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  • Notes from the field: Ahu Nau Nau and Ahu Ature Huki, ‘Anakena, 1982
  • Charles M. Love

‘Anakena, April 30, 1982.1

Ahu Nau Nau

Routledge talks about this site to a certain extent.2 It has been excavated in part and parts have been restored, so that many things have happened here. I have no idea whether or not they will ever be recorded.

The excavation and restoration that was done by a local archaeologist, Sergio Rapu,3 restored the ahu but there was little excavation done at that time. The ahu was in excellent shape.4 There are now four statues with topknots standing on the platform, each of a slightly different shape. What portions of their topknots are real as opposed to repaired or rebuilt, and what the topknots looked like in their original shape is another question. I don’t know the answer.

Aside from the four standing statues with topknots, there is a vacant pedestal to the left, and then three more statues (and 3 more pedestals). All of the pedestals are composite types (I suspect all the pedestals here were reconstructed, i.e., new). Three more statues are then on the right. Very clearly, the last two on the right (out of the entire seven) were much smaller; only the base portions remain. One of the statues lacks a topknot but it appears as if the statue was designed for one.

Contrary to popular local tradition, the restored ahu called Nau Nau is not the first one at this site. Off to the right, stacked in a small plaza, are fragments of other statues and topknots. It was here that fragments of worked coral were first discovered and recognized as eye for a statue. The coral pieces were found and then it was noted that they fit together.5

A number of broken statues (possibly three) are over to the right, but whether or not they belong with this particular ahu is unknown. Two lower-body pieces with the hands still visible suggests that whatever originally stood on this ahu, one of them belonged on the empty pedestal on the ahu.

To return to the statues on the side, there are four bases and one head, two topknots, and several other assorted pieces, but I’m certain they didn’t all belong to Ahu Nau Nau. Immediately adjacent is the statue that was pulled along in an experiment by Heyerdahl (Heyerdahl & Ferdon 1961:Pl. 60b). It is over on the right, as one faces the sea, along with another ahu described in this report.

The entire ahu had been covered by sand so that, when the moai fell, they were cushioned by it (Heyerdal & Ferdon 1961:Plate 24c). We have no record, however, as to when these statues were overturned. Some 80 burials were placed underneath them. These were excavated; it is possible they were from the smallpox epidemics as this was a mass burial. The burials seem to have been tucked underneath without context or sequence.

One trench still remains out in front on the landward side at right angles to the axis of the central platform; it is about 20 meters long and goes right up to the lower part of the ramp.

There are some special things about this ahu. First, the central platform is horizontal but the front landward paenga have a complete red scoria fascia. The landward paenga go up on each end, rather like the gunwales of a boat, and go out in the middle, so it looks like one half of a very long canoe. This is similar in concept to the boat-shaped houses.

There is an extensively spaced poro ramp with some large blocks of bedrock or other kinds of rock in several places within the interior. Another series of paenga are at the bottom of the spaced poro ramp that forms a boundary with the spaced poro ramp; this is a non-scoria fascia. The whole was covered with small beach pebbles and red scoria pebbles.

The courtyard in front (landward) is not very long. It was covered by about 30 to 50cm of sand that blew in over a red dirt-red clay base...


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