Everything you wanted to know about Easter Island but were too afraid to ask

Geography

Easter Island (Rapa Nui in the native Easter Island language) is situated in the southeastern Pacific Ocean – it’s an overseas territory of Chile. It’s the most isolated inhabitated area, and it’s famous for the monumental statues, called moai (pronounced MOE-eye) which have fascinated and baffled people for many, many years; and still, no good explanation stands. As you can see from below, there are three Rano (freshwater crater lakes), at Rano Kau, Rano Raraku and Rano Aroi, but no rivers or streams.

easter

Photo by wikipedia

History

easter island

Photo by momentito

It’s history is just fascinating! It’s really rich and impressive, but still highly controversial. 1200 years ago a double-hulled canoe filled with seafarers from a distant culture landed upon its shores. During the centuries that followed, a remarkable society developed in isolation on the island, thriving and fluorishing. Here, the theories start to diverge, and no two are alike. What’s known for sure, is that they endured famines, epidemics, civil war, slave raids and colonialism which made their whole society crumble to dust – more than once! Yet, they managed to leave a cultural legacy that surpassed everything you could expect.

Moai (statues) and other carvings

easter island

Photo by glider king

These statues are the most important reason for the island’s fame. Due to the fact that the island was a volcanic one, they had several types of rocks to build from (Basalt, Obsidian, and more important – Tuff from Rano Raraku, which was used for most of the Moai). These impressive monolithic human figures were carved mostly between 1250 and 1500 AD, are some of the most incredible ancient relics ever discovered. The Moai are the ‘living faces’ and lavish representations of ancestors who had been deified. But how were hundreds of these giants that weighed 10-80 tons (one unfinished Moai had the weight of 270 tons) created and more interesting, moved across the island? Also, what would be the point of building them? Nobody has been able to come up with a satisfying answer to these questions.

easter island

Photo by GothPhil

Another mystery concerns the colonization and creation of the culture. Orthodox archaeologists believe that Easter Island was initially settled sometime around 318 AD by a small group of Polynesians lost on the open sea, but other scholars believe it may have once been part of far larger island and that the original discovery and use of the site may be many thousands of years earlier in time.
Another point of interest is represented by Ahu. Ahu are stone platforms on which some of the moai were erected, varying greatly in layout.

ter

Photo by vtveen. Moai on an Aru

Rongorongo

easter island

Photo by wikipedia

As if these mysteries weren’t enough, there’s more! Rongorongo is the Easter Island’s script, and it is among few (if not the only one!) that was created out of nothing, without outside influence. Of the hundreds of wooden tablets and staffs reportedly having Rongorongo writing carved on them, only 26 survive, and scientists haven’t been able to decipher it. Also, several wood carvings, including Moko-Miro, a man with a lizard head, Rei Miro, a gorget or breast ornament of crescent shape with a head at one or both tips, and many others fill the island’s puzzle, but still, no “solution” seems in reach.

Legacy

So, they left behind an amazing culture, and some interesting facts. But what’s by far the most interesting is still a mystery. The people of Easter Island called themselves the Rapa Nui. Where did they come from and why did they disappear? We’ve learned so much about them and yet, every answer brings more questions. Were those people actually able to build and move statues weighing tens of tons? Are we speaking about a very ancient and evolved civilization, something that would resemble Atlantis? Did … aliens have something to do with that? No matter how ludacris it could seem, it could be possible. After all, nobody’s been able to explain it.

easter island

Photo by Guillermo Salinas

12 thoughts on “Everything you wanted to know about Easter Island but were too afraid to ask

  1. Xander

    It is fascinating to see, people are still talking about the “mysteries” of Easter Island. For some time, writers such as Clive Ponting (Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations) & Jared Diamond (Easter Island’s End) have brought us possible answers: the decline of natural resources and subsequently conflicts over whatever’s left.
    To me, it’s obvious the real $1,000,000 question is not “does man influence climate?” but “how much of an influence has climate been on human evolution?”. Easter Island is a place with a message.

    Xander (http://ohm2.be)

  2. Miggs

    Cool – always wondered about this place …pity there’s no explanation for the statues , but maybe it’s better that way .

  3. Charlie

    There are loads miggs. The premier one is that the island was wooded before logging began to transport the statues on log rollers. The statue building started off small and then grew in size. Eventually all the trees were cut down and there was an ecological disaster. They stopped building statues and turned on each other.
    There are plenty of programmes on discovery, just youtube it.

  4. Poop

    By the way, this article doesn’t say so, but Rongorongo script HAS been deciphered. It’s a creation myth in all the objects it’s ever been found on.

  5. Justin

    I like that you spelled “ludacris” like the rapper, not the real word “ludicrous.” Bravo.

  6. Game Economy

    Really interesting and cool read. Perhaps when Nick Cage and Disney run out of possible government agencies to swindle, they’ll tackle Easter Island? National Treasure 5: The turning of Stones. :)

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  8. Joanna Anderson

    I would really injoy going there. To see all those amazing statues. That would be really nice.

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  10. Simon Papineau

    You should’ve researched the subject more thoroughly before writing this article. There is no “mystery” surrounding the statues on Easter Island – we know exactly why and how they were built, even how they were transported accross the island.

    The moais are essentially tombs. The person whom they represent is buried under – hence the ahu. These were tribe leaders, and they would order their moais while they were alive. As to how they were transported – it has to do with the fact that there are no more trees on Easter island. They were rolled from the volcano where they were carved to their ahu. Sometimes they broke during transport, and the inhabitants would have to carve another, a process that took years.

    Another little-known fact is that ALL the moais were pushed to the ground during a revolt many years ago, and that most were broken in the process. Those that we see standing in pictures today have been restored.

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