The Mystery Of The Easter Island

If you ever wonder the mysteries of the world you’d not be surprised to find, Easter Island as one of them. Easter Island (Rapa Nui in Polynesian) is located in the southern Pacific ocean famous for its stone head status called Moai.

The mystery of the island falling on the Moai statues. No one knows where it came from or how they were made in those times.

The Statues

The stones were carved in the period 1100-1680 AD. In total there are 887 monolithic stone statues. Although they are mostly referred to as “Easter Island Heads”, most of them have torsos, most of them ending at the top of their thighs. A smaller number of the statues are complete kneel on bent knees with their hands over their stomachs. Some upright moai have become buried up to their necks by shifting soils.

full moai statue

These statues were carved from compressed easily worked solidified volcanic ash. Research shows that each statue represented the deceased head of a lineage. Many of the Moai statues face away from the ocean and towards the villages as if watching over the people. With the exception of the seven Ahu Akivi which fave out to sea to help travelers find the island.

Earliest Known Inhabitants

Before the first known arrival by the European explorer Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen in 1722, scholars have been debating the origins of the isolated population. Linguistics estimate that the first inhabitants arrived around A.D 400 and most agree that they came from East Polynesia. Archaeological records suggest a later date of the settle, between 700 and 800.

According to an Easter Island legend, some 1,500 years ago a Polynesian chief named Hotu Matu’a (“The Great Parent”) sailed here in a double canoe from an unknown Polynesian island with his wife and extended family. He may have been a great navigator, looking for new lands for his people to inhabit, or he may have been fleeing a land rife with warfare. 

From at least 1000 to 1680, Rapa Nui’s population increased significantly. Some estimate the population reached a high of 9,000 by 1550. 122 years before the first contact with European visitors to the island.

In those 122 years, Rapa Nui underwent a radical change. Core sampling from the island has revealed a slice of Rapa Nui history that speaks of deforestation, soil depletion, and erosion.

This devastating ecological scenario it’s hard to imagine what its overpopulated inhabitants had suffered. Evidence of cannibalism is present at some sites, though very scant.

Most scholars point to the cultural drive to complete the colossal stone projects on Rapa Nui as the key cause of depletion of the island’s resources.

Meaning of The Statues

One of the major mysteries that has surrounded the island since its discovery is the reason for the massive stone heads. Though, over the past few years scientist have finally found what the meaning of the stone heads.

Recently, a team of researchers including Binghamton University anthropologist Carl Lipo used quantitative spatial modeling. Using this they intend to explore the potential relations between construction locations and subsistence resources, namely, rock mulch agricultural gardens, marine resources, and freshwater sources.

Their results suggest that ahu locations are explained by their proximity to the island’s limited freshwater sources.  “When we started to examine the details of the hydrology, we began to notice that freshwater access and statue location were tightly linked together. It wasn’t obvious when walking around” said Lipo. ” But as we started to look at areas around ahu, we found that those locations were exactly tied to spots where the fresh groundwater emerges”

Places without ahu/moai showed no freshwater. The pattern was striking and surprising in how consistent it was. Even when we find ahu/moai in the interior of the island, we find nearby sources of drinking water. 

The researchers currently only have comprehensive freshwater data for the western portion of the island. They also plan to do a complete survey of the island in order to continue to test their hypothesis of the relation between ahu and freshwater.

At least now we have one mystery solved in the world.