The Iconic TATTOOED MAN of Easter Island


by Adrienne L. Kaeppler and Jo Anne Van Tilburg

An impressively tattooed Easter Island (Rapa Nui) man appears often in the pages of Pacific island history books and museum catalogs. His frank countenance belies the mystery that surrounds his identity. The Swedish ethnographer Dr. Knut Hjalmar Stolpe knew him only by his baptismal name, Tepano, the Tahitian version of the Christian name Stephen. What is the Tattooed Man’s real Rapanui identity, and what can his life story tell us about the history of Easter Island?

This book reveals who he was, who illustrated him, and how he transcended the tragic events of nineteenth-century Rapa Nui to become one of the best-known, most iconic faces of the Polynesian past. The authors summarize the history of tattoo as practiced by Rapanui experts (maori), link that history to island geography, analyze the changes some artists made to their field drawings of tattooed individuals, and present further documentation of rare barkcloth sculptures collected from 1839 and the 1840s that provide a visual record of tattoo patterns.

This title is the first in a new series by Mana Press, in partnership with Floating World Editions, on Rapa Nui and Polynesian art and culture.

Adrienne L. Kaeppler is curator of Oceanic ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. She has conducted field research throughout Polynesia, focusing on Tonga and Hawai‘i. Noted for her work on collections from Cook’s voyages, she continues to focus on connections between social structure and the visual and performing arts.

Jo Anne Van Tilburg is an archaeologist and director of the Rock Art Archive, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA. She heads the Easter Island Statue Project, an inventory and analysis of over 900 Rapa Nui statues (moai).

64 pp, 8 x 10.25 / Softcover with flaps
Shrink-wrapped in gift envelope
Fully illustrated, with Glossary, Notes, References
Rapa Nui (Easter Island) history & culture / Polynesian culture
ISBN: 978-1-7324952-0-3