And it is normal that the doubt arises if we consider that Chile is a tricontinental country, from a geopolitical point of view, since its territories are distributed in South America, Antarctica and Oceania. High season on Rapa Nui is the Southern Hemisphere summer—January to March. Though winter can get a bit chilly, average maximums their website still hover around 72ºF (22ºC) and minimums dip to only 57ºF (14ºC)—so the weather is really rather pleasant year-round. The isolated Rapa Nui developed a distinct architectural and artistic culture that weathered the centuries. Even in a remote corner of the Pacific, Rapa Nui were not safe from rodent stowaways or strangers.

In 1888, Chile annexed Easter Island, leasing much of the land for sheep raising. The Chilean government appointed a civilian governor for Easter Island in 1965, and the island’s residents became full Chilean citizens. 300–400 AD was thought to be the date of the first settlement of Easter Island, which is about the same time as the arrival of the first settlers on Hawaii.

In that group was the North American anthropologist William Mulloy, who returned to Rapa Nui in 1960 to restore the Ahu Akivi together with the Chilean archaeologist Gonzalo Figueroa. A rarer type of ahu and located on the north coast is the so-called Ahu Poe Poe. Named for its small boat shape , it is made up of an elongated rectangular structure with pointed and raised ends, as if they were the bow and stern of a boat. They normally have a burial chamber along the structure, connected to the ceiling through a series of openings. A variant of this type of ahu is wedge-shaped and oriented perpendicular to the coast.

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It is still possible to see these circles in places like Vaihu or Tahai. The statues were part of a symbolic system that gave the ancestors a supernatural power called mana. This power, embodied in the authority of the ruling class, protected the community and provided abundant fishing and harvesting. These statues are located in a windy, salty, and wet environment that is fairly condusive to erosion. I think if they have been there for that long the degredation would be more severe.

Many incomplete moai can be seen along the slopes of the crater, where they were abandoned by their builders for unknown reasons. The crater holds a large freshwater lake full of nga’atu or totora reeds that the natives once used to construct shelter. Popular theory regarding this society as that the small population that arrived on the island thrived and grew exponentially over the course of several centuries, until they consumed all the available resources and starved. Historian and anthropologist Jared Diamond famously referred to the fate of these settlers as “ecocide.” However, recent research seems to contradict this theory. The Rapa Nui people carved the moai directly from volcanic tuff, a porous stone made of solidified ash, in Rano Raraku, an extinct volcano.

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Politically Easter Island belongs to Chile, but geographically the island is over 4000km away from the South American continent. While everyone does speak Spanish here, the local tongue, also called Rapa Nui, is just as prevalent. William is the Chief of Awesome at Going Awesome Places which is focused on off-the-beaten-path, outdoor adventure, and experiential travel. His true passion lies in telling stories, inspiring others to travel, writing detailed trip itineraries to help others plan their own trips, and providing helpful tips and tricks to guide readers to travel better. He is based in Toronto, Canada but you’ll find him on the road more often than not. Make sure to learn more about William to find out his story and how Going Awesome Places started.

And of course the stout trunks would have served to transport and erect statues, and to make rafts. The “ladders,” which I have seen on islands near New Guinea, consist of a pair of parallel wooden rails joined by fixed wooden crosspieces over which the log is dragged. We know that some of the biggest canoes that the Hawaiians moved over such horizontal ladders weighed more than an average-sized Easter Island statue, so the pro- posed method is plausible. Van Tilburg persuaded modern Easter Islanders to put her theory to a test by building such a canoe ladder, mounting a statue prone on a wooden sled, attaching ropes to the sled, and hauling it over the ladder. She found that between fifty and seventy people, working five hours per day and dragging the sled five yards at each pull, could transport an average-sized twelve-ton statue nine miles in a week. By extrapolation, transport of even the biggest statues could have been accomplished by a team of five hundred adults, which would have been just within the manpower capacities of an Easter Island clan.

When Europeans arrived in 1722, they found the island mostly barren and its inhabitants few. The Moai that you see standing were all toppled down during the civil war that festered for years on Easter Island. They have been re-erected in modern history by explorers and archaeologists including Thor Heyerdahl, Sergio Rapu, and others. The original upright Moai and the method of erection are lost to us forever.

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Toro, representing the government of Chile, signed with Atamu Tekena, designated „King” by the Roman Catholic missionaries after the paramount chief and his heir had died. The validity of this treaty is still contested by some Rapa Nui. Officially, Chile purchased the nearly all encompassing Mason-Brander sheep ranch, comprised from lands purchased from the descendants of Rapa Nui who died during the epidemics, and then claimed sovereignty over the island.

Another, more speculative, idea is that by having the statues facing inland, the islanders were also „saying we’re turning inwards and not turning outward,” Dudgeon said. While this probably doesn’t relate to the islanders’ decision to eat rats rather than fish, it shows the mindset the people of Rapa Nui may have developed before the arrival of Europeans. Their lifestyle as well as their diet may have become focused on the land rather than the sea. One curious coincidence is that most of the Moai, the statues erected by the islanders, face inland rather than out to sea. Now, this new research suggests the people of the island also turned inland, rather than to the sea, to get their food. One of the highlights was the „birdman” hike — a hike along the southern coast of the island and up the Rano Kau volcanic crater.

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As a result, they named it Rapa Nui which literally translates to ‘Big Rapa’. 1888 – Through the ‘Deed of Cession’, Chile was given full sovereignty over Easter Island for an indefinite amount of time. The stories, history, and culture of Rapa Nui is absolutely fascinating.