Easter Island is a Chilean island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania. It is famous for its 887 still in existence monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapa Nui people. In 1995, UNESCO named Easter Island a World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park.
It is believed that Easter Island's Polynesian inhabitants arrived on Easter Island sometime between 700 and 1100 CE. They created a thriving and industrious culture as evidenced by the island's numerous enormous stone moai and other artifacts. Human activity, the introduction of the Polynesian rat and overpopulation led to gradual deforestation and extinction of many important natural resources, which severely weakened the Rapa Nui civilization. By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population had dropped to 2,000Ė3,000 from an estimated high of approximately 15,000 just a century earlier.
European diseases and Peruvian slave raiding in the 1860s further depleted the population, reducing it to a low of only 111 native inhabitants in 1877.
Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. The nearest inhabited land, around 50 residents in 2013, is Pitcairn Island, 1,289 miles away, the nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea, on the island of Mangareva, 1,619 miles away, the nearest continental point lies in central Chile, 2,182 miles away.
Easter Island is a special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888. Administratively, it belongs to the ValparaŪso Region, and, more specifically, it is the only commune of the Province Isla de Pascua. According to the 2017 Chilean census, the island has 7,750 residents, of whom some 60% are descendants of the aboriginal Rapa Nui.
The name Easter Island was given by the island's first recorded European visitor, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who encountered it on Easter Sunday April 5, 1722, while searching for Davis or David's island. Roggeveen named it Paasch-Eyland, 18th-century Dutch for Easter Island.
The moai themselves are supposed to be recreations of the old ancestors who would have been deified in the past, giving them a certain culture significance as well as being a fine example of the quality of art that we can find on this planet. The statues, have been transported around and put in other locations, which allows for the question of how they were moved. The transportation of the moai is considered remarkable, given that they were moved 11 miles across the island without the use of wheels, cranes or large animals.
Many people are unsure of how something so incredible could be moved, with almost every Moai statue being far too big to have been moved back in the day. We could move them today using construction equipment, sure, but the Polynesian people never had this in pervious eras. Given that the tallest is 33' high, they would have been nearly impossible to move or carry once erected and therefore it becomes very hard to see how this would have happened.
In 2008, a Finnish tourist was found on Anakena beach hacking an ear off a moai. An islander saw Marko Kulju, 26, fleeing from the scene with a piece of the statue in his hand. She reported the incident to the Police who identified Kulju by the tattoos on his body. The Finn was placed under house arrest and fined nearly $17,000 USD, light punishment given that he was facing up to seven years in prison. Kulju issued a public apology through a Chilean newspaper shortly after his capture. As a consequence of the incident, there are tighter controls on tourist access, with one quarry being cordoned off far from the main attraction.
The most commonly heard theme has been that of the Moai actually having the capacity to walk into place, as discussed above, moving such an incredible feature would have been a subject of near impossibility. The tallest statue was 33' in height, sure, but it also weighed an incredible 82 tons. Imagine moving and placing something of that size and volume using only manpower? It sounds almost impossible, does it not?
In the early 1980s, a large group of researchers decided to look into this with more detail than before. They attempted to carry out a recreation of the statues and moving them by using only tools that would have actually be available to those who were living here back in the day, when the stones were made. Using historical data they managed to find out the kind of tools they have to work with, and began the process.
As you might imagine, this was more or less impossible, there was nothing sustainable or reasonably possible that would have allowed such a feat to occur.
In 1987 the American archaeologist Charles Love started to work on moving a 10 ton replica. He had to use a vehicle with two sledges on it, and then he and a group of 25 men proceeded to move the statue 150' in distance in just two minutes.
In 2011, Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii and Carl Lipo of California State University Long Beach worked with National Geographic to prove that a mere 18 people could move a 10' moai replica weighing 5Ĺ tons 1000' with just three strong ropes and some practice.
An experiment a decade later carried out by Pavel Pavel and Thor Heyerdahl proved that it could actually be moved, and that a statue of around 20 tons could be moved as much as 330' in a day.
The statues may have been an antidote to leprosy. Dr. Anneliese Pontius, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has a theory that islanders created the statues to counter the effects of leprosy. According to her hypothesis, the shock of seeing deformity on the features most important in social interaction, face, hand, fingers & arms, may have driven islanders to ritually undo the damage by creating moai with over corrected features. These efforts to reverse leprosy may have been in lieu of banishing the affected to other islands as they had been elsewhere, Hawaii, Molokai. The symptoms of leprosy vs. their over corrected moai equivalents are listed below:
Leprosyís destruction of the nose cartilage is countered by pronounced noses and stylised nostrils.
Downward placement of the mouth with lower hanging lip and bared teeth, due to facial nerve paralysis, vs. moaiís upward placement of the lips. No teeth visible.
Lips retracted and swollen vs. pursed upward and thin.
Claw hand vs. extended fingers in a straight fashion. The elongated fingers lie in a horizontal line across the abdomen.
Disturbances of fingers and nails vs. moaiís well delineated fingertips and nails.
All the moai on Easter Island have distinctive elongated features and follow a certain aesthetic. Tukuturi, seems far more human. It is far smaller than the other moai and seems to be in a kneeling position with its hands on its legs. Tukuturiís head is round and more human like and appears to have a small beard. Whatís more, while the other moai were carved at the stunning site of Rano Raraku, Tukuturi was made from a different material, the reddish stone of Puna Pua, and then brought to Rano Raraku. No-one knows why itís so different.
The idea, then, is that the people tied these massive objects to ropes and walked them into place, if you seek into Rapa Nui folklore, they even discuss them walking into place by magic.
No one argues that at one stage in its history, Easter Island went through a devastating deforestation. The prevailing theory has long been that the islanders felled, or burned, trees to clear land and carve canoes to serve the growing population, and possibly to transport the moai. More recent theories suggest that the wide scale deforestation was the work of Polynesian rats that came over with the first canoes.
What anthropologists do agree on is that at some point in the 1700s, there was a rebellion or rioting by the islanders. Tired of dwindling resources, clans began to clash, tearing down each otherís moais. Itís reported that by 1868, there were no upright statues on the island apart from the partially buried ones on the outer slopes of Rano Raraku. Many have of course since been re-erected.
However, many other speculations point to the fact that populations dropping in this part of the world only became a thing when European nations started to visit the area and claimed it for themselves. Naturally, this causes the population to plummet and could be a better explanation for what happened to the people here. This theory, though, does not really give any kind of explanation as to why the stones were more or less left alone, as they were, is it possible people were wiped out before anything significant could be managed with the stones?
One of the most popular theories comes from the recent discovery of a new mystery underneath the heads themselves. Archaeologists found that the massive heads stuck in the ground on Easter Island are more than just big faces, they are full blown sculptures with full bodies and designs otherwise. This was discovered in 2015, and crucially it was also discovered that each of the bodies which had been covered for so long were actually covered in petroglyphs, old symbols that we can no longer read, inscribed in an ancient, unknown language.
Given that around 150 of the bodies are buried deep into the slopes of the volcano here on Easter Island, most people just believed that the heads were just that, heads. Other statues stand proudly and totally unearthed, but itís a common misconception that the heads were just large heads standing on their own. They are actually full sculptures like the rest of the products which stand on the island. As you might imagine, this done a pretty good job of throwing the cat in amongst the pigeons and ruined a lot of typical academic research into the islands.
Itís a discovery that might not shock those who already knew that many statues have bodies, but itís more the writing that sends such a powerful message across the board. Thanks to the hard work carried out on the bodies, stunning scriptures in their own right, the massive inscriptions on the bodies have some kind of significant meaning, they must.
This is something that will be discovered and updated as time goes on but, at the time of writing, this makes for one of the most fascinating discoveries when it comes to looking at the massive change in public perception.
One of the most common conspiracies that is heard, comes from the idea that the stones were lifted not by their creators, but by aliens. Alien conspiracies are all the rage and make a great way of explaining away something we have no answer for, but is it more likely to be true in this case?
The idea is that the statues were created for, or at least heavily influenced, by another species who came down to visit us. Then, they were moved into the right position by these extra-terrestrial beings, does it sound likely?
For many people, it does. According to Erich von Daniken, a popular author, he wrote a book known as Chariots of the Gods: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past. In this book, one of the angles that Daniken takes is that the Egyptians could never have been capable of building the pyramids. They simply lacked the strength, resources or the intelligence to pull off such a marvellous design and style.
Many theories are also used to talk about things like Mayan pyramids and the Nazca line drawings, they are also a commonly used theory to try and support the moving of these stones.
The stone which is used to build these stones, though, hails from the islands themselves, itís taken from an old, dead volcano on the north east side of the island. The only mystery about how the statues were built is how they managed it, itís a feat of true artisan workmanship. Then, we need to work out why they were built, and how they were able to be moved from their point of creation to the location that they all rest at today.
According to various sources, the very timeline of the Easter Island may be wrong. Indeed, some claim that the island was inhabited by North American bloodlines at one stage before it was discovered making it easy to see where the reference and ideology for the statue comes from. Itís a popular trait amongst various different populations to have these kinds of stones built in some form of homage to the leadership or royalty of that specific era. These islands look to have been no different, but the times we think of the islands in may be wrong.
Itís estimated that the statues were built over a period of three or four centuries. However, the vastly different styles and phases of design throughout the various statues points to it potentially having taken place over a far longer period of history than we are led to believe in common opinion. Since they are far more Pacific in their design and their element, and they bear no resemblance whatsoever to the Polynesian people who once claimed these lands, who actually built the statues, many believe they come from this kind of culture, instead.
Many heads lie half finished in quarries and other areas, almost as if they were left behind and never finished, abandoned in a hurry by those who created them. Is it possible that the timeline for their creation and their end has been miscalculated?
With so many half-finished heads, especially given we know now that they all had bodies, makes it appear as if the last age of Moai statues being created was abruptly stopped. The main problem that many people have with this is the fact that so many were complete, surely, given their range and the number left behind, indicates it would have taken longer than we are led to believe?
One popular theory which has stood for many years was that the roads on Easter Island were used to drag the stones along and to take them to their spots. This was given weight by the fact that many finished old stones were found discarded at the side of many of these roads, making it seem plausible that they would have been dragged along in this fashion. However, this was eventually disputed by archaeological experts in 2010 who discovered that the roads were actually built for ceremonial purposes. This was first suggested in 1914 by Katherine Routledge, and was debunked by Thor Heyerdahl in the 1950s.
However, it turns out that Ms. Routledge was mostly right after all. The roads were built in a concave manner, meaning that move heavy statues along such a resource would have been immensely challenging at best, nearly impossible at worst. The response, then, is that the statues actually just fell down as time passed and they eventually were weakened, simply falling over thanks to the passing of time and the weakening of their structure at the bottom.
The roads also all point to the large extinct volcano, Rano Raraku. This is most likely seen as the symbolic point of the island, and the roads pointed here instead of the other way around.
The ear designs is something that is a big talking point for those who want to try and disprove the normal accepted wisdom about the creatures. In the recent past, revered author Rupert Murrill suggested that the skulls on the island were long, and narrow, they also found exceptionally long ears. Ear elongation is a big part of culture in many parts of the world around about this era, and many elongated ear tools have been found when looking for artefacts on Easter Island which were used for cultural purposes by the people.
The Hanau Epe, long ears, were a heroic. In the sense of fame, not braveness, people who lived on Easter Island, where they came into conflict with another people known as the Hanau Momoko, short ears. This happened when resources, mainly trees, which were thought to dissapear from rats eating the seeds, began to run out in about 1680, and major suffering occurred. It is also thought that the long ears strived to enslave the former inhabitants, and are believed to be Incan settlers due to historical records of the Incans sailing and exploring at the approximate time. After the fighting started, the long ears retreated to a near ditch at the island's north eastern Island also known as Poike. There they set fire to a lengthy ditch hoping to burn their enemy. But the Hanau Momoko somehow found a way around the ditch, now their plan was to attack the demented enemy from behind. Sure enough the Hanau Momoko sneaked their way behind the enemy and struck at the enemy like a wolf at a rabbit, considering the Hanau Epe's population was smaller. Now, the Hanau Epe only had two options, fight the battle they could not win, or burn in the fire they started. But because of their cowardliness, The Hanau Epe retreated into the fire. In the end of the battle, the ditch was then known as The Hanau Epe's Oven. Fortunately, it wasn't the end of the Haunau Epe's people, for one got out alive. But it isn't known what happened, some think he disguised himself as a Haunau Momoko, others think he was afraid of the consequences he might be sentenced to and remained hidden his entire life.
The Long Ears and Short Ears of Easter Island contribute to the theme rights and responsibilities, because these 2 groups had many conflicts with natural rights. During the time the Long Ears invaded the island, they had plans of slaves, depletion of short ears, the former settlers, and conquering of the island overall. This helped our group understand the importance of rights, and how they cannot be taken away. On the other hand, the Short Ears had the responsibility of winning the battle of the Long Ears, as it was their rightful island, culture, and artifacts that had to be preserved.
One of the last theories we want to explore about these massive stones and their origins comes from the Seven Stone Giants. Seven 16' 18 ton statues stand alone at Ahu Akivi, each of which are supposed to symbolize seven explorers sent by King Hoto Matu from Polynesia. However, some believe that they were actually built as a monument to Polynesian Gods, not chiefs or the highest ranked members of society at the time. This gains weight just by looking at many other cultures, they idea of seven creators is not exclusive to this island alone.
From the Egyptians to ancient British Druids, seven plays a key role within the development of creation, change and construction all across cultures throughout history.
This is one of the main reasons that this theory stands up, the relation to many other parts of the world and cultures across time. This theory is one that takes a bit of pre reading and learning to get used to, though, so we recommend you check out this link to see what one of the more long-term beliefs about this kind of theory is.
What we will probably never know is how this all came about or how the structures managed to certain their strength and style over so many years. From being buried naturally and eventually being rediscovered by our archaeologists to being the placement of aliens, the theories and ideas about Easter Island will likely never go away.
They completely alter the way that the world can look and feel to most people, adding another junction in which it seems like the culture and the world we know actually is nothing like what was suggested. The trouble with something like these massive Moai statues, is the fact that they are so incredible like natural constructions beyond the timeline they were built, itís hard to believe that any culture, regardless of their advancement of the time, could be so precise and then so mobile.