Archaeologists Make A Strange Discovery On Easter Island
The Chilean territory of Easter Island is one of the most remote places on Earth with its nearest neighbor being the Pitcairn Islands which are still over 1289 miles away! Despite this isolation, it is thought that the Rapa Nui people settled on the island between 300 and 1200 CE and some remnants of a society have remained in place there ever since.
However, one of the most enduring images of the island are the iconic Moai heads, 887 giant stone effigies of ancestors as well as being ancient embodiments of spirits that the community worshipped. Their sheer size and weight have meant that how they came to be transported and dotted all over the island from the quarry they were carved from remains a mystery to this day and their history is shrouded in speculation, but archaeologists recently made a discovery that only adds to the intrigue of the statues.
The first settlers on Easter Island would have been Austronesian Polynesians and are likely to have arrived from the Marquesas Islands from the West, and it was they who carved and erected these statues in the shape of distorted human bodies.
Carved between the years 1250 and 1500 CE, there are over 900 documented statues with around 13 being taken off the island for research and educational purposes with many ending up in museums across the world including the British Museum. However, as to why the production of the statues ceased is another yet unlearned story.
Signs of Discord
European accounts in 1722 (Dutch) and 1770 (Spanish) reported seeing only standing statues, but by James Cook's visit in 1774 many were reported toppled and it is thought that this was a sign of internal struggles with the civilization and this was a sign of rebellion or overthrown power.
However, no completely valid reasons have been found with the nearest idea being that the society used up all of its natural resources.
A Common Misconception
Often referred to as 'the stone heads of Easter Island' it is a common misconception that has been popularized by modern literature that the statues are just heads, but they also have arms and torsos.
The idea that they were just heads comes from the fact that the most popular images of the statues are of those buried on the slopes of the Rano Raruku volcano, probably because the relative shelter there has meant that they have suffered from less erosion than other Moai on the island.
Excavating The Moai
The other Moai were all carved with torsos and arms and excavation of some of the heads on the slopes of Rano Raruku also proved that they had been carved with such features as well.
For whatever reason, they were buried up to their shoulders and so the lasting image of just stone heads popping out of the ground is the one that has entered pop-culture.