Easter Island: What to see? History and Statues

Easter Island
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The Origins Of The Island

The date of the first settlements on the island is still a mystery. According to recent archaeological studies, the first signs of civilization date back to a period between 800 and 1200 AD

During the first years of settlement, the population gathered in small villages all along the coast and began the construction of monumental stone figures, the MOAI, and ritual sanctuaries, the AHUS.

It seems that the cultural level of this civilization was quite high in relation to the standards of the time; in fact, the locals had their own form of pictographic writing, called rongo rongo, which as of today is not yet well deciphered.

The Discovery Of Europeans and The Island Of Today

The European discovery of Easter Island, called by the locals “Rapa-Nui”, dates back to Easter Sunday of 1722, when the Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen, intrigued by that strip of land not marked on maps, landed there first.

In the following years, several explorers, including James Cook and Jean-François de la Pérouse, landed on the island and found only men there, realizing, only later, that the inexplicable lack of women and children was due to the fact that the natives sought to protect them, making them hide in the underground caves.

With the passage of time, the island saw the spread of numerous diseases, brought both by Europeans and by slave traffickers; in particular in 1862 over 2,000 natives were captured from a fleet of Peruvian traffickers whose aim was to sell them to the slave market.

After a few years, thanks to the intervention of the bishop of Tahiti, some of the slaves managed to return to the island; unfortunately, during the crossing, a smallpox epidemic spread and killed 3/4 of the people on board. Only 15 natives managed to land on the island, bringing with them various diseases that destroyed almost all the local population.

Of the 10000 / 15000 inhabitants present on the island before the arrival of the Europeans, in 1877 there were only 111 inhabitants.

In 1888, Chile declared sovereignty over the territory of Easter Island, which in 1935 was declared a National Park, and in 1995, UNESCO elected it a World Heritage Site.

Statues Of The Easter Island: I Moai

The Easter Island statues, the famous Moai, are the most recognizable symbol of the island. These giant statues, around 700 scattered throughout the island, represent the main tourist attraction and although their meaning is still uncertain, according to the most accredited theories they would represent the sacred ancestors who watch over the villages and places of worship. In support of this interpretation, the statues are turned towards the inside of the island as if to keep an eye on its inhabitants.

High between 2 and 20 meters, these statues were mainly carved from unique blocks of a volcanic rock present only in the quarries of the volcano Ranu Raraku ; it is in fact in this quarry that numerous moaishave been found in different processing phases.

The Bird Man Rite (Tangata Manu)

Around the sixteenth century, the population of Easter Island had to face a period of deep crisis due to overpopulation in relation to the scarcity of resources on the island; this was the moment when power passed into the hands of the Matatoa, a new warrior class, which led the population to destroy the existing Moai and Ahus and established the cult of the Tangata Manu (Man-Bird).

What did the cult consist of? Every year, during the religious festival dedicated to the God Makemake, all the tribes chose a warrior to participate in the ritual of the Man-Bird. The challenge started from the ritual village of Orongo; from here the participants had to dive into the sea and swim, paying attention to the sharks, the islet of Motu Nui. Here the warriors would have to look for a bright tern egg, pick it up and return to the main island. The winner became for one year the Tangata Manu, or the Sacred Man-Bird.

What To Do And What To See?

Statue Moai

The main attraction of the island is surely the Moai positioned above the ceremonial platforms called Ahu, almost 300 scattered along the coasts. These monuments are protected by law and it is therefore forbidden to climb the platforms.

Village Of Orongo

ocated within the National Park, and therefore only accessible if equipped with an entrance ticket, Orongo is a village and religious center located in the southwestern part of Easter Island. Inside the site it is possible to see several rock engravings, most of which are dedicated to the cult of the Man-Bird.

Cave Of Rano Raraku

Also visitable if equipped with an entrance ticket to the National Park, the Rano Raraku quarries, located near the homonymous volcano, were used for the construction of the Moai. Here you can see some statues still being worked on.

Anakena and Ovahe Beach

On the north side of the island, there are the beaches of Anakena and Ovahe not far from each other. On the beach of Anakena you can admire the Ahu Nau Nau with its seven Moai by the sea.

Snorkeling and Diving

at the island’s beaches there are some diving centers that rent equipment and organize boat trips to the best diving spots and snorkeling around Easter Island

Hiking

It is possible to go trekking without guides. There are different types of routes that you can choose depending on your physical preparation. The most interesting points to reach are Terevaka, at the top of the highest hill of the island, Rano Kau, the famous volcanic crater, and finally the northeast coast.

Where Is The Easter Island and How To Get There?

Where is Easter Island? Deeply dispersed in the Pacific Ocean, about 3600 kilometers from the coasts of Chile (to which it belongs).

If you are wondering how to get to Easter Island, in this isolated and suggestive luofgo, first of all it is obvious to specify that the only usable means is the airplane; the Chilean company Latam Airlines operates flights from Santiago (Chile) and Papeete (French Polynesia) to Easter Island.

Generally the flights departing from Chile are cheaper (with prices ranging from 350 to 600 euros) and more frequent, with departures almost every day of the week; on the contrary, flights departing from French Polynesia cover 3/4 days a week with costs starting from around 700 euros. In both cases, the duration of the flight varies between 5 and 6 hours.

When To Go?

When to go to Easter Island? The climate of the Easter Island is subtropical with maximum temperatures reaching 30/35 degrees, in the months between January and April, and minimums around 10/15 degrees in the period from June to August. The rains are present throughout the year with maximum peaks in the months of April and May. The best time to visit the island and enjoy its beaches and crystal clear sea is therefore between December and April.

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