Recent Research Resolves Easter Island’s Greatest Mystery

Speaker
Terry Hunt, University of Arizona
Location
Online through the Rye Free Reading Room, 1061 Boston Post Rd, Rye, NY
Date
November 8, 2020
Time
2:00 pm  to  3:15 pm  

Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has long held the interests of scientists, travelers, and a curious public.  Among the persistent “mysteries” is the question of how hundreds of multi-ton megalithic statues (moai) were transported to every part of the island. Researchers have proposed methods using sleds and rollers of various configurations to move moai in a horizontal position.  Others have proposed various means of transport in a vertical position. Over several years of field and analytic research, we have documented important variations in details of moai form relating to their successful transport.  Using 3-D modeling and experimentation, we show how moai form converges with the physics of movement. Our results explain much of the archaeological record previously unrecognized, resolving this longstanding “mystery.”  Our results also align with Rapa Nui oral traditions.

Dr. Terry L. Hunt, Dean, Honors College, is an internationally renowned anthropologist, archaeologist, and educator. Dr. Hunt is one of the world’s foremost experts on the human and environmental histories of the Pacific Islands, where he has conducted field research for more than four decades. Dr. Hunt has led study-abroad courses for the past 18 years to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), where he involves students in his field research. Dr. Hunt previously served as dean of the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. He is the author of “The Statues That Walked: Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island,” co-authored with Carl Lipo, details Rapa Nui’s ancient history. The book won the Society for American Archaeology’s Book of the Year award in the public audience category in 2011. Dr. Hunt’s research was the focus of a National Geographic magazine cover story in July 2012 and a Nova-National Geographic TV documentary that first aired on PBS in November 2012. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Hawaii in 1976, his master’s degree at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1980, and his Ph.D. in 1989 from the University of Washington.

Were Secret Societies Part of the Upper Paleolithic World?

Speaker
Brian Hayden
Location
Online through the Rye Free Reading Room, 1061 Boston Post Rd, Rye, NY
Date
December 20, 2020
Time
2:00 pm  to  3:15 pm  

There are two radically different views about the nature of Upper Paleolithic societies.  The traditional view holds that Upper Paleolithic societies were nomadic, egalitarian groups living off scarce resources comparable to the ethnographic hunter/gatherers like the Bushmen in southern Africa, Australian Aborigines, or some Eskimo groups.  The newer view, which I represent, holds that in favorable locations, some Upper Paleolithic groups were at least seasonally sedentary, produced surpluses and wealth, and displayed important inequalities.  In this view, they were comparable to more complex ethnographic hunter/gatherers like those of the Northwest Plateau, many California Indians, and the Japanese Ainu.

Adopting this newer perspective radically changes our understanding of life in the Upper Paleolithic.  Notably, we must ask such questions as what strategies ambitious individuals might have developed, and whether secret societies were one of those strategies.  If so, what roles they could have played in creating social and economic inequalities.  Secret societies were certainly common ethnographically in the more complex kinds of hunter/gatherers so that secret societies might have existed in complex groups of the Upper Paleolithic.  I suggest that the painted caves of the period provide some of the most compelling arguments for the presence of secret societies 12,000-30,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic of Southwestern Europe.

Brian Hayden is a professor emeritus of archaeology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia (Canada), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.  He has had a longstanding interest in understanding what artifacts from the past can tell us about the societies and cultures that left things behind in the archaeological record.  He went to Australia to study what Aboriginals of the Western Desert used stone tools for.  He carried out a major study of traditional material culture in the Maya Highlands and it’s relation to social and economic roles of households.  His last ethnographic study involved the role of feasting in traditional Southeast Asian societies and how feasting can be inferred from archaeological remains.  He has also spent the last 30 years excavating at a large housepit village in the Interior of British Columbia.   He is author of numerous books and articles, including: The Power of Ritual in Prehistory: Secret Societies and the Origins of Social Complexity