Easter Island

This island lies in the South Pacific Ocean and it is under the control of Chile. It is also part of the Polynesian Triangle. Easter Island is of great cultural significance to the world because of its 887 monuments known as moai. The Rapa Nui people built these structures in 1250 to 1500 AD. The UN recognized the significance of these monuments by declaring Easter Island a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The UN made this declaration in 1995. The Chilean government also has numerous laws to protect the Island, its inhabitants, and the structures that crisscross it. For example, Chile fined a Finnish tourist $17,000 in 2008 for disfiguring a moai. Unfortunately, many people do not know about the awesome history of Easter Island and its famous statutes. Here are some facts on it.

Why Did They Build These Statutes?

The simple answer is that they did it to honor the memory of the dead. Building it was an expensive endeavor so most of the moai honor chiefs or other prominent people. Those who wanted moai built traded chickens, bananas, sweet potatoes, and mats for the statutes. The bigger a statute was, then the higher the cost would be. It is important to note that big statutes would often come with great prestige, as they would stand out among the rest. Because of this prestige, tribes competed over which one would build the biggest moai. These statutes also had to be picturesque and representative. In fact, each statute had a different appearance and characteristic because it represented a different person. Attention to detail was critical for the tribes that built them.

How Massive Are These Structures?

The moai are monolithic structures carved out of rock. Their weight and height is simply amazing making them a distinct feature of the Easter Island landscape. For example, one of the structures was as tall as 10 meters. That means it would be as tall as a 3-story building. The Rapa Nui people were also building a moai that would be 21 meters tall. The weight of these structures is also amazing. One weighed as much as 82 tons. That means it weighed as much 42 personal cars given that an average car weighs 2 tons.

How Did They Move These Massive Stones?

No one knows how the Rapa Nui people moved these structures. Some claim that timber logs used as rollers where the primary means of transporting the moai from one place to another. Others claim that the Rapa Nui moved the statutes by rocking them from side to side. However, most researchers support the theory of using timber logs to move these massive structures. What is indisputable is the fact that the stones were in an upright position when moved. The basis of this theory is the fact that some statutes lie on their back while others lie on their stomach.

Resources and Rebellion

Radio carbon dating methods indicate that the Rapa Nui, builders of the moai, settled on Easter Island in 1200 AD. By the 1600s, the population reached about 15,000 people, but their success did not last for long. Soon, the people suffered the consequences of deforestation on the island. The island had no more wood to use for fires, tools, or to build canoes. Food became scarce and tribal warfare become inevitable. Each tribe tried to humiliate the other one by toppling its moai. By the time the Europeans arrived in 1722, the island only had about 2000 to 3000 inhabitants.




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