TH E JO U RNA L O F TH E PO LY N ESIA N SO CIETY VOLUM E 128 No.2 JUNE 2019
VOLUM E 128 No.2 JU NE 2019
THE ETHNOHISTORY OF FRESHWATER USE ON RAPA NUI
(EASTER ISLAND, CHILE)
SEAN W. HIXON
University of California at Santa Barbara
ROBERT J. DiNAPOLI
University of Oregon
CARL P. LIPO
TERRY L. HUNT
University of Arizona
ABSTRACT: Sources of drinking water on islands often present critical constraints
to human habitation. On Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile), there is remarkably little
surface fresh water due to the nature of the island’s volcanic geology. While several
lakes exist in volcanic craters, most rainwater quickly passes into the subsurface and
emerges at coastal springs. Nevertheless, the island sustained a relatively large human
population for hundreds of years, one that built an impressive array of monumental
platforms (ahu) and statues (moai). To understand how Rapanui acquired their scarce
fresh water, we review ethnohistoric data from rst European arrival (1722) through
the mid-twentieth century. Ethnohistoric accounts identify a diversity of freshwater
sources and describe various Rapanui freshwater management strategies. Our ndings
highlight the importance of coastal freshwater seeps and provide much-needed insight
into how Rapanui procured this vital and necessary resource.
Keywords: Rapa Nui (Easter Island), coastal springs, freshwater management, puna
(wells), ethnohistory, Polynesia
Here is no safe anchorage; no wood for fuel; nor any fresh water worth
taking on board.
—Captain James Cook, March 1774
Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile) evokes a rich array of superlatives, both
positive and negative. On the one hand, the island boasts almost 1,000
multi-ton statues (moai), several hundred of which were transported across
the volcanic landscape and placed on top of massive stone platforms (ahu)
(Hochstetter et al. 2011). For these accomplishments, Rapa Nui is known
as one of the world’s greatest examples of prehistoric megalithic monument
construction. On the other hand, the island is small (164 km2), remote (nearly
Journal of the Polynesian Society, 2019, 128 (2): 163–189. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.15286/jps.128.2.163-189
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
2,000 km from Pitcairn Island and 3,500 km from the coast of Chile) and
poorly endowed with natural resources (Fig. 1). The subtropical climate,
variable rainfall, unproductive soils and lack of large coral reefs, lagoon or
timber oered signicant challenges to Rapanui. mong these challenges,
the scarcity of drinking water may have been the greatest. Despite these
limitations, Rapanui ourished and left a spectacular legac.
Reliabl sucient fresh water is a biophsical constraint that determines
whether habitats can support human communities. As Rapa Nui has
unpredictable rainfall and lacks permanent streams, fresh water has always
been a limited resource on the island. As Thomson (1891: 489) commented
during his 1886 visit, he greatest mster is how such a number of
people obtained a sucient suppl of fresh water. hile Rapa Nui does
have a few crater lakes and numerous coastal freshwater seeps (Brosnan et al.
2018 errera and Custodio 2008), places to access freshwater resources
are relatively scarce, patchy and likely predictable, which makes them good
candidates for highly contested and “economically defendable” resources
(Dson-udson and mith 1978 DiNapoli and Morrison 2017). Indeed, man
argue that the distribution of this scarce et vital resource had a major inuence
on the structure of Rapanui settlement locations and patterns of competitive
interaction (e.g., DiNapoli et al. 2019 McCo 1976 Rull 2016, 2018, 2019
o g t a n d h l e m 2 0 1 8 o g t a n d M o s e r 2 0 1 0 ) . n c e r t a i n t i e s a n d d e b a t e s
persist, however, about the range of freshwater sources used and which sources
were likely the most important in the past. While ethnohistoric evidence
can better resolve the locations and strategies of traditional freshwater
procurement, as well the potential archaeological signatures of these strategies,
the ethnohistoric record has been largely overlooked on this topic.
ere, we oer a sstematic review of the Rapa Nui ethnohistoric accounts
to better resolve patterns of traditional freshwater use and management. Using
written accounts from European visitors to Rapa Nui between 1722 (Jacob
Roggeveen) and 1955 (Thor Heyerdahl), we review known sources of fresh
water and document strategies used by Rapanui for freshwater procurement
and storage. We document the use of fresh water from both natural and
constructed contexts including crater lakes, inland springs, coastal seeps,
lava tubes/caves and constructed “wells” (puna), rainwater catchment basins
(taheta) and reservoirs. e also brie discuss historic accounts that describe
the use of plants that may have had key roles in traditional Rapanui water-
resource management. hese historic accounts provide signicant insight into
the relative importance of dierent water procurement strategies and help
provide the basis for generating hypotheses about Polynesian adaptations
to freshwater scarcit and the inuence of freshwater scarcit on Rapanui
community patterning. While Rapanui used a range of freshwater sources,
our review of the historical and archaeological evidence suggests that natural
coastal seeps and constructed puna were likely of critical importance.
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 165
RAPA NUI HYDROGEOLOGY
Rapa Nui is a volcanic island formed through hot-spot volcanism starting
around 2.5 Myr (million years) ago (Bonatti et al. 1977 eoli and cocella
2009). Between 2.5 and 0.18 Myr ago, a series of eruptions created Poike
and Rano Kau on the northeastern and southwestern corners of the island,
respectively (Fig. 2). Starting approximately 360,000 kyr (thousand years)
ago, numerous lava ows from two main fracture sstems created erevaka,
which currentl dominates the geolog of the island. ava ows that created
Tere vaka ar e quite young, a nd some date to as recent ly as 10 kyr ago (Vezzoli
and Acocella 2009).
hese largel jointed basalt lava ows that characterise the island constitute
what Herrera and Custodio (2008: 1333) term a large-scale “high permeability
apron” and hold dramatic consequences for the hydrology of the island.
Although the island enjoys abundant rainfall (a maximum of approximately
2,100 mm/r on the summit of erevaka tevenson et al. 2015), its porous
substrate largely prevents the pooling of surface water and limits easy access
Figure 1. ocation of Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile) in the southeastern acic.
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
for terrestrial ora and fauna (errera and Custodio 2008: 1331). Instead,
the highly permeable volcanic apron rapidly transmits much of the water
to the islands subterranean auifer, which has elevations that average onl
a few metres above sea level (masl) (Brosnan et al. 2018 eferjahn 2016).
Consequently, rain falling onto the surface of the island quickly vanishes
and rarely (only intermittently after torrential downpours) forms streams or
surface ponds. his phenomenon is often reected in comments b visitors.
For example, rown (1924 1979: 25) noted that a half an hour after a
downpour the ground is as dry as before it” and that “the greatest defect of
the island is its porous character”.
iven Rapa Nuis porous substrate, water entering the ground ows
through cracks and fractures in the bedrock. Where the land intersects the
ocean, fresh groundwater seeps out into the sea (Fig. 3). his ow can
occur at the surface as coastal springs or seeps, or underwater as submarine
groundwater discharge (Kim et al. 2003 Montgomer ssociates 2011),
which is an overlooked water resource in many parts of the world (Moosdorf
and Oehler 2017). he coastal fringe of the island, therefore, can oer
locations for people to access groundwater relatively easily. On Rapa Nui,
coastal springs exist in many areas along the coast and are easily accessible
during low tide (Brosnan et al. 2018 eferjahn 2016).
The height of the water table on Rapa Nui is fairly low and typically
between 1 and 3 masl (lamos eralta 1992 errera and Custodio 2008
Montgomery & Associates 2011). The amount of fresh water contained
within the island is substantial, and signicant ows emerge along the
coast. Although there exist uncertainties in the values of coastal substrate
transmissivity and hydraulic gradient, Montgomery & Associates (2011)
estimate a recharge rate of between 3,200 and 4,700 L/s. This rate is impressive
when one considers that even a fraction of a percent of this discharge could
supply a population of over 5,000 (Herrera and Custodio 2008: 1346).
Though accessible at the points where it emerges at the coast, these
sources of water tend to be brackish due to the mixing of seawater with fresh
groundwater in both surface and subsurface mixing zones. On Rapa Nui,
this mixing zone is evidently thick, for salt water intrudes into near-coastal
springs to create salinity levels of greater than 1,000 mg/L Cl (Herrera
and Custodio 2008: 1329). While humans can survive with brackish water,
there are limits to the salinity that the body can tolerate. On Rapa Nui, it is
estimated that 90 percent of the populations salt intake might have come
from brackish water consumption (Brosnan et al. 2018 Norton 1992).
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 167
Figure 2. Rapa Nui and sources of fresh water mentioned in historical accounts
DEM sourced from https://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/.
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS OF FRESHWATER USE: 1722–1956
European accounts of Rapa Nui began with the arrival of the Dutch
captain Jacob Roggeveen, who sighted the island on Easter Sunday, 1722.
Roggeveens visit was a short one of just two das. Nearl ve decades
passed until the Spanish captain Don Felipe González arrived in 1770. This
visit was followed in 1774 by the English captain James Cook and then in
1786 b French explorer Jean-Franois alaup de a rouse. fter this
time, European explorers, missionaries, traders, whalers and, most tragically,
slave raiders repeatedl visited Rapa Nui (Fischer 2005 Maude 1981).
These earlier voyagers made a variety of observations about the natural and
cultural features they encountered on the island (Richards 2008), including
fresh water and its uses.
he rst relativel thorough descriptions of the islands archaeolog can be
traced to John Linton Palmer, who arrived as a surgeon on the HMS Topaze
in 1868. In a brief account, almer (1870) provided some of the rst basic
descriptions of four ahu that he references on a map. eiseler (1883 1995)
added details to these basic descriptions. he rst comprehensive surve
of the island comes from William J. Thomson (1891). During his visit,
Thomson walked the coastline of Rapa Nui and described 113 ahu. In 1914,
Katherine Routledge (1919) travelled to Rapa Nui and spent 16 months doing
survey, excavations and interviews that resulted in detailed archaeological
and ethnographic information on the island and its inhabitants. In 1934–35,
lfred Mtraux (1940, 1957) of the Franco-elgian expedition conducted
Figure 3. Schematic of hydrogeological model for Rapa Nui. Water from rainfall
uickl enters the porous volcanic ground and ows towards the coast.
Fresh water oats atop salt water that enters the ground from the ocean.
At low tide, the lens of fresh water emerges at the coast. Where fresh
water mixes with salt water, the resulting water is brackish.
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 169
ethnographic documentation that expanded upon Routledges work. t
around the same time, Father ebastian Englert, a Catholic priest and prolic
observer, arrived and lived on the island for more than 30 ears. Englerts
(1948, 1970) detailed documentation of more than 40 natural freshwater
sources and numerous water-management features provides a signicant
source of knowledge on these issues. In 1955–56, Thor Heyerdahl led an
international team for eld research on Rapa Nui that included extensive
documentation and excavations (Heyerdahl and Ferdon 1961).
One feature that unites these visitors and distinguishes them from more
recent researchers is their heavy reliance on traditional local sources of fresh
water during their visits. Since the mid-twentieth century, residents and
visitors have become dependent on obtaining drinking water from wells sunk
into the deep groundwater or from imported bottled water. Predating the era
of contemporary well technology or regular and frequent cargo deliveries,
residents, visitors and foreign researchers had to nd drinkable water where
the could. hus, these historic notes oer relativel keen observations
about the islands freshwater resources. More importantl, while these earlier
ethnohistoric sources are often fragmentary, they provide some of the best
available evidence for freshwater use by ancient Rapanui.
Coastal Groundwater Discharge
The earliest European visitors on Rapa Nui provide only limited information
about the sources of fresh water used b Rapanui. During the rst European
visit in 1722, Roggeveen makes no reference to fresh water, though Captain
Cornelis Bouman, in command of the Thienhoven, mentions water obtained
by local populations that he “tasted and found to be quite brackish” (von
Saher 1994: 99). Given the hydrogeology of the island described above, it is
likel that oumans brackish water came from a coastal seep.
While the 1770 visit by the Spanish provides only a brief comment on the
brackish nature of the drinking water they were provided with (Ruiz-Tagle
2004), the expedition in 1774 led by Captain Cook provides more details
about fresh water on Rapa Nui. Cook (Ruiz-Tagle 2004: 160), for example,
notes that Rapanui brought members of the English expedition that had
travelled inland to “brackish and stinking” water that was only “rendered
acceptable by the extremity of their thirst”. Later, Cook mentions that the
islanders even brought the inland party “real salt water” (p. 162). The fact
that some of the islanders “drank pretty plentifully” of this seawater shocked
Cook, who comments that “so far will necessity and custom get the better
of nature (p. 162).
Cook indirectly mentions the source of this apparent seawater when he
refers to the water collected from Rapa Nui: “The little we took on board
could not be made use of it being onl salt water which had ltrated through
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
a stony beach, into a stone well. This the natives had made for the purpose, a
little to the outhward of the sand beach so often mentioned and the water
ebbed and owed into it with the tide (p. 167). hrough this reference, Cook
became the rst European to mention Rapanui use of a freshwater resource
that is now recognised as a coastal seep (Fig. 4).
Cooks naturalist, Johann Forster, made specic notes about the lack of
water on the island and correctl identies the role of the islands geolog.
e notes that water availabilit is inuenced b those dierent porous
substances, dry and burnt, that make the island dry and arid, as the rain
gets absorbed and the plants cannot draw water from the dry and spongy
ground, so the are not able to spread sucientl to cover the soil and
retain humidit, so necessar for the vegetation. his drness inuences
not only the vegetable kingdom, but also animals and people” (Jakubowska
Figure 4. Coastal seep behind Ahu Tongariki on the south coast of Rapa Nui.
This location is likely near where Routledge took a photograph of a
freshwater pool emerging at the coast. The 1960 tsunami, however,
dramatically altered the area. Here, Tanya Brosnan (California State
University Long Beach) measures the conductivity of the water to
determine the relative salt content. Photograph by Carl Lipo, 2015.
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 171
2014: 79). He also comments that much of the water consumed was brackish
given the mixing that occurs at coastal seeps between the ocean and fresh
groundwater. For example, Forster (p. 83) states “water from several wells
existing on the island is his usual drink it is almost alwas brackish or has
an admixture of other saline solutions, nevertheless that does not render it
nasty or unhealthy for the inhabitants”. His mention of “wells” likely refers
to traditional features called puna, which we discuss in more detail below.
The use of coastal groundwater discharge directly at the tide line, however,
caused some confusion among Europeans as to whether Rapanui were capable
of drinking directl out of the ocean. Forster (1777 2000: 323), for example,
notes that “some of our people really saw them drink of the sea-water when
they were thirsty”. Later observers often made the same mistaken observation.
a rouse (Dos assos 1971: 61), who visited the island in 1786, writes, I
have seen the natives of Easter Island drink the sea water like the albatrosses
at Cape Horn.” This misunderstanding of the use of coastal groundwater
discharge gained popular use through the early nineteenth century when
numerous whaling ships stopped by the island for supplies. For example,
James Wolf (Richards 2008: 54), a mate on the HMS Blossom, writes during
his ships visit to the island in November 1825: rouse sas he had seen
these people drink salt water like the albatross o Cape orn, though his
ocers discovered a spring of less saline nature. his fact I ma collaborate
by one of our party having witnessed a native stooping down on the rocks and
slaking his thirst from the water of the great acic Ocean. later account b
Captain Du Petit-Thouars of the Venus in February 1838 omits any mention
of even brackish water and instead claims that “the natives are accustomed to
drinking sea water” (p. 75). Though Rapanui use of coastal seeps evidently
existed through this time, many early European visitors apparently lacked a
clear understanding of what they were seeing.
William Thomson, paymaster aboard the USS Mohican, visited the island
in 1886. During his visit, homson noted at least ve locations around the
coast that provided fresh water (Fig. 2), and most of the water he found was
likely from coastal seeps. As he observes: “The so-called springs are holes
into which the sea-water percolates, and are as salt sic as the ocean, at
high tide, and decidedly brackish at all other stages” (Thomson 1891: 491).
Writing in 1919, Katherine Routledge provides an excellent description of
the hydrology of the island. She states that “owing to the porous nature of the
ground the water sinks beneath the surface, sometimes forming underground
channels from which it ows into the sea below high-water mark: thus giving
rise to the curious statement of early voyagers that the natives were able to
drink salt water” (Routledge 1919: 132). Routledge provides a photo of a
pool formed by water emerging from the ground along the coast behind Ahu
Tongariki (Fig. 4).
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
t the time of Routledges visit, the dominant use of the islands landscape
was for sheep ranching. Beginning in 1888, the Williamson-Balfour Company
managed up to 60,000 sheep on Rapa Nui and used islanders as indentured
labourers (Fischer 2005). In 1920, with the visit of biological engineer
William Bryan, the ranch management started to recognise the value of
coastal groundwater discharge for providing fresh water to the sheep herds.
In his report including recommendations to increase ranch productivity, Bryan
considers blasting shallow wells at seepage sites and euipping them with
small windmills” (Porteous 1981: 135).
In sum, the available historical descriptions of traditional freshwater use
highlight the importance of coastal seeps for Rapanui people in the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries. he association of signicant archaeological
material around coastal seeps (i.e., ahu and moai) strongly suggests that
these sources of drinking water were also key during pre-contact times
(DiNapoli et al. 2019).
One inherent drawback to reliance on coastal groundwater discharge is its
relativel high salinit from mixing with seawater. rown (1924 1979: 25)
claims that Rapanui “never made salt like the Hawaiians, and never took salt
water as a seasoning like the other Polynesians” to accommodate the relatively
high levels of salt intake associated with use of coastal groundwater. Rapanui
also possibly reduced their salt intake by accessing groundwater inland of
the coastal mixing zone. As Herrera and Custodio (2008: 1340) describe,
however, “there is no clear relationship between water-table elevation and
salinit, and distance to the shore and salinit, although the trend is to nd
higher salinity closer to the shore.”
Though lower levels of salinity can be found in more inland groundwater,
these sources are more dicult to access given the islands low-ling water
table. With modern drilling technology, it turns out that many inland sources
are only moderately less saline than coastal groundwater. For example,
samples collected from a borehole in Hanga Roa about 1.3 km from the coast,
where the land surface is around 100 masl, yielded a slightly brackish salinity
value (570 mg/L Cl) in 2002 and a somewhat fresh salinity value (484 mg/L
Cl) in 2003 (Herrera and Custodio 2008: 1337). These borehole samples
are admittedly half as saline as the coastal groundwater samples and thus
of greater use for drinking (p. 1337). It is important to keep in mind that the
elevation of the water table at the Hanga Roa borehole is 2.35 masl and that
digging wells to a depth of nearly 100 m without modern equipment would
be highly impractical (p. 1334). Thus, deciding where to build a well with
the maximum ease of construction and minimum salinity levels becomes a
problem of optimisation.
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 173
hile Rapa Nuis thick and porous volcanic apron makes inland
groundwater virtually inaccessible without modern drilling equipment, it
does not eliminate the practicality of near-coastal wells. Several historic
accounts mention the use of both inland and near-shore wells, thus suggesting
that such wells did provide a useful source of relatively fresh groundwater. In
1774, Georg Forster noted the use of shallow coastal wells that were likely
associated with areas of coastal groundwater discharge. Forster (1777 2000:
327) writes, e met Captain Cook, whom the natives had conducted
to a well very close to the sea, which was cut deep into the rock, but full
of impurities. When our people had cleared it, they found the water in it
rather brackish, but the natives drank of it with much seeming satisfaction.”
imilarl, in 1786, a rouse (Dos assos 1971: 61) notes that a little
brackish water was found in some holes on the sea shore”.
In 1868, almer provided the rst account that identied a specic location
for a shallow near-coastal well (puna, Fig. 2). Palmer (1870: 168) states:
s to the suppl of fresh water on the island, a good deal of misappre-
hension has existed. In several of the craters there are many deep pools of
it in those of the erano ao Rano au these are full 25 feet deep, and I
have tasted it pure and fresh from many places, near the shore. At Winipoo
inapu, not onl is there a subterranean reservoir (to which a tunnel leads
from the face of the cli), but on the ver sea beach the natives have made a
cistern to catch the water which distils from a little tunnel.
In this passage, Palmer mentions the location of a coastal seep that is near Ahu
Vinapu on the southwest coast of the island. He also points out that water is
available in the crater lakes and in at least one cave (we discuss descriptions
of these additional sources of fresh water below).
Thomson (1891: 491) later mentions a puna during his visit, but he also
calls the feature a cistern. pecicall, at a location on the south coast near
Tongariki, he (p. 491) describes a set of features in which “only the remains
of walls and cisterns were found ... They were generally small, the largest
being 9 feet in diameter, 14 feet deep, and surrounded by a sloping bank
paved with small stones to facilitate the collection of rain water.”
Mtraux (1940) makes the rst detailed discussion of puna, which are
euivalent to the relativel shallow near-coastal wells rst noted b eorg
Forster and later described as cisterns b almer and homson. Mtraux
(p. 11) states that puna served a double function as reservoirs “which
impounded rain water and perhaps some fresh water springs”. He adds
signicance to such wells b observing that ruins of ancient settlements
are alwas thick around water holes (p. 11). Mtraux (1940: 11) goes on
to describe a puna (Fig. 5):
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
A deep ditch, between 2 and 3 meters deep, is dug near the shore. The seaward,
lateral sides are perpendicular and lined with stones perfectl tted. he
landward side slopes at an angle of 45 degrees to the base of the opposite
wall and is paved with boulders. After a rain the running water is led to the
interior of the basin where, at the same time, water from the underground
water body collects ... According to my informant, there is always water in
them even though it does not rain.
Puna, therefore, enabled people to both access groundwater and reduce its
salinity by limiting mixing with seawater and aiding rainwater catchment.
Mtraux (1957: 65) specicall adds that the ancestors of the modern natives
sought to prevent salt water from mingling with the fresh by constructing
walls that formed a kind of reservoir”.
Mtraux (1940: 11) provides a specic location for one of these features
at Vai a Hoa near Ovahe on the north shore. He also mentions that “at Tahai
there is a kind of basin, separated from the sea by a wall, where fresh water
mixes with salt water” (p. 11). Such walls designed for pooling coastal
groundwater are likel similar to those noted b members of Cooks 1774
expedition. the time of Mtrauxs writings, however, onl the cattle are
watered there” (p. 11), and he notes that “a few of these reservoirs or springs
still contain water, but most of them are lled with mud (Mtraux 1957: 65
see also Englert 1948: 219).
Heyerdahl (1961: 26) also notes the close association of puna with areas
of coastal groundwater discharge when he writes that “a short distance inland
from such places of coastal seeps, Rapanui had occasionall constructed
an articial well with retaining masonr walls. ike Mtraux, eerdahl
(p. 26) noticed that the water in puna becomes brackish when it is mixed
with salt water at high tide.
Englert records an oral tradition relevant to the discussion of puna.
According to this oral tradition, the scarcity of fresh water on Rapa Nui
concerned otu Matua (the legendar rst settler on the island). Englert
(1970: 84) records, otu Matuas concern led him to the discover that
shallow wells could be excavated on the extreme edge of the coast, which
would produce water somewhat contaminated b the sea but still t for human
use. He had such wells dug at several points.” Though the age of this oral
tradition cannot be established, it does suggest the past importance and early
use of puna and coastal seeps.
Recognising the essential role that freshwater sources have for
communities, Englert (1948) provided one of the most comprehensive
summaries of locations in which water was collected (see Fig. 2). Englert
(p. 219) notes that these coastal seeps are quite abundant but often brackish
and thus likely were the main dietary source of salt. He (p. 220) lists 21 coastal
seep locations but admits that these are merel the signicant locations, the
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 175
full list being beyond the scope of his book. These include Mataveri o tai,
Tahai, Hanga Kaokao, Hanga Kuakua, Te Ava Renga, Te Puna rere takatea,
Mauku roa, e ito ura, a rouse (ekii), anga auvaka, Mahatua,
e akatea, una a Moeto, anga uu ata, na aitu, ai Moai, anga
Tetenga, Akahanga, Vaihu/Hanga Tee, Hanga He Mu and Koreha puoko viri.
Some of these features are quite elaborate. Vai Moai, for example, is a large
constructed well located between anga uu ata and anga etenga that
consists of a paved slope 5 m wide and 80 m long (p. 220). Similarly, Englert
(p. 221) describes the well at Vaihu/Hanga Tee as composed of a long tank
that once defended fresh water against mixing with seawater.
Inland Springs and Reservoirs
prings occur where a groundwater auifer is lled to the point that the water
overows onto the land surface. owever, the porous nature of the islands
geology provides only limited areas where springs occur above the coastline.
Observations from the Spanish expedition to Rapa Nui in 1770 give one
reference to an inland spring. pecicall, ublieutenant Don Juan erv
Figure 5. A coastal well (puna) feature located on the north coast of Rapa Nui
near hu Raai. hotograph b err unt, 2015.
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
provides only a passing reference to a spring that his group discovered when
they dug pits for planting three wooden crosses on the northeastern side of
the island: t the moment of digging the hole on the centre hill, a ne spring
of fresh water broke out, very good and abundant” (Ruiz-Tagle 2004: 91).
Cook (Ruiz-Tagle 2004: 161) too notes the existence of an inland spring
when he writes that “towards the Eastern end of the island, they met with
a well whose water was perfectly fresh, being considerably above the level
of the sea”. Cook (p. 161) also mentions that the islanders used this well to
bathe. In contrast to this perfectly fresh spring, Cook (p. 285) notes that “on
the declivit of the mountain erevaka towards the est, the met with
another well but the water was a ver strong mineral, had a thick green scum
on the top, and stunk intolerably”.
eorg Forster of Cooks expedition also mentions the use of an inland well.
Forster (1777 2000: 590) notes, From this spot we continued our march
a good way inland, and were conducted to a deep well, which appeared to
have been formed by art, and contained good fresh water, though somewhat
troubled.” The inland locations and elevations of the described wells suggest
that these wells were built around perched springs that formed due to the
few impermeable volcanic dikes that crosscut the islands porous apron.
While such features are relatively rare on Rapa Nui, Englert (1948: 218–19)
documents about one dozen inland springs: Vai inu-inu, Puna Pau, Roiho,
Vai teka, Vai taka-tiki, Vai tapu iru, Te Pahu, Roiko, Puna Marengo, Vai
ru, ai ara ai a, na o eke and Oroi. Mtraux (1957: 66) documents
two of these features. Dudgeon and Tromp (2014) use freshwater diatoms
identied in the dental calculus of prehistoric Rapanui to argue for past
reliance on inland spring water. Still, the output of these springs likely pales in
comparison to that of coastal seeps. Additionally, the correspondence between
the abundance of freshwater diatoms in dental calculus and the magnitude of
reliance on fresh versus brackish drinking water is unclear.
hus, in cases when the subsurface lacked sucient permeabilit for
fresh water to immediately enter the ground, it appears that Rapanui people
modied the landscape to create pools. he best-known example of this
activity can be found at Ava Ranga Uka A Toroke Hau (Vogt and Moser
2010). In a gully that runs south from Terevaka and near an ahu, Vogt and
Kühlem (2018) have documented an elaborate set of water-retention features
that include a stone-lined basin and possible dam feature. Stevenson (1997:
142) has also documented similar features possibly used for water diversion
at the agricultural complex on Maunga Tari. Such features on the island are
rare, yet further detailed surveys might reveal similar inland structures.
It should be noted that some authors (e.g., Heyerdahl and Ferdon 1961)
claim that ravines on the slopes of Terevaka are indicative that the island
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 177
once was much wetter and that streams were present. Heyerdahl (1961: 26),
for example, notes, “A limited number of dry ravines are observed in the
basalt on the north coast, some with series of whirlpool depressions and other
apparent evidence of such a considerable water erosion that it is tempting
to suspect that the once contained permanent streams. Mtraux, however,
correctl noted that the little ravines known as ava that furrow the slopes
of its hills are volcanic in origin (Mtraux 1957: 65). Indeed, the porous
substrate can account for the absence of permanent streams even during
relatively wet times.
Lava Tubes and Caves
The subsurface of Rapa Nui is relatively rich in caves and lava tubes (Ciszewski
et al. 2009). hese tubes form when lava ows beneath the hardened surface.
s solid basalt, the oors of these tubes can be impermeable and can collect
substantial amounts of fresh water that percolates from the surface.
In 1774, eorg Forster became the rst European visitor to mention
the presence of caverns on Rapa Nui, but he states that his group did not
enter any of them because “the natives always refused to admit us” (Forster
1777 2000: 341). almer (1870: 168) later mentions a subterranean
reservoir” that exists in a lava tube pool at Vinapu. Routledge provides
an extensive discussion of Rapa Nui caves, but she mostly describes them
as places of burial and storage. She does mention, however, that “in one
district underground was lled with water extend to a great length, and the
whole surface rings hollow to the tread of a horse” (Routledge 1919: 272).
Unfortunately, Routledge does not specify whether or not this water is fresh.
Heyerdahl comments that lava tubes provided useful access to freshwater
springs and claims that “subterranean springs with evidence of early human
improvements are located at the oor of some of the deepest and largest
underground caves, especially inland from Ovahe bay and near Vaihu”
(Heyerdahl 1961: 26). He also notes that “a dependable subterranean water
pool with good fresh water is found inland in the rocks of Vai-tara-kau-ua,
where the fairl deep descent to the pool is articiall narrowed b large
blocks, barely allowing a passage wide enough for one person” (p. 26).
Given the limited references to freshwater use in lava tubes, little can be
said on the topic based on European accounts. It is possible that they were
used throughout the historic period outside of the observations of European
visitors. While caves are fairly common, the presence of water sources in
them is less consistent. When water was available, these sources were likely
used, although they were far sparser than the more consistent water found
along the coastal margins of the island.
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
The only perennial bodies of surface fresh water on the island are the steep-
sided crater lakes that exist where there are impermeable volcanic cores. There
are three such lakes: in Rano Kau, Rano Raraku and Rano Aroi.
Given the size and depth of these three crater lakes and the lack of surface
water elsewhere on the island, it is tempting to believe that Rapanui made
early and extensive use of them. These bodies of water certainly have the
potential to provide relatively stable sources of fresh water. Butler and Flenley
(2010: 5), for example, argue that the lake at Rano Kau was “a permanent
water supply for early inhabitants”. Questioning the earliest dates known at
Anakena (cf. Hunt and Lipo 2006, 2008), Flenley and Bahn (2007: 11) argue,
Is it not more likel that the earl settlements would be near a good suppl
of fresh water, such as the crater lakes?”
While some researchers, in particular Rull and colleagues (e.g., Rull
2016, 2018, 2019 Rull et al. 2015, 2018), have recently emphasised the
importance of fresh water from the craters at Rano Raraku and Rano Kau,
even arguing that these were the only available water sources on the island
(e.g., Rull 2018), there is little historical or archaeological evidence that the
lakes were important sources of drinking water. There is some evidence, in
the form of terrace features and plant microfossils, that the lakes may have
been the focus of limited horticultural and/or domestic activity (e.g., Ferdon
1961a, 1961b orrocks, aisden, Flenle et al. 2012 orrocks, aisden,
Nieuwoudt et al. 2012 orrocks et al. 2015 McCo 1976). dditionall,
the area around Rano Raraku was the primary location of moai carving, and
the ceremonial site of Orongo on Rano au was the centre of the islands
famous Tangata Manu (“Bird Man”) ceremony. However, unlike areas along
the coast and spots inland, the edges of the lakes are comparatively devoid
of domestic features such as earth ovens (umu), gardens (manavai), areas of
lithic mulching, and houses that characterise much of the islands settlement
pattern (e.g., McCo 1976 Morrison 2012 tevenson and aoa Cardinali
2008). The lack of other resources (e.g., marine food, land for cultivation)
coupled with the steep walls of the volcanic craters, particularly at Rano
Kau, made habitation in these areas less attractive. Thus, while drinkable
water was available in the craters and likely consumed for activities that took
place in these areas, these lakes were likely not daily sources of drinking
water for pre-contact communities. Of course, further investigations into the
deposits around the lakes may shed additional light on this topic.
Historic accounts support the conclusion that prehistoric Rapanui did not
rely heavily on fresh water from the crater lakes. European visitors often
commented on the presence of these lakes, but none state that Rapanui relied
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 179
on these freshwater resources. In 1797, for example, John Myer, on board
the sperm-whaling ship William, joined a landing party that the islanders led
to Rano Raraku. e writes, everal of them Rapanui presented us with
water, and rewood, and made signs for us to follow them, which we did to
a small pond, lled with stagnant water, the surface of which was a mass of
animalcula, of a green colour (Richards 2008: 22). ainthill (1870 2000:
107), an ocer on the M Top a z e, observes that “though the craters contain
an abundant suppl of fresh water, our guides drank little. imilarl,
eiseler (1883 1995) notes that the crater lakes could be used in times of
emergency, but he does not provide any evidence for such use. He merely
states that the craters of Rana au Rano au and Rana Roraka Rano
Raraku alwas present the richest of freshwater reservoirs and these would
be capable of supplying the needs of a population even larger than the one on
Rapanui (eiseler 1883 1995: 75). dditionall, homson (1891) notes
that the water from the Rano Raraku lake is abundant but not particularly
palatable. He states: “Drinking-water, the great desideratum on the island,
obtained from sources that form the crater of Rana Roraka sic, was, owing
to its animal and vegetable impurities, unpalatable” (p. 491).
Later historic sources also indicate that crater lakes were not important
sources of fresh water. Routledge relied on water from Rano Raraku during
some of her 1917 visit, but she did so only in the absence of other, more
convenient sources. She notes that dependence on this water resource
“rendered us tiresomely dependent on getting native labor” (Routledge
1919: 137). rown (1924 1979: 25) also notes that Rapanui people used
water in the crater lakes for laundry at the time of his visit: “A procession
of native horsemen and horsewomen passes up the slope of Rano Kao here
every Saturday with bundles of clothes to wash.” Though Routledge and
rown present a few cases of crater-lake water use, Mtraux (1940: 12)
generally states that “the water of the crater lakes (rano) is apparentl
too inaccessible to have been much used”. He goes on to write that the crater
lakes are dicult, and even dangerous, of access. oda as in the past the
natives only draw water from them under the pressure of extreme necessity”
(Mtraux 1957: 66). Englert (1948: 217) similarl suggests that the lakes
were not primar water sources for most of the islands population given
the relative dicult of access and lack of transport methods other than
gourds. eerdahls comments on the crater lakes mirror those of Englert
and Mtraux. eerdahl (1961: 26), however, adds that recent modern piping
from the lakes makes these reservoirs a more viable resource. Overall, despite
the relatively large amount of water held in the crater lakes, these sources of
fresh water appear to have been of limited use until quite recently.
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
Carved Rainfall Basins: Taheta
As previously mentioned, puna serve a dual function by both allowing access
to groundwater and catching rainfall. Mtraux also mentions the possibilit
that the islanders previously carved basins into rock outcrops for the sole
purpose of rainfall catchment. Mtraux (1940: 12 see also Mtraux 1957: 66)
states, “I noticed on a few rocks near ancient settlements small rectangular
depressions articiall carved. he natives explained them as tanks to collect
rain water. Mtraux (1940: 11) mentions a water catchment basin at ai
a eva, where a hole in a cli where water collects has been carved all
around into the form of a big human face”. Englert (1948: 221–22) lists the
names of six well-known carved rainwater basins: Vai a Tare, Vai a Repa,
Vai a Mei, Vai uutu roroa, Vai a Heva and Vai a Are. He notes that there are
hundreds of other features like this across the landscape in small and large
sizes. These features are locally known as taheta and are typically ovoid or
square in shape and often relatively small (e.g., less than 1 m in diameter)
and shallow, though larger features occur (Fig. 6). Heyerdahl (1961: 26) also
records the presence of taheta at several locations (e.g., Puna Marengo and
Ahu Tepeu). In contemporary surveys, taheta features are quite common and
are among the most numerous of prehistoric features found on the landscape.
In Morrisons (2012) surve of the northwest coast, for example, taheta
comprise 5.5% of all the features found.
Though numerous, taheta likely served as only a secondary water source
for activities across the landscape and away from more substantial sources.
The fact that most taheta are small and shallow suggests limited investment in
them for long-term water storage. Englert (1948: 222) argues that these basins
would go dr without sucient rainfall and that Rapanui must have instead
relied more heavily on spring water. Indeed, recent estimates of evaporation
rates on Rapa Nui indicate that taheta cannot store sucient water during
the driest months (Brosnan et al. 2018). The timing and amount of rainfall
on Rapa Nui are highl variable. Morrisons (2012) analses of 60 ears of
rainfall demonstrate no regularity in the patterning of annual rainfall.
Despite Rapa Nuis unpredictable rainfall, references to rainfall catchments
exist in historic and modern contexts. In 1774, Forster (1777 2000: 341)
noted that the crew harnessed rainwater when a “smart shower falling on
board the ship, enabled our people to collect a quantity of fresh water in the
awnings and sails of the ship, which were spread to catch it”. Additionally,
Routledge (1919: 137) relied primarily on rainwater collected in barrels from
the roof at Mataveri. Mtraux (1940: 12) also notes that toda abundant water
from the corrugated iron roofs is collected in tanks or barrels”. Even as late
as the 1980s, Porteous (1981: 177) states that many residents in Mataveri
still “retain supplementary roof tanks” due to the slightly brackish nature of
the water pumped from modern wells.
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 181
Sugarcane, Gourds and Moss
Historical sources suggest that Rapanui used several plants for past water
procurement and storage. Mieth and Bork (2003) speculated that Rapanui
may have consumed sap of the palm Jubaea chilensis. However, it is the
consumption of sugarcane (Saccharum ocinarum) as a thirst quenching
plant that is documented in numerous historical accounts that start with Dutch
captain Cornelis ouman in 1722 (Dos assos 1971: 68 Forster 1777 2000:
327, 332 eiseler 1883 1995: 75 von aher 1994: 99 ainthill 1870
2000: 107 homson 1891: 456).
Additionally, past visitors noticed that gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) were
the primary tool for water transport. Bouman notes, “We found no furniture
or pots, except calabashes in which they kept water which I tasted and found
to be quite brackish” (von Saher 1994: 99). Though Cook observed that a
scarcity of gourds for water storage meant that “a cocoa-nut shell was the
most valuable thing we could give them” (Dos Passos 1971: 47), Thomson
(1891: 29) later witnessed a profusion of bottle gourds that grew on the island.
Englert (1948: 217) also notes the use of gourds for water storage. Relatively
late accounts that start with Routledge (1919: 256) suggest that Rapanui used
moss (Campylopus spp.) from the islands crater lakes to some extent as a
sponge to retain fresh water when at sea”.
Figure 6. A shallow carved stone basin (taheta) for capturing rainwater.
Photograph by Carl Lipo, 2015.
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
E REIE IMORNCE OF R NI FREER ORCE
Our review of ethnohistoric evidence of freshwater use indicates that while
Rapanui used a range of natural freshwater sources (e.g., crater lakes,
inland springs, coastal seeps, caves, rainwater) and management strategies
(e.g., taheta, puna, large basins), some of these were likely more important
than others. Use of rainwater and taheta appear to be opportunistic and
impermanent solutions to the limited surface fresh water, as most taheta are
small and shallow and would dry up during times of low rainfall (Brosnan
et al. 2018). Inland springs and large water diversion and catchment features,
such as those discussed at Ava Ranga Uka A Toroke Hau by Englert (1948)
and identied archaeologicall b ogt and colleagues (ogt and hlem
2018 ogt and Moser 2010), were also used, but these were likel of lesser
importance given their limited numbers. Rano Kau and Rano Raraku were
important locations of ritual activity (the Tangata Manu ceremony and moai
carving, respectively), and the crater lakes were likely used as water sources
during these activities. However, ethnohistoric accounts suggest that the
crater lakes were not primary freshwater sources in the post-contact era,
likel because of their dicult of access. his is also clearl reected in the
archaeological record: the vast majority of pre-contact settlements are located
along the islands coasts and awa from the crater lakes. he ethnohistoric
and archaeological data indicate that coastal freshwater seeps, and the puna
constructed to impound this water, were some of the most numerous and most
often used freshwater sources. While ethnohistoric and hydrological studies
demonstrate that these sources are often brackish, they nevertheless provided
some of the most readily available sources of drinking water.
ow the use and abundance of dierent freshwater sources documented
in the ethnohistoric record relate to pre-contact times is a matter of debate.
Several researchers have suggested that deforestation and/or climate
changes directly reduced surface freshwater availability on the island (e.g.,
ahn and Flenle 1992, 2017 Mieth and ork 2018: 52 Rull 2018, 2019
Steadman et al. 1994 ogt and hlem 2018). ome have also suggested
that deforestation led to the disappearance of possible streams (e.g., Bahn and
Flenle 1992: 178 teadman et al. 1994: 93). he eects of deforestation
on freshwater availability are unclear, however, and limited existing
hydrogeological evidence supports these claims. Given the very porous nature
of the islands volcanic substrate, it is unlikel that perennial streams were
ever prominent on Rapa Nui. Even if we assume that the loss of the palm
forest decreased the amount of available surface fresh water, the process of
forest loss took several centuries (e.g., Horrocks et al. 2015 unt and ipo
2009 Mann et al. 2008) and would have led to the increased importance of
coastal freshwater seeps and the other water sources discussed.
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 183
Regarding possible climatically induced droughts, some evidence for
sedimentation and vegetation changes from cores taken from the islands
crater lakes suggests that a drought possibly occurred from the 1500s to 1700s
(e.g., Cañellas-Boltà et al. 2013 Rull 2016). Rull (2016, 2018, 2019) argues
that this drought would have necessitated population migration to Rano Kau to
access its fresh water as other sources, such as coastal seeps, became depleted.
While droughts are well documented historically and certainly would
have reduced fresh water available from taheta and the crater lakes (e.g., a
drought in 2018 left the crater lake at Rano Raraku nearly completely dry),
the impact on coastal seeps is uestionable. hile Rapa Nuis fresh water,
including in the crater lakes, is ultimately fed by rainwater, the discharge rates
and massive volume of the islands freshwater auifer suggest that coastal
groundwater could possibly remain a stable source even through drought
periods. he lakes would suer from not onl loss of water through subsurface
ows (Montgomer ssociates 2011) but also greater evaporation than
groundwater. hus, it is possible that the impacts of drought would be rst
observed in the lakes, as is occurring now. While there is some evidence for
habitation and cultivation within and around Rano Kau crater, the density of
archaeological features around the lake is insucient to support claims of a
large-scale abandonment of coastal areas. Indeed, throughout pre-contact and
early historic times, most of the population lived along the coast, and both
the ethnohistoric evidence presented here and recent archaeological analyses
(e.g., DiNapoli et al. 2019) demonstrate the key importance of coastal water
sources for Rapanui communities.
* * *
s a volcanic island with a highl porous substrate, Rapa Nuis geolog makes
surface water scarce and inland groundwater dicult to access. Coupled
with unpredictable rainfall, these hydrogeological conditions necessitated
diverse and innovative strategies to procure this vital resource. Guided
b an understanding of the islands hdrogeolog and an examination of
ethnohistoric accounts, our review suggests that Rapanui used a number
of creative strategies to procure and store fresh water. While additional
chronological information about the use of these strategies is needed, many
of them (e.g., puna and taheta) are associated with pre-contact remains and
can be attributed to pre-European water-resource management. Early accounts
repeatedly noted Rapanui use of brackish water from pools in coastal areas.
These sources were abundant and often enhanced with constructed near-
coastal “wells” known as puna, which improved access to groundwater and
reduced its salinity. Water from coastal sources was likely stored using gourds
and supplemented with water from the crater lakes, inland springs, lava tubes,
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
taheta and sugarcane. Historical and archaeological evidence suggest it is
unlikel that Rapanui relied heavil on water from the islands crater lakes,
which challenges recent claims that the crater lakes were the only or most
important sources of drinking water (e.g., Rull 2016, 2018, 2019 Rull et al.
2018). The diversity of freshwater procurement strategies and reliance on
coastal seeps highlights the successful adaptations and resilience of Rapanui
communities to the challenges posed b the islands marginal environment.
Overall, the ability of Rapanui to thrive despite their limited access to fresh
water is a remarkable feat that warrants recognition and further study through
archaeological and hdrogeological eld research.
Using this ethnohistoric information, in combination with recently
published hydrogeological data (Brosnan et al. 2018), we now have a solid
basis for generating hypotheses about how patterns in the archaeological
record relate to freshwater access. For example, it is worth considering how
the spatial distribution of communit patterning, in particular Rapa Nuis
dispersed settlement pattern (organised around group-level competitive and
cooperative behaviour connected to ahu), may be related to the constraints
imposed by the locations of fresh water on the island (e.g., DiNapoli et
al. 2018: 216–17 unt and ipo 2018 McCo 1976). Our recent spatial
analysis of the relationship between ahu and different environmental
variables suggests that ahu locations are closely tied to the availability of
fresh water and coastal freshwater sources in particular (DiNapoli et al.
2019). This analysis shows that previously described associations between
ahu and fresh water (e.g., ogt and hlem 2018 ogt and Moser 2010)
are indeed part of an island-wide pattern. However, further theoretical,
eld and analtical work is needed to more full evaluate hpotheses for
both the cooperative and competitive processes that underlie this pattern.
Importantly, resolving these issues requires additional baseline research,
such as functional classications of freshwater features like puna and taheta,
continued surveys of freshwater resources, and chronological data on the
development of these freshwater procurement strategies. For example,
chronological information on the development of puna would help resolve
current uncertainties about the relationship between periods of drought and
dierential use of coastal versus lacustrine fresh water. t the same time,
the demands on the islands water suppl continue to grow with increases in
the resident population, along with the ever-increasing numbers of tourists
(Figueroa and Rotarou 2016). As pumping from contemporary wells begins
to reach its limits, such information about historic sources of water likely
will become key to future communities on the island.
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 185
e would like to thank Comunidad Indgena Mau enua, Consejo de Monumentos
Rapa Nui, Consejo de Monumentos Chile, CONAF, COEIPA and the people of Rapa
Nui for allowing us to work on their island. We also thank Matt Becker and Tanya
Brosnan for their central contributions to the understanding of the hydrogeology of
Rapa Nui, and Hetereki Huke, Gina Pakarati and Tiare Aguilera for their guidance and
support, without which this research would not be possible. We also thank Melinda
Allen and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the paper.
Álamos y Peralta, 1992. Recursos hídricos de Isla de Pascua: Estudio del regadío de
Isla de ascua, I etapa: Estudio hidrogeolgico ater resources of Easter Island:
tud of Easter Island irrigation, 1st stage: drogeological stud. antiago:
Comisión Nacional de Riego.
Bahn, Paul and John Flenley, 1992. Easter Island, Earth Island. London: Thames
——2017. Easter Island, Earth Island: The Enigmas of Rapa Nui. Fourth edition.
anham, MD: Rowman ittleeld.
Bonatti, E., E.C. Harriso, D.E. Fisher, J. Honnorez, J.G. Schilling, J.J. Stipp, and
M. entilli, 1977. Easter volcanic chain (outheast acic): mantle hot line.
Journal of Geophysical Research 82 (17): 2457–78.
Brosnan, Tanya, Matthew W. Becker and Carl P. Lipo, 2018. Coastal groundwater
discharge and the ancient inhabitants of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile.
Hydrogeology Journal 27 (2): 519–34. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10040-
rown, John Macmillan, 1924 1979. The Riddle of the Pacic. First AMS edition.
New York: AMS Press.
Butler, Kevin R. and John R. Flenley, 2010. The Rano Kau 2 pollen diagram:
Palaeoecology revealed. Rapa Nui Journal 24 (1): 5–10.
Cañellas-Boltà, Núria, Valentí Rull, Alberto Sáez, Olga Margalef, Roberto Bao,
ergi la-Rabes, Maarten laauw, las alero-arcs and antiago iralt,
2013. Vegetation changes and human settlement of Easter Island during the last
millennia: A multiproxy study of the Lake Raraku sediments. Quaternary Science
Reviews 72: 36–48. DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.04.004.
Cisewski, ndrej, Jan Rn disaw and Marius elerewic (eds), 2009. The
Caves of Easter Island: Underground World of Rapa Nui. Kraków, Poland:
DiNapoli, Robert J., Carl P. Lipo, Tanya Brosnan, Terry L. Hunt, Sean Hixon, Alex
E. Morrison and Matthew Becker, 2019. Rapa Nui (Easter Island) monument
(ahu) locations explained by freshwater sources. PLoS ONE 14 (1): e0210409.
DiNapoli, Robert J. and Alex E. Morrison, 2017. Human behavioural ecology and
acic archaeolog. Archaeology in Oceania 52 (1): 1–12.
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
DiNapoli, Robert J., Alex E. Morrison, Carl P. Lipo, Terry L. Hunt and Brian G. Lane,
2018. East Polynesian islands as models of cultural divergence: The case of Rapa
Nui and Rapa Iti. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 13 (2): 206–23.
Dos Passos, John, 1971. Easter Island: Island of Enigmas. Garden City, NY:
Dudgeon, John V. and Monica Tromp, 2014. Diet, geography and drinking water in
Polynesia: Microfossil research from archaeological human dental calculus, Rapa
Nui (Easter Island). International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 24 (5): 634–48.
Dyson-Hudson, Rada and Eric A. Smith, 1978. Human territoriality: An ecological
reassessment. American Anthropologist 80 (1): 21–41.
Englert, Sebastian, 1948. La Tierra de Hotu Matu’a: Historia, Etnología, y Lengua
de Isla de Pascua. Padre Las Casas, Chile: San Francisco.
——1970. Island at the Center of the World: New Light on Easter Island. New York:
Ferdon, Edwin N., 1961a. Stone houses in the terraces of Site E-21. In T. Heyerdahl
and E.N. Ferdon (eds), Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition
to Easter Island and the East Pacic. Vol. 1, Archaeology of Easter Island.
Stockholm: Forum Publishing House, pp. 313–21.
——1961b. The ceremonial site of Orongo. In T. Heyerdahl and E.N. Ferdon (eds),
Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and the
East Pacic. Vo l . 1 , Archaeology of Easter Island. Stockholm: Forum Publishing
House, pp. 221–55.
Figueroa, Eugenio and Elena S. Rotarou, 2016. Tourism as the development driver
of Easter Island: The key role of resident perceptions. Island Studies Journal
11 (1): 245–64.
Fischer, Steven R., 2005. Island at the End of the World: The Turbulent History of
Easter Island. London: Reaktion.
Flenle, John R. and aul ahn, 2007. Conicting views of Easter Island. Rapa Nui
Journal 21 (1): 11–13.
Forster, eorg, 1777 2000. A Voyage Round the World. Translated by N. Thomas
and O. erghof. onolulu: niversit of awaii ress.
eiseler, ilhelm, 1883 1995. Die Oster-Insel: Eine Stätte prähistorischer Kultur
in der Südsee. ranslated b illiam . ers. onolulu: niversit of awaii
Herrera, Christian and Emilio Custodio, 2008. Conceptual hydrogeological model of
volcanic Easter Island (Chile) after chemical and isotopic surveys. Hydrogeology
Journal 16 (7): 1329–48.
Heyerdahl, Thor, 1961. An introduction to Easter Island. In T. Heyerdahl and E.N.
Ferdon (eds), Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter
Island and the East Pacic. Vol. 1, Archaeology of Easter Island. Stockholm:
Forum Publishing House, pp. 21–90.
Heyerdahl, Thor and Edwin N. Ferdon (eds), 1961. Reports of the Norwegian
Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and the East Pacific. Vol. 1:
Archaeology of Easter Island. Stockholm: Forum Publishing House.
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 187
Hochstetter, Francisco Torres, Sergio Rapu Haoa, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt,
2011. A public database of archaeological resources on Easter Island (Rapa Nui)
using Google Earth. Latin American Antiquity 22 (3): 385–97.
Horrocks, M., W.T. Baisden, J. Flenley, D. Feek, L. González Nualart, S. Haoa-
Cardinali and T. Edmunds Gorman, 2012. Fossil plant remains at Rano Raraku,
Easter Islands statue uarr: Evidence for past elevated lake level and ancient
Polynesian agriculture. Journal of Paleolimnology 48 (4): 767–83 . DOI: 10.1007/
Horrocks, M., W.T. Baisden, M.A. Harper, M. Marra, J. Flenley, D. Feek, S. Haoa-
Cardinali, E.D. Keller, L. González Nualart and T. Edmunds Gorman, 2015. A
plant microfossil record of Late Quaternary environments and human activity
from Rano Aroi and surroundings, Easter Island. Journal of Paleolimnology 54
(4): 279–303. DOI: 10.1007/s10933-015-9852-4.
Horrocks, M., W.T. Baisden, M.K. Nieuwoudt, J. Flenley, D. Feek, L. González
Nualart, S. Haoa-Cardinali and T. Edmunds Gorman, 2012. Microfossils of
Polynesian cultigens in lake sediment cores from Rano Kau, Easter Island.
Journal of Paleolimnology 47 (2): 185–204. DOI: 10.1007/s10933-011-9570-5.
Hunt, Terry L. and Carl P. Lipo, 2006. Late colonization of Easter Island. Science
311 (5767): 1603–06. DOI: 10.1126/science.1121879.
——2008. Evidence for a shorter chronology on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Journal of
Island and Coastal Archaeology 3 (1): 14 0– 4 8. D OI : 10 .1 0 80 / 15 5 648 90 8 01 9 90 7 97 .
——2009. Revisiting Rapa Nui (Easter Island) “ecocide”. Pacic Science 63 (4):
601–16. DOI: 10.2984/049.063.0407.
——2018. The archaeology of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). In E.E. Cochrane and T.L.
Hunt (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Oceania. New York: Oxford
University Press, pp. 416–49.
Jakubowska, Zuzanna, 2014. Still More to Discover: Easter Island in an Unknown
Manuscript by the Forsters from the 18th Century. Warsaw: Muzeum Historii
Polskiego Ruchu Ludowego.
Kim, Guebuem, Kang-Kun Lee, Kwan-Suk Park, Dong-Woon Hwang and Han-Soeb
Yang, 2003. Large submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) from a volcanic
island. Geophysical Research Letters 30 (21): 1–4. DOI: 10.1029/2003GL018378.
Mann, Daniel, James Edwards, Julie Chase, Warren Beck, Richard Reanier, Michele
Mass, Bruce Finney and John Loret, 2008. Drought, vegetation change, and
human history on Rapa Nui (Isla de Pascua, Easter Island). Quaternary Research
69 (1): 16–28.
Maude, Henry Evans, 1981. Slavers in Paradise: The Peruvian Slave Trade in
Polynesia, 1862–1864. Stanford, CT: Stanford University Press.
McCoy, Patrick C., 1976. Easter Island Settlement Patterns in the Late Prehistoric
and Protohistoric Periods. New York: Easter Island Committee.
Mtraux, lfred, 1940. Ethnology of Easter Island. Bernice P. Bishop Museum,
——1957. Easter Island: A Stone Age Civilization of the Pacic. New York: Oxford
The Ethnohistory of Freshwater Use on Rapa Nui
Mieth, Andreas and Hans-Rudolf Bork, 2003. Diminution and degradation of
environmental resources by prehistoric land use on Poike Peninsula, Easter
Island (Rapa Nui). Rapa Nui Journal 17 (1): 34–41.
——2018. A vanished landscape—phenomena and eco-cultural consequences of
extensive deforestation in the prehistory of Rapa Nui. In S. Haoa Cardinali,
K.B. Ingersoll, D.W. Ingersoll Jr and C.M. Stevenson (eds), Cultural and
Environmental Change on Rapa Nui. New York: Routledge, pp. 32–58.
Montgomery & Associates, Inc., 2011. Condiciones Hidrogeológicas: Isla de Pascua,
Chile. Report. Santiago: Government of Chile.
Moosdorf, Nils and Till Oehler, 2017. Societal use of fresh submarine groundwater
discharge: An overlooked water resource. Earth-Science Reviews 171: 338–48.
Morrison, Alexander, 2012. An Archaeological Analysis of Rapa Nui Settlement
tructure: Multi-scalar pproach. hD diss. niversit of awaii, Mnoa.
Norton, Scott A., 1992. Salt consumption in ancient Polynesia. Perspectives in Biology
and Medicine 35 (2): 160–81.
Palmer, J. Linton, 1870. A visit to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in 1868. Journal of the
Royal Geographical Society of London 40: 167–81.
Porteous, J. Douglas, 1981. The Modernization of Easter Island. Western Geographical
Series 19. Victoria, BC, Canada: Western Geographical Press, University of
Richards, Rhys, 2008. Easter Island 1793–1861: Observations by Early Visitors
before the Slave Raids. Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation.
Routledge, Katherine, 1919. The Mystery of Easter Island. London: Sifton, Praed
Ruiz-Tagle, Eduardo (ed.), 2004. Easter Island: The First Three Expeditions. Hanga
Roa, Rapa Nui, Chile: Rapa Nui Press.
Rull, Valentí, 2016. Natural and anthropogenic drivers of cultural change on Easter
Island: Review and new insights. Quaternary Science Reviews 150: 31–41. DOI:
——2018. Strong fuzzy EHLFS: A general conceptual framework to address past
records of environmental, ecological and cultural change. Quaternary 1 (2): 10.
——2019. Climate change, deforestation patterns, freshwater availability and cultural
shifts on prehistoric Easter Island (E acic). PeerJ Preprints 7: e27680v1.
Rull, Valentí, Núria Cañellas-Boltà, Olga Margalef, Alberto Sáez, Sergi Pla-Rabes
and Santiago Giralt, 2015. Late Holocene vegetation dynamics and deforestation
in Rano roi: Implications for Easter Islands ecological and cultural histor.
Quaternary Science Reviews 126: 219– 26. D OI: 10.10 16/j .qua scirev.20 15.0 9.00 8.
Rull, Valentí, Encarni Montoya, Irantzu Seco, Núria Cañellas-Boltà, Santiago
iralt, Olga Margalef, ergi la-Rabes, illiam Dndrea, Ramond radle
and Alberto Sáez, 2018. CLAFS, a holistic climatic-ecological-anthropogenic
hpothesis on Easter Islands deforestation and cultural change: roposals and
testing prospects. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 6: 32 pp. DOI: 10.3389/
ainthill, Richard, 1870 2000. Rapa-Nui, or Easter Island, in November 1868. Rapa
Nui Journal 14 (4): 107–10.
Sean W. Hixon, Robert J. DiNapoli, Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt 189
Steadman, David W., Patricia Vargas Casanova and Claudio Cristino Ferrando, 1994.
Stratigraphy, chronology, and cultural context of an early faunal assemblage from
Easter Island. Asian Perspectives 33 (1): 79–96.
Stevenson, Christopher M., 1997. Archaeological Investigations on Easter Island:
Maunga Tari: An Upland Agricultural Complex. Los Osos, CA: Easter Island
Stevenson, Christopher M. and Sonia Haoa Cardinali, 2008. Prehistoric Rapa Nui:
Landscape and Settlement Archaeology at Hanga Ho‘onu. Los Osos, CA: Easter
Stevenson, Christopher M., Cedric O. Puleston, Peter M. Vitousek, Oliver A.
Chadwick, Sonia Haoa and Thegn N. Ladefoged, 2015. Variation in Rapa Nui
(Easter Island) land use indicates production and population peaks prior to
European contact. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (4):
Thomson, William J., 1891. Te Pito Te Henua; Or, Easter Island. Washington, DC:
Smithsonian Institution Press.
eoli, uigina and alerio cocella, 2009. Easter Island, E acic: n end-
member type of hotspot volcanism. Geological Society of America Bulletin 121
Vogt, Burkhard and Annette Kühlem, 2018. By the quebrada of Ava Ranga Uka A
oroke au—about landscape transformation and the signicance of water and
trees. In S. Haoa Cardinali, K.B. Ingersoll, D.W. Ingersoll Jr and C.M. Stevenson
(eds), Cultural and Environmental Change on Rapa Nui. New York: Routledge,
Vogt, Burkhard and Johannes Moser, 2010. Ancient Rapanui water management—
German archaeological investigations in Ava Ranga Uka a Toroke Hau, 2008–
2010. Rapa Nui Journal 24 (2): 18–26.
von Saher, Herbert, 1994. The complete journal of Captain Cornelis Bouman from
31 March to 13 April 1722 during their stay around Easter Island. Rapa Nui
Journal 8 (4): 95–100.
eferjahn rosnan, ana ., 2016. ubmarine roundwater Discharge as a
Freshwater Resource for the ncient Inhabitants of Rapa Nui. Masters thesis.
California State University at Long Beach.
AUTHOR CONTACT DETAILS
Corresponding Author: Sean W. Hixon, Department of Anthropology, Humanities and
Social Sciences Building 2001, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3210
USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert J. DiNapoli, Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon
97403, USA. Email: email@example.com
Carl P. Lipo, Department of Anthropology, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New
York 13902-6000, USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry L. Hunt, Honors College, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85719, USA.