Easter Island

Chile · Easter Island

Chile · Easter Island

Moai at Rano Raraku - Easter Island (5956405378)

By TravelingOtter (Moai at Rano Raraku - Easter Island) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Moai at Tongariki

Chile · Easter Island

Easter Island (Rapa Nui to its native inhabitants), as it was to become known, is the Polynesian island found in the south east Pacific Ocean. Although famous for the large monumental Moai statues which adorn Easter Island, it is also home to extensive rock art carvings and paintings with unique motifs. The archaeological sites of Easter Island are protected within Rapa Nui National Park, an open-air museum that has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.

Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited places on Earth. It is hard to feel connected to Chile, over 3700 kilometers off the coast of South America, let alone the wider world. But such distance has helped preserve the 1500-year-old mysterious congregation of the volcanic rock sculptures.

The tallest moai is called Paro, it was almost 10 metres high and weighed 82 tons. Moai are carved in flat planes, the faces are bearing proud but enigmatic expressions. The human figures would be outlined in the rock wall first, then chipped away until only the image was left. The over-large heads have heavy brows and elongated noses with a distinctive fish-hook-shaped curl of the nostrils. The lips protrude in a thin pout. Like the nose, the ears are elongated and oblong in form. The jaw lines stand out against the truncated neck. The torsos are heavy, and, sometimes, the clavicles are subtly outlined in stone. The arms are carved in bas relief and rest against the body in various positions, hands and long slender fingers resting along the crests of the hips, meeting at the hami (loincloth), with the thumbs sometimes pointing towards the navel. Generally, the anatomical features of the backs are not detailed, but sometimes bear a ring and girdle motif on the buttocks and lower back. Except for one kneeling moai, the statues do not have clearly visible legs.

In 1995 the Chairman of the Bradshaw Foundation, Damon de Laszlo, and John Robinson, joined Doctor Georgia Lee on Easter Island to witness the surviving culture of Easter Island, in the remarkable setting of its powerful landscape and artistic legacy. During the first week of February every year the residents of Easter Island celebrate this culture with traditional dances, costumes and competitions.

It is unclear why the Easter Islanders turned to statue construction on such a massive scale. Their obsession with it ultimately brought about their downfall as they depleted more and more of the forests for use in the process of moving the giant moai.