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Investigating the ancient stone statues of Rapa Nui in the Pacific.

This exhibition is based on new research by University of Manchester archaeologist, Professor Colin Richards, who recently completed revelatory new fieldwork on the island. While the statues have drawn academic interest ever since the Dutch visited Rapa Nui in 1722, previous archaeologists have neglected to explore the bright red scoria pukao – or top-knots – which adorn the moai monuments.

The display in Manchester explores how the statues and their top-knots were made, as well as how they were quarried and transported across the island, and the role they played in the lives of the community. It also charts the ceremonial and spiritual associations of the statues – which represented the faces of deified ancestors and the repositories of sacred spirits – and the meanings of the ceremonial platforms (or ahu) on which the moai stood.

Moai Hava, an original statue collected on Rapa Nui in 1868 is on loan from the British Museum.

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