Stratigraphy, Chronology, and Cultural Context of an Early Faunal Assemblage from Easter Island

Steadman, David W.
Casanova, Patricia Vargas
Ferrando, Claudio Cristino
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University of Hawai'i Press (Honolulu)
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We report on the text excavation of a small trench at the coastal site of Ahu Anakena, Easter Island (Rapanui), Chile. The cultural deposits are a basal clay overlain by up to 1.3 m of calcareous sand. Conventional 14C dates on wood charcoal range from 660 ± 80 B.P. to 900 ± 80 B.P. Most lithic artifacts are obsidian, with the remainder of basalt or red scoria. The nonlithic artifacts include two bird-bone needles and a dolpin-bone tab. The vertebrate fauna differs later prehistoric Easter Island assemblages in that bones of marine mammals, and native landbirds are much more common, and bones of fish, humans, and chickens are rarer. The fauna is dominated by the Common Dolphin, Pacific Rat, and fish. Bones of fish are much rarer, and those of dolphins much more common, than in prehistoric midden assemblages from more tropical parts of Polynesia. The abundance of dolphin bones suggests that the prehistoric Rapanui had sailing canoes for hunting dolphins offshore until c. A.D. 1300-1400, which deforestation eliminated the raw material (trees) needed to make the canoes. Bones of extinct and extirpated native seabirds and landbirds occur throughout deposit. KEYWORDS: Polynesia, Easter Island, prehistoric extinctions, fauna.
Polynesia, Easter Island, prehistoric extinctions, fauna
Steadman, D. W., P. V. Casanova, C. C. Ferrando. 1994. Stratigraphy, Chronology, and Cultural Context of an Early Faunal Assemblage from Easter Island. Asian Perspectives 33 (1): 79-96.
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