Museo Antropológico Padre Sebastián Englert
Improved in many ways, but not without shortcomings, Hanga Roa’s anthropological museum sets the stage for Rapa Nui by dividing the South Pacific into “Near Oceania” (the area from Australia and New Guinea up to the Solomon Islands), settled around 40,000 years ago, and “Remote Oceania” to the northeast (Micronesia, Eastern Melanesia, and Polynesia), colonized from about 2000 B.C. to A.D. 1000.
Its displays provide valuable information on island geography, traditional navigation in the Pacific, immigration and population, the island’s half-dozen mata or tribes (which later became 10), religion and the moai, subsistence activities (mainly fishing and horticulture), the birdman cult, body decoration (tattoos) and clothing, and rock art. There are also wood carvings, rongorongo tablets, weapons, and a case full of stone tools. Among the more unusual items are a female moai, one of only about 10 found on the island, and an eye of a moai made of white coral and volcanic scoria.
Its name a tribute to the Catholic priest and scholar who lived many years in Hanga Roa and who is buried just outside the church, the museum’s major shortcoming is its failure to address historical or contemporary topics such as the imposition of Chilean rule, the impact of tourism, or even the demographic decline that followed the arrival of Europeans and their diseases, not to mention Peruvian slavers. On the other hand, the important Mulloy library has recently moved here from Viña del Mar’s Museo Fonck.
Midway between Ahu Tahai and Ahu Akapu, the Museo Antropológico (tel. 0322/551020, www.museorapanui.cl) is open Tuesday–Friday 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 2–5:30 p.m., weekends and holidays 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. only. Admission costs US$1.75 for adults, half that for children 8–18, and is free to children under eight years old.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition