- Getting to Know You
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Q. How did you get into archaeology, and specifically Rapa Nui archaeology? What triggered your interest?
A. Naturally, I grew up in the culture as part of it (as you want to define it). Although, not literally archaeology, oral traditions usually ended in an object, a rock, a picture, a statue, and even in space. From this point of view, I understand the value of art as a product of a systemic situation that existed sometime in the line of history. In a way, the roots among my people and materials were always important, a situation that led me to study archaeology.
Q. Who or what do you consider as your most significant influence (scientific or otherwise) either as a person or a particular work (or series of works)?
A. I consider my father, Rafael Rapu Haoa, to be the person who was my example in the understanding of culture. He worked for many years in the field of archaeology, since the time when he was a photographer team mate of William Mulloy, Patrick McCoy, and Bill Ayres. He was the person who ultimately acquainted me with archaeological materials. On the other hand, from the disciplinary point of view, I saw many archaeologists working with my father, Bill Ayres, Joan Wozniak, Chris Stevenson, Giuseppe Orefici, José Miguel Ramírez, among others.
I acknowledge that the first excavation I remember seeing was by the Italian expedition with Giuseppe Orefici and José Miguel Ramírez in Ahu Runga.
Q. What would you have done if you had not pursued your current line(s) of research and interests?
A. I would have been a farmer, leading a country lifestyle on the island, but I recognized my interest in economics.
Q. What do you hope to accomplish (in archaeology) on Rapa Nui in the future?
A. I would like to see achievements in making science and traditional perspectives understandable, and allowing the Rapanui culture to be a part of the scientific interpretations.
I feel a great empty space and a bad compromise of the scientific community, however, William Mulloy is a character many people mention on the island, and that speaks of the social commitment his scientific work had.
Q. What is your favorite site on Rapa Nui and why?
A. My favorite place is definitely Akahanga, I think it is one of the most comprehensive sites due to the proximity of the different domestic spaces. In this aspect, we are able to visualize the display of [End Page 71] different activities, for example, ahu, the baiha or springs, aldeas, growing areas, etc. that fully show the direct association of different activities.
In this respect it is a very good "type" place to study or copy.
Q. What myth or misinformation about Rapa Nui would you like to dispel?
A. The oft-mentioned hypothesis of collapse on Rapa Nui in prehistory. It is very clear that it has been refuted and that there is no apparent clarity regarding the approach of the famous hypothesis. In my opinion, things that are made by humans are, at some point, collapsing, either as a political organization, institution, etc., but it is still possible for human beings continue living daily in these situations.
An environment is prone to collapse, or population growth in a small geographic setting, but it is not a determinant of stalling human capacities to manipulate their environment and their way of life.
Q. What's the most important thing you'd like visitors (or scientists, for that matter) to know about Rapa Nui?
A. In my opinion, the island itself is impressive because of its isolation, and for the great cultural material development carried out in such a geographical setting. And at the same time, the social factor and all of its dynamics were part of that process.
Certainly the moai are what apparently impacts most people the most, either because of their size or aesthetics, leading even to enigmatic questions about their transportation, or their meaning...