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Lizard Figure (Moko Miro)

Easter Island lizard figures are actually combinations of man and lizard, often with added avian elements. On this figure, the head is that of a lizard. The torso, arms, and legs are human, and the emphasis on the rib cage, the raised spine, and the tapering arms and legs is consistent with carved male figures from the island. A small fan-shaped carving at the end of the spine recalls a bird’s tail.

Though the form can be described easily, its meaning is unclear. Jo Anne Van Tilburg, a leading scholar of Easter Island, suggests that lizard figures may depict physical transformations resulting from spirit possession or other spiritual activities.

Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
Lizard Figure (Moko Miro)
19th century
Wood, bone, obsidian
L. 15 in. (38.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 2010.24