EASTER ISLAND AND EAST POLYNESIAN PREHISTORY
Roger C. Green
At the First International Congress of Easter Island and East Polynesia held in Hanga Roa, Rapanui from September 6 to 12, 1984, I was "elected" to head a then informal group of researchers to see to the organisation of future such gatherings. Such a group is still nascent, but the thought behind it may well be why I get to write this foreword.
The creation of the Primer Congreso had been almost wholly the work of a small group of researchers on Rapanui: Claudio Cristino F., Patricia Vargas C., Edmundo Edwards E. and Roberto Izaurieta S. It was put together under the auspices of the Instituto de Estudios Isla de Pascua and the Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo of the Universidad de Chile. The Secretary -General at the time was Patricia Vargas Casanova, and the President Claudio Cristino. They fully carried the burden of putting the whole event together and then seeing that it, in fact, eventuated. A volume of proceedings, program and abstracts and another of some of the archaeological papers given at the congress appeared under the editorship of the organizers (Cristino, Vargas & Izaurieta in 1985 and Cristino, Vargas, Izaurieta & Budd in1988). Many other papers presented at the congress in due course also appeared elsewhere in the literature. It was a great stimulus to all interested in the entire region.
The first congress attracted some 82 attendees from 15 countries with the majority of them being archaeologists, but encompassed a wide spread among other disciplines as well. It achieved the purpose of "creating contact which will overcome the isolation of scientific research" in the Easter Island and East Polynesian region by an exchange of information on current research undertaken within its confines.
One reason for this perceived sense of "isolation" among the active researchers within East Polynesia was that a number of distinct political entities and a variety of linguistic genres are involved: Polynesian and various of its languages, Chilean and Spanish, France (French Polynesia) and French, and New Zealand and Hawaii (USA) and several kinds of English.
People from those research traditions, and a great many others with similar regional interests, seldom or never meet together. Thus their usual means of communication was generally limited to the more accessible portions of the published literature on topics of mutual interest and occasional exchanges of letters. However, there was already a vast bulk of "grey-literature" or desktop published reports of restricted circulation on relevant research in Hawaii, New Zealand, French Polynesia and Easter Island, and it has now grown to very large proportions indeed, so much so that none of us can keep up with it. Certainly to overcome some of these cross-cultural, linguistic and data-overload problems meant that more meetings like the first were warranted, but they proved harder than expected to achieve.
One such event was proposed and planned to occur in French Polynesia, but unfortunately in the end it did not eventuate. Instead a symposium was organized by Michael Graves and myself at the XVII Pacific Science Congress in Honolulu in June 1991, which to a degree served this purpose with 12 papers by scholars from Hawaii, Chile, New Zealand, and French Polynesia being among the participating presenters. Again a selection of the papers was published in a Graves and Green edited volume of the monograph series of the New Zealand Archaeological Association. In this period other much more Easter Island focussed conferences also occurred, like that held in Laramie, Wyoming at the university there. Again many papers from it were published in the Rapa Nui Journal, but the inter-country networking scope of the first congress has not been repeated, mainly because funding such events has proved so costly.
Given these circumstances, the originators of the original congress concept, Patricia and Claudio, decided that yet a further but smaller meeting of those archaeologists and anthropologists with these shared interests should again take place on Rapanui. This was designated by them as the Segundo Congreso Internacional de Arqueologia de Isla de Pascua y Polinesia Oriental and took place in Hanga Roa 17-21 October 1996. Again the sponsoring body was the Instituto de Estudios Isla de Pascua, Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, Universidad de Chile.This time there were some 24 papers authored by circa 25 different scholars from Rapanui, mainland Chile, French Polynesia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, and the USA.
Several things, not particularly evident at the first congress, were striking. One was the greater participation by local Rapanui both in presentations and in the audience; second were on-going field projects to visit before, during and after the Congreso with reports on them directly from the field; and third was the rapport that had now developed between participants from a range of countries who had previously been strangers or only sometime correspondents with each other.
There is something to be said for Rapanui concepts of hospitality and partying. As an English sub-title on the programe folder indicated: it was more like a workshop than strictly formal paper presentation sessions where people floated some of their recent research and ideas. None-the-less we now have in this present volume a selection of those papers in well- considered prose that serves to permanently mark the occasion. And (as from the beginning of the first congreso venture) we all know who has been a mainstay behind these events, as well as the current volume’s editor.
Auckland, New Zealand 13 June 1998