Have you ever heard of Easter Island? Well it’s an amazing island, also called Rapa Nui, and is a Polynesian island in the Pacific Ocean.
It also became a special territory of Chile in 1888. Read all about the amazing statues, the history, and the mysteries that surround this island! Sounds interesting!
What makes Easter Island so interesting?
One of the reasons is that they have 887 humongous statues, called ‘moai’ which were made by the early Rapa Nui people.
Easter Island is one of the world’s most famous islands, as well as an archaeological site, which is hardly ever visited to find out more about the remains. How weird! It also became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, with a large amount of the island being protected within the Rapa Nui National Park.
Easter Island is a small island that is hilly with no trees. It is a volcanic island. If you want to travel there, it’s in the Pacific Ocean approximately 3,600km off the coast of Chile, which owns the island.
Easter Island is 101,000km² big and has 3 extinct volcanoes. The tallest reaches up to 510m high. That’s pretty high! The island is basically a single huge volcano that rises over 3,000m from the Pacific Ocean floor! That’s pretty big!
The History of Easter Island
Easter Island has had a couple of names in its lifetime and the oldest known names are ‘Te Pito o Te Henua’, meaning ‘The Centre of the World’ and ‘Mata-Ki-Te-Rani’, meaning ‘Eyes Looking at Heaven’.
Easter Island looked like another island in Polynesia called ‘Rapa Iti’, which means ‘Little Rapa’. Because they looked so similar, in the 1860s Tahitian sailors gave the island the name ‘Rapa Nui’, meaning ‘Great Rapa.’
So where does the current name come from? Well, a Dutch sea captain Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to visit the island on Easter Sunday on April 5, 1722. So there you have it, he visited over Easter, and then Easter Island was named!
In the early 1950s, a Norwegian explorer called Thor Heyerdahl believed that the island had originally been settled by fairly sophisticated societies of Indians from the coast of South America. However, a large amount of research was done and showed that this wasn’t true at all.
Now we know that the people who first inhabited the island were from Polynesia, and testing on skeletons has proved this. They probably came from the Marquesas or Society islands, and they arrived as early as 318AD. This island certainly has a long history.
Easter Island Statues
One of the things the island is most famous for are their stone statues; let’s learn a bit more about them!
- These massive stone statues are called ‘moai’. There were at least 288 of them that once stood on massive stone platforms which were called ‘ahu’. There are about 250 of these platforms that are spaced nearly 1km apart, which looks like a line around the perimeter of the island. That’s pretty cool and would be awesome to see.
- Another 600 ‘moai’ statues, which haven’t been finished yet, are all over the island. Nearly all the ‘moai’ are carved from the hard stone of the Rano Raraku volcano.
- The average ‘moai’ statue is over 4m tall and they weigh about 6t. Imagine trying to pick up something that weighs 6t. But they get even bigger! Some of them were as big as 10m and weighed more than 80t. Whoa that’s seriously large and heavy too! It is believed that anywhere between 50 to 150 people were needed to drag them across the countryside, depending on their size. They dragged them on sleds and rollers made from trees.
- Some of the ‘moai’ had either ‘crowns’ or ‘hats’ of red volcanic stone on them. Cool! Nobody knows why this was done though.
Easter Island Mysteries
Nobody can actually explain the meaning of the ‘moai’ statues. Those clever scientists believe that the carving and putting up of these statues came from similar ideas that were used in Polynesia. These statues however were unique and different. Some people think they may have been used for religious purposes. The mystery is yet to be solved.
Carved stone and wooden objects in ancient Polynesian religions were believed to have a magical spiritual meaning called ‘mana’. Archaeologists have suggested that the ‘moai’ statues of Easter Island were made for a similar reason.
A lot of people believe that the statues are just heads. Some of them over time have of course been buried a bit by sand, but they have torsos and most of them end at the top of the thigh, and others are complete kneeling figures.
Interesting Facts about Easter Island
Easter Island had about 5,800 people living there in 2012. More than 60% of these people descend from the native Rapa Nui people.
It is one of the most isolated islands in the world. The nearest island, which has people living on it, is Pitcairn Island and its 2,075km away. Chile is 3,600km away. They are certainly far away from everything!
Easter Island is about 25km long and about 12km wide. That’s certainly not a big island! You could go for a marathon around it!
The tallest point on the island is Terevaka which is 507m above sea level, and along with two other volcanoes, this gives the island the shape of a triangle.
Easter Island sounds like a fascinating place to visit; it just might be a bit difficult to get there! Would you like to go and see the mysteries that surround this place?