On April 5, 1722, the expedition of Admiral Jacob Roggeveen, sent in search of the Southern Continent, discovered Easter Island lost in the Pacific Ocean. 

Seventy cannons, two hundred and twenty-three sailors and soldiers, three ships: Arend, Tienhoven, and Afrikaensche Galey were ready for the expedition of Jacob Roggeveen in 1721. The ships left the Dutch harbor of Texel and headed for Cape Horn. Initially, it was planned to search for the mysterious Southern Continent, but something went wrong. The navigators rounded South America, entered the Pacific Ocean, and headed northwest. And on April 5, 1722, they discovered a quiet and densely populated island. The head of the expedition called it Easter Island because it was discovered on Easter.

Easter Island

Easter Island

Image source: moai-karta.png

The island turned out to be inhabited. But the Dutch were struck by something else: brutal, with furrowed eyebrows, huge stone statues up to 20 meters high. 

Moai (Rapa Nui: Moʻai) are stone idols on the coast of Easter Island. The statues resemble a human head with a part of the torso up to the waist. These are gloomy faces with a low forehead and compressed lips. There are 997 of them on the island. 

It is still not clear why the island inhabitants created these figures. At first, their height did not exceed the human height, and the material was basalt. Then soft volcanic tuff (compressed volcanic ash) replaced it. Only 53 moai statues were made not of tuff, but other rocks.

Scientists from the US, New Zealand, and Chile tried to solve the riddle. According to their version, the island inhabitants – Rapa Nui, believed that the stone figures preserved the fertility of the land. Experts came to this conclusion after studying two moai located in the quarries of the Rano Raraku volcano in the central part of the island. The volcano was not only a source of material for most of the statues but also served as a fertile agricultural center. Scientists took soil samples, after analyzing which it became clear that the Rapa Nui people grew bananas, Colocasia, and sweet potatoes in this area. It was believed that these soils were the most fertile on the whole island. 

Furrowed eyebrows, pursed lips, and a wide forehead – why are moai like this? 

According to researchers, giant human figures carved from rocks of volcanic origin are the deceased ancestors of the locals. They believed in the connection with the weather, which affected the standard of living of the family. Each family erected their own statue of their ancestors and the larger, the better because the influence on the weather depends on it. And this is the key to a rich harvest and prosperity. On the back of each stone idol, there are inscriptions – the signatures of sculptors and the names of the owners. On the heads of some idols, you can see red hats weighing 15 tons. These are the Pukao.

Moai and red hats  

Moai and red hats  

How the ancient inhabitants of the island managed to create, erect, and locate moai throughout the island, is not clear. Many books have been written about Easter Island and more than one scientific study has been conducted. There are many hypotheses. It remains only to guess what secrets the ancient figures keep. English researcher Katherine Routledge aptly remarked in her work on this mountainous place: “In Easter Island, the past is the present,” she wrote in the book The Mystery of Easter Island. By the way, she never solved the riddle.

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