Easter Island/The Mystery Endures

Do mysteries about strange cultures and civilizations fascinate you? I know that they definitely make me stop and say hmm….. Have you ever heard or seen pictures of the colossal stone heads that are on Easter Island, a remote island in the Pacific? I mean, why are they there in the first place? How did they get there? What significance do they have?

This kind of stuff drives me wild, because at some point in time human beings thought that this was a very relevant, maybe even mandatory thing to do, to place all these giant stone heads on this island, and now nobody alive today has the slightest idea of their significance, their importance or why they did it in the first place…There are plenty of theories out there though, so let’s explore some of them so we can make up our own minds…..

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According to my Google sources: Easter Island covers roughly 64 square miles in the South Pacific Ocean, and is located some 2,300 miles from Chile’s west coast and 2,500 miles east of Tahiti. An isolated triangle measuring 14 miles long by seven miles wide, Easter Island was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions.

Known as Rapa Nui to its earliest inhabitants, the island was christened Easter Island by Dutch explorers in honor of the day of their arrival in 1722. It was annexed by Chile in the late 19th century and now maintains an economy based largely on tourism. Easter Island’s most dramatic claim to fame is an array of almost 900 giant stone figures that date back many centuries.

The statues reveal their creators to be master craftsmen and engineers, and are distinctive among other stone sculptures found in Polynesian cultures. There has been much speculation about the exact purpose of the statues, the role they played in the ancient civilization of Easter Island and the way they may have been constructed and transported.

“The first human inhabitants of Rapa Nui (the Polynesian name for Easter Island; its Spanish name is Isla de Pascua) are believed to have arrived in an organized party of emigrants around 300-400 A.D. whose ship traveled thousands of miles before landing at one of the few sandy beaches on the island’s rocky coast. The greatest evidence for the rich culture developed by the original settlers of Rapa Nui and their descendants is the existence of nearly 900 giant stone statues that have been found in diverse locations around the island.

Averaging 13 feet (4 meters) high, with a weight of 13 tons, these enormous stone busts–known as moai–were carved out of tuff (the light, porous rock formed by consolidated volcanic ash) and placed atop ceremonial stone platforms called ahus. It is still unknown precisely why these statues were constructed in such numbers and on such a scale, or how they were moved around the island.

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Archaeological excavations of Easter Island reveal three distinct cultural phases: the early period (700-850 A.D.), the middle period (1050-1680) and the late period (post-1680). Between the early and middle periods, evidence has shown that many early statues were deliberately destroyed and rebuilt as the larger and heavier moai for which the island is most famous.

During the middle period, ahus also contained burial chambers, and the images portrayed by moai are thought to have represented important figures that were deified after death. The biggest statue found dating to the middle period measures about 32 feet tall, and consists of a single block weighing about 82 tons (74,500 kilograms)

The late period of the island’s civilization was characterized by civil wars and general destruction; more statues were toppled, and many obsidian spear points, have been found dating to that period. Island tradition claims that around 1680, after peacefully coexisting for many years, one of the island’s two main ethnic groups, known as the Short-Ears, rebelled against the Long-Ears, burning many of them to death on a pyre constructed along an ancient ditch on the island’s far northeastern coast.

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In 1770, the Spanish viceroy of Peru sent an expedition to the island; the explorers spent four days ashore and estimated a native population of some 3,000 people.The Dutch named the island Easter Island to commemorate the day they arrived in 1772.

Just four years later, the British navigator Sir James Cook arrived to find Easter Island’s population decimated by what seemed to have been a civil war, with only 600 to 700 men and fewer than 30 women remaining.It is now home to a mixed population, mostly of Polynesian ancestry and made up of the descendants of the Long-Ears and Short-Ears. Spanish is generally spoken, and the island has developed an economy largely based on tourism.

Members of the Easter Island Statue Project have been excavating the statues for years, and provided the first photos of their torsos in 2012. This surprised many, with people believing they only had heads.“The reason people think they are (only) heads is there are about 150 statues buried up to the shoulders on the slope of a volcano, and these are the most famous, most beautiful and most photographed of all the Easter Island statues,” Jo Anne Van Tilburg from the Easter Island Statue Project said.“This suggested to people who had not seen photos of (other unearthed statues) that they are heads only.”

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Rapa Nui, Chile

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A new series of photographs of the 2012 excavation has emerged that captures the moment archaeologists dug out the previously hidden stone bodies, discovering a surprising secret along the way; the monoliths were covered in detailed ancient tattoos.The images have been shared widely on social media, being viewed more than 1 million times on Imgur.They show intricate markings such as crescents, which academics say represent the canoes of the local Polynesians, the UK’s Mirror reports. Little else is known about the markings yet.”

So it seems that the mystery of the giant heads of Easter island will remain a mystery for now, although it is educational to finally discover that they were in fact fully formed statues of  bodies, just 90% buried underground…But why they were built in the first place, what significance they had, and just what the heck was the cause of the deadly quarrel between the “short ears” and the “long ears” still remain a mystery to modern day scientists…Maybe we were not meant to know everything, but being human, we will certainly keep trying to ascertain their true meanings….

For now, it remains: “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

For more information on ..Easter Island see http://www.history.com/topics/easter-island AND http://www.virtualtourist.com/…/Easter_Island/General_Tips-East

For more articles by John Whye, click on http://www.johnwhye.com

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