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The mysterious Easter Island


Rapa Nui, a culture alive and full of mysteries

Hundreds of giant statues - some upright on platforms of stone, others buried or broken on the floor - dominate the skyline of a remote Polynesian island of only 160 km2 of surface: Easter Island, so called because the Europeans discovered it the day of Easter in 1722.
Easter Island (rapanui language: Rapa Nui) is an island in Chile located in Polynesia, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It has an area of 163.6 km² (which makes it the largest of the islands of the insular Chile) and a population of 3,791 people, concentrated mainly in Hanga Roa, the capital and only existing town.
Although some of the statues (called mocil by the Polynesians) are on the edge of old paths, they were originally carved to adorn the shrines known as ahu. 259 ahu are known to date. What are platforms made of stone blocks of up to 60 m long. Some of these tombs have been found: it is known that the corpses were left exposed until there were just skeletons, and then these were buried in vaults beneath the ahu.
There are some 1,000 statues throughout the island, which measure from 1 m up to 21 m high and apparently are effigies of warriors or ancient ancestors of the builders. The largest statue upright on an ahu ever measuring 9.8 m in height; today lies broken on the ground, intentionally moved from the ahu although it is not known why. It is estimated that some 90 men had to take 18 months to carve it and place it on your website.
It has never had more than 4 000 inhabitants from the island was discovered, but once its population must have been much greater. Statues do not show scratches, which makes suppose that wooden cages were used to transport them. Today the island almost lacks trees, but there is evidence that once did Woods, so surely there was wood in abundance to build drag sleds.
The statues were carved in Tuff, stone formed by volcanic ash thrown ever by the Rano raraku volcano peak, located in the East of the island. Some have a huge Crest carved in a stone called red slag; the largest measuring 1.8 m in height by 2.4 m in width and weighs 11.5 tons, but most of them are much smaller. They were extracted from the Punapau, volcanic peak located in the South-West of the island.
In the Rano Raraku quarries can be still found abandoned tools that the inhabitants of Easter Island called toki: drawing knives and certain axes of basalt, dark volcanic stone that lies between the toba, softer.
Halfway buried up to the chest on a slope of Rano Raraku, this moai, like many others, never came to the sanctuary of destination. Cut in the quarry, was slid down the mountainside to a moat to finish styling, but stayed there forever.
There are also there 394 statues in various stages of development: some are no more than sketches drawn on the surface of the rock; others are almost completed and ready to get rid of the quarry. Others lie pulled, and some are supported side in crevices of the rock.
The American archaeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg has registered and described 823 statues of Easter Island. Their studies show that the more recent is a statue, bigger tends to be. The most voluminous - even in the quarry and unfinished - measures 21 m long and weighs 200 tons. Apparently the statues were made over a period of several centuries that ended about 200 years before the Europeans put foot on the island.
Near the top of Rano Raraku, there are pairs of holes of almost 1 m deep, connected at the bottom of the rock by a channel and that were apparently used to pass strings. On the sides of these holes there are brands that were obviously made by string of up to 10 cm. thick, perhaps braided fibers as the hibiscus. Wooden beams set in stone channels to fasten ropes, as well as piers carved in Rocky projections were also used.
The statues were slowly lowered with ropes by slopes full of debris from the Rano Raraku. There are 103 statues erect almost at the foot of this mostly buried up to the neck. Excavations reveal that they were slipped into pits open deliberate to place them upright and to thus end of styling them.

Transport of statues

The deceased U.S. Professor William Mulloy raised in to 1970s that the statues were moved boca down to its final site, tied to a kind of raft or wooden wedge shaped sleigh.! I thought the barriguda form of the moai complied with his idea and that these cribs could have been moved by prising it out between two large posts. But Van Tilburg studies show that this method was impossible due to the design of the majority of the statues.
The method of transport used by the ancient Polynesians must depend on one sufficient workforce and wood in abundance. Evidence that both factors existed when the statues were erected have recently surfaced. Archaeologists have discovered the stone foundations of many houses and villages, and traces that there were wooden structures. It is estimated that you between 1000 and 1500 A.d., period in which they were made the statues and the ahu, around 10 000 people populated the island.
The first proof that on the island there was wood came from the own Rano Raraku crater lake. The English researcher John Flenley took samples of the lakebed and discovered that they contained large quantities of fossilized pollen, which had settled with the passage of the centuries. Pollen revealed in Easter Island there for about 30 000 years an abundant plant life, specifically a forest of Palms that lasted until about 1,000 years ago.
Perhaps the trees were felled to win land of culture, increasingly necessary, and competition for space maybe caused wars which decimated the population.
Charles Love, another American teacher, has one hypothesis about the way that were perhaps moved the statues into place: considers that they were transported upright. To test his idea made a replica of one of the statues concrete and tried to move it with a sled moved on tree trunks.
A group of volunteers raised the statue by pulling it with ropes, and then kept these tension to prevent it collapsed while she was transferred. The device worked, although only some of the moai real have large enough basis for this method of transportation.
The archaeologist Van Tilburg considers that the basic method of transport was the horizontal: the statue was partially wrapped to protect it and then it was placed by means of levers and ropes in a sled dragged on tree trunks. With this method it would have been possible to move statues of 4 to 5 m in height, but the largest may not have reached more than 1.6 km from the quarry.
Place one of the statues on its pedestal was a real feat. In the 1960's the Mulloy Professor and a group of Islanders rose seven moai of 16 tons of weight in the western part of the island. Below shows how it could be erected by the original sculptors.


Unemployment, the largest of the Easter Island statue, lies broken in front of its ahu: perhaps measuring 9.8 m in height and weighed 82 tons. The American Professor William Mulloy was estimated necessary the work of 30 men for a year to sculpt the statue, that of 90 for two months to move almost 6 Km away from the quarry to the coast, and the other 90 for three months to erect it. The crowning of 1.8 m tall and weighing 11 tons, surely had to be rolled 13 km. from the quarry at Punapau. In 1970, Mulloy said that unemployment was perhaps carried upside down on a wooden sled moved with two poles attached at an angle. But today experts rule out this possibility.

The decline in the population of Easter Island:

It is possible that the rise of the cult of Makemake meant that after the 1400 arrived on the island another group of settlers, but nothing can be said with certainty. Yes, it is well known that, sometime after 1600, the war broke out. Wood began to run short, and without it, life became very difficult.
It was impossible to replace lost canoes, and good houses could not be built. Without trees, the ground degenerated, and not being able to have crops, they lacking food. Women and children caught in war actions were devoured. And the ahu were invaded by enemies who demolished the ancient images.
Legends refer a great battle that took place only a generation before the arrival of European vessels, and which ended with the capture and extermination of the "long ears" by the "short ears". These people were supposed to be descendants of different cultures, East and West, propelled the war by the scarcity of trees and hunger.
Reports of the rare European ships that visited the island speak of continued war, hunger and misery. In 1838 left standing few large statues. In 1862, the Peruvian slave traders were all men and women to the mines of Peru, where succumbed victims of diseases. The few who managed to return led to the island the smallpox and leprosy.
In 1877, the population of the island was reduced to 110 inhabitants. In 1888, the territory was annexed to Chile. -Thanks to better nutrition and health care, the population survived long enough to see their island become one of the great mysteries of the modern world.
Funeral platforms called ahu were built with blocks of volcanic rock. On the side facing Earth, they had long ramps of stones arranged in rows. The larger ahu is Vinapu, on the South coast.
Article translated for educational purposes from: Planeta Sedna 


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