Rapa Nui Collection


Although famous for its megalithic moai (statues) and ahu (monumental architecture), material culture produced during the island’s prehistoric past and post-contact history highlight Rapanui (Easter Islanders) creativity, ingenuity, longevity, and Oceanic continuity.

 

The Field Museum’s collection highlights the varied and at times magnificent material culture of this remote Oceanic culture.  In total, the Museum has 402 objects made of raw materials such as bone, stone, fiber, and wood.  
 
Pieces include moai miro (wood figurines) such as moai kava kava (wooden male statue with projecting ribs) and moai tangata (male figurines). Oral traditions highlight how these figures represented aku aku (ghosts) and spirits. The Field's collection is also home to one fertility tahonga (coconut shaped ornament). Ceremonial paddles such as rapa along with ua  clubs are also represented.

 

The Museum's Easter Island collection also contains utilitarian items such as needles, adzes, obsidian implements, mata'a (spearhead)fishhooks of both stone and bone, and examples of tapa (bark cloth) and fiber work.






Highlights of the Easter Island Collection

Material culture from The Field Musuem's Easter Island Collection 
(© Department of Anthropology, The Field Museum)

Sources for these collections include visitors, traders, and collectors.  A large part of the collection (n=292) comes from the Capt. A. W. F. Fuller Collection purchased in 1958.  Robert Trier of the Field Museum also gifted Easter Island objects to the Field Museum.

 

Currently, the museum has 3 Rapanui artifacts on display in the Pacific Spirits Hall.  These include a very fine moai kava kava, a mangai ma'ea piko (stone fishhook), and a moko manu uru (lizard figure).