Fighting the fungus
Restorers may have discovered a way to save the volcanic stone Moai on Easter Island from damaging lichens
By Tina Lepri. Conservation, Issue 216, September 2010
Published online: 05 October 2010
TURIN. Lichen are eating away at the Moai, the 400 volcanic stone heads that dominate the skyline of Easter Island. Earlier treatments to preserve these ancient monoliths at this World Heritage Site called for filling some of the most deeply corroded stones with concrete. Unfortunately, experts think that this treatment might have worsened the damaging effects of the wind and saltwater that batter the Polynesian island. In fact, the lichen may even be feeding off the concrete used to save the Moai.
Professor Lorenzo Casamenti and five of his students from the restoration school Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence have found an inexpensive treatment for the gigantic statues of Rapa Nui—the indigenous name of Eastern Island.
Casamenti visited Easter Island in 2008 and asked for samples of the island’s volcanic rock which, like the Moai, are also contaminated by these dangerous fungi. Lengthy research has now produced a “chemical” solution to the problem. “We have at long last discovered a solvent that destroys the lichen but not the statues,” said Casamenti.
He will work in collaboration with archaeologists living on Easter Island who have already attended university courses on stone restoration in Florence. The aim of the treatment is to rid the stones of the “white flowers of evil” that leave holes in the colossal statues.
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