Moai – Easter Island also known as “Rapa Nui” or “Isla de Pascua” is a mysterious open air museum with massive stone statutes (Moai Statues) dotting the coastline around the island. Officially the Island is a territory of Chile and one of the worlds most isolated places, situated on a triangle of volcanic rock in the South Pacific over 2,000 miles from the nearest population centers of Tahiti and Chile.
The island is known as one of the world’s most sacred sites, very famous for its giant stone busts, built centuries ago, they reflect the history of the dramatic rise and fall of an isolated Polynesian culture.
Early settlers called the island “Te Pito O Te Henua” (Navel of The World). It was named Easter Island by a European, Admiral Roggeveen who arrived on the island on Easter Sunday 1722. Locally today it is known as Rapa Nui.
There has been much confusion and controversy as to the origin of the Easter Islanders. Some think Peruvians built the statues, some feel the Island is a piece of a lost continent. DNA has proven that Polynesians were the first settlers arriving around 400 AD from the west in large boats. This is seen as remarkable given that Easter Island is such a great distance from other land. Legend has it they were looking for other land as their own island was being swallowed by the sea.
The island was a paradise and the islanders prospered — archaeological evidence shows that the island was covered with a variety of numerous trees, including the largest palm tree species in the world. The natives used the bark and wood for cloth, rope, and canoes. Birds were plentiful and provided food. The climate was mild and the water provided an abundance of fish and oysters.
Their religion developed with its centerpiece the giant moai, or heads, that are the island’s most distinctive feature today. The moai, are scattered around the island and supposedly depicted their ancestors. This was likely considered a blessing or a watchful eye over each small village. The ruins of the Rano Raraku crater, the stone quarry where hundreds of moai sit today, show how these figures were important. The birdman culture (as seen in the petroglyphs) was obviously the islanders’ fascination with their ability to travel to distant lands.
In addition to the statues, petroglyphs (rock carvings), traditional wood carvings, tapa (barkcloth), crafts, tattooing, string figures, dance and music, the islanders possessed the Rongorongo script, the only written language in Oceania. As time went on confidence in their religion was lost as disagreements broke out. This is reflected in the ruins of the Moai Statues which were deliberately toppled by human hands.
At its peak the island had more than 10,000 population, straining the capability of it’s ecosystem. As a result lush palm forests were destroyed for agriculture and the massive statues, and resources became scarce. The once thriving advanced social society descended into a bloody civil war, and apparently cannibalism as they ran out of food sources. The islanders tore down the statues, that today have been re erected by archaeological efforts.
Through contact with western civilization, slavery and disease the island population by around 1800 had dropped to approximately 110. Around 1888 following the annexation of Chile the population rose to more than 2,000. Despite the Chilean presence there is still a strong Polynesian identity.
Moai – The Rapanui people are extremely friendly and the landscape is amazing with its volcanic craters, lava formations, beaches, brilliant blue water, and archaeological sites.
Access is from Chile and Tahiti, tourism on the island is run by the Rapanui themselves. There are many package tours and various hotels and guesthouses on the Island. There are opportunities to stay in a private home, a great way to experience the island and local culture. In late January to early February the islanders celebrate Tapati, a festival honoring the Polynesian cultural heritage of the island
There are a series of ongoing excavations, conservation and preservation projects.All but one of the 22 standing statues in Rano Raraku Quarry interior have been previously exposed through unscientific and undocumented digging.
The Easter Island Statue Project (EISP) has a 20 year history of an archaeological survey, the objective of which is the creation of a complete, full, island-wide monolithic and portable statue inventory and the compilation of an historical image record for each.
In 1982 the EISP team started a 5 year Moai Statue Project, mapping the interior of Rano Raraku, the volcanic quarry from which 95 percent of the statues were created. Over one thousand statues were documented throughout the entire island and created the world’s largest archaeological archive
Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater on the island’s eastern plain, was the source of the sideromelane (basaltic) from which 95% of the statues were carved. This source is irrefutable as there are 397 in situ statues, of which 141 in various stages of completion have recently been mapped by EISP in the interior quarries. Much rarer statue lithologies are basalt (hawaiite lavas) from three named regions.
There are only 20 Moai Statues statues which were carved of basalt. Of these, 7 are in museum collections. The British Museum holds two basalt statues.
The Island is extremely small, so it is possible to get around fairly easily. There are rental cars, usually jeeps, as well as dirt bikes. With a car, you can see most of the sites on the island in a few hours.
The biggest tourist attractions are, of course, the Moai. All of the sites, are free and are mostly found along the coastline of the island. Two exceptions are the volcanic craters of Rano Kau and Rano Raraku. “Rano Raraku” is where the moai carvings were created by hundreds of laborers out of the volcanic rock. A visitor can see various stages of the carving and partially finished statues in this 300 foot remnant of a volcano. Rano Kau, the remains of a volcanic cinder cone, has a spectacular mottled unearthly appearance. Both craters are filled with fresh rainwater. There is a combined entry fee currently at $60 US. Make sure to keep your ticket.
Easter Islandfeatures two white sand beaches. Anakena, on the north side of the island, has an excellent bodysurfing location. The second is Ovahe, along the southern shore of the island near Ahu Vaihu, this beautiful beach is much larger than Anakena and is surrounded by breathtaking cliffs. Scuba diving and snorkeling is popular near the islets Motu Nui and Motu Iti (well known for “The bird man culture”).
There is an extensive cave system with a couple of “official” caves and numerous unofficial caves on the island. Many of the openings to the caves are small but open up into large, deep and extensive cave systems. These are not to be explored on your own and can be damp, slippery and dangerous.
Most of the commerce on the island occurs in the port town of Hanga Roa. There are a number of small shops, an open air market and approximately 25 restaurants with limited menus, although fish is plentiful.
All in all Easter Island is a remote spectacular destination offering a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
and for more information on tours with Action Travel and A-Z Tours please check out
Avril Betts CHA – partner with Khaled Azzam, Egyptologist
Moai – We like to think your vacation starts when you call us. Our staff are great and treat our clients like family offering personalized tours world wide. Specialization in Canada, Egypt, Jordan and Europe.
The landscapes of Chile are truly breathtaking from exploring Atacama to Patagonia you are sure to be inspired. Take your Chile travel itinerary to the next level by visiting Easter Island. The perfect complement to any Chile vacation, a trip to Easter Island will be an unforgettable Chile experience.
Adding an Easter Island tour to your Chile travel is easy. No matter what Chile destinations you will be visiting you are sure to make a stop in Santiago, giving you the perfect opportunity to depart for Easter Island. Multiple flights from Santiago to the island occur weekly and provide travelers a chance to explore off the shores of Chile.
There are many reasons why adding Easter Island to your Chile travel plan would be beneficial. For starters the island is rich in history and culture but beyond that it is absolutely beautiful. Some of the most spectacular scenery can be found on the island and is sure to be the highlight of your Chile travel. Check out this sample plan for adding an Easter Island tour to your itinerary.
Starting in Santiago, spend a few days exploring the sights of this bustling city. A trip up Santa Lucia Hill will allow you to have stunning views of the city from above. Depending on your tastes you can visit one of the city’s many museums or walk the city’s streets and mingle with the locals. If you have time add a day or two in the nearby Vina del Mar and enjoy the relaxing beach atmosphere.
After enjoying Santiago for a few days catch your flight to Easter Island some 2,300 miles off Chile’s shores. Here you can indulge in a unique culture, by exploring the hillsides of the island which are dotted with many stone statues called moai. As the main draw to the island, these statues can be found on the hills, in caves, and lining the shores of the island, however their original purpose remains unknown. The Easter Island statues help to create unique and beautiful scenery for travelers from around the world to enjoy. Some of the best places to visit include the Ahu Akiui where seven moai statues face the sea, which after a few minutes on the island you will know this is uncommon. Make your way to the Rano Raruku Volcano where you will have stunning views of the island as well as it is a great place to explore over 400 moai that lie on the hills.
With so much to do and see an Easter Island tour makes a perfect complement to your already exciting Chile travel. Adding your island tour is easy and is sure to enhance your Chile experience.
This article about taking an Easter Island tour during your Chile travel was written by a travel expert at Chile For Less who specializes in helping you organize best value Chile travel vacation packages plus fully customizable Chile adventures.
When most people imagine Easter Island, they immediately think of the Moai. Moai are immense human figures carved from rock between the years of 1250 and 1500 on Easter Island, a Polynesian island several hundred miles off the coast of Chile.
Many myths and legends are attached to ancient Polynesian cultures, including the Easter Island Moai culture as well as the tiki gods found elsewhere in Polynesia. Many apply the term ‘Tiki’ to any carved human figures originating in Polynesia. In fact, the Moai are often referred to as the “Easter Island Tikis” because of the stylistic similarities between these figures and the tiki found elsewhere in Polynesia.
As found in America, popular Tiki culture combines elements that are actually found in distinct cultures, including Hawaiian, Polynesian, Maori from New Zealand, and the culture of Easter Islande. Many do not realize that tiki culture has such varied roots. In the United States, these distinct cultures have been blended into popular tiki culture. However, upon visiting the islands themselves, the differences become apparent.
The oversized heads of the Moai are often confused with the tiki gods from elsewhere in Polynesia due to their minimalist style. Both Moai and Tiki carvings portray human faces or humanoid forms, often with a very small body if one is carved at all. Like the tiki figures, the Moai have relatively flat faces and very large and elongated heads when compared to their bodies. Similarly to popular tiki imagery, the Moai – the Easter Island statues on Easter Island have large, broad noses.
Carved wooden and stone statues were created all over Polynesia as far back as 1500 BC. Over time, the style became varied between the different islands of the region. This, perhaps, accounts for the minor stylistic differences between the Moai figures of New Zealand and tiki carvings found on other islands.
There are certainly many superficial similarities between the two types of carvings, but what about the symbolism? On many islands, the Tiki myth is connected to a legend about the first man. Later, tiki statues became representations not only of this first man, but also other spiritual symbols, such as tiki gods. Moai statues represent the living faces of powerful former chiefs, ancestral spirits, and mythological beings. It has been argued that Moai statues, carved in the shape of gods, served to house the gods’ spirits. Many find similarities between the legends behind the creation of Moai monolithic heads and that of Tiki statues.
This popular tourist attractions are considered a remarkable feat, similar to the pyramids in Egypt. The tallest moai on the island, known as Paro, measures over 30 feet tall and weighs 75 tons. It is believed that there were once over 900 of these large statues. Today, groups of the Moai still exist in several locations around the island. Many are found on Polynesian ceremonial sites known as Marae. Throughout the Polynesian world, both moai and tiki traditions evolved at these Marae sites. Both tiki and Moai statues were used to mark the boundaries of sacred sites. One such place on Easter Island, known as Rapa Nui, is the location of a famous example of Moai stone figures set in a ring.
Royal Tiki’s beautiful range of Tiki are hand-carved on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. Also check for current specials on Tiki bar decor
How Were These Enormous Easter Island Statues Sculpted and Why?
Easter Island belongs to Chile. It is located in the area of the Polynesia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This island of 163.6 km² has become an important tourism attraction, especially due to the mysteries that surround the ancestral culture that inhabited it, the Rapa Nui ethnic group. This etymology also gives the traditional name to the island, Rapa Nui, which means “Great Island” in the language of the ancient sailors from Tahiti.
Although this great islet is practically an outdoor museum due to its ceremonial places and petroglyphs, the Moai, the giant Easter Island Heads sculpted in stone, are undoubtedly the main attractions.
The Construction of the Moai
We know that the giant effigies or moai were sculpted, probably during the 12th to 17th century, in volcanic rock from the inactive volcano of Rano Raraku. Around 300 statues were made within the walls of the crater and were later transported through the slope.
In the crater there were also another 400 unfinished statues found. Some had just been started, while others were almost ready to be transported. Near them there were also chisels and axes made of obsidian. These tools show that the craftsmen intended to return and finish the monoliths, but for some unknown reason they never could.
Along the path descending from the volcano there were also dozens of these statues found, already finished, that were scattered for 40 or 50 meters. Most of them weighted 30 tons and were around 4 meters long, but one piece was discovered, still unfinished, that reached 30 meters and weighted 50 tons.
The Mysterious Transportation System
The exact way in which the giant and heavy moai of Easter Island were transported is still unknown. The hypothesis that they used tree logs as rollers has been discarded. However, some scientists consider that the disappearance of the palm tree woods was caused by indiscriminate felling by natives who used them to transport the statues. It was proven that no tree in the island has the necessary magnitude to transport the statues.
The theory of dragging or swinging them with ropes has also some gaps. In 1986, the Czech engineer Pavel Pavel, the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl and the Kon Tiki Museum proved that 20 people and some ropes were enough to transport a statue of 9 tons. Nonetheless, most statues far exceed this weight.
The most recent study conducted in the year 2000 by a U.S. archaeological team suggests that the natives used complex machines manufactured in the island centuries ago. The construction of this heavy machinery may have partly caused the current deforestation of the island.
What Happened to the Rapa Nui?
According to all signs from ancient colonization, in its origin, Easter Island was inhabited by several thousands of people. From the drawings found in the island we can deduct that many social strata existed among them. The people with great ears represented in sculptures may have been the rulers, who managed to prolong their lobes with weights. Another theory states that the moai Easter Island Heads represent deceased ancestors. The population growth and the shortage of food may have caused the destruction of several ceremonial altars and the abandonment of the quarries where the Easter Island Heads were sculpted.
The key to all these enigmas is possibly related to a Peruvian dealer from the 19th century, whose name remains unknown. Apparently, he captured more than 1,000 natives, among them the last king and the sorcerer of Rapa Nui. The fate of the captives remains unknown, although it is possible that some of them returned to their island carrying some type of disease, which may have caused the extinction of the rest of the population.
With them, the last possibility to discover how this primitive people raised a whole army of giant monoliths with human faces has disappeared.
Author is a content writer and Easter Island tourism management expert. In this article author discuss about moais history.
For more information about Easter Island visit Turismo Isla de Pascua
For even the most seasoned travelers, Easter Island offers a new and genuine experience unlike any other on earth, truly feeling liked the edge of existence. Situated 1,260 miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean from the next nearest inhabited island and 2,360 miles from South America, it is no wonder that it was left unfounded by the outside world for so long. It is believed by researchers that the first inhabitants were Polynesians who arrived around 400 A.D. and had no subsequent contact with the outside world. It wasn’t until 1722 that Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen arrived and named the island for the day he anchored: Easter Sunday.
Upon landing, he found the primitive island full of large stone faced human shaped statues called moai. They were all faced with their backs to the ocean, and instead faced inward toward the highest point on the island, Terevaka Volcano. There seemed to be no explanation for the existence of these statues, and by the time the famous British Captain James Cook arrived in 1772, the gigantic Easter Island Statues had all been toppled over. To this day, it remains a mystery what happened that caused them to fall, and why the island’s inhabitants suddenly stopped creating them. Another puzzle is how the ancient people on such a barren island were able to create and, more importantly, transport and maneuver their multi-ton creations.
Today, visitors can fly out to Easter Island by way Chile, to which it became a territory in 1888. It is not a cheap flight, and not a short one at that, but the trip is sure to be one of a lifetime. It is popular to arrange this trip as part of any South America vacation packages or simply add it to your existing Chile holidays plans. Even with its tourism slowly growing over the years, there is still only one town named Hanga Roa on this 64 square mile island which hosts most of the main hotels, restaurants, and tourism facilities. From there, it is easy to rent a car or bicycle with which to tour the island independently.
Because the island is well preserved and very pristine, it takes deliberate effort to get to some of the most remote sites. Over 1000 moai statues ( Easter Island Statues ) carved out of volcanic rock are scatted about (many more are thought to be unexcavated), more than 300 religious temples still stand mysteriously, and the grassy and hilly landscape itself is worth many impromptu stops. The moai is of course what draws most people here, artifacts whose mystifying existence rivals that of Stonehenge and the Georgia Guidestones. Most of them still lie faced down, although a few dozen have been restored to upright positions. Easter Island Statues stand 30 to 40 feet tall, weighing more than 70 tons each; the largest, which was never completed, is 65 feet tall, weighs over 80 tons, and is aptly called “El Gigante.” It may never be known precisely why the moai were created or how their abandoned fate came to be, but nevertheless, their silhouettes against the blue Pacific and green volcanic hills of Easter Island are one of the most striking scenes in the world.
This article about Easter Island Statues was written by a travel expert at Chile For Less who specializes in helping you customize your Chile holidays or even more all-encompassing South America vacation packages.
Moai – Touring today with Marcelo who is also the owner of the small inn where we are staying. I guess this is one way to supplement the family income: leave the wife to tend to the housework and he takes the tourists for a drive. One of the many superstitions that we learned about is this: the Easter Island Moai have fallen down for a reason so do not attempt to bring them back on their feet. This seemed quite reasonable until we moved on to another part of the island where, we were told, the Japanese donated a huge pile of money to rebuild an AHU ( platform) and place the Easter Island Moai upright again. So I guess, in Easter Island like many places, superstitions are good excuses sometimes.
Up until 1994, there was no mechanized transport on Rapa Nui for people to use to get around. Horse were the order of the day. Keven Costner – and Hollywood – came to make a movie – aptly called Rapa Nui – and they were there for about a year. They insisted on cars/trucks to facilitate their equipment and to get around the island to their shooting locations. The occupation of the island gets mixed reviews from locals but one thing is for sure – cars became the thing to have and nowadays everyone drives everywhere.
Ever wonder why the Easter Island Moai on the Island face inwards? Well, it took us 5 hours to fly from Santiago so there was no reason for the locals to wonder if they were the only people in the world for hundreds and hundreds of years – of course they were. So — as a result – they felt that any evil would already be on the island; so, they erected the MOAI to face the island and their “evil” neighbours to scare them away.” Moai ”
The giant Easter Island Statue Heads on Easter Island, the moai, have posed an enduring problem for archaeologists — how did their creators move them? The most popular hypothesis is that they were rolled across the island on wooden logs, but one anthropologist has proposed a more unusual possibility — that they “walked.”
Carl Lipo, from California State University, has demonstrated that three teams of workers can, using ropes, “walk” a 4.35-tonne replica moai down a path just like the ones that cover Easter Island Statue.
The study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, doesn’t just look at the moai that were successfully placed on stone pedestals, but also those which were clearly abandoned alongside roads in the process of being moved — those abandoned moai show clear signs of having fallen over from upright positions, and at least one shows signs of attempts to re-raise and walk out again. It’s strong evidence that wood rollers would not have been the method used by the Rapa Nui people.
Nature has a video from Lipo showing how he and his team pulled off the walk — three ropes are attached to the moai’s head, with two teams pulling forward on either side and one team staying directly behind to steer the statue and prevent it falling forward. Attempts were made by a team in 1986 to walk Easter Island Statue Heads of varying heights this way, but the experiment was halted after large chips of stone began to come off the bases of the statues under the stresses of walking. While walking was clearly possible, the damage it would cause seemed to rule it out as the likely method used to shift the moai into place.
Lipo and his team, though, looked for more evidence that walking was possible, and found that the archaeological evidence from the quarries where the statues were carved still indicated they were moved while upright. “The figure is usually shaped from the top down leaving a narrow ‘keel’ connecting it to the bedrock,” wrote Lipo and colleagues in their article. “Statues were ‘walked’ out of the pit through excavated openings to moai roads.” The roads that criss-cross Easter Island are the right shape for the statues to fit into without toppling too easily too the side (narrow and concave), too.
They measured the dimensions of each moai statue, too, and found that, when modelled on a computer, they should have been able to walk them using ropes — and sure enough, after a bit of heaving and ho-ing, the moai walked.
Interestingly, analysis of the moai, which are often found half-buried or broken alongside the roads, showed a different distribution of weight — the road moai tended to have a centre of gravity which was much further forward, which could mean that the Rapa Nui workers found it harder to prevent them toppling over in transit.
The dominant rival hypothesis is that the Easter Island Statue Heads were rolled along roads using wooden logs, which would have tied into the archaeological record that showed the number of trees on the island declined precipitously in the same era the production of moai ceased. This also ties into the neat little environmental fable that Easter Island is a good example of an ecosystem driven to destruction by human overexploitation — the island, once covered with huge, lush palm trees, was entirely treeless by the time European explorers arrived in the 1700s.
The moai represent the ancestors the Rapa Nui people worshiped as part of their religion, but as the ecosystem of the island deteriorated with the loss of trees civil war broke out and, reportedly, cannibalism become common. By the time Jacob Roggeveen visited in 1722 the island’s population had dropped to somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000, down from a peak of around 15,000 a few centuries earlier. Whether the deforestation that set off this chain of events was due to the construction of the moai is still unclear.