The mystery of Easter Island is still not completely resolved. Who were these people that found this uninhabited island and created almost 900 huge world-famous stone heads?
Scientists may finally discovered some parts of the truths about Easter Island. For many decades people’s minds have been occupied with the mystery of Easter Island. A remote piece of volcanic soil far away in the Pacific Ocean. But our planet hosts thousands of such lonely islands. What is so particular with just this island?
The mystery is concealed not on the island itself, but the giant stone statues covering it. Who created the world famous huge stone heads? Did they serve any specific purpose? Where did their creators arrive from? Where did they disappear?
What do we know about Easter Island?
Easter Island, a Chilean territory, is a remote volcanic island in Polynesia. Its native name is Rapa Nui. It’s famed for archaeological sites, including nearly 900 monumental statues called moai, created by inhabitants during the 13th–16th centuries. The moai are carved human figures with oversize heads, often resting on massive stone pedestals called ahus. Ahu Tongariki has the largest group of upright moai, according to Wikipedia.
Easter Island Facts
Area: 163.6 km²
Language: Spanish, Rapa Nui
Province: Isla de Pascua
Population: 7,750 (2017)
Highest elevation: 507 m (1,663 ft)
Number of stone statues: 887
Weight of the statues: It varies from 90 tons to almost 300 tons
Where is Easter Island located?
Nearly 2,300 miles west of South America and 1,100 miles from the nearest island, you will find Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui. Here is an Easter Island map:
Rapa Nui which is the name given to the the island by its first inhabitants is the territory of Chile and is situated in the southern pacific ocean. It is so far that you can easily consider it one of the world’s most distant places on the map. Pitcairn is its closest neighbor and is located more than 1,100 miles away. Chile itself is located 2,300 miles away to the west. The only transport that can take you there is a plane. If you want to get to this destination point you need to spend 5 hours onboard flying from Santiago Chile to Easter Island. The area of the island is just 63 square miles, and the home to 887 huge stone statues!
The newcomers chiseled away at volcanic stone, carving moai, monolithic statues built to honor their ancestors. They moved the mammoth blocks of stone—on average 13 feet tall and 14 tons—to different ceremonial structures around the island, a feat that required several days and many men.Smithsonianmag.com: “New findings rekindle old debates about when the first people arrived and why their civilization collapsed”
Rapa Nui National Park
Rapa Nui National Park is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located on Easter Island, Chile. Rapa Nui is the Polynesian name of Easter Island; its Spanish name is Isla de Pascua. The island is located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeastern extremity of the Polynesian Triangle. The island was taken over by Chile in 1888. Its fame and World Heritage status arise from the 887 extant stone statues known by the name “moai”, whose creation is attributed to the early Rapa Nui people who inhabited the island around 300 AD, according to Wikipedia.
Many know them as theRead more about the moai statues on Easter Island TravelEaster Island heads. This is a misconception from having seen photos of statues in the volcano Rano Raraku partitially covered up with soil. Truth is that all of these “heads” have full bodies. There are around 1000 statues, up to 86 tons tons in weight and 10 m in height, though average is around half of that. 95% of the moais were carved from the volcano Rano Raraku. This location was chosen since it consists to a great extent of tuff, which is what the moais from this volcano consist of. Tuff is compressed volcanic ash and is easy to carve, which was necessary since the natives had no metal to carve with, but used only stone tools; the so called toki.
The mystery of Easter Island
Once you appreciate the size and scale of these massive stone sculptures you begin to wonder; Who put them here? What purpose do they have? How did they transport them across Easter Island? Check out our FAQ below to learn more!
How were the statues moved?
Ropes were also used to move the Moai statues to the platforms. For this to work, the hauling ropes would have had to have been about 250 feet long, which at an inch thick would have weighed over a ton. Many people required to make the rope, many people required to pull. Some Moai were erected up to 15 miles from the quarry, and until recently it was assumed they would have been hauled along on wooden rollers. However, latest research by Professor Charles Love who has been excavating the moai roads, shows that rollers would not have worked because the road beds themselves were not level, but slightly concave. How they moved the Moai statues is still one of the great mysteries of Easter Island. Whatever means were employed, once a statue arrived at its intended ahu, it had to be levered upright. Then the red crowns, some weighing up to 11 tons, could be placed on top, according to Bradshaw Foundation.
How old are the stone statues on Easter Island?
The statues were carved by the Polynesian colonizers of the island, mostly between circa 1250 and 1500. In addition to representing deceased ancestors, the moʻai, once they were erected on ahu, may also have been regarded as the embodiment of powerful living or former chiefs and important lineage status symbols.
What do the stone sculptures represent?
Moai statues were built to honor chieftain or other important people who had passed away. They were placed on rectangular stone platforms called ahu, which are tombs for the people that the statues represented. The moais were intentionally made with different characteristics since they were intended to keep the appearence of the person it represented, according to Easter Island Travel.
How did the moai moved?
You may wonder How could the heavy stone sculptured be transported around the island? One of the biggest Easter Island mysteries is how stone age tribes could succeed in transporting 50+ ton moai statues kilometers across hilly terrain. There are several transportation theories, some of which are more generally accepted than others. The most widely accepted theory is that the statues were standing on some kind of construction that would keep the statue standing, which would roll on logs. With this technique, brute force could be applied and rapid, safe moai statue transportation would be possible.
How can we recognize the sculptures on Easter Island?
Thanks to their peculiar faces, they have long noses, wide chins, rectangular ears, heavy brows, and deeply set eyes. It’s quiet curious that the nostrils curl in the way fish hooks do.
What material is used for the stone sculptures?
A material named tuff which is volcanic ash. The birthplace of most of the material was an extinct volcano situated at the northeast of the island.
Why are most of the sculptures facing the inland?
Their backs are turned to the ocean, the reason is because the belief was that the statues were the protectors of the villagers.
How many inhabitants lived on Easter Island?
New study has been conducted recently to specify the maximum number of the inhabitants in the heyday of the island. The results arrived and they were quite unexpected. It turns out that as many as 17,500 people could comfortably live on the island. At least 19% of the land could be covered with the fields of sweet potatoes that used to be the main source of food for the population. The islanders consumed quite a lot of seafood and fish. Knowing these numbers you can see there were enough people to create these sculptures.
Why did all these people disappear?
At first it was believed that the reason for such a decrease of population was an Eco side. The natives cut out large forests and palm trees making spare rooms for moving the statues around as well as agriculture. They thought the trees were going to grow up again fast enough. It was a misleading concept. The deterioration of the environment resulted in hunger and this in turn led to wars and cannibalism. Nowadays however this theory is proven wrong. First of all, the inhabitants of Rapa Nui seem to be very talented agricultural engineers. They deliberately fertilized the fields with the volcanic rock. In fact another research has shown that people had been living on the island for many centuries and the population only started to decrease when Europeans began visiting. So a much more realistic explanation is also a very tragic. South American raids in the pursuit of slaves frequented the island throughout the 19th century. Half of the aborigines were taken away. European traders brought to the island new diseases which the locals had not been protected from.