Horniman Museum - Dance paddle from Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
This paddle was used in ceremonial dances in the nineteenth century.
On display at Kew Gardens from 18 April - 30 May 2011
Easter Island is a tiny island in the South Pacific. It was first settled by Polynesians about 2000 years ago. A complex civilisation developed, with the carving of at least 800 statues between 1000-1500 AD. This paddle was used in ceremonial dances in the nineteenth century.
Wood is a vitally important resource in the Pacific, not just for housing and fuel, but also for the construction of deep sea canoes for fishing. Easter Island was once densely forested, but all the large trees had gone by the time of the first European contact in 1722.
A combination of over-harvesting, and the impact of introduced animals, led to massive deforestation.
This paddle is thought to be made of wood from the toromiro tree (Sophora toromiro). It has been extinct in the wild since 1960, but plants survive in cultivation in several botanic gardens, including the Gardens at Kew. Watch our video about the toromiro tree.
There are many projects in the Pacific, such as agroforestry.net, working to encourage growth of native trees, to restore damaged habitats and supply traditional crafts, such as wood-carving and tapa cloth making.
1970.242, Horniman Museum.
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