A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about raraku

Easter Island Rapa Nui

More moai and a beach

View Patagonia on PetersF's travel map.

13th Feb Rapa Nui and moai

We were woken once again by the cockerels, but as it was an all-day excursion we sorted out water and suncream before heading to breakfast. The day’s plan was the quarry at Ranu Raraku (with Poike volcano), Ahu Tongariki straight after, followed by lunch. The afternoon was a drive along the 'Camino de los Moais' coastline, visiting Vaihu/ Hanga Te’e, Akahanga, across to Te Pito Kura (with O Paro) and finishing at Anakena Beach (Ahus Nau Nau and Ature Huke). We cut across to the coast and drove directly to Ranu Raraku, seeing the former Vaihu tribal area. This composed of several larger ahu:
1. Huri a Urenga
Although most ceremonial platforms and their moai are found along the coast, there were 25 inland villages with ahus, especially in the agricultural regions. Ahu Huri a Urenga is one of them. The single moai, restored in 1976 by Mulloy, has 2 pairs of hands, and faces directly to sunrise on the winter solstice (June 21st). The reason for the double hands is unclear, maybe engraved twice or re-engraved from weathering or even portraying a deformity. Its platform is aligned with two neighbouring hills, Maunga Mataengo and Maunga Tararaina, and two smaller ahus nearby. It is believed it was a solar observatory marking the beginning of winter (toga), and different tapu/ prohibitions that regulated fishing and other island activities. Behind the ahu is a well defined cremation platform that was used in funeral rituals (left).
2. Hanga Hahave
This is a rarely visited, but interesting ahu with seven moai, two partially intact and five almost perfect (4 with topknots), close to Maunga Orito hill and Ahu Hanga Poukura.
3. Hanga Poukura
1217cf00-8fa8-11eb-8f4f-1543e9255612.png is a coastal ahu site with a number of tumbled moai statues and topknots.
4. Tarakiu, a destroyed ahu between Hanga Poukura and Hanga Te'e.
A large moai, almost intact, has fallen on its back (unusual as most of the others were toppled onto their face). In total six moais were demolished when the islanders fought in the tribal war. The topknots are in particularly good condition.
5. Vaihu – Ahu Hanga Te’e.
Vaihu is one of the places where Easter Island’s isolation is most strongly felt. Framed by cliffs where ocean waves strongly break and shape the landscape, Hanga Te’e Bay, 10km from Hanga Roa, is stunning. Ahu Hanga Te’e once held 8 moai, now face down in the same position they were knocked down; many have broken necks (the weakest part). Their corresponding pukaos, because of their cylindrical shape, rolled further into the bay, where they were recovered from the ocean. Generally villages and their ceremonial platforms were located next to bays for access to the sea, which constituted one of their main sources of food. This is why most of ahus on Easter Island are found around the coast, and in most cases canoe ramps were built behind to give access to sea. In front of the platform is a large circle of stones called Paina after the ceremony that took place inside. When you wanted to pay tribute to an ancestor (male or female), you made a human figure with wooden sticks and bark cloth and placed it in the centre of the circle in front of the ceremonial platform, then step into the circle and narrate the deeds that they had accomplished. Based on this ceremony, researchers suggest the Paina was intended to honour death. The celebrations, which were followed by a banquet, lasted several days, like many of the present-day Rapa Nui celebrations.

The rugged coast continued as we passed Akahanga (we returned for a proper visit later), then turned towards Ranu Raraku, which is both an extinct volcano and the main moai quarry. Approaching the cliffs, we showed our pass again, then walked around the corner for an amazing view of the moais, apparently marching down the hill.

Rano Raraku.
Located in the southeast part of island close to the coast, it’s known as “the quarry” as it was here where the moai were carved and then taken to the ahus throughout the island. The quarry is made of tuff (hardened volcanic ash, softer and easier to cut than basalt, a material used primarily as a sculpting tool). This place’s ancient name was Maunga Eo, meaning “fragrant hill”, because an aromatic plant used to permeate the entire area with its smell. The feeling of this huge archaeological site is surprising. Rano Raraku has 397 moai in various stages of development, as if the sculptors left the job abruptly and could come back at any moment. There are statues still encrusted in the rock; others are in the “staging area” waiting for the moving crew to transport them to their destined ahu.
View of the volcano quarry
The road forks in two at the site’s entrance. The path on the left leads to the volcano’s crater, and the one on the right leads to the quarry.
Shortly after taking the path on the right you start seeing half-buried moai. Once the quarry was abandoned, the land that had been dug up to form ramps to facilitate the raising of the statues ended up burying the sculptures that were unfinished or waiting to be transferred. Ironically, this was the best way to protect these stone giants, which still retain all their details and the original colour of yellow tuff, brighter on those exposed to weather. The first moai you see in Rano Raraku give an idea of the magnitude of the work done here by the Rapa Nui. Although most of the statues are half buried, we can imagine its magnificent proportions when you consider that the head is only ! of the size of the sculpture and some exceed 13 m.
Further on, following the path, are two moai that have become Easter Island’s best known image, since they appear in most guidebooks. The right one has well defined features and a smooth back so it was probably waiting to be transported. The one on the left has unfinished details and it was this one that Thor Heyerdahl in 1955 dug up to show that the sculptures were partially-buried whole moai and not just heads. At this point we were a little surprised to see a local guide dressed in the traditional costume of a feather (and nothing else), which was luckily placed over the most revealing spot! Following the route, a path that goes up and a bit to the right is a great vantage point to see the coast, Poike peninsula and Ahu Tongariki.
We followed the road up to the left, to enter the quarry itself. The statues were always carved face up with the details of the face, torso and arms; the nose served as a guide to keep centred/ proportions. Once this was completed, the sculpture was detached from the bedrock and lowered by dirt ramps to a pit where it were raised to finish the polishing and back carving process.
Here we saw the largest moai ever carved, Te Tokanga or El Gigante in the highest part of Rano Raraku, unfinished. It is 21m long, its head alone is 7m, and it weighs over 200 tons. The size of this sculpture shows the obsession the Rapa Nui had to create larger and larger moai each time, which eventually ended up exhausting their resources (wood and rope) and degenerated into a social crisis. Oral tradition states that this huge giant was destined to go to Ahu Tahira in the Vinapu area. A little further on are 2 moai lying on the rock next to each other with unfinished carvings. The front one has its details and is attached to the rock only by its back, but the back one is at an earlier stage, with an unfinished left side. If you look closely you can identify a third moai up to the right and another one to the left.
Moai Tukuturi o –The Kneeling moai
Following the way down, at the farthest point of the quarry is the most unusual moai, known as Tukuturi/ Kneeling moai. This moai is completely different from any others on the island. It’s much smaller, has well defined legs, and is kneeling with its hands resting on its knees. Its face is rounded, more human compared with the traditional square shaped heads of the other moai. From the side, it seems to have a small beard. Unearthed by Thor Heyerdahl in 1955, its discovery was a surprise; even the Rapa Nui had not heard of it. The theory is that it was one of the first sculptures made and wasn’t transported because it was damaged or was never intended to be erected on a platform. Some speculate it’s the representation of a famous master sculptor, set on the edge of the quarry to supervise the work of his successors.
On the way back, there’s a moai with a 3-mast ship with square sails (obviously European) carved into its torso. Surely the arrival of the first Europeans to Easter Island in the 18th century impressed the inhabitants who recorded it on this abandoned moai.
On the centre path of the three that run down the slope, is an interesting moai. Usually when a moai fell or broke, it was left in place because it was believed it had lost its mana. Apparently, this moai cracked in half when it was being set down, and someone then carved an entire moai on what was its head; so it looks like a little moai on the shoulders of another moai. After the quarry, take the left path at the initial fork in the road, 10 min to the crater of Rano Raraku.
This crater, 650m diameter, has at its centre a freshwater lagoon 5-7m deep. On its slopes 70 half-buried moai can be found, which shows that the demand for the production of these sculptures was so great that even the tuff from inside the volcano was used as material. Transporting the moai from this area was difficult, down to the edge of the lake and out of the crater following the same path that now serves as a visitors trail. During Tapati festival, this crater is the site of the most popular sporting event, the Rapa Nui Tau’a triathlon. Competitors first cross the lake in a reed canoe, then run 1" laps around it carrying 2 bunches of plantains, and finally cross it again swimming on a pora (reed board).

Ahu Tongariki
We had seen Ahu Tongariki from Ranu Raraku, and now drove down to visit the site itself. As we headed towards the coast where it was located, we looked back to see the imposing quarry behind (in much the same way as we’d seen Tongariki from the quarry). Located in Hanga Nui, on the southeast coast, just 2 km from Rano Raraku, Ahu Tongariki is the most majestic ceremonial ahu on the island, with fifteen gigantic sculptures, framed by a turquoise sea background and the sound of waves crashing on cliffs. Ahu Tongariki represents the maximum splendour of the island’s sculptures, with a ceremonial 220m long platform, the largest structure in Polynesia. Each statue is different, some higher, some fatter or skinnier, coarse faces or finer. These differences are probably because they’re representations of real ancestors. The largest statue with a pukao (head-dress) is 14m tall. well as noting the differences between each statue we could see some details of the carvings on them, including their long ears and ‘tattoo’ body decoration. As with the other ahu, the Rapa Nui had toppled Tongariki. An earthquake of 9.5 on the Richter scale, struck the Chilean coast in 1960, and caused a tsunami in the Pacific. Waves of 11 m hit the ahu and dragged the toppled moai 100m inland, damaging them. Restorations in 1993-6, by Chilean archaeologist C. Cristino, were based on drawings by the British ethnologist, Katherine Routledge in 1914. During the excavations seventeen moais were discovered being used as the base for the current platform, as was the usual practise. To truly see the enormous size of this platform and its moais, walk round the back. To recognise Japanese help, the moai at the entrance of Tongariki was loaned to Japan for trade shows in Osaka and Tokyo in 1982, and it became known as “the Traveller”.
A wonderful thing about Ahu Tongariki is spectacle at dawn. Between 21st Dec, Summer Solstice, and 21st Mar, Autumn Equinox, the sun rises behind the Ahu, between its giant stone sculptures, creating an unforgettable sight.
On the hillside stretching towards the platform, 7 red scoria pukaos/ headdresses can be seen can that couldn’t be placed on top of the statues due to their deterioration. In two stone circles closer to the platform, are petroglyphs (stone carvings) in the shape of turtles. In the centre of the square you can see a moai lying on his back. It was never put upright on the platform, because the eye sockets are not carved, which was done once the moai was placed on its ahu. It’s possible that this sculpture fell and broke during transportation.

Moai Statues
The moai or Easter Island statues are the most important pieces of Rapa Nui art. In spite of their abundance (c600 moai throughout the island and 397 in Rano Raraku), there are plenty of unanswered questions regarding these stone giants. Even though oral tradition states it was Hotu Matu’a (or his 7 explorers) who brought the first Moai to the island, it is probable that the villagers started sculpting after they settled. They were created by the Rapa Nui to represent their ancestors or past rulers, who after dying had the ability to extend their mana (spiritual power) as protection over the tribe. The statues were at first of basalt, trachyte and red scoria, but soon switched to volcanic rock from Rano Raraku quarry. To start the moais were small, with wide heads and short ears, but gradually the style changed to long torsos and rectangular heads with long noses, thin lips and long ears. Over time the sculptures increased to sizes nearly impossible to transport. The master carvers sculpted with basalt or obsidian chisels and a team of carvers could take 2 years to finish a big moai. First, the front was carved with all the details except the eye sockets. Less eroded moai show carved designs on them reminiscent of tattoos. Then, the back was chiselled to remove it from the main rock and stand it upright with the help of ropes, in a prepared pit. Once upright, the sculpting was completed and the Moai was ready to take down one of the 4 Moai Paths that led to the ahu (altar) it was destined for. The transport method of the Moai is still a mystery. However they were clearly transported upright and facing forward, despite this being the hardest and most accident prone position. This suggests that they felt it was important to process the statute forward to his ahu. Once a Moai was set up in its ahu, the eye sockets were sculpted and, in a ceremonial ritual, the eyes (white coral and red scoria) were inserted; from this moment the moai’s mana protected the tribe. Finally, in the later period, an enormous red scoria cylinder (pukao) was placed on top of its head; possibly it represented the tribe’s hierarchy or symbolised the long hair that the islanders wore up in a bun. The average Moai height is 4m. However, on the northern coast of the island a 10m / 82 tonne one has been found. In the quarry, still attached to the rock, is the biggest Moai, 22 m long and 250-300 tons. Though the majority of the Moai are male (because all the chiefs were men?), 12 moais have feminine traits (breasts or sculpted vulvas). One of the best preserved, sculpted in basalt, is known as Hoa Hakananai’a (from Orongo) is in the British Museum (Rapanui beliefs’ symbology on its back). When found it was decorated in red and white paint, but it's unclear if mainstream moai were similarly painted (oral traditions do not mention it).
Just a few meters from Tongariki (where there’s a curve in the road) Papa Tataku Poki can be found; an good place to appreciate petroglyphs of turtles, tuna and birdmen.
Bas relief of a turtle
As we left we had an amazing view of Poike, the last of the three volcanoes of the island. Poike volcano at the east end of the Island is the oldest
on the island and one of the 3 main volcanoes that led to its formation. According to geological studies, the volcano emerged from the sea in 2 eruptions, one about 3 million years ago and the second about 900,000 years ago. Poike is now a dormant with a simple conical formation, height
370 m. The crater 150m diameter and 10-15m deep, called Pu A Katiki, unlike the other two volcanoes’ craters, is completely dry. On the north side, it’s possible to distinguish three smaller mounds called Ma’unga Vai a Heva, Ma’unga Tea Tea and Ma’unga Parehe. After Poike, a natural ditch runs parallel to the road known as Poike ditch. There’s a legend that the Hanau E’epe tribe lived in this area and that at some point were attacked by the Hanau Momoko tribe (the dominant); who threw the E’epe in the trench and incinerated them, ending their tribe. In the vicinity of this volcano are other archaeological sites that are not easy to find.

Moai Period As in all of Polynesia, in Easter Island ancestor worship was a big part of the inhabitants’ spiritual lives. The Rapanui believed that important people’s “mana” (spiritual energy) continued existing after their death, and had the ability to influence events, a belief that became tangible in the construction of the moai statues. This is known as the Classic or Moai stage, when Rapa Nui culture reached its maximum splendour raising enormous ceremonial altars or Ahu on which these great sculptures carved from volcanic rock were placed. The moai period extended c800-c1760, when conflict between different bloodlines changed the island’s history. When a tribe’s leader or important member died, a statue was ordered to be created in the quarry of Rano Raraku, which would later be transported to the respective village, so it could project its “mana” over his descendants. Moai were always placed looking towards their village, not the sea, since their objective was to extend protection, not stop outside threats. As the Rapanui became skilled in sculpting and transporting the moai, they became bigger and more stylised, in contrast to the early ones that were short and crude; hence, the size and finesse of the moais details can be used to determine their antiquity. In fact, the biggest moai that were sculpted in this period, are still found in the quarry of Rano Raraku. It’s estimated that the biggest ones demanded the work of men 10-20 years old all year long.

Overpopulation Archaeological record shows that at the time of the initial settlement the island was home to many species of trees, including three species which grew up to 15m and possibly the largest palm trees in the world, as well as at least six species of native land birds. Paschalococos disperta (Rapa Nui palm or Easter Island palm) was the native cocoid palm species of Easter Island. It disappeared from the pollen record circa AD 1650. It is not known whether the species is distinct from Jubaea (Chilean palm), as the soft tissues used for identification have not been preserved. All that remains is pollen from lake beds, hollow endocarps (nuts) found in a cave, and casts of root bosses. The Plant List regards the name as "unresolved". Human overpopulation in the period AD 800-1600 led to extinction of the Rapa Nui Palm. The loss of the Rapa Nui Palm along with other biota contributed to the collapse of society on Easter Island. The trees may have gone extinct as they were cut down for the edible palm hearts as food supplies ran low (overpopulation) and cut down to build canoes for fishing. Another problem was the Polynesian rat, brought in by settlers, which consumed the nuts of the palm, leaving insufficient numbers to reseed the island. Despite the extinction of the tree, this palm appears to have been represented 200 years later in Rongorongo script of Easter Island with a glyph. Sophora toromiro, commonly known as Toromiro, is a species of flowering tree in the legume family, endemic to Easter Island. Heavy deforestation had eliminated most of the island's forests by the first half of the 17th century, and the once common toromiro became rare and ultimately extinct in the wild. The tree is being reintroduced to the island in a joint scientific project by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Gothenburg Botanical Garden, where the only remaining plants of this species with a documented origin were propagated in the 1960s from seeds collected from a single tree by Thor Heyerdahl. It is sometimes claimed that all toromiro trees are derived from this single individual, but research has determined that at least one other tree's descendants survive. Local tradition has it that the rongorongo tablets, but when tested they turned out to be Thespesia populnea, known as miro in some Polynesian languages. Totora is a subspecies of the giant bulrush sedge found in South America, notably on Lake Titicaca, the middle coast of Peru and Easter Island. The Rapanui use totora reeds, locally known as nga'atu, for thatching and to make pora (rafts). These are used for recreation, and were formerly employed by hopu (clan champions) to reach offshore Motu Nui in the tangata manu competition. It probably arrived on the island with birds and has been growing on Easter Island for at least 30,000 years, which is well before humans arrived.

A major factor that contributed to the extinction of multiple plant species was the introduction of the Polynesian rat. By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population had dropped to 2,000–3,000 from a high of approximately 15,000 just a century earlier. By that time, 21 species of trees and all land birds became extinct through overharvesting/overhunting, rat predation, and climate change. The island was largely deforested, and it had no trees more than 3 m tall. Loss of large trees meant that residents were no longer able to build seaworthy vessels, significantly diminishing their fishing abilities. One theory regarding the deforestation that caused such ecological and social damage was that the trees were used as rollers to move the statues to their place of erection from the quarry at Rano Raraku. Deforestation also affected agricultural production. At first, the native tropical forests provided shade for soil. But as the native forest was destroyed, the topsoil eroded causing a sharp decline in agricultural production, further exacerbated by the loss of land birds and the collapse in seabird populations as a potential source of food. By the 18th century, residents of the island were largely sustained by farming, with domestic chickens as the primary source of protein. There is not much variety of Easter Island animals due to its extreme isolation. There is no native mammal; Maori rats (Rattus exulans) that were introduced by the first Polynesian settlers. There are only two species of reptiles: a Gecko known as moko uru-uru kau and a lizard known as moko uri uri. Native seabirds include Frigates, Boobys and Tropicbirds, while the two seagulls include Manutara. Introduced species are the sparrow, finch, Chilean Tinamou and partridge. There are many Chimango Caracaras, a bird of prey of the hawk family, which were brought in to control the rodent population but have reproduced considerably due to lack of predators.
The marine wildlife is diverse and abundant. 167 species have been catalogued. 30% are endemic to the island, one of the highest endemism levels for an oceanic island worldwide. The ura (rape rape) or lobster (pic) and the anglerfish standout. Among the fish are the Nanue, poopó, yellowtail fish, mahi-mahi and tuna or kahi, which is a fundamental element of the islanders’ diet. From time to time, Honu or Green sea turtles and Hawksbill sea turtles appear in Hanga Roa. The fishermen also tend to run into various types of sharks, but an attack has never been reported. See the Oceana video showing some of the species that live in the waters surrounding Easter Island.
http://imaginaisladepascua.com/en/easter- islands/easter-island-animals/. Among the domestic animals that were introduced to the island by
missionaries in the 19th century are sheep and goats. Notably, the horse population is enormous (approx 6,000) and even outnumbers people. The horses roam free around the island.

Tribal Wars As times became scarce tribal wars broke out over the diminishing resources, staring c1720 and lasting until c1830. When the first Europeans sighted the island in 1722 they noted standing statues only, but by Cook’s visit in 1774 he noticed that quite a number of statues had been deliberately knocked over (theories are that a rival tribe would knock down the ancestors guarding the village). By 1838 the only standing moai were Hoa Hakananai'a (Orongo), and Ariki Paro (Ahu Te Pito Kura). At this time, the Tangata Manu or Birdman cult started gaining strength. This cult resulted in what is now known as the Birdman Competition, as a way to determine who would be the Ariki who ruled the tribes for that year. He who collected the first manutara (Easter Island seagull) egg from Motu Nui would have the right to rule. The Birdman Competition was held every year until the arrival of the Catholic missionaries in 1864.

Tangata Manu
The Tangata Manu or Birdman ceremony probably started in the 18th century in honour of the Make Make god (?the Maui of Polynesian legend) and lasted until the arrival of Catholic missionaries in 1866. The main event was the Birdman Competition, held in spring (Sept) each year. The whole island awaited the arrival of the Manutara or Easter Island seagull, which nested in the motus (islets) near Rano Kau volcano, especially Motu Nui. Once it arrived, tribal representatives walked from Mataveri to Orongo, raised as a ceremonial city for this event, and representatives settled in their homes, for as long as the ceremony lasted, around a month. The chief of each tribe chose a hopu manu to represent them in the competition. On a signal, the contenders would come down Rano Kau (using the gap in the volcano sea wall as the least distance to the sea, but also the most prone to landslides) and swim 2 km to Motu Nui on a ‘pora’ or board of reeds with supplies. Once at Motu Nui, they settled into small caves waiting for the first manutara to lay an egg. The first one to capture the egg would signal the crowd who waited at Orongo, indicating to his chief that he was the winner. The race ended with this signal, though the winner still had to place the egg in a band around his head and make his way back to present it to the chief, intact. Days later, the egg was emptied and hung in the new Tangata Manu or Birdman’s house. The winning tribe’s chief would shave his head and paint it red, preparing for his new role as the Birdman. Once done he processed to Mataveri to move into the house especially assigned to him in Rano Raraku (if his tribe belonged to the East Confederation), or in Anakena (if it belonged to the West). During the first 6 months, he lived alone, with only a servant/ ivi-ahui. The winning tribe gain greater access and control over resources.

Vai a Heva is noteworthy. It’s a huge head carved on top of a natural pool used to collect rainwater. Papa ui Hetu has an nice set of petroglyphs, and it’s where the natives gathered to watch the stars. Ana o Keke (cave of the virgins) was used to prison young women in order to whiten their skin.

Then it was back along the coast again, a rugged affair with huge breakers, a few bays and almost no vegetation. It really helped us understand how the island had been deforested, and the resultant lack of agriculture, followed by population problems and wars. This was the Oroi or Akahanga tribal area.
En route we saw several ahu, notably Runga Va’e (right next to the ocean, remains of a moai) and Oroi (a ruined ahu/ moai named after Hotu Matu'a's rival who arrived at Rapa Nui with him), before stopping at Akahanga, interesting as the village is well preserved and the first king is supposedly buried here.

Ahu Akahanga is a 18m ceremonial platform on the south coast. The Akahanga ahu had about a dozen moai of different sizes, from 5-7 m. It’s known as “the king’s platform”, because it’s said that the first king of the island, the Ariki Hotu Matu’a, is buried here. Legend says the king left his home in Anakena after a fight with his wife, Vaka A Heva, and lived in Akahanga, where his sons buried him. So far, excavations have failed to find anything that may have been a tomb, although little is known about the funerary practices of the ancient Rapa Nui. Due to the statues size/design, it’s been determined that the main platform on Akahanga was widened over time, left to right, so the moai on the right are larger/newer than the first 5 on the left.
As in other ahus, the moai were toppled by their creators. The theory is that they were toppled face down so the eyes were buried in the earth. However, in Ahu Akahanga’s case, there was a domino effect, so the larger moais on the right fell backward, giving an incomparable view from behind the platform. In Akahanga, you can see the remains of several hare paenga, or “houseboats”, with their characteristic shape created by the stones used as a foundation. To the right of the square is a small cave, whose entrance was enlarged for habitation.
On the path connecting the houseboats with the cave, are several ovens arranged in a row, forming the village cooking area. These ovens/ umu, were formed by slabs shaped into a rectangle or pentagon within which the fire was lit. When the volcanic rocks were almost red hot, the food was placed on top, wrapped in plantain or taro leaves to prevent it from burning, and covered with soil. The food was placed in different layers, depending on the degree of cooking required (meat below veg) and after several hours the food was ready. This method of cooking is common in Polynesia, from the hangi in New Zealand, to the Hawaiian imu. There were also excellent examples of the small walled circles constructed to create microclimates and retain moisture for crop growing. Until recently, the island’s road divided this archaeological site into two parts; but thanks to recent improvements in Rapanui National Park it has been moved behind the square.
Entering from the new road to the right, before reaching the main platform, a small incomplete ahu can be seen with its moai off to the side. Because of the position in which it’s placed, it has been sheltered from inclement weather and therefore has well-defined facial features, and not yet hollowed out eye sockets. It is believed that the moai was moved here from the quarry but was never placed on the ahu, because its construction was never completed. If you walk along the back of the main platform facing the sea, you will see a small moai 2 m tall, quite eroded, with a rather crude carving, belonging to a very early sculptural era. It was moved here with the intention of shipping it off the island in the early 10th c, fortunately not done. Behind the platform, there are also several crematoriums and a canoe platform.
We left Akahanga, driving past the ruined Uru Uranga Te Mahina (below) to arrive at our lunch stop. Uru Uranga originally held 5 ahu, of which only Ahu 5 contains moais (3 of them), as the others (on Ahu 1-4) were used to construct the base of Ahu 5. A lovely meal, outdoors, of chicken (of course), salad, fruit and flatbread at Cabanas Rapa nui Orito.

After lunch and a rest we set off for the second part of the tour. Travelling again along the coast, in what is known as the Caminos de los Moais (Road of Moias) due to their number, we noticed a lot of hawk like birds. These were Chimango Caracara, introduced from Chile to deal with the mainland rat problem (Easter Islanders had already killed all the native birds of prey). The inevitable happened; the mainland rats are strong and fierce, while the native rats are smaller and timid. Guess which one the hawks like!
Our drive took us further along the coast to the Hatu Hai (Hotuiti) area, where we saw more sites:
1. Ahu Hanga Tetenga, just after Akahanga, a wild rocky site with tumbled moai, scattered rocks.
2. Tu’u Tahi a small moai site, possibly named after a person called Tuu Tahi.
3. One Makihi, close to the ocean with interesting stone walls
4. Hanga Taharoa (Taharoa Bay), probable 1772 landing site of the first European, Dutchman Roggeveen.
5. Hekii, La Perousse Bay, is largest moai raised on a platform- 32 ft tall, 90 tonnes, topknot weighs 11.5 tons.
6. Tau a Ure a small ahu site with a village behind

We stopped soon after at Te Pito Kura, a fascinating site.
Following the road on the north coast, facing a fishing cove in La Perouse Bay, is Te Pito Kura. We parked by the hut, showed our tickets again, and walked towards the sea. In front was a gigantic fallen moai. The platform, Ahu O Paro, is intact and its moai lie in the position they were knocked down in by the Rapa Nui. The tall moai is the largest sculpture ever transported from Rano Raraku quarry and placed on an ahu. This moai’s name is Paro, and it’s one of the few names preserved over time. This giant is 10 m tall, with ears 2 m long, and a weight of 70 tons. To one side lies its equally gigantic headdress 2 feet tall and 10 tons. This was the last moai seen standing by a foreign visitor, French explorer Abel Du Petit-Thouars in 1838. After that date no European traveller mentions seeing upright moai. From the vantage point of the ahu we could see parts of the original village, as well as several other ahus. We walked left past the ahu and down towards the sound of the ocean. About 40m on was a large completely polished oval rock surrounded by a stone wall and four stone ‘chairs’. Legend has it that Ariki Hotu Matua’a, first king of the island, came to Easter Island carrying this huge smooth stone, which was bearing mana (spiritual power granted by the gods). Because of its high iron content this stone heats up quickly and makes compasses behave strangely. Te Pito Kura means “navel of light” (?due to the qualities of the rock) and Easter Island is also known as, Te Pito Henua or “the world’s navel”.

The arrival of the first Europeans
Almost everything we know about Rapanui culture comes from accounts by European visitors to Easter Island. The first was Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggeveen, who arrived on Easter Island from the Juan Fernández Archipelago, while searching for Terra Australis, the legendary southern hemisphere continent. Roggeveen sighted the island, which didn’t appear in his maps, on Sunday, April 5th 1722, and as that day was Easter, he named it Easter Island. He only stayed one day due to strong winds and the lack of provisions, then left for Tahiti. Almost 50 years passed before another European came, this time a Spanish expedition led by Felipe Gonzalez de Haedo from Peru in 1770, claiming the territory for Spain. The islanders didn’t put up resistance and some chiefs even “signed” a contract to formalise Spanish rule. The island was given the new name of San Carlos in honour of King Carlos III and after 6 days, they left. Their report mentioned a shoreline of standing statues. Four years later, 1774, British explorer James Cook, arrived on Anakena beach in the “Resolution”, with the hope of finding food and water, but they found a virtually deserted island. Cook was familiar with the people of Tonga, New Zealand, and Society Islands, and concluded that the Rapanui were the same ethnic group. Cook stated that although some moai were still upright, many had fallen over and the ahu were broken. The last year in which a visitor reported having seen an upright moai was 1838. There are two theories for why the islanders deliberately knocked them over. The first holds that the lack of food caused wars between the clans and the moai were knocked down to deprive the enemies from the “mana” or the protection they offered. The second holds that the reason for knocking them down was than they lost faith in them. Despite all the effort put into their construction, the gods didn’t compensate them with the resources they needed so badly.

The sea here was rough, sending up huge blasts of spray, but also the most amazing colours, swirling from aquamarine to turquoise.

Pu o Hiro is in the northern part of the coastal road. It is a rock 1.25 m tall whose name means “Hiro’s trumpet “, the ancient god of rain. It’s a wind instrument made of stone, which is considered an ancient musical instrument of the Rapa Nui culture. It has one main orifice, which you blow into producing a deep trumpet-like sound. There are several petroglyphs in the rock in the shape of a vulva (the symbol of fertility), so it is believed that Pu o Hiro was used in fertility-related rituals, or to attract the Rain God. Another belief states that the sound of this instrument was used to attract fish to the shore.
Papa Vaka near Ahu Te Pito Kura has numerous petroglyphs with motifs related to the sea and fishing. The word papa means “stone” in Rapa Nui and vaka means “canoe”; so the site’s name refers to the largest petroglyph ever found on Easter Island, a 12-m long canoe (vaka) that is relatively easy to distinguish. Other figures inc: a tuna, a shark, an octopus, turtles and several hooks (mangai). Some rocks are named for their pictures, such as Papa Mango (shark), which has a tuna (kahi) and shark or Papa Mangai (fish hook) with a squid (heke), crab (pikea) and hooks.

It was getting very hot now and we were looking forward to our beach visit. Passing Ovahe beach, we passed the archaeologically interesting site of Vai Tara Kai Ua (the moai is of less interest, but the altar was found with human remains scattered around it, so maybe it is a tupa or tomb), and drove up a drive to arrive at Anakena Beach.

Anakena is the only big tropical sand beach of Rapa Nui. Decorated with palm trees and a few small bars on the beach serving BBQ, empanadas, fruit juice and alcoholic drinks. Anakena is also known as Ha!a rau o te 'ariki - The bay of the king, after the first Rapa Nui king Hotu Matu'a disembarked here a thousand years ago and built his first house. Anakena remained the sacred land of the royal family. Anakena has two ahu. One is Ahu Nau-Nau with 7 moai statues, 2 broken. The other one is Ahu Ature Huke with only 1 moai statue. The moai of Ahu Ature Huke was the first moai statue to be restored (by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl 1956).
Panoramic view of Ahu Nau Nau and Ahu Ature Huke at Anakena beach
Ahu Nau Nau is one of the most important ahus on Easter Island as it is located on the beautiful beach of Anakena, the place where King Hotu Matu’a first landed. The ahu was restored in 1978 by Sergio Rapu, the island’s first archaeologist. It was here that the white coral and red scoria eye was found. When the Rapa Nui toppled the moai during their resource crisis and tribal wars, the Ahu Nau Nau moai fell on the white sands of Anakena and were gradually covered. This protected them from erosion, so now you can appreciate the details in the fine carving of the eyes, nose, ears, and hands of these stone giants. Though they are not the largest sculptures raised on the island, they are possibly the most refined. The backs of the statues are sculpturally impressive. You can appreciate the knotted loincloths and, underneath, the circular designs believed to be tattoos on the buttocks; even the line of the spine. This level of detail is only found in Ahu Nau Nau and in half buried statues in Rano Raraku quarry. On the back of the stone wall that forms the ahu base, are petroglyphs depicting birds and other animals, like lizards or monkeys. There is even a moai head forming part of the ahu’s structure, a common practice in ancient times, when both the original ahu and the moai that stood above it were used as the base in the building of a new ahu. Ahu Nau Nau is an archaeological site with restored moai statues at Anakena Beach. This ahu was partly buried in the sand and the statues fallen. Cracks and erosion signs are visible on the rocks. In 1980 archaeologist Sergio Rapu Haoa conducted excavation and restoration work at the site and today we can admire it in its original form. Seven statues are here: four larger moai with topknots (pukao), two medium size ones and a seventh, the remains of a body. Unfortunately one of the medium statues has no head and the last one less than half a body. Interestingly the pukao are very well fitted on the moai heads. Archaeologists have found an almost complete coral eye. The iris was made of a separate red volcanic scoria stone, which was inlaid in a circular cavity inside the coral eye. Nau Nau is worth visiting, as one of the most beautiful places on the island. Petroglyphs are also found here. They represent animals and a legendary lizard man, which the islanders believed to have come from another world.
Ahu Ature Huke is a single moai close to Ahu Nau Nau. Thor Heyerdahl has taken part in the re-erection of this moai. The hard work lasted for 9 days, but he managed to prove that with the usage of wood, these massive stones could be moved and put into place by the islanders many centuries ago. This ahu comprises of a single statue placed on top of a platform. It overlooks the beautiful Anakena Beach.
We headed straight through the palms to the white sands and blue ocean. The beach shelved very gradually, so it was quite a way out to swim. Because of the sand there was little visibility and it was quite hard to spot the fish, but a local lad pointed out some enormous fish to me (whilst swimming!) After a while it felt very hot and we retreated to a bar for a cool cocktail. We had enough time to enjoy it before finding our bus to return to Hanga Roa, past Vaihu (left), Papa Tekena and A Tanga (poor quality ruined ahus). For our evening meal we went to the famous La Taverne du Pêcheur, obviously choosing from their fish menu and watching the sun set from the balcony over Kaleta Bay.

Nga'ara (c. 1835 -59), reigned from the death of his father, King Kai Mako‘i c. 1835) was the last great ‘ariki, or paramount chief, and the last master of rongorongo. Before becoming king, Nga‘ara ran a hare rongorongo (rongorongo school) at ‘Anakena Bay. Generally fathers would teach their sons and any other boys who were interested, and Nga‘ara was the most famous teacher on the island. Boys would study three to five months to learn rongorongo. At the time he became ‘ariki, the real power on the island lay in the Birdman priests of ‘Orongo. One of the sacred responsibilities of the tuhunga t" (scribes and reciters of rongorongo) seems to have been the recitation of rongorongo tablets at ‘Orongo during the annual Birdman ceremonies. Rongorongo was considered to contain mana (sacred power). For example, chanting a timo (vengeance) tablet could release supernatural powers to kill. A woman would carry a pure (fertility) tablet that the scribes chanted to increase her fertility. Tablets were used to increase crops or a catch of fish. Katherine Routledge was told that one of Nga‘ara's tablets, called Kouhau ‘o te Ranga and thought to be Rongorongo text C, was one of a kind and had the power to "give conquest in war" and enslave the conquered. In order to take control of the island from the Birdman priests Nga‘ara established an annual rongorongo festival at ‘Anakena. Rather than using the tablets for specific ends, it was a festival for the tablets themselves, and it became the most important assembly in pre-missionary times. Since the mana of the tablets went through him at this festival, Nga‘ara was able to assert spiritual primacy over the island. When Nga‘ara died, his son Kai Mako‘i ‘Iti took over the festival at ‘Anakena for three years, until captured in the great Peruvian slaving raid of 1862. Although the slaves were freed in 1863, Kai Mako‘i did not survive to return. A British anthropologist Katherine Routledge in 1914 interviewed 2 old female Râpa Nui (over 100, so born c 1814). The last European report of moais in 1838 suggests only Tongariko was still erect. The next report 1870 says no moais were standing. Therefore Tongariko’s moais were felled between 1830 and 1870. One of the ladies says she was present at their felling when she was in her early 20s and both remembered the warfare of the 1800s. Katherine collected oral histories, especially related to the Birdman cult.

Kai Mako'i 'Iti (Small Kaimakoi) (d1863), son of Nga'ara, devastation of island by Peruvian slavers in the great Peruvian slaving raid of 1862, died as a slave in the Peruvian slave raid. In 1862/3 the island was subject to numerous Peruvian slave raids, and many chiefs and religious leaders were kidnapped and sold as slaves in Peru (over 1000 Rapanui were take as slaves to work in guano collection). As the royal and priestly class were taken, the secret of rongorongo was lost (as it was a royal prerogative to read it). Later the international community forced the Peruvians to return 15 islanders, but they were infected with smallpox and tuberculosis, which spread across the island decimating its population. This was allegedly the fate of the son of Nga‘ara II, called Kai Mako‘i ‘Iti, who was Easter Island's ariki mau or paramount chief at the time, and of his son Maurata d.1862. In 1872 the total population was 111 individuals, and the paramount chiefs and their priests had all perished. The arrival of the missionaries to Easter Island in mid-1860 also caused damage to Rapanui culture. In their zeal to convert the islanders to Christianity they ended ancient beliefs and rituals, such as the Birdman competition, although they saved some tales and objects.

Gregorio/ Kerekorio Manu Rangi, Rokoroko He Tau, last ariki mau (paramount king), d.1867 of TB. After this a Council of State was established by French adventurer and sheep rancher Jean- Baptiste Dutrou-Bornier who expelled the Catholic missionaries, married a rapanui girl and installed her as "Queen" and unsuccessfully petitioned France for protectorate status. Dutrou- Bornier was assassinated in 1876 and the Roman Catholic
mission returned. His business interest was inherited by the Anglo-Jewish-Tahitian Prince Alexander Ariipaea Salmon who managed a sheep ranch, which constituted much of the land on the island. Salmon ruled in all but name, but encouraged the rapanui to produce artworks to export to support themselves. He appears to have been a good, though foreign, ruler.

Atamu Tekena (Atamu Maurata Te Kena "Ao Tahi), signs Treaty of Annexation, d 1892, the penultimate ‘Ariki or King of Rapa Nui 1883-92. He was not a royal of the traditional line, although he was an extended member of the royal Miru clan, and was appointed by the French Picpus missionaries. In 1888, he signed a treaty of annexation ceding Easter Island to Chile. The population was only 110. His wife Ana Eva is known as Queen Eva. He adopted the additional name Maurata after the ariki mau who died during the Peruvian slave raids. Unlike his predecessors, Atamu held little political power. For many years, Easter Island was considered distant and worthless, but when Great Britain started to show interest in claiming it (in response to France), Chile took the final step towards the annexation. In 1887, Captain Policarpo Toro was sent by Chile to purchase Salmon's sheep ranch and annex the island from the Catholic mission authority in Tahiti. Toro landed in 1888 and Atamu and 11 chiefs ‘signed’ a treaty (Deed of Assignment) of annexation ceding the island to Chile. There is some ambiguity of language in the bilingual versions. The Rapa Nui language version only made Chile the island's protector while the Spanish language version ceded the island's sovereignty in perpetuity. Despite the fact missionaries had been educating the islanders for more than 20 years, none of the chiefs signed their names to the document and it was also never ratified by Chile. During the first years of Chile’s sovereignty, the island was forgotten and the islanders confined to it since Chile did not recognise their full citizenship until 1966. Captain Toro set up a colony with his brother Pedro Pablo Toro. The Rapa Nui believed they had become a protectorate with retained independence. The Chilean colony co-existed with the native government and Atamu. When Atamu died the Rapa Nui elected Simeon Riro K!inga as king. Easter Island Kingdom flag Simeon Riro K!inga, assassinated in Chile in 1899. On Atamu’s death, the islanders decided to choose by the next king by popular election between the Hereveri, Ika and Riroroko families, as all of whom could trace descent from the last line of paramount chiefs. Simeon won the election and was appointed king in 1890. The situation of the islanders deteriorated in the following years, as the island was rented out to a private company. The new exploiters converted the entire island into a sheep and cattle ranch, and enclosed the population by force into a small area in front of the bay of Hangaroa, surrounded by a high stone wall. They were forbidden to leave it, plant or fish, and their cattle and ancestral lands were stolen. King Simeon Riro Kainga decided then to travel to mainland Chile to present a complaint to the government. At the time the only means to travel to mainland Chile was on board the Company ships that visited the island regularly, and upon arriving to Valparaiso the owner of the company who rented the island poisoned King Riro Kainga and he died in Valparaiso.
Enrique Ika a Tu!u Hati (1900/1), The islanders were forbidden to appoint the heir as king, so his rule was not recognised.
Moisés Tu!u Hereveri (1901/2), not recognised.
Vacant In 1903 the Rapanui were stripped of their land, which was “rented out” for 25 years to a Scottish-Chilean company, Williamson, Balfour & Co., sheep farmers. The company created the “The Easter Island Exploitation Company”, with 70,000 sheep roaming freely on the island, while the islanders were confined to Hanga Roa to keep them from stealing the animals. The company’s control over the island extended to 1936, although it wasn’t until 1953 that the wool trade completely ended on the island and the Chilean Navy took control. The Navy prohibited the use of the Rapa Nui language and didn’t improve the living conditions of the island, generating a growing sense of identity and emerging independence initiatives. After many battles, the people of Rapa Nui were governed by a mayor of their own choosing, and granted tax exemptions as well as the recognition that only Rapa Nui people could own land.
Valentino Rirokoro Tuki (from 1953, crowned July 2011) is the grandson of King Simeon. During the presidency of Michele Bachelet, the remains of King Simeon were returned to Easter Island and a monument erected to his memory in the plaza in front of the Governor's Office. In 1956, Valentino, his 3 brothers and a relative, escaped the island in a small open row boat with an added sail, measuring only 6m long, to force the Chilean authorities to grant them freedom to leave the island at will. This was not the first boat to escape, and in several earlier attempts 17 islanders lost their lives at sea. After 56 days Valentino’s boat made it to Atiu (Cook Islands), a 3,000-mile open-sea voyage. After the publicity this engendered, Chilean authorities allowed the islanders to travel off the island at will. In 2011, Valentino was appointed king and although he has no real power, he is respected by the islanders, and a large number of them are petitioning the government to obtain more autonomy.

Posted by PetersF 12:06 Archived in Chile Tagged island chile easter moai rapa nui tongariki raraku Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 1 of 1) Page [1]