Easter Island

An Island of Mystery

Some of the moai statues.

Location

Easter Island is located in the south Pacific ocean. The island rests off of the coast of Chile about 2,200 miles.

Description

Easter Island is an island that covers 64 square miles of land. The island is shaped much like a triangle as seen in the map above. A Dutch explorer found the island on Easter Sunday in the year 1722. Thus, the name Easter Island caught on. Also, the island was formed from a volcanic eruption. The island has three volcanoes that are inactive and will not be active. Finally, it is most famous for its statues that dot the whole island.

History

It is believed that the island was originally settled by Polynesians in about 400 A.D. They most likely arrived from surrounding islands. On an unrelated note, at the present, the island has an extremely small amount of trees. However, at one point in time the island was covered in trees and had lots of wildlife and good farmland. Eventually, the natives chopped down almost every trees on the island for fuel, housing, canoes, and space to create their moai statues. This led to a collapse in the civilization and a loss of wildlife, fishing canoes, birds, and farmland for sources of food. After the collapse, chickens and rats became the main diet as well as some cannibalism.


Some new traditions were created by the survivors after the collapse. Then, by the 1800's, the population had grown significantly, not to its original size, but significantly. 20 years later, though, deportation and diseases from other places severely cut the population. In 1877, a mere 111 inhabitants were left on the island. Now, the Rapanui people are slowly gaining back their population.

A shot of the landscape of Easter Island.

Statues at sunset.

Religious Group

Easter Island has its own indigenous religion. The religion had something to do with the moai statues all over the island. But, it is unsure exactly what the purpose for the statues was. It is possible that the statues symbolized authority and power, much like other places in Polynesia practiced. Also, to ancient Polynesians, wood or stone objects, that were prepared correctly, supposedly contained "mana," an essence of magic and spirits. The statues were most likely sacred objects to the Rapanui people. The people went to the platforms that the statues were on and there had their religious ceremonies.

Why It Is Sacred

Easter Island was the home of under 100 Polynesian settlers. These settlers may have wound up on the island after being lost at see and had no way to return home. The island may have been important to the natives because they lacked the means and then desire to return home. The significance of the statues is unknown. As mentioned above, it is possible that the moai symbolized authority and power. The original settlers may have carried the religious beliefs that they had practiced before settling the island, over to the island and passed them down. Also, as mentioned above, wood or stone objects prepared correctly supposedly contained "mana," an essence of magic and spirits. Each deceased head of a lineage was also represented in the moai statues.

More Statues