Easter Island

Chile, South America

Location

Some 2,000 miles off the west coast of Chile, Easter Island is a small land mass of roughly 63 square miles. The island is surrounded by a chain of extinct, fully submerged volcanoes. The island itself is a host to three extinct volcanoes. Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands, it's nearest neighbor 2,180 miles to the west. Most historians agree that the first settlers were pioneers from Polynesia.

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Description - The Island

The small volcanic island is best known for its unique statues. Nearly 900 stone heads overlook the water's edge. The statues are known to the natives as moai. The heads are carved from tuff - light, porous, consolidated volcanic ash. The island itself is quite small, and quite warm throughout the year. The warmest it usually reaches is about 95°F, and has been known to drop down into the 50's on winter nights. The island's bright culture and unique features make it quite a tourist destination.

History

Easter Island's past has captivated historians. For many years, it was believed that the natives (who reached this tiny island by some small miracle) began to cut down the island's trees to transport the stone heads they were building. Eventually, by the 1400s, historians guess the forests were entirely cut. Consequently, the fertile soil began to erode and the native wildlife either fled or died off. With no food left, the native peoples had no choice but to resort to cannibalism. The lack of food to support those of higher societal power lead to cultural collapse. The population decreased dramatically, and those left resorted to war. Europeans who came upon the island introduced small pox and other diseases to the natives, which killed many more people.

While this believable history has held its ground for years, recent discoveries on Easter Island have led historians to believe this story may be completely wrong - here's the new theory. Thousands of years ago, a band of people left their homeland, and set out on the seas to search for a better land for themselves. They were not alone though, for in their canoes were tiny stowaways - rats. Historians believe that once the new natives reached the island and dubbed it Rapa Nui, the rats also began a new life. With no natural predators, the rat population grew impossibly fast. The creatures began eating the native trees, and in a short time, the forests were completely gone. The forest plants died off, as did the island's animals. This was hardly a problem for the natives, though. They had a surplus of rat meat to live off of. With new land exposed, they seized the opportunity to begin farming, and used minerals from the coastal rocks to fertilize the soil. This paradise didn't last long though. When European settlers arrived, the indigenous population decreased rapidly from new diseases.

With two very possible histories of the island, historians are at war, trying to decide the most plausible theory. Until anything can be decided for sure, the only thing you can do is decide which one you think is true.
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The Moais' Sacredness

The 14 ton statues of Rapa Nui hold a very special place in the culture of the Polynesian natives. To them, the moai are spiritual representations of their ancestry. It is believed that the moai were once used to communicate with gods, and are believed to be quite sacred and god like due to their proximity to the heavens. The moai are also believed to contain a very "magical spiritual essence", called the mana. Many of the moai were placed on stone pedestals, called ahus. Historians have discovered that the ahus contain burial chambers of those important to the ancient Rapa Nui society. It is unknown the purpose of the moai, though some speculate they were built to deify loved ones and important figures. The moai are unique to this small community, and have drawn much attention to the island. Many archaeological projects have led to new discoveries about Rapa Nui's ancient civilizations.

Interesting Facts

Nobody knows for sure how the natives to Rapa Nui transported the gigantic statues. Averaging 13 feet tall, and 14 tons each, there are a limited amount of ways the moai could have been transported. Historians have been battling for years over what the most likely way of moai transport was. There have definitely been some crazy theories, too - like tying the moai to logs and hauling them from the stone quarries to their resting spots, or rolling them across logs, or simply dragging the moai with ropes. The most common idea, however, was that the moai walked. Not like they just stood up and casually strolled down to the fields, but the stories passed down through Rapa Nui culture are quite fascinating. They illustrate that the natives would tie ropes around the moai, and rotate the base of the moai from side to side, "walking" it to it's resting spot.
Scientists Make Easter Island Statue Walk
There is an odd one out on Easter Island; a moai that doesn't quite look like the others. Tukuturi, oddly colored, human-like statue has drawn much attention for it's uniqueness. Made of a different stone than the others, Tukuturi appears reddish in color. The statue seems to be more human like than any other, and almost appears to by sitting with its legs tucked under it. Tukuturi has raised much speculation, but remains unique and treasured.
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Works Cited

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De Camaret, Nicolas. “Easter Island Ahu Tongariki.” Flikr. Yahoo, 7 Aug. 2009. Web. 1 Mar. 2016. <https://waeng8.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/easter-islands-unexplained-mystery/>.

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Gray, Martin. “Easter Island.” Places of Peace and Power. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2016. <https://sacredsites.com/americas/chile/easter_island.html>.

Kia. “6 Interesting Easter Island Facts.” Atlas & Boots. Atlas & Boots, 1 July 2015. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <http://www.atlasandboots.com/easter-island-facts/>.

Krulwich, Robert. “What Happened On Easter Island - A New (Even Scarier) Scenario.” npr (krulwich wonders). npr, 10 Dec. 2013. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <http://www.npr.org/sections/krulwich/2013/12/09/249728994/what-happened-on-easter-island-a-new-even-scarier-scenario>.

“Locator Map of Easter Island.” worldatlas. worldatlas, 2016. Web. 10 Feb. 2016. <http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/samerica/easterisland.htm>.

Olson, Randy. “Easter Island.” National Geographic. National Geographic, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016. <http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/easter-island/olson-photography#/04-three-volcanos-formed-easter-island-670.jpg>.

“Rapa Nui - Isla de Pascua - Easter Island - Easter Island.” Thousand Wonders. Thousand Wonders, n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2016. <http://www.thousandwonders.net/Easter+Island>.

Scientists Make Easter Island Statue Walk. YouTube. YouTube, 21 June 2012. Web. 26 Feb. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpNuh-J5IgE>.

“Secrets of Easter Island.” PBS Online, Nova. PBS, n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2016. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/easter/civilization/giants.html>.

“Tukuturi.” Worldtravelholic. Worldtravelholic, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2016. <http://www.worldtravelholic.com/blog>.