Spatial Association between Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Ahu and Freshwater Sources


The famous ahu and moai monuments of Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile) are features associated with multiple relatively small-scale communities distributed around the island. These communities are marked archaeologically by repeated sets of domestic architectural classes surrounding ceremonial features (i.e., ahu and moai) that potentially served to functionally integrate local populations. Described in this fashion, this settlement pattern offers the potential to explain the substantial investments in monuments using a multi-level and signaling based evolutionary framework. Such an explanation, however, requires the identification of the set of resources over which individuals compete as well as share. Here, we suggest that freshwater may have played a critical role in the formation and functioning on prehistoric Rapa Nui communities. We demonstrate this potential by examining the varying spatial association of a number of archaeological features with the location of freshwater. We argue that freshwater resources were a key factor leading to the structure of prehistoric communities and the unprecedented level of cultural elaboration on this tiny and remote island.

Cite this Record

Spatial Association between Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Ahu and Freshwater Sources. Carl Lipo, Robert Dinapoli, Alex Morrison, Terry Hunt. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430528)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: 111.973; min lat: -52.052 ; max long: -87.715; max lat: 53.331 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14613