In the South Pacific, 4025 kilometers to the west coast of South America and 4,185 miles from Tahiti, is the isolated strip of land inhabited by humans: a mysterious triangle, consisting of 163 square kilometers of rock volcano, known as Easter Island.
The name was given by Jacob Roggeveen, the Dutch admiral who saw her on Easter Sunday of 1722, but the island has fought at least two other names. Locals called it Rapa Nui – Rapa great – compared with Rapa Island, which lies on a smaller area. Legend says that when people first arrived on the island, the king gave them a name you-chapters-you Henua, meaning “navel of Earth”.
Discovering the island and moai statues
Dutch expedition of 1722 spent a day on Rapa Nui, but the sailors of the Netherlands has drawn up a detailed description of the island and the peaceful and friendly locals. Roggeveen’s reports mention an island almost devoid of trees, which lived about 3,000 people who spoke an unknown language.
The most interesting discovery of Dutch explorers became famous throughout the world: giant statues, stone, located along the island. Hundreds of statues were found in about 50 sites around the island and shocked the Dutch explorers, who thought they had discovered a primitive people did not understand how it could perform the mysterious statues. Islanders did not know the technology wheel, metal tools and had no land to work with animals.
Unable to understand how seemingly primitive people managed to make some giant sculptures made the mystery of Easter Island famous worldwide reach. Dutch accounts would make around the world, and legend has grown over the years. 50 years would pass before the arrival of other foreigners on the shores of little triangular islands. Today, nearly three centuries since the discovery of Easter Island by Western explorers, scientists were able to provide answers to some of the puzzles left behind by this civilization removed.
From where they came Easter Island inhabitants?
In the 50s, the famous explorer Thor Heyerdahl launched a hypothesis that people of Easter Island came from South America, the nearest mainland. To support his theory, Heyerdahl launched an expedition to Polynesia aboard his Kon-Tiki, a raft of balsa primitive, its name is a name that was known as the culture Inca sun god, Viracocha.
Kon-Tiki expedition started on April 28, 1947 the Peruvian port of Callao, reaching 101 days in Raro Atoll Tuamotu archipelago, located 6980 miles away. The expedition proved that the primitive rafts were good enough to allow people to come on Easter Island from South America.
Thor Heyerdahl’s hypothesis but contradicts the theory supported by many other scientists, who thought more likely to Easter Island was populated by people coming from the west of Polynesia. While most archaeological and linguistic data it contradicted the Heyerdahl hypothesis has continued to be taken into account. For decades it was impossible to discovery of evidence to tip the scales in favor of a theory, but recently it has been possible thanks to modern genetic analysis.
Analyzing DNA extracted from skeletons found on Easter Island, scientists have discovered a unique genetic marker that exists only in the DNA of people of Polynesia. This finding was strong evidence that those who colonized Rapa Nui were descendants of Polynesian sailors, Easter Island is the easternmost territory conquered by these extraordinary sailors.
Radiocarbon dating indicated that polinezenii colonized Easter Island around 1200 AD Over time, civilization here was developed with fishing and agriculture, the island hosts during its peak 12,000 people, three times more than today.
How mysterious statues were made and shipped?
More than 95% of blocks were carved stone statues on Easter quarry comes from Island Rano Raraku . This crater was made all the moai statues, this finding is still over 300 of them.
Archaeological evidence indicates that the statues were made over a hundred years, and that style was maintained over this long period suggests that the art of carving was sent in a guild of sculptors.
However, certain features of the statues have changed over time: the dating elements of the environment in which the statues were discovered (being their direct dating impossible) suggests that they have become, while higher. Scientists believe that the carving of statues was the result of increasing competition between different clans of the island. Also, some states have a leading “pukao” – a red tassel – volcanic stone. Researchers believe that this tuft are an aesthetic added towards the end of civilization on Easter Island.
Scientists estimate that sculpting a statue using only stone chisels, could have lasted several years. Making moai sculptures is, however, the most mysterious of these monuments, unique, but carrying it. Hundreds of Rano Raraku statues made in his career have been placed along the Rapa Nui, over valleys and hills and distances of 15 km. Some of the statues made here and weigh 80 tons, which is twice more than the largest stones found at Stonehenge.
In the 887 carved statues on Easter Island, 540 were transported from the quarry, an outstanding achievement for a primitive civilization, equipped only with stone tools. Legend says that the statues were “gone” from the quarry to the platforms along the island, and scientists have interpreted the myth as an indication that the statues were moved up. In fact, over the island moai are dozens of abandoned and broken into pieces, and scientists say that the statues would not be broken so they were transported horizontally.
The main assumption on how the statues were transported suggests the use of hundreds of tree trunks. Some researchers believe that it is possible that they have been transported by spherical rocks. None of the theories set out by the scientists can not be supported by clear historical evidence, so the mystery of how the statues were transported across the island remains indecipherable by modern science.
However, a hypothesis launched last year by two researchers from several studies on the spot seems to have cleared up the mystery. An experiment conducted by Terry Hunt Island and Carl Lipo showed that the statues can be moved by 15-20 people standing. In the study by two researchers demonstrated that the statues can be transported as a fridge by their repeated shaking, from side to side, built of local roads. This hypothesis seems to explain the legend “status that go”, showing how could this myth arise on moving mysterious statues.
What Moai statues representing?
Over time, researchers have launched various assumptions concerning the purpose of the mysterious statues on Rapa Nui. Some have argued that artistic representations of statues as gods, others have launched fantastic theories, under which they were inspired by aliens. Clues that would allow unraveling this mystery came from Rapa Nui language.
Besides the “moai”, locals used to refer to the statues on the island as’ arena attached at atepuna “, meaning” the life of our ancestors. “Studying coral fragments discovered on the island, researchers have realized that they fit perfectly into the grooves of concave statues located in the right orbit. Thus, scientists have realized that the statues were provided with coral eyes, making them seem almost alive, justifying the name of “the life of our ancestors.”
The researchers concluded that the statues are part of the Polynesian tradition of worship of ancestors, each of which represented a chieftain of the past. Statues were placed on high platforms, entitled “AHU”, placing them between gods and men, and were directed to face the island, that can include all their protective eyes.
It is believed that social and economic power of the leader of the clan since the number of moai statues above the family graves, so that there is genuine competition between leaders. Therefore, the island-size statues are between 3 and 8 feet high, depending on the importance of clan chief who built them.
Why the inhabitants of Easter Island have disappeared?
Researchers have believed for a long time that the inhabitants of Easter Island were victims of an environmental disaster caused by them. Thus, scientists hypothesis, popularized by Jared Diamond in his book “Collapse”, claimed that the inhabitants of Rapa Nui have voluntarily cleared forests on the island to obtain land use and tree trunks to transport the giant statues, and this decision led to soil degradation suicide island, famine and civil war.
Many writers have made a parallel between Easter Island and modern civilization, arguing that this example of a company which is destroyed by overexploitation of resources provides a single powerful warning about the future of contemporary society.
Self-destruction hypothesis was refuted by a recent study conducted on the spot over a decade of Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo, two specialists in archeology and anthropology. Research has shown that the forest has disappeared from Easter Island faster than previously thought in a few decades, not centuries. Also on the island have found little evidence to suggest that agriculture was widely used, which invalidates the assumption that trees were cut to increase the agricultural area.
Trees could not be used to transport the giant statues or moai, for one simple reason: palm trees that grew here were soft wood fiber, and if their trunks were used as a transport cylinder, they would have been crushed under the immense weight of statues.
The two researchers have discovered the real reason for missing the forest of palm trees on Easter Island: Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans), who arrived on the island since the early navigators.
In laboratory conditions, rats Polynesian populations double in 47 days. On an island free of predators, the arrival of these rodents was a real ecological disaster. Two of the favorite foods of the Polynesian rat shoots and seeds are trees. Researchers estimated that the population of rats on Rapa Nui came soon to count millions of copies, which had a devastating effect on forests of palm trees.
In the eighteenth century and nineteenth-century inhabitants of Rapa Nui have suffered negative consequences of their discovery by the West. The population of Easter Island was not prepared to defend themselves, so much of it has fallen prey to expeditions in search of slaves. Locals were captured and transported to Peru, where they were put to work in the guano mines.
Attracted by new tools and clothes brought by European explorers, residents have abandoned ancient values and the moai statues were neglected. Over time, the island became a magnet for adventurers, and some captains avoided due to land here reputation of “center of syphilis” that had gained the island.
Reports in the years 1870-1880 shows that the island’s population, suffers from the diseases brought by explorers and slave trade, fell to a minimum: 110 people.
In 1888, Chile annexed the island and gave it to the farmers use. Around 1900 the island’s few remaining residents lived in similar structures of closed prisons, and vegetation has been destroyed and thousands of sheep to the settlers.
Rapa Nui today
Today, Rapa Nui belongs to Chile, which is known as Isla de Pascua. 3,000 people live here, Hanga Roa is the only city on the island. Near Hanga Roa is the only airport on the island, linking the most remote inhabited settlement on Earth from the world.
In 1967, Rapa Nui airport began to be used as a refueling point for planes traveling between Santiago de Chile and Tahiti. This decision marked the moment when the island became wide open world and brought many benefits to people of Rapa Nui.
Today, more and more tourists arrive to enjoy this unique place on Earth. Rapa Nui is now a national nature park, is included in UNESCO World Heritage.
Among the attractions of the island today are mysterious moai statues, numerous caves and crystal clear waters for scuba diving enthusiasts sought. Today’s inhabitants of Easter Island are proud of their history and culture, organizing every year in February, Rapa Nui festival typed. In its local artisans show their talents, cooking, carving and pictându on traditional Polynesian-style body.
Easter Island was one of the last places on Earth colonized people, thus representing the culmination of the journey that people have started it when they left Africa. The history of this remote Pacific island offers many lessons about humanity, and a better understanding of this mysterious place we could help build a better future.