There exists in the midst of the great ocean, in a region where nobody goes, a mysterious and isolated island.
Carbon dating of artefacts shows the Polynesians landed around AD They apparently lived an isolated existence for the next thousand years. The Rapa Nui people developed a distinct architectural and artistic culture.
That culture reached its zenith during the tenth to 16th centuries, when they carved and erected moai Easter Island heads across the island. Too many trees were cut down. It is also possible that Polynesian rats, arriving with human settlers, may have eaten enough seeds to help to decimate the trees.
A population that had grown to as many as 20, was seriously reduced. When Europeans arrived in , they found the island mostly barren with only a few thousand inhabitants. Over the next years, with visits by European and American sailors, French traders and missionaries, Peruvian slave raiders, Chilean imperialists and Scottish ranchers who introduced sheep and herded the natives off the land, fencing them into one small village the Rapa Nui people were all but destroyed.
By there were only of them left on the island. Some weigh up to 86 tons. They may have been representations of the indigenous peoples' ancestors with a new statue carved as each important tribal figure passed away. As well as having bodies they had detachable eyes made of coral, inserted for special occasions. One such eye remains in the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum and fragments have been found elsewhere. Some statues also had a red topknot.
How they placed these huge headpieces on top of the statues is unknown. Once finished, they were taken to their ahu - altar platform. All the heads were pushed over by the time of Captain Cook's visit Most are still toppled.
All of the statues face inland. According to Rapa Nui legend, the stone monoliths were put into place by a king who invoked divine power to command the statues to walk. Archaeologists have long preferred the more prosaic theory that they were heaved into position along a network of purpose-built tracks. Researchers have long assumed that the quarry in an extinct volcano, Rano Raraku, where the statues were carved, was merely a workplace from which the roads fanned out to the coastal sites.
The latest findings show that the volcano was in fact also a sacred site; volcano cones were considered as points of entry to the underworld. Easter Island was annexed by Chile in the late 19th century. In , a Finnish tourist was found on Anakena beach hacking an ear off a moai.
Chicken Houses There are 1, ancient stone chicken houses on Easter Island. Thus chickens, which had been brought by the original settlers, were the only real source of meat. With food shortages there was presumably a temptation to steal from your neighbour, so they devised these chicken houses with a single hole entrance that would be filled with a suitable flush fitting stone.
Without knowing which stone was the door, it was harder for your neighbour to steal the chickens. The reason people think they are only heads is about statues are buried up to the shoulders by erosion on the slope of a volcano, and are the most famous and most photographed of all the statues. In fact, they all have bodies.
Archaeologists have been aware of these torsos since the earliest excavations in Thor Heyerdahl thought the ancient Polynesians simply left the broken statues beside the tracks and they served no spiritual purpose but we now know that the statues were not abandoned but had individual platforms and faced in towards the road.
It's called Hanga Roa. More than two thirds of the island's inhabitants live in it. Chilean Annex Chile formally annexed Easter Island in , and put the few remaining native Rapa Nui into a barbed-wire detention camp where they remained under guard until NASA extended the airport landing strip in for possible space shuttle emergency landings.
The flag of Rapa Nui is white with a red reimiro - a wooden pectoral ornament once worn by the women of Rapa Nui - in the center. There are 1, ancient stone chicken houses on Easter Island, and only moai.