Carved wooden moai tangata figure from Easter Island. Bearded male, with bone or shell eyes. [Dan Hicks 02/06/2012]

Place details: OCEANIA POLYNESIA. Easter Island (Special Territory of Chile) / Unknown. Local Name: Moai tangata Materials: Wood Plant / Shell / Glass / ?. Processes: Carved / Inlaid / ?. Weight: 376g Dimensions: Max L = 405 mm Max W = 85 mm Maker: Unknown Field Collector: Unknown When Collected: ?Prior to 1881 Other Owners: Anthropological Institute [Sale Purchase in 1881]. Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. This object was listed in the Delivery Catalogue as having been transferred from South Kensington Museum in 1884. It was delivered to South Kensington Museum in May 1881. It was probably displayed at South Kensington Museum between 1881 - 1884. PRM Source: Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection Acquired: Donated 1884 PR No.: 656/ 12394

KEYWORD: Figure / CLASS: Figure / ?.

Object description: Carved wooden human figure. The hair is deeply cut around the edges with cross-hatch incisions on the top. The prominent eyebrows are incised with parallel V-shaped lines. The mouth is closed and no teeth are present. The round eyes are inlaid with shell and glass. The nose is straight and prominent with nostrils carved-out. There is a small, narrow beard formed on the lower chin, with lines incised to delineate hair. The earlobes are distended and are carved so as to appear ornamented with ear plugs. The head and neck are tipped forward, giving a‘ hunched’ look. The back of the neck is smooth, carrying down to the lower back, where the spine is indicated by a long shallow groove carved down the centre, culminating in a sculpted raised disc about 15 mm in diameter. Below this, there is a ridge cut demarcating the waistline, and below that a small hole bored into the wood (possibly for a former mount?). On the chest, the clavicle, nipples and navel are visible, the collar bone being a curved ridge carved into the wood and the nipples and navel being small formed nodules. The stomach is slightly distended. The arms hang straight down at the sides and there are five digits incised on each hand. There are also small knobs formed on each wrist, though they are very worn. The buttocks are small but protruding and there is a clear phallus intact on the front. The legs are straight, with knees clearly defined, and there are six toes carved on each of the small feet. There are also knobs formed on either side of each ankle. Damage: There is a large chip out of the hair on the front of the head and a wear patch on the left shoulder. [Notes compiled by Emily Stokes-Rees, April 2003, in response to the detailed enquiries of Dederen Francois Te Pito.]

Publications history, trails & websites: Illustrated in black and white as plate [lamina] 38 (frontal) on page 113 of Iconografia de la Isla de Pascua, by Otto Klein Schwarz (Valparaiso: Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria, 1988). Caption (same page) reads: 'moái tangáta'. See also entry on page 101. [JC 24 11 2000]

Published as number 247 in Corpus Rapa Nui: Inventaire mondial de la statuaire en bois de l'îles de Pâques / Global Inventory of the Wooden Statuary of Easter Island, by François Dederen ('Te Pito'), Braine-L'Alleud, Belgium: François Dederen (2013). The author's annotated line drawings (front and back) are on page 409 (see photocopy in RDF). On page 112 of his 'Description sommaire des pieces principales / Concise Description of the Principal Pieces', Dederen writes: 'Planche 247 (Pitt Rivers Museum) 1884.54.44. Moai tangate à tête allongée et portant sur celle-ci une coiffure en forme de carapace de tortue. C'est le seul example connu ayant cerre particularité'; 'Plate 247 (Pitt River [sic] Museum) 1884.65.44. This moai tangata has the head lengthened and wearing hairdressing in form of a turtle shell. It is the only known specimen with this particularity.' The figure is also listed on page 76. [JC 10 10 2013]

Research notes: According to a letter dated 5 November 1986 from Rebecca Jewell (Voluntary Assistant at the Museum of Mankind) to Linda Cheetham (PRM), a sample of wood from this object was sent, via Dorota Starzecka (Museum of Mankind) to Dr Paula Rudell (Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew) who found that it matched her reference material for Colubrina sp. (see copy of letter in RDF). [JC 16 3 1999]

'... while the Institute has a most valuable collection of skulls and skeletons, it has on the other hand never succeeded in collecting an ethnographical museum of any educational value. A few articles, not unfamiliar to the visitors of any large ethnographical museum, such as weapons, dresses, models &c., have been presented to the Society at various times, but while they have occupied much wall space in the rooms of the Institute, and thus cramped the library, they are neither sufficient in number nor capable of arrangement in any order complete enough to serve the purpose intended. Upon a careful review of the whole of the circumstances, therefore, the Council have resolved that it would be the wisest course for the Institute to devote all spare funds to the enlargement of the Library, and to maintain the collection of skulls and skeletons, but to give up the attempt, which they are convinced would be a hopeless one, to establish any sufficiently large and comprehensive ethnographical museum. Their view was confirmed by the independent professional opinion of a valuer nominated by an eminent firm, who estimated the value of all the ethnographical specimens referred to at only £45. ... The Council resolved, therefore, subject to the approval of this meeting, to accept two offers, amounting together to £54, or £9 more than the valuer's estimate, viz: one of £14 from Mr Franks, curator of the Christy Collection, for the Burmese gong, and one of £40 from Major-General Pitt Rivers for the other objects, with the view of their being ultimately deposited at South Kensington. ...' [Report of the Council of the Anthropological Institute ...' [JAI, vol 10 (1881) 438-9] [AP 6/12/2005]

For a suggestion that some of the objects from Rapa Nui in the PRM's founding collection may have been obtained from James Linton Palmer, who visited the island during the Pacific voyage of HMS Topaze (1865-1869), see pages 564-5 in 'Easter Island and Pitcairn Island', by Dan Hicks, Sue Hamilton, Mike Seager Thomas, and Ruth Whitehouse, in World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: A Characterization, edited by Dan Hicks and Alice Stevenson (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2013), pp. 564-72: ''There are...8 artefacts from the PRM’s founding collection that are recorded as being from Easter Island: 3 obsidian tools (1884.140.589–591), a cord of human hair from the collection of John G. Wood (1884.48.39), a wooden dance paddle or club (1884.55.75), and 3 carved wooden figures (1884.65.43–45). It is possible that some of these PRM founding collection objects were obtained from John Linton Palmer, who collected material from Easter Island when serving as Fleet Surgeon on the 1868 voyage of HMS Topaze or perhaps in subsequent years. This is particularly likely given Pitt-Rivers’ close association with the Ethnological Society of London: the Society’s journal published Palmer’s account of ‘observations of the inhabitants and antiquities of Easter Island’ in 1870.' [JC 8 8 2014]