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Mysterious Places: Moai Provide More Questions than Answers
Barry Mills
3/21/2004



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A remote island in the South Pacific is home to giant stone statues; their presence has mystified scientists, archaeologists, and visitors alike. The people here are known as the “Rapanui” and the island “Rapa Nui” (Great Rapa), is also known as “Easter Island.” Situated 2,300 miles west of South America and 2,500 miles east of Tahiti, Easter Island is one of the most isolated and mysterious places on Earth.

Easter Island’s entry into Western history began when native inhabitants welcomed 18th century Dutch sailors to “Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua” (The-Navel-Of-The-World). Led by Admiral Jacob Roggeveen, the Dutch sailed into the shadows of the giants on Easter Day, 1722, thus giving the island its present name. What the visitors encountered were remarkable giant stone statues. These statues, called “Moai,” meaning “images,” were standing on large stone platforms, called “Ahu.” Crowning the heads of these statues were round topknots made of red stone.

The Moai were sculptured from the slopes of Rano Raraku, a dormant volcano found on the island. How these giants, weighing between 14 to 80 tons, travelled from the volcano to the many Ahu scattered around the island presents a riddle yet to be solved. Local folklore says the ancestors used Mana or supernatural powers and instructed the Moai to walk to their stone platforms. Different alternative theories have also surrounded these mysterious artifacts. Some believe the island is the tip of a lost continent containing the legacy of a prehistoric civilization; others speculate on extraterrestrial involvement.

The Moai of Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua have attracted numerous researchers attempting to gain insight into their origins and secrets. Katherine Rutledge, an archaeologist, explored Easter Island in 1914, mapping the locations of these giant statues. At the end of her book ‘The Mystery of Easter Island,’ she writes, “And now the story is told. The expedition has, we hoped, brought some new pieces to fit in the puzzle which it went out to study, but the help is needed of every reader who has more to bring, from whatever part of the world; so alone can be finally solved the Mystery of Easter Island."

For those wishing to explore the mystery, regular airline services fly from Santiago, Chile and stopovers are available through Tahiti. The island offers varied landscape with volcanic craters, lava formations, and a rocky coastline with swimming available at Anakena beach. Weather is described as temperate, with averages of 80F summer and 50F in the winter. The website www.islandheritage.org provides useful information and links to other websites for those planning a visit.

Easter Island remains a place of mystery that still awaits more puzzle pieces to unlock the truth and solve the mystery of this land of the giant Moai.

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