Those mysterious rock statues

Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
Trip End Dec 31, 2014

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Tahitian Princess

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Map of Easter Island


Dec 28, EASTER ISLAND: Easter Island is the reason most people came on this cruise, and all three tours sold by the cruise line were sold out at $84 a pop. The bad news is that our tour of the island was for only 3.5 hours max.

In addition to the several mysteries surrounding Easter Island, it's also the most remote inhabited island on earth. It's 2300 miles west of South America, 2500 south-east of Tahiti, and its closest inhabited neighbors, Pitcairn Island, is 1260 miles away. It was first discovered by the Polynesians about 400 AD, and it is believed that the rock sculptures were made between the 4th and 5th centuries.  They weigh from 40 to 50 tons each, and all came from the same quarry on the island.

Easter Island got its name because a Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggeveen, sighted and visited this island on Easter Sunday in 1772. It is now a territory of Chile, and we were able to visit without the $100 VISA to visit for the half day.

Our three hour “cultural” tour was lead by a Chilean, Jose Letelier, who earned his degree in Architecture at UC Berkeley, and also lectured at Stanford. He was an excellent tour guide. All the roadsoutside the port village are unpaved and more than a little bit bumpy.

We drove up the hill for twenty minutes to our first site, ORONGO, a ceremonial village with 50 stone houses used only to sleep and get shelter from the heavy rains. They faced the sea, and their entrance faced away from the volcano (rano kau) near by which they considered to be evil and represented hell (fire).

We then proceeded to the volcano a short distance away with water and vegetation settled on the bottom. As we approached the volcano, Jose told us about how the rapa nui people selected their king. During the bird's mating season, the men swam out to an island, Motu Nui, two miles away in shark infested, heavy current waters to fetch an egg and bring it back in a basket attached to their head. The first one to do so was declared king for one year. The volcano was one mile wide, and the vegetation on the other side were trees that looked like bushes as they appeared to the naked eye. On the site are petroglyph's that resembles Roman numerals. Nobody has been able to translate them, because for the lack of a “Rosetta” stone.

On our way to the second site, we stopped on a hillside to take pictures of the port village, Hanga Piko, and the 2.5 mile runway built by the US for shuttle landings, but it has never been used for that purpose – yet. Chileans do use it regularly for flights from and to Chile.

The second site, VINAPU, is a location with stone walls constructed in the same manner as the Incas where the stones fit perfectly from piece to piece in many different shapes and forms. We were told similar walls can also be found in Peru and China. The front of the walls look almost perfect, but the backside remains the original rough rock. On the site is also another mystery;
there's a rock sculpture buried with only the head showing, and a “hat” sitting out in the open field some distance from the buried sculpture. The rock statues are called “moai,” and there are (at last count) about 877 of them. In addition to the rapa nui people destroying them during their many battles, the missionaries who arrived on their island saw them as idols, and had them destroyed. Jose told us about a Japanese team that made a cement sculpture weighing 20-tons to demonstrate how the rapa nui people were able to move the sculptures that weighs about 45-tons from the quarry to the many locations throughout the island. They essentially built a tent like structure with poles, and “rocked” the sculptures to the different locations on the island. Once they got the “hang of it,” they moved them with some speed.

The last site on our tour was saved for the best, AHU AKIVI; seven rock statues, the only ones found inland and nine miles from the quarry. They line up perfectly with the equinox, and was used for the best seasons for planting and fishing based on a 28-day “month.”

Like other Easter Island sites the statues were found knocked off the ahu (base), lying face down in the ground. In 1960, American Archaeologist William Mulloy and his team spent several months raising the statues to their original positions.


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