Island Life Helps Students Map Their Futures: Summer Trip With Dean Hunt Charts—And Changes—History

Jan. 9, 2019


Rapa Nui, known as Easter Island, is an isolated 63 sq mi volcanic mass in the eastern Pacific. On foot or bobbing offshore in the waves, the ability to discern the complexities of the famous stone forms left by a thousand-year-old culture is limited. From the air, the landscape becomes clearer. And the mystery less shrouded in mythology and hearsay. Taking to the air was at the center of the Honors College summer, 2018 mission. Drone-assisted imaging, under the guidance of respected archeologist, scholar and now dean Dr. Terry Hunt, became the focus.  With nearly 1,000 “moai” statues and 300 “ahu” platforms already tagged, it was their locations that needed more definition. Along with discerning trails used by their creators.

Dr. Hunt, intent on exercising scientific rigor, served both as guide and observer during the project, one characterized by long days, discussions well into the Chilean night and simple living conditions for the entire team. “Easter Island has been largely misunderstood, interpreted to serve the needs of environmentalists, social scientists and politicians. What’s most needed? Insights spurred by data rather than conjecture fueled by convenient opinions,” stated Hunt. What did University of Arizona students conclude when their contribution had been made and interpretation of the aerial images begun? According to one Honors College student, “it definitely surpassed my expectations, and has been my favorite part of being at the U of A in the Honors College.” Only time will tell, but working alongside a well-regarded archaeologist is a rare opportunity. One that can spur a lifetime of personal – and professional – curiosity.

Three in-person info sessions are happening this week in the Slonaker living room: 
January 10 - 10:30-11:30am
January 11 - 1:00-2:00pm
January 13 - 4:00-5:00pm
Can’t make an info session? Schedule an individualized study abroad planning session with Lysette Davi. For appointments, email your availability to

Applications are open now! 
Honors Research on Easter Island
Advanced Honors Trip