Archaeology, Identity and Development

  • Susan Thorpe


This essay challenges conventional archaeological thinking that tends to avoid analysis of aesthetics or expression. Using a case study example of the rākau momori (engravings onto living trees)—an art form of Moriori, the indigenous inhabitants of Rēkohu (Chatham Islands, New Zealand)—the essay examines outsider and indigenous descriptions of the engravings and considers the results of judgemental conceptualisation of art. It concludes with a call for archaeologists to actively support development of cultural identity amongst the communities they are engaged in and to reflect on artistic expression as an aspect of material culture, because the legacy of cultural misappropriation, theft, decline, loss, inappropriate museum acquisition, display and accession data (mis)informs the archaeological context and can have negative consequences for indigenous identities.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Thorpe
    • 1
  1. 1.Hokotehi Moriori TrustRekohuNew Zealand

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