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The Pacific Islands

ASAG Journal

The Pacific Islands are home to a diverse range of artistic styles and traditions. One of the most prominent forms of art in these islands is wood carving. The intricate carvings feature designs that reflect local mythology and cultural beliefs. These carvings are used in religious ceremonies, home decorations, and even for trade.

Another significant form of art in these islands is tapa making. This traditional bark cloth is made by pounding the inner bark of trees into flat sheets that are then decorated with intricate designs using colored dyes. The tapa cloth is used in ceremonial dress, as blankets, and even for wall hangings.

The Pacific Islands are also known for their stunning sculptures. These sculptures are made using a variety of materials such as wood, stone, and bone. The designs often feature intricately detailed depictions of mythological figures, animals, and everyday objects. The sculpture not only has an artistic purpose but is often used in religious rituals and ceremonies.

Rapa Nui aka Easter Island

Rapa Nui (or Easter Island, as it is commonly known) is home to over 887 enigmatic Moai, stone monoliths that have stoically watched over the landscape for hundreds of years. Their existence has been an going discussion of human ingenuity — and their meaning and the way they were constructed and placed, a source of great mystery. In the Southeastern Pacific on an island in Chile, at the southern-eastern most point of the Polynesian triangle are these ancient stone creations still continue to amaze and draw international study and exploration to this day.

These large, human- like structures of Rapa Nui, constructed between 1400-1650 raise their heads from the ground as if to observe the new world of the Polynesian people who landed on the untouched island. The largest weigh up to 86 tons and can be as high as 30 feet, although the average is usually half that size. Originally, it was thought that the statues were meant to represent their ancient ancestors. However, in 2019, archaeologists studied the location of the statues, or moai, and the platforms on which many of them stand, known ahu, and discovered that the people of Rapa Nui, positioned them near sources of humanity's most vital resource: fresh water.

It is not widely known that beneath the ground full bodies are attached to the magnificent heads that emerge from the Earth.A completed moai is made of three parts: a large yellow body, a red hat or topknot (called pukao), and white inset eyes with a coral iris. The main bodies of most of the moai statues at Easter Island were sculpted out of the volcanic tuff from the Rano Raraku quarry the remains of an extinct volcano. Many of the moai on Easter Island wear pukao. They are typically large, squat cylinders up to 8.2 feet in all dimensions. Raw materials for the red hats came from a second quarry, the Puna Pau cinder cone More than 100 have been found atop or near moai, or in the Puna Pau quarry. The raw material is red scoria formed in the volcano and ejected during an ancient eruption long before the original settlers arrived. The colors of the pukao range from deep plum to nearly blood red. The red scoria was also occasionally used for facing stones on the platforms.

Recent research has shown that over 500 Easter Island moai were moved out of the Rano Raraku quarry along a network of roads to prepared platforms (called ahu) all over the island. The road network the moai moved along was first identified as such in the early 20th century by researcher Katherine Routledge, though no one believed her at first. It consists of a branching network of pathways approximately 15 feet wide radiating out from Rano Raraku. Approximately 15.5 miles of these roads remain visible on the landscape and in satellite images, with many used as pathways for tourists visiting the statues. Road gradients average about 2.8 degrees, with some segments as steep as 16 degrees. At least some sections of road were bound by curbstones, and the floor of the road was originally concave or U-shaped. Some early scholars argued that the 60 or so moai found along the roads today had fallen during transit. However, based on weathering patterns and the presence of partial platforms, others argue that the moai were deliberately installed along the road. Perhaps they signified a pilgrimage on the road to visit ancestors, just as tourists today journey to the past.


Rapa Nui aka Easter Island

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