Easter Island: Shocking Secrets and Facts You May Have Not Known About Easter Island

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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…Easter Island 1

Addressing Misconceptions

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.”

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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.

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A Masterpiece

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Capital

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.

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Fantastic Hospitality

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.

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Things Have Changed

Despite the many mysteries surrounding Easter Island’s history, there is one fact that historians unanimously agree on. At one point in history, Easter Island faced extreme deforestation. It has been suggested that islanders burned most of the trees in order to make way for clear land and also to make canoes out of the wood. It’s also speculated that the people created tools to transport the Moai. At any rate, the landscape of the island is very different to how it used to be when it was inhabited.Easter Island 48

Location, Location, Location

Unsurprisingly, Easter Island is one of the most remote locations on the planet. Pitcairn, which is 1,200 miles to the west of the island, is its nearest inhabited neighbor. Its closest mainland is Chile, which is 2,300 miles away to the east. So the question remains: is Easter Island worth search a strenuous journey? Well it depends on how much you want to the visit the Moai. It is also a place of incredible natural beauty and a rich history.

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So Why Is It Called Easter Island?

The meaning behind the island’s name can be attributed to its discoverer, and more specifically, when he discovered it. Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to reach the location, and he found it on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1722. Officially part of Chile, the official name of the island is Isla de Pascua, which also translates to “Easter Island.” Another name for the island is Rapa Nui, because of its resemblance to the Rapa island in the Bass Islands.

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The Original Settlers

In the 20th Century, a popular theory surrounding Easter Island was that Indians from the South American coast were the original settlers of the island. However, after detailed research from archeologists and linguists, this theory has since been unanimously debunked. Nowadays, the general consensus is that the first people to discover the island were of Polynesian descent. These people most likely hailed from the Marquesas or the Society islands, arriving as early as 318 AD.

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More To The Name

But before the European travellers gave the Pacific Island the name we’re most familiar with today, the location adopted other names long before. The oldest name in recorded memory is Te Pito o Te Henua, which literally means “The Center of the World.” Another name that inhabitants gave the island was Mata-Ki-Te-Rani, translating into the English “Eyes Looking at Heaven.” Eventually, Tahitian sailors called the island Rapa Nui in the 1860’s, and the rest was history.

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Moai Have Bodies

The statues also have complete bodies that have been buried deep into the ground. Sometimes, only their heads can be seen above the surface. It makes one wonder what else could be hiding under the Earth, waiting to be discovered. After extensive excavations lead by leading archeologists, it was revealed that the Moai’s bodies have heavily detailed tattoos. It is discoveries like these stone structures that go to show how there is a lot more to something than meets the eye.Easter Island 56

The Director

Jo Anne Van Tilburg is the director of the Easter Island Statue Project (EISP). After her team’s hardworking endeavors to unveil the mysteries of the Moai, she released a statement on the company’s website. She said, “Our EISP excavations recently exposed the torsos of two 7m tall statues. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of visitors to the island have been astonished to see that, indeed, Easter Island statues have bodies! More important, however, we discovered a great deal about the Rapa Nui techniques of ancient engineering.”

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Who Were The Architects?

Despite its rich history and a myriad of theories, there is still no definitive answer as to who exactly constructed the Moai statues. One popular theory suggests that the statues were carved by the most professional carvers of the ancient Polynesians’ craft guilds. Another suggestion is that members of each clan came together to create the Moai. This would make sense because the Rano Raraku quarry was broken down into different areas for each respective clan.

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More Than Just A Pretty Face

There are many theories surrounding the symbolism of the Moai and the deeper meaning that they represent. Many archeologists believe that they were constructed to be symbols of authority and power. But to the island’s inhabitants, they were more than just symbols. The Moai were considered to be physical manifestations of sacred spirits. Another theory is that the Moai represent the ancient ancestors, who faced away from sea and towards the villages, watching over the island’s people.Easter Island 13

The Moai

There is a strong chance that you may have learned about Easter Island and its intriguing features in a geography lesson. The island is immersed with giant stone figures that resemble heads. Named after the Polynesian word for “head,” the statues are known as the Moai. And don’t be fooled, there’s a lot more heads on the island than just these ones. In total, there are a staggering 887 Moai on the island. And the Moai are more than just a bunch of heads…

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World Heritage Status

Easter Island is home to the Rapa Nui National Park, which was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites over twenty years ago. The island World Heritage status was secured due to its fame around the world and the iconic Moai that grace the island. A vast majority of Easter Island has been declared as part of the Rapa Nui National Park. On March 22, 1996, UNESCO finally granted the park World Heritage status under its cultural criteria.

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Head Coverings

Did you know that the Moai wore hats? The headgear, known as pukao in Rap Nui, actually represented hair. The islanders would tie the “hair” around the head like a ball. The same reason that chieftains would not cut their hair was attributed to this practice. It was believed that supernatural powers known as “mana” were connected to one’s hair. Men would take rocks, pile them up against the statue and then push the hat over the head.

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Let’s Get Spiritual

During Jacob Roggeveen’s expedition to Easter Island in 1722, he commented on the spiritual tendencies of the Rapa Nui people. He said that “they relied in case of need on their gods or idols which stand erected all along the sea shore in great numbers, before which they fall down and invoke them.” He continued, commenting how he noticed priests, who displayed much more reverence to the Moai than others, and appeared to be much more devout than the average islander.

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Another Breed Of Statue

A structure that is often overlooked because of the grandiose Moai is the Mo’ai Kavakava. These small wooden figures also originated from Easter Island, portraying lanky men. The word kavakava literally translates to “ribs,” which makes sense because of the gaunt appearance of the man. They are generally considered to represent starving demons, and were believed to be worn by religious men during ritual dances. They would wear the ornaments around their necks during community events.

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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.

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