statue had been removed from Easter Island:

After Lee, Horley & Bahn 2014

After Lee, Horley & Bahn 2014

And here are three images from James Miles’ blog (Top of back of the Statue).

[Note added August 15 2014. I should expand on the above sentence, which could mislead. The three images that follow are not from James’ blog, but made by me by manipulating the light and texture in a single RTI file created by James. They are cropped 2D frames from a partially 3D model: you will get a fuller idea of what I show by playing around with the original model. This is an important point that has been missed in some of the critique of our work. If you’re interested in this, it’s really worth taking the time to look at the original models.]

First, lit to show how the right beak appears to stop well short of the left, the relief area coming to a rounded tip, and the line extended by a couple of grooves that may or may not be related, but are comparable to marks elsewhere that look like later damage (you can search for them).

right beak

Second, lit to show the left beak. Although not (now at any rate) defined by a line or groove, it does look as if there is an area of raised stone indicative of a full bill with a line running down the centre. If you compare this with the 1868 photo, it looks as if whoever painted the white lines followed the beak’s profile correctly up the left side and around the tip, but then swung in to come down the centre line.

left beak

Finally, lit to show some curious parallel grooves in the stone between the two necks, not apparently noticed before. Damage or design?

between necks

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