EASTER ISLAND UPDATE

Easter Island Update

Perhaps the Easter Island statues (known as moai) are not one of the original nor the new Seven Wonders of the World, but it has been subject and study of many archaeologists and botanists over the last 300 years. The purpose of this article is to update the reader to the latest events occurring at the Polynesian island off the west coast of Chile.

 

One of the most notable botanists (and there have been many before and since) to visit Easter Island in 1954-55 was Thor Heyerdahl who was also the author of the renowned book, “Kon Tiki” covering in detail his research and and study of the statues, flora and the area Polynesian culture.

The original migration may have occurred around 300-400 CE by a chief named Hotu Matu’a including his extended family in a couple of large canoes. Much of this information conflicts with other accounts and it is possible the island could have been inhabited in a range difference of over 500 years. However, it is believed the early immigrants to the island created the moai statues. An important point to note is the Rapa Nui who migrated to Easter Island ultimately caused a severe tree deforestation, as the population grew past what the island size could adequately accommodate. With the advent of European visitors beginning in 1722, also came the diseases common to them, but not to the island inhabitants. This, coupled with slave raiders caused the Rapa Nui population on Easter Island to be reduced to 111 by 1877.

During the 20th century, before the moai had been properly examined, there were some who speculated the statues were of those of inhabitants who had been stranded on the island and were giving a message of “here we are” and “help” where upon they could be rescued. Some even speculated they could have been extraterrestrials. Further, it was postulated the inhabitants of the island had built just heads, or caricatures of themselves to indicate the rescue attempt. Of course, these outlandish theories were found to be baseless. No excavation attempts to discover more about this enigma was attempted until fairly recently.

In 1995, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named Easter Island a World Heritage Site with most of the island being protected within Rapa Nui National Park.

It was not until 2012 when Jo Anne van Tilburg, UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) including a complement of talented archaeologist hopeful and actual students in the industry and Rapa Nui assistants were invited to be part of excavating various sites at Easter Island. There are 887 moai statues in total of which only some will be excavated. Some have what has been coined, red hats. Again, this is historic where a US university obtained the approval of the Chilean government to begin archaeological activity of this nature.

Please view the latest video from May 4th of 2015, presented by Jo Anne van Tilburg courtesy of the AIA: 

Of all 887 statues in existence, in various tilts, positions, and postures, it is now known that the heads do have bodies, many submerged beneath the earth for hundreds of years. As the excavations are being undertaken, it has also been discovered the bodies have carved inscriptions (writings) that, to date, have not been deciphered. There are other artifacts with inscriptions being found in the excavations, also. Jo Anne van Tilburg aptly states sound reasoning for undertaking this project: 1) Why would there be such obsessive human behavior to create the moai statues? 2) What process can be undertaken to preserve the artifacts?

In closing, please enjoy pictures, maps, and the inscriptions found so far. Please click on any picture to activate the carousel show. To exit, either click the X in the upper left of window or press “Esc” to return to article:

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