- Museum number
Carved human figure, boundary marker (?). Head similar in size to torso. Both head and torso rounded, roughly rectangular in form. Eyes, nose, mouth carved in relief, top of arms indicated with simple block forms. Made of white-brown rough mottled stone.
Height: 33 centimetres
Width: 20 centimetres
Depth: 16 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Register entry: 'Boundary statue? (cf. Routledge. fig.111)
Easter Island, the easternmost and also the most isolated island of Polynesia, is famous for its monumental stone statues, called 'moai'. They were carved during the period c.AD 1000 to the late 1600s and were idealized commemorative images of important tribal ancestors. However, already from the fifteenth century onwards, the 'moai' cult was undergoing transformation. Deforestation of the island (logs were used to transport and erect the statues), soil depletion leading to food shortages, and inter-tribal conflicts resulted in the abandonment of the 'moai' cult and its replacement by the birdman cult centred on Makemake, the creator-god with bird attributes. It was probably during this period of transformation that the production of small stone figures, 'moai maea', was begun.
Although the large stone statues have been studied extensively, little is known about the small figures. They were collected in the second half of the nineteenth, and in the twentieth centuries. Many come from surface collections of the archaeological survey of the island. Their precise function is unclear although one account describes them as household gods. Unlike the large statues, they are roughly carved and stylistically ill-defined but usually consist only of head and torso, some with double, Janus-type, heads.
These two figures were collected by Katherine Scoresby Routledge who, with her husband William, carried out fieldwork on the island in 1914-15. Her book, 'The Mystery of Easter Island', published in 1919, does not say anything about these two images, but the bird carved in relief on the double figure seems to point to its links with the birdman cult.
Small stone images have been produced on Easter Island and traded to visitors for at least a hundred years, and today they usually take the form of miniature replicas of the large statues.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1997 13 Oct-1998 5 Jan, India, New Delhi, National Museum, The Enduring Image
1998 9 Feb-3 May, India, Mumbai, Sir Caswasjee Jahangir Hall, The Enduring Image
2003 18 Oct-14 Dec, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 17 Jan-28 Mar, Kobe City Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 10 Apr-13 Jun, Fukuoka Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 26 Jun-29 Aug, Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2005 11 Apr-10 Jul, Seoul Arts Centre, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2005 25 Jul-8 Oct, Busan Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2005 27 Oct-2006 31 Jan, Haengso Museum, Keimyung University, Daegu, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2006 18 Mar-4 Jun, Beijing, Capital Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2007 3 Feb-27 May, Taipei, National Palace Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2007 14 Sep-2 Dec, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Treasures of the World's Cultures
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number