Giant Heads of Easter Island Aren’t Just Heads. Their Bodies Were Covered Multiple Mudslides.

Easter Island is one of the most remote, uninhabited islands in the world. Along the slope of one of its volcanos there are hundreds of giant carved statues that until recently most people believed were just large stone heads. It turns out that the bodies of the states were buried by mudslides.

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The nearest inhabited land (around 50 residents in 2013) is Pitcairn Island 1,289 miles away; the nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea, on the island of Mangareva, 1,619 miles away; the nearest continental point lies just in central Chile, 2,182 miles away.

Easter Island is famous for it’s large stone statues called moai, carved in the period A.D. 1100–1680A.D.  There are 887 monolithic stone statues that have been inventoried and are located both on the island and within museum collections.

Although often identified as “Easter Island heads”, most statues have torsos and upper thighs. A few are complete figures kneeling on bent knees with their hands covering their stomachs.

Easter Island, Ahu Tongariki
Easter Island, Ahu Tongariki

The statues were carved from volcanic rock between 1100 and 1500 A.D. by ancient Polynesians, ranging in size, with the tallest reaching 33 feet (10 meters). The moai are thought to be representations of the indigenous peoples’ ancestors, carved when an important tribal figure or family member passed away. 

Most moai were carved from solidified volcanic ash found on the side of the volcano Rano Raraku. The native islanders who carved them used only stone hand chisels.

Archaeologists have studied the statues on the island for about a century, and have been aware of the torsos beneath the statues' heads since the earliest excavations in 1914. sourceDuring the sculpting process the stone was doused with water to soften it. A single moai statue would have taken five or six men approximately one year to complete. And there would have been several teams working on different statues. It is believed that each statue represented the deceased head of a family lineage.

Nearly half of the states remained in a quarry at Rano Raraku. The largest moai raised on a platform is known as “Paro”. It weighs 82 tons and is 32.15 ft long.

The new excavation work intends to document for the first time the complex carvings found on the buried statues' bodies, which have been protected from weathering by their burial. sourceAnywhere from 180 to 250 men were required to move each statues. Around 50 statues were re-erected in modern times.

 

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