Easter Island Blog

Dreams of the Moai

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A flash visit to Easter Island

They say that the Rapa Nui people, the ethnic group that originally inhabited Easter Island, descended from Polynesian sailors of the early last millennium. It is also said that, in spite of temporary or organizational differences, this people had a direct similarity with the rest of human kind, since they experienced situations not very different to the ones in today’s global society.

Owners of a rather small world, they organized in tribes, worked the land, exploited the ocean, chose their leaders, worshiped gods, and created monuments and sculptures of reverence: the moai.
The moai are the only survivors of this age, just like the Pantheon remains firm in the Olympus mount, the Roman coliseum or the Egyptian pyramids. Art outlives time, and it is the only thing that makes us immortal.

Description

The numerous moai were carefully and precisely carved in volcanic rock. Experts believe the sculptures were made by the first Polynesian inhabitants of the island in order to honor or represent their ancestors.
Some sculptures are over 20 meters long and weight more than 80 tons. There are several theories regarding the methods used to transport these monsters, but nothing is certain. For the moment, it could be more appealing to leave these issues to imagination. The moai originally surrounded the whole island, and their eyes focused on the center of the island where the tribes lived, like great parents watching over their children, gods who provide wisdom or works of art distressed over the presence of human activities.

Dreams of the Moai

Today, over 3500 people live in Easter Island. Their means of support are fishery and the raging tourism. Nowadays, these sculptures represent a different perception of humanity: they face the ocean, Orion’s belt and the Pleiades, they are arranged according to the equinox or solstice, and some keep facing towards the center.
During their reconstruction and restoration, they were probably reconfigured in their essence. When the first westerners visited the island in the 18th century, they found the fabulous statues were fallen, ruined and neglected. Apparently, the tribal wars were responsible for these actions.

In the centuries previous to the “discovery” of the island, there allegedly was a pernicious overpopulation among the Rapa Nui, which led to the shortage of supplies and to wars. The moai, silent and thinking, are the only witnesses of the civilization’s collapse. The dreams of the moai are those of any god: to enjoy the splendor of the civilization that created them once again. Perhaps they will moan for eternity the terrible destiny that the people of the Pacific suffered.

The Moai Watch Over the World

A symbol of ancient societies’ way of thinking, these sculptures can be wise because they have seen the end of humanity on a small scale. Hopefully science fiction will invent a way to make the moai talk so they can tell us how society in itself can be the only cause of all ills. Surely, under the faint light of the stars or the captivating reflection of the moon, the dreams of the moai are calmer than the ones described in this article. Inevitably, they are inanimate beings, and fortunately, they remain silent.

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Easter Island and the Global Collapse

Moai on Rano Raraku caldera, Easter Island
The Collapse

The immediate fate of liberal capitalism, which plunges into a free fall towards the implosion of a black hole boosted by the constant growth of a systemic crisis and that is inevitably attracted by the sucking maelstrom of an ominous global collapse, shows fascinating similarities with the sudden extinction of the moai culture that took place in Easter Island. Of course, I am talking about the famous giant statues (around 900 in total) that tourists admire in a lost, arid and almost deserted moor thousands of kilometers away from the coast. Well, the impressive moai were built with ceremonial purposes by a blooming civilization that embarked in a process of accelerated growth with a peaking zenith that was reached during the 17th century of our era, in order to fall from there (1680) into a whirlpool of collective self-destruction that was the end of the islander civilization just before the arrival of European colonizers.

The best story of this cultural tragedy is included in the book Collapse (2005) by the evolutionist geographer Jared Diamond, which uses it as a pedagogical illustration (among other analogue extinctions, such as the Mayas of Yucatan or the Vikings in Greenland) to explain how the intensification of the competition for resources can lead to the collective suicide of the competitors. In order to do this, Diamond uses the so-called “tragedy of the commons” proposed by biologist Russell Hardin in 1968, which predicts the exhaustion of ecosystems from a certain threshold of exploitation. But the originality of Diamond resides in that, despite being a well known ecologist, he deducts that the ultimate cause of the collapse is not biological, but social. What makes a system unfeasible and forces the collapse is not the lack of resources (as in the Malthusian argument), but overexploitation, and the effects can only derive from escalated social competition. The diverse clans of Easter Island embarked in a collective game of ostentatious prestige, where everybody strived to beat the others in the construction of the moai. For this purpose, they did not hesitate to exhaust the forest where they extracted the wood in order to transport the stones used. Upon the scarcity of wood, they stopped building the canoes used for fishing, their main source of protein. Nonetheless, they continued building taller and taller moai until they could not do it anymore. Then there was a coup, civil war exploded and Easter Island bled until the end.

The parallel I propose with the current drift of the global crisis is transparent: The moai are the speculative bubbles erected by our state and entrepreneurial clans. They are moai built on financial and real state speculation that, upon an intensified competition, will not take long to exhaust the productive resources of our real economy.

Don’t tell me it is not depressing to see those empty cities of the Mediterranean coast (Manilva) or the outskirts of Madrid (Cesena); they are authentic deserted moai abandoned after the burst of the housing bubble. Just like the islanders who got into debt and exhausted their sources of livelihood in order to build the moai, our islanders of liberal capitalism have done the same in order to build their leveraged speculative pyramids. They have sucked on public soil, solvent credits, productive labor and the entrepreneurial web, leading the system to a collective collapse.

How can we stop and reverse this self-destructive drift?

What escape scenarios can we imagine for this constant escalation of the global crisis? Jared Diamond points out that when we enter a spiral of intensified competition, there are only two ways of avoiding the collective collapse: the self-limitation of the competitors or the rationing imposed by public powers. These two solutions are equal to the self regulation of markets and the Keynesian intervention by the State. But one excludes the other, so we still do not know which one will prevail in the long term. So let’s make some science fiction and speculate about the four possible ways out of the crisis.

The first one is the liberal escape proposed by global financial powers, backed by international organizations such as the UN, the IMF or the OECD: an intense crisis that will last only 2 or 3 years until the deleveraging process is completed, with very high social costs, after which a slow recuperation will take place that will give place to a new self-sustained, stable growth process, eventually subject to open new business sources that can become moai (pyramids or speculative bubbles). This cyclic scenario means not changing the current market system, where the Keynesian State is merely decorative, servile and temporary, but whose exceptional intervention will restore the absolute domination of the global market. The chances of this escape are uncertain because the light Keynesianism “Barack Obama style” seems to be destined to fail, since free markets cannot be governed as they are a spontaneous order. The invisible hand of the State can regulate them, changing their incentive structure, but it cannot impose any executive regulations. When it tries to do so, the invisible hand of the market reacts, generating a spontaneous mess like the current one.

Thus, we come to the second predictable way out of the crisis, which is the definite collapse of the markets after the failure of light Keynesianism, forcing the State to a hardcore intervention through massive bank and bankrupt enterprise nationalization and the possible closing of stock markets. This escape implies the suppression or the suspension of free markets, which will be replaced by a mercantile protectionism (Colbertism) of Chinese style and Prussian inspiration. However, with this, the virtuality of economic cycles will be annulled, and the crisis will stop being an inflection point between recessive and ascendant phases in order to become a state of stable stagnation in the shape of an L (descendant falling branch followed by a long lasting lateral depression).

But if the depression perpetuates itself, the state or protectionist escape will aggravate the climate of social conflict. Then, a third exit will be possible, and maybe probable, which can be violent, warlike or even revolutionary. In the end, the collapse of Easter Island became a bloodbath. The same thing occurred with the economic depression of the 1930s, which ended with the decline of the protectionist gods.

Let’s hope that historic memory can teach us to prevent the worst and allows us to learn how to pursue a less self-destructive way out. What could it be? There is a fourth escape, at least a theoretical one. As improbable as it may be, it is to convert the current crisis into a real systemic crisis eventually capable of giving birth to a new model of society. A sustainable society no longer based on the neoliberal capitalism predator, which from cycle to cycle and from bubble to bubble is leading the planet to an imminent collapse like the one in Easter Island, which is now massively amplified to a global scale.

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Easter Island Natural Attractions

Natural Attractions

The landscape of the island, characterized by its cliffs and the ocean, gives to the visitor a particular view of its volcanic origin. There are several Easter Island Natural Attractions. Of these beauties the following ones can be emphasized as sites of interest for the tourists:

Maunga Terevaka: highest point (more than 500 ms) on the island. From its top it is possible to see all around the island – a 360° view of the horizon. Here you will see the crater Rano Aroi.

Ana Te Pahu-Roiho Complex: group of volcanic galleries located at the foot of the Maunga Terevaka, in the youngest geologic zone of the island. Many of these caverns have exits towards the cliffs overlooking the sea. Most well-known of these is Ana Kakenga, called ‘Cave of the Windows’ with a magnificent view of the small, barren island Motu Taurata. These caverns served not only as occasional refuges for the islanders, but in addition, as regular residences. Given their natual humidity, they served as plantation sites where bananas, taro, uhi and sweet potato were grown. Leter, the avocado was grown, as well as the grape and guava of modern times.

Ana Kai Tangata: (Eat Man Cave): this particular cavern is below the volcano Rano Kau, near the village. Cave paintings of birds are seen on the ceiling. According to legend, this cave was used for canabalistic rites (hense its name), although there are many who doubt this story.

Islands or “Motus”: in the Rapanui language the word “motu” is translated into “small barren island” and all around the island coast it is possible to observe many motu, like those that are located in front of the Village of Orongo (Motu Nui, Motu Iti, Motu Kao Kao), the Motu Maro Tiri in the bay of Hanga Nui and the Motu Tautara in the west coast of the island. It is possible to visit them in fishing boats. In them are archaeological rests and the evidence of the nest building of the migratory birds so important in the culture of Rapa Nui..

Beaches: Rapa Nui has four sandy beaches of chorale, of which Anakena Beach stands out as perhaps the most beautiful, in surroundings of palms and archaeological restorations. Close to Ovahe Beach, of similar characteristics, they are frequented by the tourists and locals alike. The two others, Pérouse and Hanga Roa Otái, are recognized for the practice of the diving (first) and of surffing (second).

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Easter Island, a New Wonder

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The Dream

Everyone dreams of visiting heavenly places that are well-known in the rest of the world as destinations touched by a divine hand. Well, the natural beauty capable of taking their breath away is not located on the other side of the world, but in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and it is called Easter Island.

Known as the “navel of the world”, Easter Island combines beautiful beaches with inactive volcanoes, as well as the mystical presence of millenary stone statues scattered around the island: the moai. There are more than 800 stone statues buried in the island or located along the coast facing the sea. Some of them have hats and defined torsos, and one of them (only one) has painted eyes.

The island’s charm is all about these statues made of stone, which appear throughout the territory. Researchers are unable to determine who ordered their construction, with what purpose or how they managed to reach the coast of Rapa Nui. The mystery and the beauty of the landscape around the moai makes Easter Island a must for any traveler who calls themselves one.

Places to Visit

Easter Island is formed by volcanoes that emerge from the seabed and shape Rapa Nui as a triangle. The island is conformed by 166 km of green mountains, beaches, sacred sites and places to walk around, all below the blue sky of the South Pacific.

It is easy to get to the island, since all the airlines have flights that go there, although some stop over in Santiago de Chile and then continue their trip until they reach Rapa Nui. Nonetheless, the island’s main activity is tourism, so access is available throughout the year.

Once in the island, the options multiply. The hotel and gastronomic infrastructure is varied and of excellent quality. There are international restaurants and, of course, all of them offer delicious typical dishes made with the best fish of the Pacific and vegetables grown in the island. There are also hotels and guesthouses, camping areas and other places to sleep that offer comfortable and safe facilities surrounded by native vegetation.

Once established in the island, it is time to explore it. Easter Island is not very big, so it is easy to get by on foot or by car. There are places where you can rent cars, jeeps and horses, and there are also tour guides to visit sacred places and all the interesting corners of the island.

The main attraction is the moai. These stone structures can be seen in all Rapa Nui territory, but the most important place is the Ahu, where seven moai can be seen on the coast, facing the sea. It is a sacred place, so it is recommended to enter carefully and with respect and not to talk. The moai are millenary structures, and as such, they are fragile and demand extreme care.
Another important place is Anakena, the most famous beach in Easter Island. It is a place of unmatched beauty, with turquoise, warm, still waters, white sand and an ideal temperature for sunbathing and resting. It is located on the northern side of the island, near Hanga Roa (the capital), and it is possible to surf.

The island also has hidden treasures. One of them is a beach beyond the area of Ahu Vaihu that doesn‘t even have a name and it is much bigger than Anakena. This beach has enormous cliffs and it is recommended to get there on foot.

Under the surface, Easter Island offers a unique landscape. Away from the beaches and the South Pacific wind, the tourist can visit the caves near Ana Kakenga. To enter the land and discover its mysteries through a tunel of naturally interconnected caves is simply a movie-like activity, and it can be done in Easter Island, the navel of the world.

New Wonder

Easter Island was one of the 20 world destinations in the race to become one of the new wonders of the world. Considering that the pyramids of Egypt are the only attraction of the ancient wonders that still stands, the organization New Open World Foundation held a contest at the end 2008 for the public to choose seven new destinations. In the end, Easter Island was not chosen among the new wonders, but to be considered among the 20 is a real honor.

Francisco Lira

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Easter Island, Navel of the World

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A trip to a magical island filled with enchantment and tradition

When referring to the most western island of the Polynesia, with a surface of about 166 square kilometers and over 600 stone monoliths or moai scattered over the territory, one immediately thinks of Rapa Nui.

  Some Characteristics of Easter Island

This small island, the furthest inhabited island away from any continent, lies 3700 km away from the Chilean coast. It is a volcanic formation where little over 4500 islanders live.

It is dominated by 3 big volcanoes: the Maunga Terevaka is the highest with 511 meters, the Poike reaches 370 meters and the Rano Kao is 400 meters high. There are also about 70 other smaller craters, among them the Rano Raraku, the Puna Pau, the Maunga Orito and the Rano Aroi.

The climate is typically maritime and subtropical, with a relative humidity of 77%. It rains all year, and the annual average is 1140 mm. The rainiest month is May and the driest is September. The yearly average temperature is 20.6ºC.

Arrival to the Island

After descending from the plane at Mataveri International Airport, tourists are received by the staff of their respective hotels with a necklace made from natural flowers. Before going to their accommodations, most of them usually pass through Hanga Roa so that the tourists can find their way through the capital. There are 3 main streets, so this usually takes around 6 minutes.

The Moai

Evidently, the moai are a must. Originally, they were placed on the ahu and faced the center of the island. Although nobody knows for sure, they were allegedly sculpted by Polynesians in order to represent the deceased and to project their mana, supernatural power, over their descendants. Only 7 moai face the ocean. These are the moai from Ahu A Kivi, and people believe they look towards the constellation of Orion.

Although it is true that the moai were knocked down from their ahu during the 17th century, they have undergone restoration since 1965. One of the biggest mysteries is how they were transported to their final destination.

Rapa Nui: The Navel of the World

Te Pito Kura, on the northern coast of the island, has the biggest moai ever to be successfully transported and lifted. It is 11 meters long and weighs around 80 tons.

In this place there is also a perfectly round stone known as the “navel of the world”. People say that placing your hands on the “navel” gives you renovating energy for the body.

Anakena Beach

The beach of Anakena is considered to be one of the best beaches in Chile, with white coral sand and turquoise transparent waters. There are a few palm trees lined up along the coast, and more of them can be seen in the inner part of the island.

Anakena was the housing center of ancient governors and the school of ancient Maori or masters, who preserved the teachings and wisdom of their culture.

Suggestions

We recommend this trip for all those who want to live and feel a special experience. The ideal way is to rent a SUV, since tourism attractions are far away from Hanga Roa. This also gives you the freedom of not having to rely on a tour guide.

It is best to stay at least 5 days in the island, so you can visit everything with time and enjoy a day at the beach without any hurry. The best time of the year is summer, which is less rainy. If you visit in February you will enjoy the Tapati. More than a traditional celebration, the Tapati is a cultural expression that Easter Island has had every summer for over 3 decades.

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The Giant Heads of Easter Island

Ahu Nau Nau
How Were These Enormous 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 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 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 moai 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.

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Music of Easter Island

Rapanui Music

The ancient Rap Nui culture is still alive as is evidenced today by the traditional and contemporary songs and melodies.

This ancient culture is kept alive by the music and songs still sung today , working together to promote its destiny, its attractive values. It is a style of music that combines the songs (riu) of the Ancients with themes of various places of the world. Music (peho) is essential to Rapa Nui life and is used in all important activities: rituals, deaths, the preserving of legends and much more.

Chronology

Ramon Campbell has divided the evolution of the music of the island into four stages. The first two are classified by Campbell as old music, and the remaining two as different forms of modern music.

The first stage begins in old times of which many of the riu (songs) were lost. The little that is known is that songs were sung a capella. In 1864 the missionaries came to the island. Their arrival marks the second stage because they were “the first external influence on the song.” (Campbell, 227). The missionaries used music to integrate the Rapanui into the catholic religion and thus to christianize them. The catholic songs were translated into Rapanui.

In the 1800s the people of the island really began to communicate and to establish permanent connections with the rest of the world. This communication indicates the beginning of modern music. The third stage is distinguished by the music interchanged with Tahití. Campbell explains that the influence of Polynesia changed the music from songs that were just sung, into songs that were danced.

The last stage began when more international melodies began to arrive at the island…. Creole, Mexican and North American music are some of the few that have influenced the musicians of Rapa Nui.

FESTIVAL KA TANGI TE AKO

Every year a Festival of Song is organized, in low season, (months of winter), whose purpose is to rescue and promote the cultural and musical traditions of Rapa Nui, also giving a space to modern creation. This event is organized by a group of local artists, “Mana Tupuna”.

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One of the Mysteries of Rapa Nui is Solved

Ahu Nau Nau
Easter Island
British scientists discover the origin of the crowns worn by the enigmatic statues

British scientists have finally explained part of the mystery of the red crowns worn by the moai of the Puna Pau quarry in Easter Island (Chile), thanks to the discovery of a road that was used to transport them. Today, Professors Sue Hamilton of the University College in London and Colin Richards of Manchester University said the crowns were made of volcanic rock from an ancient volcano in the area, and that they were manufactured by the Polynesian inhabitants of the island between the years 1250 and 1500.

According to a press release from Manchester University, the way in which the inhabitants carried these rocks of several tons in order to place them on the moai remains an enigma. Hamilton and Richards directed the first British team to visit the island since 1914, and they were the first archeologists allowed to conduct an excavation in Puna Pau. “We now know that the crowns were rolled along a road built with a cement of compressed red slag dust with an elevated side”, explained Richards, who said that “probably, they were pushed by hand, although it is also possible that wooden logs were used.”

Hamilton pointed out that Puna Pau lies inside the crater of an extinguished volcano, and that “one third of the crater was used to produce these crowns.” “Until now, we have located over 70 crowns in the ceremonial platforms and along the road. Many more may have been broken and incorporated to the platforms,” he added. They also discovered an obsidian ax with a 17 centimeter blade, possibly owned by one of the workers in charge of transporting the crowns. Allegedly, he abandoned the blade as an offer to the gods.

According to the British researchers, the ax and the way in which the broken crowns are aligned along one of the sides of the road suggest the road was a ceremonial avenue that led to the quarry. “It is clear that the quarry was sacred, but also industrial,” said Professor Richards, who recalled that “the Polynesians saw the landscape as something alive, and considered that after sculpting the stone, the spirits became part of the statues”.

Richards said that, initially, the inhabitants of the most remote place in the planet (the island lies 4000 kilometers away from the Chilean coast) built the moai with different types of local stone, and that it wasn’t until the years 1200 and 1300 that they stopped making the statues and started manufacturing crowns. The investigation set to last 5 more years also offers details about life in Easter Island 500 years ago, where people “lived in a successful and well organized society, in a well managed vital context.”

“70% of the island was transformed into open gardens and agricultural land, where a complex system was used in order to keep the surface moistened,” he said. As for Puna Pau, they concluded that it was a secret place that could not be seen from other parts of the island and where the production could not be heard, since it took place within the crater. Everything seems to also point out that different teams worked in the quarry and competed in order to have their own areas of production within Puna Pau, says Richards.

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Rapa Nui National Park

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The Park

The park makes up the whole surface of Easter Island. The main village is Hanga Roa, and it is located in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean, 3,700 kilometers away from the Chilean coast. This makes the island the most isolated territory in the world. Easter Island (called Rapa Nui by the islanders) was declared a National Park and Historic Monument in 1935 with the purpose of protecting and preserving the archaeological treasures that have given the island a universal renown.

It has a surface of 6,666 hectares and a mild maritime warm climate, with rains throughout the year and subtropical characteristics.

The flora is defined by the only typical species: the toromiro, which is currently extinct in its natural form. These specimens can only be found in botanical gardens. Most of the island is covered by an herbaceous steppe conformed mainly of ferns. Some plant species are the hau, the makoi, the mahute, the ugaho, the ti. The forests are made up of imported species such as the eucalyptus, the miro Tahiti or paradise tree, the acacia and the cypress.

There are five species of land birds brought in from continental Chile. They are the common tiuque, the sparrow, the diuca finch, the partridge and the cock pigeon. Marine birds are of cultural and scientific interest as they are widely represented in archaeological objects. The most frequent figure is the makohe or frigate bird. Another very important bird in the islander culture is the manutara or sooty tern. The autochthonous land fauna is extremely scarce, although rodents are abundant.

The park’s main focus of attraction is the moai. A particularly interesting site is the ceremonial village of Orongo, center of the “bird-man” ritual. There are some beautiful beaches with fine sand that contrast with the hard geography of the island. Many nautical activities can be practiced in them, such as rowing, swimming and fishing.

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Red Hats of Easter Island Statues

Red of Easter Island Statues
The Mystery of the Red Hats of Easter Island is Solved

In Easter Island (Rapa Nui), over 300 giant heads sculpted in volcanic stone called moai are scattered around the island. Around 750 years ago, the islanders started placing heavy and mysterious red hats on the statues. Archeologists Sue Hamilton of the University College in London and Colin Richards of Manchester University have just proved they were “rolled along a road” built with cement made of compressed red slag in the slope of the ancient Puna Pau volcano, “maybe manually or using tree logs”.

For the moment, over 70 crowns have been localized in the ceremonial platforms and along the road, though many more may have been broken. In order to build all the hats, the natives apparently used a third of the lava from the crater of the volcano.

However, the new study does not answer the biggest enigma about these hats, that is, how the islanders were able to place them on the giant statues scattered around the remote island. Richards and Hamilton, co-directors of the project “Paisajes de Construcción de Rapa Nui” (Construction Landscapes of Rapa Nui), will keep working in the island over the next 5 years in order to solve this mystery and find out the exact date in which the moai were built.

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Easter Island Sunset

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The Easter Island sunset One of the pleasures to be enjoyed when you travel to Easter Island. I particularly recommend to watch the sunset in Tahai complex near Hanga Roa accompanied by a few statues. This is a slow motion video of a sunset on Easter Island. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sx_yl3dK0pQ Best Regards, Francisco Lira
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Tapati 2012 Dates

Tapati 2012 Dates

The 5 Places You Must Visit

Dawn over Moais at Ahu Tahai on Easter Island Chile

Without any doubt, Easter Island or Rapa Nui is one of the best and most exotic destinations in the world. The volcanoes, beaches, the culture, and mainly the mysterious moai are unique. For this reason, when you go to Easter Island there are some attractions you must visit. Don’t kid yourself, despite the smallness of the island, there are infinite attractions. We have made a list of the places we believe YOU MUST VISIT. They aren’t the most special places, but the essential ones.

5. Terevaka: This place is on the list not because of its beauty or the moai you may see, but for the view. The Maunga Terevaka is the highest point in Rapa Nui, which means that you can see almost the entire island from the top. The landscape is really amazing. To get there you can walk or ride a horse, and it is completely worth it.

4. Rano Kau Volcano and Orongo: The Rano Kau is amazing for his creator and the cliff around it, but the most attractive part is the historic role it plays. The ancient inhabitants of the island ran through this place in order to reach the sea and compete for a reign that lasted a year. On one of the sides of the crater lies the Orongo village, where there are many houses that were used for ceremonial purposes. From this place you can also appreciate the Motu (islands where the bird-men nested), which was the competitors’ destination.

3. Ahu Tongariki: The tongariki ahu is one of Easter Islands’ postcards. They are 15 statues in a row. It is the ahu with more moai in Rapa Nui and it amazes tourists with the beauty and art of their presentation, as well as their impressive size.

2. Anakena Beach and Ahu Nau Nau: This beach is one of the places you must visit in Easter Island. Not just because it is a beautiful white sanded beach with palm trees and turquoise water, but because there you can admire the moai of the Nau Nau ahu in the background, which is one of the best preserved ahu (the statues have the red hats). The experience of Anakena is one of a kind.

1. Rano Raraku Quarry: If Anakena isn’t our number one place, it is because of the Rano Raraku, which not only is a volcanic crater with a lagoon in it, but also the quarry where the moai were manufactured. For this reason, it is where most of the statues of the island are concentrated. There are hundreds of them, of different shapes and sizes, finished and half-finished. If you want to see and understand the moai, this place is a symbol of Rapa Nui.

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The Conflict of Easter Island

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Migration control

This issue sums up the current problems of Easter Island. Population has grown over 35% since 2002, and this density has intrinsically led to more crime, vehicles, pollution, overcrowding and bad habits. These are some of the aspects that greatly concern the islanders, since they have caused enormous impact on their quality of life.

The solutions proposed are greater migration control both for Chileans and for foreigners at Mataveri airport, raising the admission charges to the National Park, regulating the cruises that come to the island, monitoring long stay visitors, etc.

The leader of the movement “Parlamento Rapa Nui” (Rapa Nui Parliament), Mario Tuqui, said that the National Forestry Commission is not qualified to manage the island’s park and cannot control the damages caused by visitors. Although the leader acknowledges that tourism is good for the island, when it is not controlled it becomes a risk for the archaeological heritage and the inhabitants.

Migration control in islands is not something new. It was done in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and in the Pitcairn islands that belong to the British colony, where a maximum stay of 14 days was established for “short term” tourists.

Francisco Lira

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Easter Island Heads

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The Moais and Easter Island

In average, the easter island heads are 3.9 meters high and weigh 14 tons. They are human figures with a masculine shape, sculpted in volcanic hardened rough ashes. The islanders called them moai and they have puzzled ethnographers, archaeologists and other visitors since the first European explorers came to the island in 1722. Why did the first islanders make this colossal effort?

Unfortunately, there are no written records, and the oral tradition that could help us tell the story of this remote land, its people and the meaning of the almost 900 giants who decorate the sterile landscape of the island is scarce.

Meaning of the Moai

The Easter Island Heads and the ceremonial sites remain along the coast and are concentrated in the southeast coast of Easter Island. Here, the moai have a “standardized” design, and researchers believe they were sculpted, transported and lifted between the years 1400 DC and 1600 DC. They face away from the ocean, and most archaeologists believe they represent chiefs or other male figures that had important positions in the history of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, which is the name the indigenous islanders give the island.

The statues may have been created based on the image of several supreme chiefs. Allegedly, they weren’t individualized sculptures of a portrait, but standardized representations of individuals of very noble birth. The moai can also have a sacred role in Rapa Nui life, acting as ceremonial channels of communication with the gods. Researchers believe that their physical position between heaven and earth places them in the secular and sacred land: secular because of the representation of the chief and their ability to physically be heaven’s resting place, and sacred for their proximity to the divine gods. Thus, the heads mediate between heaven and earth, people and the chiefs, and the chiefs and the gods.

What is an ahu?

The word “ahu” has 2 meanings in Easter Island culture. First, an ahu is the flat base of the stone where the moai are supported. The height of the ahu is around 1.20 meters. The word “ahu” also refers to a sacred ceremonial place where there are various supports for the moai.

Number of Easter Island heads

Total number of moai in Easter Island: 887
Total number of moai successfully transported to their final locations in the ahu: 288 (32% of 887)
Total number of moai still in the Rano Raraku mine: 397 (45%)
Total number of moai outside the Rano Raraku mine: 92 (10%)

Less than one third of all sculpted moai finally completed the ahu into a final ceremonial site. Was this idea of finally placing the moai on the ahu related to the difficulties of their transportation? Were the ones that remain at the mine (45%) judged as not worthy of transportation? Were they originally designed to remain in place on the slopes of the mine or had the islanders exhausted the necessary resources to finish the herculean tasks of sculpting and moving the moai?

Height and weight of the Easter Island heads
The most outstanding moai are listed below:
The biggest moai:

Location: Rano Raraku mine, named “The Giant”.
Height: 21.60 meters
Weight: approximately 145-165 tons.

The biggest head ever to be lifted:

Location: Ahu Te Pito Kura, named “Paro”
Height: 9.80 meters
Weight: approximately 82 tons

The biggest fallen Easter Island head:

Location: Ahu Hanga Te Tenga
Height: 9.94 meters

The smallest standing moai:

Location: Poike
Height: 1.13 meters

Average statistical Easter Island head:

Height: 4.05 meters
Base width: 1.6 meters
Frontal width: 1.48 meters
Depth of the torso at the middle point: 92 centimeters
Total volume: 5.96 cubic meters
Gravity center: 1.36 meters
Total weight: 12.5 metric tons.

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The Gods of Easter Island

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Make-Make, God of Necessity and Providence of the Rapa Nui People

Rapa Nui mythology was hardly forgotten, maybe due to the scarce relationship this civilization had with the rest of the world, and because very little of it survived the tribal wars. But the truth is that, as Zeus or Hunab Ku were gods in Greece and Yucatan, the Rapa Nui people soke comfort in the legend of Make-Make, the creator god of all things.

Easter Island is the most remote island of the Polynesian archipelago, but this does not mean it lacks any gods. Faraway, the gods Tangaroa, creator of heaven and earth (according to Samoan mythology) and Haua, god of the wind and the birds, were compared to Make-Make.

Make-Make seduced Rapa Nui people because he was a warrior god and a fertility provider. The ancient civilization was always short of food, so the prayers to the gods became directed to him.
Make-Make sighed and created the earth, but he felt something was missing. After deep lucubration and impressive events, he was looking at his own image reflected in the water enclosed in an old pumpkin. At the same time, a bird settled on his shoulder and, as he saw some similarities, he created his firstborn in an intermediate morphology. But in spite of creating this feathered creature, he felt the urgency to craft a creature in his own image. So he spread the oceans with life and fish were created. Not satisfied with this, he fertilized a somewhat reddish stone and the first and lonely man was born.

Make-Make was responsible for leading a group of Polynesians through the deadly waters of the Pacific to the uninhabited island (Easter Island), so they could build a different kingdom there, maybe a utopia for a dreamy god.

The Rapa Nui people

The descendants of the first men who inhabited the island stayed there for centuries. The people were fulfilled from so much promised land, so much fertility. The Rapa Nui mythology vindicates the idea of a civilization compromised with their religion. It questions any detachment from the gods because their origin, development and later arrival to the island happened thanks to the deities.

It is impossible to know the reason that drove the construction of the moai, ancient or divine sculptures. Whatever the motives that generated these wonderful sculptures were, the ironic part is that they were responsible for attracting the eyes of the modern world to the events of a lost civilization, hidden among the blue waters of the Pacific.

Francisco Lira

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The Mysteries of Easter Island

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Chile is a wonderful country. The long coast has many beaches and other coastal attractions. It has historical sites where people interested in the past can enjoy. As for those interested in entertainment, the capital city of Santiago offers a wide range of entertainment options.

However, many few countries can claim to have access to dark and mysterious places that only a few lucky ones can visit. Chile is one of them.

For those not familiar with Easter Island, it is a Polynesian island of the southeastern Pacific Ocean, located on the southerner point of the Polynesian triangle. It was first annexed by Chile in 1888 and became part of this country’s territory.

The island is particularly famous for its 887 existing statues called moai, created by the Rapa Nui people. It was declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO, and a great part of the island falls under the protection of the Rapa Nui National Park.

Nobody knows for sure why the people of Easter Island created these statues, but many experts believe that each one of them represents a former chief or an important historical person.

Particularly, Easter Island has an ecosystem that characterizes for the extinction of many ancient species. The over-exploitation of resources accounts for the failure of this ecosystem. Strangely enough, the inhabitants of the island have survived. They survived hunger, slave raids, civil war and epidemics, but the ecosystem did not. These facts and the island’s isolation make it surprising for people to continue living there.

Actually, there is only one way to go to Easter Island, and that is flying. Only Lan Chile serves flights to the island, both from Tahiti and from Santiago. You can even take a circular flight from Santiago to the island to Tahiti and vice versa, although this can be more expensive.

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The Myth of the Bird-man

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Like almost everything in Easter Island, the practice of the Bird-man ritual has a mythical origin that accentuates the romantic character of this enigmatic and amazing land. Tradition says that, in the beginning, there were no birds on the island. A witch called Hitu was sitting in Hotu Nui when she saw a human skull on a rock. When she was about to grab it, a wave swept it into the sea, and the witch went after it. Despite swimming as far as she could, the sea currents and the waves did not let her reach the skull, and before she could notice, the strength of the ocean had swept her away from the island. She swam all night in order not to sink, and the next day she saw that she was near the motu Matiro Hiva (Sala y Gómez) islets. The skull was still ahead of her, and when it touched the land it became Make Make. He helped Hitu get out of the water. In the island lived the god Hava, who took them to his house and fed them for a few days. The island was full of birds, and Make Make asked Hava to give him one in order to populate Easter Island.

The god returned to the island and let the birds out near the Poike peninsula. When he returned during rearing season, he saw with disgust that the islanders had eaten all the eggs, so he decided to take the birds to another part of the island. The same thing happened. After several attempts, one of the eggs fell through a gap of the Vai a Tare zone and escaped human predation. It became the first Manutara (sacred bird) of the island. In order to prevent men from eating the eggs, Make Make decided to restrict the area of the eggs to the islets in front of Orongo, where the manutara greatly reproduced. That is why the men must swim to Motu Nui to search for manutara eggs.

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