Ruins on Rapa Nui

On the south coast of the Polynesian island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), a dozen or more fallen statues (moai) lie slumped across the rectangular stone platforms (ahu) on which they once proudly stood. This is the ruined ahu complex of the Akahanga, which is but one of dozens dotted around the coastline of the tiny island. Between 1,000 and 500 years ago, when the when the moai stood erect, rather than looking out to sea their gaze was cast inland. In particular, their eyes fell on a group of curious houses (haré paenga), which lay upslope and were shaped like overturned canoes.


Easter Island: where to build a monument

A new study proposes links between the locations of Easter Island’s famous ahu and moai and freshwater sources. Robert J DiNapoli discusses the results and their implications. Easter Island, called Rapa Nui by its inhabitants, represents one of the most remarkable cases of ancient monument construction known in the world. Around the 13th century AD, […]

Easter Island imaging

Cutting-edge computer technology has shed new light on one of the enigmatic Easter Island statues, revealing new details of the cult images decorating its back. Hoa Hakananai’a – a stone head brought to England in 1869, now in the British Museum – has long been of interest to researchers because of its unusual, intricate carvings. […]


Filing down dates

Polynesia was among the last places to be settled by humans, with the Lapita people arriving around 3,000 years ago (CWA 53). Now, according to a report published in PLOS ONE, the start of this occupation can be narrowed down to a 16-year window with high-precision dating. Uranium-thorium analysis is used on materials with high […]


SW Pacific: Erromango

Within hours of stepping ashore, the 19th-century missionaries were dead, their bodies cut up and eaten by local chiefs. Undeterred – or perhaps inspired – more followed. They met a similar fate. James L Flexner ventured to this tiny, far-flung island to discover what remains of this turbulent time.


Australia’s rock art threatened

Half of Australia’s rock art could disappear in the next 50 years, according to the country’s archaeologists. They have mounted 
a campaign to raise awareness of the outstanding quality of the nation’s indigenous rock art, which is now under threat. Rock art is exposed to many
 natural hazards, such as wind and rain erosion, bushfires, […]


Govett’s Leap

I clearly remember the day in October 1957, when news swept through the Institute of Archaeology in London that Gordon Childe had died in distant Australia. I was in my first term, and Childe had only just retired from the directorship. His presence was still palpable in the many references to his reign and anecdotal […]


Australian rock art

Australian academics and members of the Aboriginal community working together to record and protect rock art in the Wellington Range, Arnhem Land, have discovered evidence of Southeast Asian sailing vessels visiting Australia in the mid-1600s – the oldest ‘contact rock art’ yet discovered in Australia. The rock shelter at Djulirri has nearly 1,200 individual paintings […]

Rapa nui

The secrets of Easter Island’s fallen idols

Fieldwork led by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the University of Manchester has shown that stone figures lying on their backs and faces beside the roads of Easter Island (Rapanui) were not abandoned by clumsy construction workers who dropped and broke the carvings en-route to the coast journey. Instead, each of the fallen statues is associated with a stone platform from which it has toppled with the passage of time. In other words, the roads themselves were not built and used exclusively for the transportation of the figures.

Tasmanian Prehistory

What is being claimed as ‘the world’s southernmost site of early human life’, a 40,000-year-old tribal meeting ground, has been found as a result of an archaeological survey carried out ahead of roadworks near Tasmania’s Derwent River. Up to three million artefacts have been found at the 600m by 60m riverbank site, including stone tools, […]


Palau, Micronesia

Scott M Fitzpatrick takes us to one of the oldest-known cemeteries from the Pacific, at Palau, Micronesia

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