UCL ISH October 2016 Guest Lecture: Professor Sue Hamilton, Director, UCL Institute of Archaeology
Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is a small, remote, volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean, some 2500km from its nearest neighbour and 4000km from the nearest mainland. Its extreme isolation has governed its past and ongoing existence. The myths and enigmas of Rapa Nui have been generated by the records of early explorers, folk memories surviving from a population that had declined to c.250 persons by 1915, by sensationalised concepts of self-induced eco-disaster, and by public fascination with an idea of societal collapse associated with the demise of its iconic tradition of colossal statue construction (AD 1200 and 1550). Today, Rapa Nui’s population of c.4000 people gains its main economic stream from heritage tourism. It is faced with highly challenging issues of sustaining a UNESCO designated heritage, which is undergoing physical erosion on a massive scale. The AHRC Rapa Nui Landscapes of Construction Project considers these issues on a landscape scale. This lecture considers how Rapa Nui’s past, and current living heritage have complex social, ideological and ecological interfaces that need to be understood and addressed on an island wide scale.
Sue Hamilton is Professor of Prehistory and Director of the UCL Institute of Archaeology. Her work focuses on the social and sensory construction of landscapes by prehistoric societies. Her research has concentrated on later prehistoric settlement and landscape in Europe and, for more than a decade, the archaeology of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). She has led largescale, multi-disciplinary landscape projects in the UK, southern Italy and Rapa Nui and currently is Principal Investigator of the AHRC Rapa Nui Landscapes of Construction Project. Her books include Stone Worlds: Narrative and Reflexivity in Landscape Archaeology (with B. Bender and C. Tilley) and Archaeology and Women (with K. Wright and R. Whitehouse).