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Currently shown

Lizardman Carved Figure (moai tangata moko)

Location

EASTER ISLAND

Culture

Rapanui

Title

Lizardman Carved Figure (moai tangata moko)

Date

Before 1962

Materials

Wood

Dimensions

40 x 5.1 x 11.3 cm

Credits

F. Cleveland Morgan Bequest, inv. 1962.Pc.6

Collection

Archeology and World Cultures

For the Rapanui, the notion of art in the Western sense does not exist. Testimonials to the skill of artisans, the ritual effectiveness of carvings seems to have been more important than their aesthetics. Such effectiveness is directly linked to the sociocultural context of their production and use – a context that was in part lost when they were collected by Europeans. Moai tangata moko were hung at the threshold of or inside houses, where they acted as guardians. They were also sometimes worn by dancers during ceremonies. Hybrid figures combining anthropomorphic, reptilian and avian elements, they probably depict powerful spirits. Their particularly prominent spines seem to be symbols of genealogy, with the notches referring to different generations of ancestors.

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