Easter Island 2008

by Louise Jones

Ahu TongarikiIn April 2008 I was fortunate enough to obtain funding from the F.T. Wainwright Awards Scheme of the Department of Archaeology to help fund a visit to Easter Island, in the Pacific Ocean, and collect samples as part of my MSc Geoarchaeology dissertation project.

La Perouse, Easter islandMy project focused on garden agriculture within La Perouse (right) on the North East coast of the island, and in particular the use of lithic cultivation strategies and the crop types previously grown. To conduct this research I was able to coordinate my fieldwork and sampling with the research of Dr Thegn Ladefoged and Mara Mulrooney (PhD Student) from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. In total I identified ten garden sites for analysis and from these obtained soil samples for loss on ignition, phytolith, pollen, starch residue, X-ray diffraction and X-ray fluorescence analysis at the University of Reading. Little micromorphological analysis of samples from Easter Island has previously been completed and therefore I was very excited to be able to collect five micromorphology samples for detailed micro-scale analysis of some of these garden sites.

Moai at RanoThis was also a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit many of the fascinating sites on the island including the Moai quarry at Rano Raraku (right), the ceremonial site of Orongo, and Ahu (ceremonial platforms) including Ahu Nau-Nau, Ahu Tahai, Ahu Tongariki (top). Archaeological features and sites are abundant across the island and reflect the island's status as a World Heritage Site.

Without doubt this visit to Easter Island, my fieldwork, laboratory analysis, and final dissertation project has been a unique and very exciting opportunity for me to contribute towards the current debate into past cultivation strategies, land use, and issues of sustainability on Easter Island.

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