Katherine Routledge is a central figure in the history of Easter Island, one of the world's most remote and mysterious locales. Born to a wealthy and prestigious English Quaker family in 1866, Katherine rebelled against their strict Victorian values, becoming one of the first female graduates of Oxford University and the first woman archaeologist to work in Polynesia. At the age of forty, Katherine married a charismatic Australian adventurer, William Scoresby Routledge, and they built a ninety-foot, state-of-the-art yacht, christening her Mana, the Polynesian word for "spiritual power." From 1913 to 1915, Katherine and Scoresby led the Mana Expedition to Easter Island, where Katherine conducted the first-ever excavations of the island's world-famous stone statues. Katherine collected vast quantities of new information, which she faithfully transcribed into her journals and field notebooks. Through interviews with dozens of elderly men and women, she was able to save the history of the island, whose population was struggling back from the brink of extinction. Without Katherine's extraordinary efforts, Easter Island's traditional beliefs and customs would have been forever lost. Katherine's hard work came at a terrible price. A family history of schizophrenia and a deep sense of spiritualism brought her under the spell of an old mystic named Angata, who led an Easter Island rebellion in which Katherine played a central role. After her return to England, she heard "voices" that precipitated a separation from Scoresby and nearly destroyed her ability to write and to publish her fieldwork. Her family blamed Angata, the Easter Island "witch doctor," for driving Katherine insane. With Scoresby, they kidnapped Katherine from her lavish London home and isolated her in an asylum, where she died seven years later. Many of Katherine's papers were thought to be lost until they were discovered by Jo Anne Van Tilburg, the contemporary world's leading authority on the Easter Island statues. In this compelling biography, Dr. Van Tilburg brings her unique expertise to Katherine Routledge's discoveries and to her turbulent life. The result is an exciting personal story, set against the drama of Katherine's remarkable exploration of one of the most intriguing archaeological sites in the world.
Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Ph.D., is an archaeologist with two decades of experience on Easter Island, where she directs the comprehensive and definitive Easter Island Statue Project. Currently a research associate of the Costen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, Van Tilburg also directs the UCLA Rock Art Archive. She is a national lecturer for the Archaeological Institute of America and a lecturer for the British Museum Traveller. She lives in Malibu, California.