The Easter Island, known initially as Rapa Nui, is situated in the Southeast Pacific and is famous for its carvings. The statues take the form of human nature, and are known by the natives as “moai.” History has it that the sculptures were made from 1000 C.E. By the time the century was halfway; the inhabitants had curved and erected 887 moai. The residents believed that the moai watched over the Island, which explains why their backs faced the sea. The complexity and size of the statues increased over time.
Who lived on Easter Island?
Legend has it that a chief known as Hotu Matu’a learned about the Rapa Nui from a group of explorers. He decided to lead a group of colonialists to the Island. Where they came from is still a mystery, but it could have been the Marquesas Island, which is 2,300 miles from Easter Island. They may have also come from Rarotonga, which is 3,200 miles from the Island.
Deforestation on the Island
When the residents came to the Island, the chances are that they found a place covered with rich vegetation. By the 19th century, the land was bare. A popular myth claims that the inhabitants cleared the forest cover to make devices that could move the statues. However, other theories hold more ground. One of these is that the people came with Polynesian rats that reproduce fast. Without competition on the Island, the rat may have had a considerable role in the rapid deforestation.
The Moai mystery
Until today, nobody knows why the Island’s residents made the carvings. What most people have are theories. A YouTube video by Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo demonstrates the movement of the statues from the quarry sites to the seashore. Terry is a professor at Hawaii University, while Lipo is a professor at California State University Long Beach. Lipo and Carl explain that the road remnants on the islands aren’t part of a planned framework, but rather the routes the residents followed when moving the statues. While this could be true, it doesn’t explain why the residents carved the moai.
The practice ceased around 1722. One theory claims that this was because the natives adopted Christianity, which is against making idols. Another approach says that the Island’s contact with explorers prompted the change of heart, as they wanted the European goods. Others say that when famine struck, the inhabitants no longer believed in the power of their ancestors, who may have been represented by the carvings.
The popularity of the moai
Although we are yet to know why the moai were constructed, we can’t deny that their popularity is on the rise. Many of the statues have been re-erected, and the Island now hosts over 5,000 people. The Rapa Nui is a tourism hub, with several hotels and facilities sustaining the industry.