Pedia News

The Mystery of Easter Island

The Mystery Of Easter Island
Who built the giant heads of Rapa Nui and why? The most easterly island in Polynesia, approximately 3,700 kilometres (2,300 miles) west of South America in the Paciļ¬c Ocean, Easter Island could hardly be more remote. Yet this isolated landmass is home to some of the most incredible man-made wonders on Earth – over 887 carved stone heads, called moai, that have seen the entire 166.3-square-kilometre (64.2-square-mile) island, known as Rapa Nui by its population, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The origin of these stern-faced monoliths – which average four metres (13 feet) tall and weigh an average of 14 tons – and the society that built them is largely a mystery. What is known is that settlers travelling on wooden outrigger canoes arrived on the island between the 4th and 13th centuries and carved the moai sometime between the 10th and 16th centuries from tuff – a light, porous volcanic rock – and placed them upon platforms called ahu. Some even wear ‘hats’ of red scoria, representing the topknot hair styles of the Rapa Nui people. The eye sockets are believed to have held coral eyes with either black obsidian or red scoria pupils, while the bodies may have been carved with patterns that mimic the traditional tattoos of the Rapa Nui.

As for why they were carved, it may have been to honour important chieftains or warriors as some of them contained tombs in their ahu, or it may be to offer protection as with only a few exceptions they gaze  over nearby villages. Ultimately it’s impossible to  know for certain. When Dutch explorers arrived on the island on Easter Day in 1722, the islanders that had created these breathtaking monuments had long since been divided by civil wars and many of its moai toppled, leaving only stories preserved in the oral histories of the Rapa Nui people and a forest of impassive stone heads breaking forth from the earth to stare out across the grass.