Easter Island Architecture and sculpture


They are ceremonial structures dedicated to the worship of each descent’s deified ancestors, around which ceremonies, mortuary rituals, assemblies, initiations and celebrations for food distribution were developed. These sacred places protected by specific Tapu were reserved for the nobility, that is, priests, political leaders, warriors and worship specialists, as well as their multitude of servants. According to local legends, these figures represented ancestral beings of special religious importance, and islanders believed they harbored the Mana, the impersonal and supernatural power that protected the communities that held it. The essential element of an ahu is a high rectangular platform delimited by great blocks of carved or fixed rocks and filled with stones, gravel and dirt. The upper part is flat and paved. It is joined with a terrace or square in front of it. Some platforms are astronomically oriented. The oldest structures date from the 6th and 7th century. Over time, these structures evolved and became bigger and more complex. Also, numerous architectonic, esthetic and worshiping elements were added, such as a frontal ramp to access the platform, lateral wings, crematoriums, statues and stone pavement.


They are statues that carried cylinders of red slag on their heads. They can weight approximately 11 tons. Their meaning is ambiguous. Some authors point out that they are the representation of a hairstyle or bun; others say it represents a hat. The absence of the pukao in several statues suggests it is a more recent feature that was added with esthetic purposes.

Hare Paenga

Its shape is similar to an inverted boat. The floor is elliptic and is defined by carefully carved soleplates of basalt. The poles that supported the vegetal structure were inserted in the top side. The frontal side presents an exterior pavement shaped as a half moon. Generally, the inner space was much reduced and was used exclusively to sleep. The average size ranges from 10 to 15 meters long by 1.50 to 2.5 meters wide. These houses were inhabited by people of high social status.

Hare Oka

They are houses with a circular floor. Their base is conformed by basalt stones. Studies point out that these houses were temporary rooms, which coincides with archeological evidence. In general, there are no domestic structures typical of other places destined for permanent occupation.

Houses of rectangular floor

Researchers have found around 250 houses like these in the higher areas of the island. The foundation is made of rectangular stones, inserted in the land with concrete. The superstructure is vegetal, but the shape is conjectural. Typically, they are associated to lithic workshops and great stone courtyards.


These rooms were used by priests to execute astral observations and determine the beginning of the lunar year, the planting season, harvest seasons, religious festivities and the arrival of migratory birds and fish that were important food resources. Most of the houses and rooms were built with hay walls and roofs, as well as stick shells. The houses did not have any windows, and sometimes, they presented a stone pavement in front of them. The construction of squares and altars dedicated to worship also occupied the colonists. They built ceremonial premises with boulder stone platforms and stone images or moai. Each descent had its own political, religious and socio-economic center. This accounts for the great amount of existent constructions in the island.