Among Stone Giants: The Life of Katherine Routledge and Her Remarkable Expedition to Easter Island

Among Stone Giants: The Life of Katherine Routledge and Her Remarkable Expedition to Easter Island

by Jo Anne Van Tilburg

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Katherine Routledge is a central figure in the history of Easter Island, one of the world's most remote and mysterious locales.  See more details below


Katherine Routledge is a central figure in the history of Easter Island, one of the world's most remote and mysterious locales.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Among Stone Giants follows the colorful, tragic story of Routledge, whose 1919 book The Mystery of Easter Island marked the first archaeological study of the South Pacific island's stone statues, the origins of which had defied explanation for centuries. Archaeologist and author Jo Anne Van Tilburg learned of Routledge in the course of her own work on Easter Island, yet her book is no dry dissertation; the author makes her subject's life before, during and after the island seem equally fascinating. — Kate Hensler Fogarty
The New York Times
Van Tilburg's background as an archaeologist and her long familiarity with Easter Island prove essential to her understanding of the Routledges' accomplishments. Her prose is serviceably clear, and her book well organized. — Michael Upchurch
Publishers Weekly
In 1914, Katherine Routledge (1866-1935) arrived at Easter Island, leading an anthropological and archeological expedition with her husband, William Scoresby Routledge, to investigate the origins of the island's mysterious giant statues. Although she made several critical discoveries about the Rapa Nui culture during her 17 months of research, the expeditionary force was wracked by internal tensions, and she found herself caught up in a native uprising led by a charismatic prophetess. Van Tilburg, a leading contemporary authority on the Easter Island statues, ably explains Routledge's findings, fitting them in the context of the adventurous chain of events, and shows how they were facilitated by her relationships with the locals. The biography is also excellent in tracing Katherine's obsessive research methods back to her childhood experiences in a wealthy English clan with a history of mental illness. Routledge struggled with symptoms of schizophrenia for most of her life, interpreting the voices in her head with a combination of her family's visionary Quakerism and a belief in communication with the dead. Though Routledge ultimately succumbed to her disease, dying alone in an insane asylum, Van Tilburg carefully shows that the symptoms were under control throughout the Easter Island expedition. Much as A Beautiful Mind did for John Nash, this biography preserves Routledge's invaluable scientific contributions without shying away from the tragic circumstances of most of the rest of her life. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
An archaeologist with 20 years' field experience on Easter Island, Van Tilburg documents the life and work of Englishwoman Katherine Routledge (1866-1935), who carried out the first archaeological survey of that world heritage site off the coast of Chile. From 1913 to 1915, Routledge and her husband, William Scoresby Routledge, led the Mana Expedition that investigated Easter Island's giant stone statues and that engaged her in pioneering ethnographic work. Van Tilburg draws on scientific archives and previously missing field notes, as well as family papers, archives, and interviews with Routledge's decendents, to reconstruct a marvelously detailed picture of this complex woman. She shows the influence that spirituality and spiritualism had on her life and how, early on, it helped her deal with her "voices" during her episodes of mental illness, later diagnosed as schizophrenia. Van Tilburg also records Routledge's time at Oxford (she was among the few women of her time admitted), her early fieldwork in British East Africa, her marriage and working relationship, her love of Easter Island, her writing,and her final tragic years. Meticulously researched, with extensive notes and bibliography, this compelling biography reveals the passionate spirit and perseverance of a remarkable woman who was almost forgotten. For biography, anthropology/archaeology, and women's studies collections.-Joan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sure-footed biography of one of the first Europeans to give serious attention to Easter Island�s cultural heritage. Herself an authority on rock art and Easter Island, Van Tilburg (Costen Inst. of Archaeology/UCLA) concentrates on her subject�s months on the island but also provides a full-scale portrait beginning with Katherine Routledge's privileged youth in Hampshire, England, and ending with her death 69 years later. She was a girl and woman at odds, writes Van Tilburg, first with the strictures of Victorian England and then with the conventions of white settlement in Kenya. Racked by real and imagined ill health, married for convenience (her husband also receives substantial biographical treatment), saddled by nascent, then full-fledged, schizophrenia, Routledge possessed a willfulness and a sharp mind that got her into Oxford at a time when few women were welcomed. She also grappled with a questing spirituality, both abetted and constrained by her Quaker background, that provoked the Mana Expedition, which landed on Easter Island in April 1914 and remained for 16 months. It was, writes Van Tilburg, "the first true attempt to conduct an archaeological survey of Easter Island." Routledge accomplished an extensive descriptive survey of the great stone statues and compiled a map of political divisions: "the first graphic, public statement ever made of Rapa Nui land ownership." Oral tradition and architectural evidence convinced Routledge that Polynesian influences far outweighed Melanesian ones, a conjecture that has been borne out, but she truly made her mark in peopling the island landscape with "myriad shadows that needed to be anchored in place. It was but a small step from lists ofplace names and genealogies to linking whole families to ancestral lands--uniting �locality and memory.� " The author makes the most of Routledge�s Easter Island papers to document her remarkable achievements in this crucial area. It took a character of steel for Routledge to achieve what she did, and Van Tilburg calls her forth in all her headstrong, blunt, and turbulent glory.

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6.40(w) x 9.44(h) x 1.11(d)

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