5 facts about… Easter Island

Just looking at the towering stone giants of Easter Island, you can’t help but ask: why were they carved? How were they carved? And how were they moved?

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In the September issue of History Revealed, we explore the mysterious island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as well as who carved the gigantic monolithic moai, and why. 

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To start you off, here are 5 facts…

1) KEEPING WATCH
There are 887 moai dotted around Easter Island, but there used to be thousands. They were carved by the Rapa Nui people, who have a legend saying that the moai could walk when commanded by a king. They were positioned facing the tribe that carved them so they always protected the village.

2) GIANTS OF STONE
Master sculptors carved the moai from large chunks of volcanic ash and made eyes out of white coral, with obsidian for pupils. The heights vary from 4-10 metres, and they were so heavy that it took over 100 people to drag a single moai to the correct position. Some have red, hat-like stones named ‘pukao’ on top of their heads, making them even taller. The heaviest standing moai weighs over 80 tons.

3) FATBOY
That is nothing compared to a discovered unfinished moai, cruelly nicknamed ‘fatboy’. If completed, it would have stood around 21-metres tall and could have weighed up to a whopping 270 tons!

4) HAPPY EASTER!
Although the Rapa Nui people are thought to have first inhabited the island between AD 300 and 800, European settlers wouldn’t arrive until 1722. Dutch Admiral Jacob Roggeveen ‘discovered’ and named the island – he first saw it on Easter Sunday. 

5) VANDALISM
In 1995, Easter Island was made a World Heritage Site and extensive work on conserving the surviving moai began. Many of the island’s visitors respect the conservation effort, but one Finnish tourist got into trouble when he chipped the earlobe off one of the moai. He was fined $17,000 and asked not to return to Easter Island for three years.

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If you’re interested in knowing more, Easter Island and the towering moai sculptures feature in the Q&A section of our September issue – on sale now! Available in print and for digital devices