Interesting Facts You May Have Not Known About Easter Island
It’s “the island with a peculiar name,” or “the island with the heads.” But there is so much more to this mystical pacific gem. Here are some things you may have not known about Easter Island.
Let’s Start With The Heads
The ancient stone heads, known as Moai, have baffled people for centuries. Archeologists have struggled to work out their origins and why exactly their construction stalled. A phenomenon shrouded in mystery, what’s even more perplexing is the location of the island…
Van Tilburg felt that it was important to squash the misconceptions surrounding the Moai. She made this clear by saying that “the reason people think they are [only] heads is there are about 150 statues buried up to the shoulders on the slope of a volcano, and these are the most famous, most beautiful and most photographed of all the Easter Island statues. This suggested to people who had not seen photos of [other unearthed statues] that they are heads only.”
Similar, For The Most Part
So what are the definitive features that all Moai have in common? Well one thing is certain, they are monolithic structures, meaning that each statue was carved out of one large stone. But not all of them are identical, some of them are very unique in deed. The tallest Moai statue is 33-feet tall and weighs a staggering 82-tons. From a historical standpoint, the Moai have been fixed on the Chilean Polynesian island since 1250 C.E.
A Team Effort
Grand Theft Moai
In an act of sheer audacity, a Finnish tourist went to Anakena beach and hacked an ear off one of the statues. Someone witnessed Marko Kulju run away with the Moai’s ear and reported him to the police. As a result, Kulju was arrested and for his crime, fined $17,000 USD. In the end, the punishment was a slap on the wrist as he could have spent seven years locked up. The incident ensured stricter security procedures for tourists at the national park.
One of the most iconic of the Moai isn’t even on the island anymore. Known as Hoa Hakananai’a, this statue is on display at London’s British Museum. In November, 1868, a crew from the British ship HMS Topaze retrieved the statue from ‘Orongo, Easter Island. After a long trip, the statue finally landed in England in August, 1969. Despite being smaller than the average Moai, it is often regarded as the archetype for the Moai design and universally regarded as a masterpiece.
An Unexpected Cure
Another peculiar theory surrounding the Moai was developed by Dr. Anneliese Pontius. The psychiatry professor from Harvard Medical School speculated that the reason that islanders created the statues in the first place was in order to cure leprosy. Upon seeing the deformities of bodily features such as the face, hands, fingers and arms, the islanders felt compelled to create the perfect specimens in their eyes. This would help undo the damage inflicted on those struck with leprosy.
From The Old To The New
Easter Island should not be credited purely for its rich history, which spanned over thousands of years. It also has a bustling contemporary society that has seen drastic changes in just one lifetime. One tour guide commented on how his 87-year-old great-grandmother spent her childhood years growing up in a cave. For many islanders, the first time that they saw a plane fly over the island was a baffling experience to say the least.
Tourism At Its Finest
There are many who provide tourists with unique insights into Rapa Nui life. Take this man for example. Moi works for a company called Ancestral Tours who show tourists how the Rapa Nui live their lives, both through water and the land. In his water-based tours, Moi takes travellers to snorkel in Ovahe Beach. After working together to retrieve fish swept up by the waves, he cooks for the tourists, while statues watch over the proceedings, like a bunch of bodyguards.
Nowadays, Easter Island has its fair share of inhabitants who may not necessarily be originally from such parts. 90% of the population lives in the capital, Hanga Roa, which in all honesty is not the most exciting location in Rapa Nui. The town has a very basic infrastructure, having only one bank and a few private businesses. Construction laws are particularly strict, due to the tourism focused nature of the island. But there are plenty of places for tourists to stay.
One prime example of the capitalization of Easter Island’s recent boom in tourism is the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa. It is the first high-end hotel in the island’s capital and the 75-room hotel is inspired by the original accommodations that people of Rapa Nui lived in. The hotel has solar panels and wind turbines, helping to generate energy for each room. Other unique features of the hotel include beautiful clay baths as well as furnishings made out of volcanic rock.
The Legend Of Ahu Akivi
The site of Ahu Akivi has a particularly special part to play in the history of Easter Island. Seven equal size Moai stand inland and face the sunset during the Spring Equinox. Then, during the Autumn Equinox, they face away from the sunrise. The seven statues represent seven protectors who in a dream, were ordered by the King’s spirit to wait for him and his other scouts to return from a trip across the Pacific Ocean.