Easter Island Archaeological siteArchaeological site of Easter Island
Paschal Island - ????? ?? ?? ?????
Easter Island, one of the most popular and least frequented archaeological places in the whole wide open space of the globe, is a small, undulating, now tree free island of vulcanic origins. Situated in the Pacific Ocean at 27 degreeS, about 2,200 mile (.600 km) off the Chilean coastline, the island is 63 sq. m. and has extinguished volcanos that rise to 1,500ft.
At the beginning of the 1950s, the discoverer Thor Heyerdahl (famous for his Kon-Tiki rafts across the oceans) introduced the notion that the island, known by the locals as Rafa Nui, had been inhabited initially by progressive Indian communities on the South American seas. Comprehensive archaeological, ethnographical and linguistic research has clearly proven this inaccuracy.
Now it is recognised that the natives of Easter Island are of Polyynesian origin (DNA extract from skeleton has recently corroborated this), that they most likely came from the Marquesas or Society Isles and that they reached the island around 380 to 400 AD. The island was completely shrouded in dense forest and swarming with terrestrials.
This was the wealthiest nesting ground for seabirds in Polynesia and probably in the whole Pacific. In a few hundred years this wealth of wild animals was completely ruined by the way of living of the people. But the resources needed by the increasing populations invariably exceeded the island's ability to innovate in ecological terms, and the resulting destruction of the environment caused the island to suffer severe societal and economic breakdown.
They were very important for the inhabitants of the island because they were used as fuels, for the building of homes and deep-sea fishery boats and as rolls for the transport of the large figures of stones. In 1400 the woods were completely cleared, the abundant soil erosion, the sources were dry and the huge shoals of bird life that came to the island had long since vanished.
As the island could no longer support the chieftains, red tape and clergy who kept the complexity of the community going, there was confusion, and by 1700 the island's inhabitants were reduced to a fourth to a 10th of their former numbers. In the middle of the 17th century, competing classes began to throw each other's stones. Until 1864 the last of the sculptures was prostrated and profaned.
The Easter Island was not known to Europeans until 1722, when it was inadvertently visited by Easter Sunday by Flemish naval commander Jacob Roggeveen. R Roggeveen's austere landscape and the unrest that it first experienced make it hard to conceive of the exceptional civilization that has flourished on the island over the last 1400 years.
One of the most popular characteristics of this civilization are the huge rock sculptures known as the mai, more than 200 of which once were placed on solid rock plattforms known as ahu. There are at least 700 more different levels of mai sculptures spread across the island, either in the quarry or along old streets between the mines and the most common areas along the coast.
Almost all the mai are made of the hard rock of Rano Raraku vulcano. It is 14 ft, 6 inch high and 14 tonnes; some mai were as big as 33 ft and weigh more than 80 tonnes (a sculpture that was only partly excavated from the ground was 65 ft long and approximately 270 tonnes).
It was already used in 700 AD, but the vast bulk was sculptured and built between 1000 and 1500 AD. Between 50 and 150 persons were needed, according to the sculpture's dimensions, to pull it over the landscape on sledges and coaches.
Whilst many of the sculptures were overthrown during the Clans around 1600 and 1700, other sculptures were knocked down and tore down while being moved across the island. The most recent research has shown that certain sculptural places, especially the most important ones with large platform roofs, were regularly ritualized and rebuilt with ever bigger one.
In the past, a small part of the mai was covered with "crowns" or "hats" of eroded rock. There is no known importance and use of these endstones, but archeologists have proposed that the so-called mai were of pan-Icelandic religious importance or perhaps holy to a particular clan. However, the mai are not known. Scientists are not able to finally clarify the functions and use of the Moais.
Their carvings and erections are believed to derive from an original concept of similar practice found elsewhere in Polynesia, but developed in a singular way on Easter Island. Archeological and iconographical analyses show that the worship of statues was founded on an idealology of masculine, line-based power with anthropomorphous symbols.
Thus the sculptures were a symbol of authoritarian ism and might, both in religion and politics. If they were correctly shaped and ritualally prepped, all the items engraved in the old Polyynesian religion were loaded with a magic spirit named Manas. Easter Island's Easter Island Easter Island platform was the sanctuary of Rapa Nui's humans, and the Moais were the ritual loaded holy items of these Shrines.
Whilst the sculptures have been overthrown and rebuilt over the course of the ages and the island has been struck by major ecological and societal disasters, the human figure or Rapa Nui's religious life is still strongly present in the places of the huts and on the holy alcantaro.