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  • What's New ElsewhereImpressions from the Berlin Conference
  • Paul Horley

The 9th International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific (EIPC) dedicated to Cultural and Environmental Dynamics was held at the Ethnological Museum of Dahlem on June 21-26, 2015. The event was organized by Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, HafenCity Universität Hamburg, and the Easter Island Foundation. The organizing committee, headed by Dr. Burkhard Vogt, did a remarkable effort ensuring a smooth flow of the entire event.

The choice of the conference site and lodging was just perfect: the Ethnological Museum of Dahlem features one of the most renowned collections of Easter Island artifacts in Europe, many of which date from the historic expedition of Wilhelm Geiseler onboard the HMS Hyäne in 1882. The principal conference hotel, Seminaris, was comfortably located just across the street from the museum. The canopy of linden trees abundantly growing in the area provided much desired shade on sunny days and a natural rain protection during the passing showers. The evening before the conference was heralded by the ice-breaker party held at the Lepsius-Kolleg, located within walking distance from the Seminaris Hotel. The friendly atmosphere and golden rays of the setting sun created a perfect background for discussions over a beer or two; everybody enjoyed meeting friends and seeing colleagues known for years, as well as making new acquaintances. Thus, the base for intense and fruitful scientific communication was firmly established during the first evening.

The conference was opened by the Ambassador of the Republic of Chile in Germany, H.E. Mariano Fernández Amunátegui, followed by the welcome words by Dr. Richard Haas, the Deputy Director of the Ethnological Museum of Dahlem. The Easter Island Foundation's David Rose and Marla Wold addressed the participants with welcome words mentioning the news of the Easter Island Foundation and its successful scholarship programs. The keynote lecture on prehistoric ecological dynamics of Rapa Nui was presented by Dr. Christopher M. Stevenson. The Ethnological Museum kindly provided EIPC 2015 with two large conference halls and ample areas for coffee breaks, which catalyzed numerous important discussions in between the sessions.

The scientific program of the conference was rich and diverse, with 15 sessions covering topics related to historical and present-day land use, Rapa Nui cultural identity, new issues of paleobotany, biology and the marine environment, lithic production and techniques, demography and anthropology, studies of moai and ahu, research of Rapa Nui art and artistic trends in small portable sculpture, new developments in rongorongo script studies, the role of museum collections and archives in Rapa Nui studies, cutting-edge technologies for documentation of Easter Island sites and objects, challenges and future of knowledge, education and cultural heritage, improvement of communication strategies, problems and peculiarities of archaeological site management, as well as the impact of tourism on [End Page 67] the fragile cultural heritage of the island. The intense scientific program of the conference was successfully fulfilled, with a total number of presented papers reaching 90. The participants also had the pleasure to see two recent documentaries "Buscando a Isla de Pascua: la película perdida" [Searching for Easter Island: the lost movie] and "Te Kuhane o te Tupuna, el espiritu de los ancestors" [The spirit of the ancestors], both of which attracted significant interest and loud applause.

The participants of the conference attended the evening reception at the museum, which was opened with welcome words by Dr. Richard Haas (the Deputy Director of the Ethnological Museum of Dahlem), and Dr. Dorothea Deterts (the Curator of the Pacific and Australian Collection). After the reception, we had a rare privilege to experience a night at the museum – a breathtaking visit to the Oceania exhibition hall opened after regular museum hours only for the participants of EIPC. The permanent exhibition of Easter Island artifacts is magnificent: one of a few surviving painted 'ao paddles, two rapa with beautiful finishes, several well-preserved moai kavakava, moai pa'apa'a, two lizard carvings (moko), a reimiro, wooden pendants (tahonga), clubs carved as stylized eels, 'ua and paoa, and one of the largest surviving rongorongo artifacts (alas, collected in a considerably eroded state). There...


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