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Moai of Rapa Nui - Getting a Head on Easter Island

The Moai of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, have captivated the imagination of people for centuries. These enormous statues were first discovered by Europeans in 1722, when Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen stumbled upon the island during his travels through the Pacific. He was immediately struck by the sight of dozens of massive stone figures dotting the landscape, and wondered what kind of people could have created them.



The Rapa Nui - Tuff People


The Moai were carved by the Rapa Nui people, who settled on the island sometime between 800 and 1200 AD. The statues are made from volcanic tuff, a type of rock that is found on the island, and were painstakingly carved by hand using stone tools. Volcanic tuff, contrary to its name, is a very soft and pliable rock. Each Moai is unique, with different facial features, clothing, and hairstyles, and some stand as tall as 33 feet (10.06 m).

The Rapa Nui people had a complex society, with a system of chiefs and a caste of skilled craftsmen who were responsible for creating the Moai. The statues were erected on platforms, or ahu, which were often decorated with smaller stone figures and ceremonial structures. The Moai were believed to represent deceased ancestors, and were typically placed facing inland to watch over the living. Which is nice.

Despite their impressive size and artistry, the Moai were not immune to the changing fortunes of the Rapa Nui people. By the 17th century, the island was facing a number of challenges, including deforestation, soil erosion, and a growing population. This led to a decline in the production of food and the collapse of the Rapa Nui society, with many of the Moai toppled from their platforms and abandoned.


Buried Secrets of Easter Island – They Walk!



It wasn't until the 20th century that archaeologists began to uncover the secrets of the Moai and the people who created them. In 1914, a team from the British Museum led by William Mulloy discovered that the statues had been carved with bodies as well as heads, a fact that had been previously unknown. Further excavations revealed that the Moai had been erected using a system of ropes, levers, and wooden rollers, with dozens of people working together to move the enormous stones into place.

The latest theory suggests that the statues were rocked side-to-side and essentially walked from the quarry to their resting place. Watching researchers demonstrating this technique is both nerve-wracking and strangely soothing.


Conservation Efforts


Sign indicating the protected status of the moai

Today, efforts are underway to restore and preserve the Moai and the cultural heritage of the Rapa Nui people. The Chilean government has designated the island a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a number of conservation and restoration projects are currently underway. These efforts are aimed at protecting the Moai from further damage, as well as educating visitors about the history and traditions of the Rapa Nui people.


In conclusion, the Moai of Rapa Nui continue to fascinate and intrigue people from around the world, even centuries after their creation. They are a testament to the skill and artistry of the Rapa Nui people, as well as a reminder of the importance of preserving our cultural heritage for future generations.


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