Easter Island, also called Rapa Nui by local peoples, is one of the most fascinating locations in the world. However, this archaeological site is also very remote, so few people actually make the trek to visit it. Easter Island is located nearly 2,500 miles from South America, making it one of the most southern destinations in the world.
Little is known about the culture of Easter Island. Archaeologists believe that the original settlers on the island came from either Mangareva or the Marquesas Islands sometime around 500 AD. They used tools and planted a number of different crops on the island. It’s also believed that these settlers brought animals with them. However, Easter Island has no rivers, no protective reefs, and does not feature the warm, tropic weather of other islands. Because of this, the settlers would have had a fairly rough time carving out a life here. However, on the plus side, they found many large palm trees and a variety of craters that were full of drinking water. They also discovered obsidian to use in crafting tools, which actually allowed their culture to flourish.
While these settlers built houses, workshops, and a number of other structures, the most fascinating thing the built were the moai and the ahu. The moai are the famous, giant head statues that Easter Island is known for, while the ahu are shrines built to honor gods and sacred tribal chiefs. The ahu come in a number of different shapes and sizes, and more than 350 individual ahu have been found on the island, all of which feature raised platforms, paved ramps, and courtyard areas. The moai were generally placed near these shrines, facing inwards with their backs to the sea.
The moai statues are quite impressive. No one actually knows how many of these statues are on Easter Island because many of them have been buried throughout the years. A low estimate is around 800, but some believe there could be as many as a thousand or more. Moai are found all over the island, but one of the biggest clusters of the statues is at Rano Raraku, the quarry on the southern coast. There are also a number of incomplete statues found around this area. Broken statues have also been found, and it appears many of them were in the process of being moved.
The statues themselves range in size from small – about six feet in height – to huge – over thirty feet tall. One of the largest statues that’s still attached to the stone of the quarry is more than 65 feet long and weights at least 270 tons – an impressive carving feat for primitive people using simple tools.
So while it may be an out of the way destination, Easter Island is one of the most interesting locations in the world. The mysteries surrounding the moai statues and the sheer size of some of them are reasons enough to travel to this far-off land at least once in your life. If nothing else, you can say that you’ve done something few others have done.