Among the baffling and enigmatic places in the world, one that gathered notable attention by people in a wide range of lifestyles, from researchers to the average person, is that of Easter Island. This island, in the Pacific Ocean, is surrounded by more water than any other place in the world, and, in this place of utter isolation, the megolithic Moai statues are to be found. While many attribute the Moai figures to extraterrestrial transport or danger wrought and strenuous work of Peruvians sailing them over on rafts, the work of research into the history of the island has shed light on the reality.
The island itself was, in fact, inhabited by people, this culture went by the name of Rapanui. These people are the ones who created the awe-inspiring statues that are littered across the island. The method of Moai creation was passed down in a remarkably precise manner, resulting in a variation of only centimeters over the course of thirty-two generations. The islanders, likely decendents of the Polynesians of the West, were not outrageous in number, but this grew. As the families increased in size, they became villages, and, with that, the style of the Moai became representations of the family of the artisan who constructed it. Most Moai were carved out of a distinctive compressed volcanic ash, or tuff, found at a single site. This source site was called Rano Raraku.
A sketch of three moai statues.
During the 1700's, Easter day of 1722 to be specific (hence the name "Easter Island"), the Dutch visited the island. At this point in time, the Moai creation was relatively controlled and the people were, in general, peacefully surviving. During one of the Rapanui events, however, a dancer attempted to make one of the crew join in on the festivities and went to remove his gun to do so. This was misinterperted by the crew and a shooting match erupted, killing some, although not many of the Rapanui. After that, the Dutch left. Following these events, competition grew between the native people for the biggest and best Moai. They went on building frenzy, and depleted the island's finite resources. The people turned to canablism for survival. Approximately fifty years after the Dutch, the British stopped at the island, finding the terrible situation.
Civil unrest was a inevitability in the small, over-worked island and three rival tribe factions were broken from the original grouping. The Rapanui, however, overcame this. Proving their ingenuity once again, they created a cult called "The Cult of the Bird Men". In this, each of the three rival tribes would bring forth a athlete. They would compete to bring back an egg from the small islands off the coast, after climbing down the one thousand feet of cliff to the ocean level, where they would then swim across the dangerous waters to the island. This lethal competition resulted in numerous deaths and it was not uncommon for the tribes to lose their best athlete in the first portion. But, the spoils which went to the winner's tribe were worthy. The winner's tribe would become ruler of the island for the next twelve months. While this was far from a preferable method of existence, it served its purpose holding the island and its people together. This was to end, despite their attempts. Easter Island became a territory of Chile and the population almost instantly dropped to one hundred and fifty people, due mainly to slavery of the inhabitants and the remaining people dispersed.
For diagrams of the process of Moai creation, click the following: Diagram 1, Diagram 2, Diagram 3, Diagram 4.