Easter Island

Easter Island

Overview
Easter Island is a Polynesia
Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

n island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle
Polynesian Triangle
The Polynesian Triangle is a region of the Pacific Ocean with three island groups at its corners: Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand. It is often used as a simple way to define Polynesia....

. A special territory of Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 that was annexed
Annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

 in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai
Moai
Moai , or mo‘ai, are monolithic human figures carved from rock on the Chilean Polynesian island of Easter Island between the years 1250 and 1500. Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahu around the...

, created by the early Rapanui
Rapanui
The Rapa Nui or Rapanui are the native Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in the Pacific Ocean. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the Rapa Nui people make up 60% of Easter Island's population, with some living also in mainland Chile...

 people. It is a World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 (as determined by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

) with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park
Rapa Nui National Park
Rapa Nui National Park is a World Heritage Site located on Easter Island, Chile. The park is divided into seven sections:*Rano Kau *Puna Pau ....

. In recent times the island has served as a warning of the cultural and environmental dangers of overexploitation
Overexploitation
Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns. Sustained overexploitation can lead to the destruction of the resource...

.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Easter Island'
Start a new discussion about 'Easter Island'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Easter Island is a Polynesia
Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

n island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle
Polynesian Triangle
The Polynesian Triangle is a region of the Pacific Ocean with three island groups at its corners: Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand. It is often used as a simple way to define Polynesia....

. A special territory of Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 that was annexed
Annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

 in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai
Moai
Moai , or mo‘ai, are monolithic human figures carved from rock on the Chilean Polynesian island of Easter Island between the years 1250 and 1500. Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahu around the...

, created by the early Rapanui
Rapanui
The Rapa Nui or Rapanui are the native Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in the Pacific Ocean. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the Rapa Nui people make up 60% of Easter Island's population, with some living also in mainland Chile...

 people. It is a World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 (as determined by UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

) with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park
Rapa Nui National Park
Rapa Nui National Park is a World Heritage Site located on Easter Island, Chile. The park is divided into seven sections:*Rano Kau *Puna Pau ....

. In recent times the island has served as a warning of the cultural and environmental dangers of overexploitation
Overexploitation
Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns. Sustained overexploitation can lead to the destruction of the resource...

. Ethnographers
Ethnography
Ethnography is a qualitative method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group...

 and archaeologists also blame diseases carried by European colonizers and slave raiding
Slave raiding
Slave raiding is the military practise of performing a raid for the purpose of capturing people and bring them out of the raid area to serve as slaves. Sometimes seen as a normal part of warfare it is nowadays widely considered a crime. The practise of slave raiding is known to have occurred since...

 of the 1860s for devastating the local peoples.

Easter Island is claimed to be the most remote inhabited island in the world, which is contended by Bouvet Island
Bouvet Island
Bouvet Island is an uninhabited Antarctic volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean, 2,525 km south-southwest of South Africa. It is a dependent territory of Norway and, lying north of 60°S latitude, is not subject to the Antarctic Treaty. The centre of the island is an ice-filled crater of an...

.

Name



The name "Easter Island" was given by the island's first recorded European visitor, the Dutch
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

 explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who encountered it on Easter Sunday 1722, while searching for Davis or David's island. Roggeveen named it Paasch-Eyland (18th century Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

 for "Easter Island"). The island's official Spanish name, Isla de Pascua, also means "Easter Island".

The current Polynesian name of the island, Rapa Nui, "Big Rapa", was coined after the slave raids of the early 1860s, and refers to the island's topographic resemblance to the island of Rapa
Rapa Iti
Rapa or Rapa Iti as it is sometimes called in more recent years , is the largest and only inhabited island of the Bass Islands in French Polynesia. An older name for the island is Oparo Its area is 40 km2 with a population of almost 500 and a max elevation of 650 m...

 in the Bass Islands of the Austral Islands
Austral Islands
The Austral Islands are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the South Pacific. Geographically, they consist of two separate archipelagos, namely in the northwest the Tubuai Islands consisting of the Îles Maria, Rimatara, Rurutu, Tubuai...

 group. However Thor Heyerdahl
Thor Heyerdahl
Thor Heyerdahl was a Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer with a background in zoology and geography. He became notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition, in which he sailed by raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands...

 argued that Rapa was the original name of Easter Island, and that Rapa Iti was named by refugees from there.

The phrase Te pito o te henua has been said to be the original name of the island since Alphonse Pinart
Alphonse Pinart
Alphonse Pinart was a French explorer, philologist, and ethnographer. He was an early champion of the theory that the Americas were first populated by migration across the Bering Strait. To support his research, he made extensive travel in the Pacific, from Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to...

 gave it the romantic translation "the Navel of the World" in his Voyage à l'Île de Pâques, published in 1877. However, there are two words pronounced pito in Rapa Nui, one meaning 'navel' and one 'end', and the phrase can thus also mean "land's end
Land's End
Land's End is a headland and small settlement in west Cornwall, England, within the United Kingdom. It is located on the Penwith peninsula approximately eight miles west-southwest of Penzance....

". This was apparently its actual meaning: Churchill (1912) inquired about the phrase as was told that there were three te pito o te henua, these being the three capes (land's ends) of the island. He was unable to elicit a Polynesian name for the island itself, and concluded that there may not have been one. According to Barthel (1974), oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

 has it that the island was first named Te pito o te kainga a Hau Maka "The little piece of land of Hau Maka". Another name, Mata ki te rangi, means "Eyes looking to the sky".

Location and physical geography


Easter Island is one of the world's most isolated inhabited islands. Its closest inhabited neighbour is Pitcairn Island, 2075 km (1,289.3 mi) to the west, with fewer than 100 inhabitants. Easter Island's latitude
Latitude
In geography, the latitude of a location on the Earth is the angular distance of that location south or north of the Equator. The latitude is an angle, and is usually measured in degrees . The equator has a latitude of 0°, the North pole has a latitude of 90° north , and the South pole has a...

 is close to that of Caldera, Chile
Caldera, Chile
Caldera is a port city in the Copiapó Province of the Atacama Region in northern Chile. It has an excellent harbor, protected by breakwaters, being the port city for the productive mining district centering on Copiapó to which it is connected by the first railroad constructed in Chile.-Geography...

, and it lies 3510 km (2,181 mi) west of continental Chile at its nearest point (between Lota
Lota, Chile
Lota is a city and commune located in the center of the Chile on the Gulf of Arauco. It lies within the Concepción Province of the Biobío Region.-History:...

 and Lebu
Lebu, Chile
Lebu is a port city and commune in central Chile administered by the Municipality of Lebu. Lebu is also the capital of Arauco Province in Bío-Bío Region...

). Isla Salas y Gómez, 415 km (257.9 mi) to the east, is closer but is uninhabited.

The island is about 24.6 km (15.3 mi) long by 12.3 km (7.6 mi) at its widest point; its overall shape is triangular. It has an area of 163.6 square kilometres (63.2 sq mi), and a maximum altitude of 507 metres (1,663.4 ft). There are three Rano (freshwater crater lake
Crater lake
A crater lake is a lake that forms in a volcanic crater or caldera, such as a maar; less commonly and with lower association to the term a lake may form in an impact crater caused by a meteorite. Sometimes lakes which form inside calderas are called caldera lakes, but often this distinction is not...

s), at Rano Kau
Rano Kau
Rano Kau is a tall extinct volcano that forms the southwestern headland of Easter Island, a Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. It was formed of basaltic lava flows in the Pleistocene with its youngest rocks dated at between 150,000 and 210,000 years ago.- The crater :Rano Kau has a crater...

, Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater formed of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff, and located on the lower slopes of Terevaka in the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island. It was a quarry for about 500 years until the early eighteenth century, and supplied the stone from which about 95% of the...

 and Rano Aroi, near the summit of Terevaka, but no permanent streams or rivers.

Geology


Easter Island is a volcanic high island
High island
In geology , a high island is an island of volcanic origin. The term can be used to distinguish such islands from low islands, whose origin is due to sedimentation or uplifting of coral reefs.-Definition and origin:...

, consisting mainly of three extinct coalesced volcano
Volcano
2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...

es: Terevaka
Terevaka
Ma′unga Terevaka is the largest, tallest and youngest of three main extinct volcanoes that form Rapa Nui...

 (altitude 507 metres) forms the bulk of the island. Two other volcanoes, Poike
Poike
Poike is one of three main extinct volcanoes that form Rapa Nui . At 370 metres, it is the island's second highest peak after Terevaka.right|275 px|thumb|[[Ahu Tongariki]] with Poike in the background...

 and Rano Kau
Rano Kau
Rano Kau is a tall extinct volcano that forms the southwestern headland of Easter Island, a Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. It was formed of basaltic lava flows in the Pleistocene with its youngest rocks dated at between 150,000 and 210,000 years ago.- The crater :Rano Kau has a crater...

, form the eastern and southern headlands and give the island its roughly triangular shape. Lesser cones and other volcanic features include the crater Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater formed of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff, and located on the lower slopes of Terevaka in the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island. It was a quarry for about 500 years until the early eighteenth century, and supplied the stone from which about 95% of the...

, the cinder cone
Cinder cone
According to the , Cinder Cone is the proper name of 1 cinder cone in Canada and 7 cinder cones in the United States:In Canada: Cinder Cone In the United States:...

 Puna Pau
Puna Pau
Puna Pau is a quarry in a small crater or cinder cone on the outskirts of Hanga Roa in the south west of Easter Island...

 and many volcanic caves including lava tubes. Poike used to be a separate island until volcanic material from Terevaka united it to the larger whole. The island is dominated by hawaiite
Hawaiite
Hawaiite is an olivine basalt with intermediate composition between alkali olivine and mugearite. It was first described at the island of Hawaii. In gemology, hawaiite is a colloquial term for Hawaii-originated peridot,which is gem-quality olivine mineral....

 and basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

 flows which are rich in iron and show affinity with igneous rock
Igneous rock
Igneous rock is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava...

s found in the Galápagos Islands
Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, west of continental Ecuador, of which they are a part.The Galápagos Islands and its surrounding waters form an Ecuadorian province, a national park, and a...

.

Easter Island and surrounding islets such as Motu Nui
Motu Nui
Motu Nui is the largest of three islets just south of Easter Island and is the most westerly place in Chile. All three islets have sea birds but Motu Nui was also an essential location for the Tangata manu cult which was the island religion between the moai era and the Christian times...

 and Motu Iti
Motu Iti (Rapa Nui)
This is about an islet off Easter Island not Motu Iti Motu Iti, or Little island is a small uninhabited islet near Motu Nui, about a mile from Rano Kau on the south western corner of Easter Island, a Chilean island in the Pacific....

 form the summit of a large volcanic mountain rising over 2000 metres (6,561.7 ft) from the sea bed. The mountain is part of the Sala y Gómez Ridge, a (mostly submarine) mountain range
Mountain range
A mountain range is a single, large mass consisting of a succession of mountains or narrowly spaced mountain ridges, with or without peaks, closely related in position, direction, formation, and age; a component part of a mountain system or of a mountain chain...

 with dozens of seamount
Seamount
A seamount is a mountain rising from the ocean seafloor that does not reach to the water's surface , and thus is not an island. These are typically formed from extinct volcanoes, that rise abruptly and are usually found rising from a seafloor of depth. They are defined by oceanographers as...

s.
The range begins with Pukao
Pukao (seamount)
The Pukao Seamount is a submarine volcano, the most westerly in the Easter Seamount Chain or Sala y Gómez ridge. To the east are Moai and then Easter Island. It rises over 2,500 metres from the ocean floor to within a few hundred metres of the sea surface...

 and next Moai
Moai (seamount)
The Moai Seamount is a submarine volcano, the second most westerly in the Easter Seamount Chain or Sala y Gómez ridge. It is east of Pukao seamount and west of Easter Island. It rises over 2,500 metres from the ocean floor to within a few hundred metres of the sea surface...

, two seamounts to the west of Easter Island, and extends 2700 km (1,677.7 mi) east to the Nazca Ridge
Nazca Ridge
The Nazca Ridge is an ocean ridge in the southern Pacific Ocean. It lies on the Nazca Plate and is being subducted in the Peru-Chile Trench under the South American Plate by ongoing plate motion....

. The ridge was formed by the Nazca Plate
Nazca Plate
]The Nazca Plate, named after the Nazca region of southern Peru, is an oceanic tectonic plate in the eastern Pacific Ocean basin off the west coast of South America. The ongoing subduction along the Peru-Chile Trench of the Nazca Plate under the South American Plate is largely responsible for the...

 floating over the Easter hotspot
Easter hotspot
The Easter hotspot is a volcanic hotspot located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. The hotspot created the Sala y Gómez Ridge which includes Easter Island and the Pukao Seamount which is at the ridge's young western edge....

. The movement of Nazca and formerly the Farallon Plate
Farallon Plate
The Farallon Plate was an ancient oceanic plate, which began subducting under the west coast of the North American Plate— then located in modern Utah— as Pangaea broke apart during the Jurassic Period...

 over the hotspot has created a long underwater ridge, the Nazca Ridge
Nazca Ridge
The Nazca Ridge is an ocean ridge in the southern Pacific Ocean. It lies on the Nazca Plate and is being subducted in the Peru-Chile Trench under the South American Plate by ongoing plate motion....

, whose eastern end is being subducted
Subduction
In geology, subduction is the process that takes place at convergent boundaries by which one tectonic plate moves under another tectonic plate, sinking into the Earth's mantle, as the plates converge. These 3D regions of mantle downwellings are known as "Subduction Zones"...

 under Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

. Only at Easter Island, its surrounding islets and Sala y Gómez
Sala y Gómez
Isla Salas y Gómez, also known as Isla Sala y Gómez, is a small uninhabited Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. It is the easternmost point in the Polynesian Triangle...

 does the Sala y Gómez Ridge form dry land.

Pukao, Moai and Easter Island were formed in the last 750,000 years and are the ridge's youngest islands. The most recent eruption was a little over 100,000 years ago.

In the first half of the 20th century, steam reportedly came out of the Rano Kau crater wall. This was photographed by the island's manager, Mr Edmunds. According to geologists the last volcanic activity on the island occurred 10,000 years ago.

An alternative explanation for the islands is the activity of the Easter Fracture Zone
Easter Fracture Zone
The Easter fracture zone is an oceanic fracture zone associated with the transform fault extending from the Tuamotu archipelago in the westto the Peru-Chile Trench to the east....

.

Climate and weather


The climate of Easter Island is subtropical maritime
Humid subtropical climate
A humid subtropical climate is a climate zone characterized by hot, humid summers and mild to cool winters...

. The lowest temperatures are recorded in July and August (18 °C or 64 °F) and the highest in February (maximum temperature 28 °C or 82 °F), the summer season in the southern hemisphere. Winters are relatively mild. The rainiest month is April, though the island experiences year-round rainfall. Easter Island's isolated location exposes it to winds which help to keep the temperature fairly cool. Precipitation averages 1118 millimetres or 44 in per year. Occasionally, heavy rainfall and rainstorms strike the island. These occur mostly in the winter months (June–August). Since it is close to the South Pacific High and outside the range of the ITCZ
Intertropical Convergence Zone
The Intertropical Convergence Zone , known by sailors as The Doldrums, is the area encircling the earth near the equator where winds originating in the northern and southern hemispheres come together....

, cyclone
Cyclone
In meteorology, a cyclone is an area of closed, circular fluid motion rotating in the same direction as the Earth. This is usually characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate anticlockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth. Most large-scale...

s and hurricanes do not occur around Easter island.


History



The history of Easter Island is rich and controversial. Its inhabitants have endured famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

s, epidemic
Epidemic
In epidemiology, an epidemic , occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is expected based on recent experience...

s, civil war
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

, slave
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 raids, colonialism
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

, and near deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

; its population declined precipitously more than once.


Estimated dates of initial settlement of Easter Island range from 300 to 1200 CE
Common Era
Common Era ,abbreviated as CE, is an alternative designation for the calendar era originally introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in the 6th century, traditionally identified with Anno Domini .Dates before the year 1 CE are indicated by the usage of BCE, short for Before the Common Era Common Era...

, approximately coinciding with the arrival of the first settlers in Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. Rectifications in radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating
Radiocarbon dating is a radiometric dating method that uses the naturally occurring radioisotope carbon-14 to estimate the age of carbon-bearing materials up to about 58,000 to 62,000 years. Raw, i.e. uncalibrated, radiocarbon ages are usually reported in radiocarbon years "Before Present" ,...

 have changed almost all of the previously-posited early settlement dates in Polynesia. Rapa Nui is now considered to have been settled about 700–1100 CE. An ongoing study by archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo suggests a still–later date: "Radiocarbon dates for the earliest stratigraphic layers at Anakena, Easter Island, and analysis of previous radiocarbon dates imply that the island was colonized late, about 1200 CE. Significant ecological impacts and major cultural investments in monumental architecture and statuary thus began soon after initial settlement."

According to oral tradition, the first settlement was at Anakena
Anakena
Anakena is a white coral sand beach in Rapa Nui National Park on Rapa Nui , a Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. Anakena has two ahus, one with a single moai and the other with six...

. Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond
Jared Mason Diamond is an American scientist and author whose work draws from a variety of fields. He is currently Professor of Geography and Physiology at UCLA...

 notes that the Caleta Anakena landing point provides the best shelter from prevailing swells, as well as a sandy beach for canoe landings and launchings, so it seems likely to have been an early place of settlement. However, this hypothesis contradicts radiocarbon dating, according to which other sites preceded Anakena by many years, especially the Tahai, whose radiocarbon dates precede Anakena's by several centuries.

The island was most likely populated by Polynesians who navigated in canoes or catamarans from the Marquesas Islands
Marquesas Islands
The Marquesas Islands enana and Te Fenua `Enata , both meaning "The Land of Men") are a group of volcanic islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. The Marquesas are located at 9° 00S, 139° 30W...

, 3200 km (1,988.4 mi) away, or the Gambier Islands
Gambier Islands
There was a time when the Gambiers hosted a population of several thousand people and traded with other island groups including the Marquesas, the Society Islands and Pitcairn Islands...

 (Mangareva, 2600 km (1,615.6 mi) away). When James Cook
James Cook
Captain James Cook, FRS, RN was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer who ultimately rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy...

 visited the island, one of his crew members, a Polynesian from Bora Bora
Bora Bora
The commune of Bora-Bora is made up of the island of Bora Bora proper with its surrounding islets emerging from the coral reef, 29.3 km² in total, and of the atoll of Tupai , located north of Bora Bora...

, was able to communicate with the Rapa Nui. The language most similar to Rapa Nui is Mangarevan with an 80% similarity in vocabulary. In 1999, a voyage with reconstructed Polynesian boats was able to reach Easter Island from Mangareva in 19 days.

According to oral traditions recorded by missionaries in the 1860s, the island originally had a strong class system, with an ariki, high chief
Tribal chief
A tribal chief is the leader of a tribal society or chiefdom. Tribal societies with social stratification under a single leader emerged in the Neolithic period out of earlier tribal structures with little stratification, and they remained prevalent throughout the Iron Age.In the case of ...

, wielding great power over nine other clans and their respective chiefs. The high chief was the eldest descendent through first-born lines of the island's legendary founder, Hotu Matu'a
Hotu Matu'a
Hotu Matu'a was the legendary first settler and ariki mau of Easter Island. Hotu Matu'a and his two canoe colonising party were Polynesians from the now unknown land of Hiva...

. The most visible element in the culture was the production of massive statues called moai
Moai
Moai , or mo‘ai, are monolithic human figures carved from rock on the Chilean Polynesian island of Easter Island between the years 1250 and 1500. Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahu around the...

 that represented deified ancestors. It was believed that the living had a symbiotic relationship with the dead where the dead provided everything that the living needed (health, fertility of land and animals, fortune etc.) and the living through offerings provided the dead with a better place in the spirit world. Most settlements were located on the coast and moai were erected along the coastline, watching over their descendants in the settlements before them, with their backs toward the spirit world in the sea.

Diamond suggested that cannibalism
Cannibalism
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy...

 took place on Easter Island after the construction of the Moai
Moai
Moai , or mo‘ai, are monolithic human figures carved from rock on the Chilean Polynesian island of Easter Island between the years 1250 and 1500. Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahu around the...

 contributed to environment
Natural environment
The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

al degradation when extreme deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 destabilized an already precarious ecosystem. Archeological record shows that, by the time of the initial settlement, the island was home to many species of trees, including at least three species which grew up to 50 feet or more: Paschalococos
Paschalococos
Paschalococos disperta , formerly Jubaea disperta, was the native cocoid palm species of Easter Island...

- possibly the largest palm trees in the world at the time, Alphitonia zizyphoides
Alphitonia
Alphitonia is an arborescent genus of flowering plants with about 20 species, belonging to the buckthorn family of the rosid eudicots. It occurs in tropical regions of Southeast Asia, Oceania and Polynesia. These are large trees or shrubs. In Australia, these plants are often called "ash trees" or...

, and Elaeocarpus rarotongensis
Elaeocarpus
Elaeocarpus is a genus of tropical and subtropical evergreen trees and shrubs. The approximately 350 species are distributed from Madagascar in the west through India, Southeast Asia, Malaysia, southern China, and Japan, through Australia to New Zealand, Fiji, and Hawaii in the east. The islands of...

, as well as at least six species of native land birds. Barbara A. West wrote, "Sometime before the arrival of Europeans on Easter Island, the Rapanui experienced a tremendous upheaval in their social system brought about by a change in their island's ecology... By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population had dropped to 2,000 – 3,000 from a high of approximately 15,000 just a century earlier." By that time, 21 species of trees and all species of land birds went extinct through some combination of overharvesting/overhunting, rat predation, and climate change, the island was largely deforested, and it did not have any trees more than 10 feet tall. Loss of large trees meant that residents were no longer able to build seaworthy vessels, significantly diminishing their fishing abilities. This was further exacerbated by the loss of land birds and the collapse in seabird populations. By the 18th century, residents of the island were largely sustained by farming, with domestic chicken
Chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

s as the primary source of protein.

As the island became overpopulated and resources diminished, warriors known as matatoa gained more power and the Ancestor Cult ended, making way for the Bird Man Cult. Beverly Haun wrote, "The concept of mana (power) invested in hereditary leaders was recast into the person of the birdman, apparently beginning circa 1540, and coinciding with the final vestiges of the moai period." This cult maintained that, although the ancestors still provided for their descendants, the medium through which the living could contact the dead was no longer statues, but human beings chosen through a competition. The god responsible for creating humans, Makemake
Makemake (mythology)
Makemake in the Rapa Nui mythology of Easter Island, was the creator of humanity, the god of fertility and the chief god of the "Tangata manu" or bird-man cult .He is a frequent subject of the island's Petroglyphs.-In Astronomy:The trans-Neptunian...

, played an important role in this process. Katherine Routledge, who systematically collected the island's traditions in her 1919 expedition, showed that the competitions for Bird Man (Rapanui: tangata manu
Tangata manu
The Tangata manu , was the winner of a traditional competition on Rapa Nui . The ritual was an annual competition to collect the first Sooty Tern egg of the season from the islet of Motu Nui, swim back to Rapa Nui and climb the sea cliff of Rano Kau to the clifftop village of Orongo.-Myth:In the...

) started around 1760, after the arrival of the first Europeans, and ended in 1878, with the construction of the first church by Roman Catholic missionaries who formally arrived in 1864. Petroglyphs representing Bird Men on Easter Island are exactly the same as some in Hawaii, indicating that this concept was probably brought by the original settlers; only the competition itself was unique to Easter Island.

European accounts from 1722 and 1770 mention standing statues, but Cook's 1774 expedition noted that several moai were lying face down, having been toppled in war.


According to Diamond and Heyerdahl's version of the island's history, the huri mo'ai—"statue–toppling"—continued into the 1830s as a part of fierce internal wars. By 1838 the only standing moai were on the slopes of Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater formed of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff, and located on the lower slopes of Terevaka in the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island. It was a quarry for about 500 years until the early eighteenth century, and supplied the stone from which about 95% of the...

, in Hoa Hakananai'a
Hoa Hakananai'a
Hoa Hakananai'a is a moai housed in the British Museum in London. The name Hoa hakanani'a is from the Rapa Nui language; it means "stolen or hidden friend." It was removed from Orongo, Easter Island on 7 November 1868 by the crew of the English ship HMS Topaze, and arrived in Portsmouth on 25...

 in Orongo
Orongo
‘Orongo is a stone village and ceremonial centre at the southwestern tip of Rapa Nui . The first half of the ceremonial village's 53 stone masonry houses were investigated and restored in 1974 by American archaeologist William Mulloy...

, and Ariki Paro in Ahu Te Pito Kura. There is little archaeological evidence of pre–European societal collapse. Bone pathology
Bone pathology
Bone pathology, also known as orthopedic pathology is a subspecialty of surgical pathology which deals with the diagnosis and feature of many bone diseases. It uses gross and microscopic findings along with the findings of in vivo radiological studies, and occasionally, specimen radiographs to...

 and osteometric data from islanders of that period clearly suggest few fatalities can be attributed directly to violence.

The first–recorded European contact with the island was on April 5 (Easter Sunday
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

), 1722, when Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 navigator Jacob Roggeveen visited the island for a week and estimated a population of 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants. The number may have been greater, since some may have been frightened into hiding by a misunderstanding that led Roggeveen's men to fire on the natives, killing more than a dozen and wounding several more. The next foreign visitors (on November 15, 1770) were two Spanish ships, San Lorenzo and Santa Rosalia. The Spanish reported the island as largely uncultivated, whose seashore was lined with stone statues. Four years later, in 1774, British explorer James Cook
James Cook
Captain James Cook, FRS, RN was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer who ultimately rose to the rank of captain in the Royal Navy...

 visited Easter Island; he reported that some statues had fallen over. The British ship arrived in 1825 and reported seeing no standing statues. Easter Island was approached many times during the 19th century, but by then the islanders had become openly hostile to any attempt to land, and very little new information was reported before the 1860s.

A series of devastating events killed or removed most of the population in the 1860s. In December 1862, Peru
Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....

vian slave raiders struck. Violent abductions continued for several months, eventually capturing around 1,500 men and women, half of the island's population. Among those captured were the island's paramount chief, his heir, and those who knew how to read and write the rongorongo
Rongorongo
Rongorongo is a system of glyphs discovered in the 19th century on Easter Island that appears to be writing or proto-writing. It cannot be read despite numerous attempts at decipherment. Although some calendrical and what might prove to be genealogical information has been identified, not even...

 script, the only Polynesian script to have been found to date. When the slave raiders were forced to repatriate the people they had kidnapped, they disembarked carriers of smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 together with a few survivors on each of the islands. This created devastating epidemics from Easter Island to the Marquesas islands. Easter Island's population was reduced to the point where some of the dead were not even buried. Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, introduced by whalers in the mid–19th century, had already killed several islanders when the first Christian missionary, Eugène Eyraud
Eugène Eyraud
Eugène Eyraud was a lay friar of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the first Westerner to live on Easter Island.- Early life :...

, died from this disease in 1867. About a quarter of the island's population succumbed along with him. In the following years, the managers of the sheep ranch and the missionaries started buying the newly available lands of the deceased, and this led to great confrontations between natives and settlers.


Jean-Baptiste Dutrou-Bornier
Jean-Baptiste Dutrou-Bornier
Jean-Baptiste Dutrou-Bornier was a French mariner who settled on Easter Island in 1868, purchased much of the island, removed many of the Rapanui and turned the island into a sheep ranch.- Early life :...

 bought up all of the island apart from the missionaries' area around Hanga Roa
Hanga Roa
Hanga Roa is the main town, harbour and capital of the Chilean province of Easter Island. It is located in the southern part of the island's west coast, in the lowlands between the extinct volcanoes of Terevaka and Rano Kau....

 and moved a couple of hundred Rapanui to Tahiti
Tahiti
Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward group of French Polynesia, located in the archipelago of the Society Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. It is the economic, cultural and political centre of French Polynesia. The island was formed from volcanic activity and is high and mountainous...

 to work for his backers. In 1871 the missionaries, having fallen out with Dutrou–Bornier, evacuated all but 171 Rapanui to the Gambier islands
Gambier Islands
There was a time when the Gambiers hosted a population of several thousand people and traded with other island groups including the Marquesas, the Society Islands and Pitcairn Islands...

. Those who remained were mostly older men. Six years later, only 111 people lived on Easter Island, and only 36 of them had any offspring. From that point on the island's population slowly recovered. But with over 97% of the population dead or gone in less than a decade, much of the island's cultural knowledge had been lost.

Alexander Salmon, Jr., a the son of an English Jewish merchant and Pōmare dynasty
Pomare Dynasty
The Kingdom of Tahiti was founded by paramount chief Pōmare I, who, with the aide of English missionaries and traders, and European weaponry, unifed the islands of Tahiti, Moʻorea, Tetiaroa, Mehetia and at its peak consists of the other Society Islands of eastern Polynesia. Their leaders were...

 princess, eventually worked to repatriate workers from his inherited copra plantation. He eventaully bought up all lands on the island with the exception of the mission, and was its sole employer. He worked to develop tourism on the island, and was the principal informant for the British and German archaeological expeditions for the island. He sent several pieces of genuine Rongorongo
Rongorongo
Rongorongo is a system of glyphs discovered in the 19th century on Easter Island that appears to be writing or proto-writing. It cannot be read despite numerous attempts at decipherment. Although some calendrical and what might prove to be genealogical information has been identified, not even...

 to his niece's husband, the German consul in Valparaíso, Chile. Salmon sold the Brander Easter Island holdings to the Chilean government in 1888 January 2 and signed as a witness to the cession of the island. He returned to Tahiti in December of that year. He effectively ruled the island from 1878 until his cession to Chile in 1888.

Easter Island was annexed by Chile on September 9, 1888, by Policarpo Toro
Policarpo Toro
Policarpo Toro Hurtado was a Chilean naval officer, . He enrolled in the Chilean Navy in 1871 and visited Easter Island in 1875. From 1877 to 1879 he participated in the English Navy as second lieutenant...

, by means of the "Treaty of Annexation of the Island" (Tratado de Anexión de la isla). Toro, then representing the government of Chile signed with Atamu Tekena, designated "King" by the Chilean government after the paramount chief and his heir had died. The validity of this treaty is still contested by some Rapanui. Officially, Chile purchased the nearly all encompassing Mason-Brander sheep ranch, comprised from lands purchased from the descendants of Rapanui who died during the epidemics, and then claimed sovereignty over the island.

Until the 1960s the surviving Rapanui were confined to Hanga Roa
Hanga Roa
Hanga Roa is the main town, harbour and capital of the Chilean province of Easter Island. It is located in the southern part of the island's west coast, in the lowlands between the extinct volcanoes of Terevaka and Rano Kau....

. The rest of the island was rented to the Williamson-Balfour Company
Williamson-Balfour Company
The Williamson-Balfour Company was a Scottish owned Chilean company. Its successor company, Williamson Balfour Motors S.A., is a subsidiary of the British company Inchcape plc....

 as a sheep farm until 1953. The island was then managed by the Chilean Navy
Chilean Navy
-Independence Wars of Chile and Peru :The Chilean Navy dates back to 1817. A year before, following the Battle of Chacabuco, General Bernardo O'Higgins prophetically declared "this victory and another hundred shall be of no significance if we do not gain control of the sea".This led to the...

 until 1966, at which point the island was reopened in its entirety. In 1966 the Rapanui were given Chilean citizenship.

21st century


On 30 July 2007, a constitutional reform gave Easter Island and the Juan Fernández Islands
Juan Fernández Islands
The Juan Fernández Islands are a sparsely inhabited island group reliant on tourism and fishing in the South Pacific Ocean, situated about off the coast of Chile, and is composed of three main volcanic islands; Robinson Crusoe Island, Alejandro Selkirk Island and Santa Clara Island, the first...

 (also known as Robinson Crusoe Island
Robinson Crusoe Island
Robinson Crusoe Island , formerly known as Más a Tierra , or Aguas Buenas, is the largest island of the Chilean Juan Fernández archipelago, situated 674 kilometres west of South America in the South Pacific Ocean...

) the status of "special territories" of Chile. Pending the enactment of a special charter, the island continued to be governed as a province of the V Region of Valparaíso
Valparaíso
Valparaíso is a city and commune of Chile, center of its third largest conurbation and one of the country's most important seaports and an increasing cultural center in the Southwest Pacific hemisphere. The city is the capital of the Valparaíso Province and the Valparaíso Region...

.

A total solar eclipse
Solar eclipse of July 11, 2010
The total solar eclipse of July 11, 2010, occurred over the southern Pacific Ocean. -Visibility:The eclipse was one of the most remote in recorded history...

 visible from Easter Island occurred for the first time in over 1300 years on July 11, 2010, at 18:15:15.

Indigenous Rights Movement


Starting in August 2010, members of the indigenous Hitorangi clan occupied the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa. The occupiers allege that the hotel was bought from the Pinochet government, in violation of a Chilean agreement with the indigenous Rapa Nui, in the 1990s. The occupiers say their ancestors had been cheated into giving up the land. According to a BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 report, on December 3, 2010, at least 25 people were injured when Chilean police using pellet guns attempted to evict a group of Rapa Nui from these buildings, claiming that the land the buildings stood on had been illegally taken from their ancestors.

In January 2011, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People, James Anaya, expressed concern about the treatment of the indigenous Rapa Nui by the Chilean government, urging Chile to "make every effort to conduct a dialogue in good faith with representatives of the Rapa Nui people to solve, as soon as possible the real underlying problems that explain the current situation".

The incident ended in February 2011, when up to 50 armed police broke into the hotel to remove the final five occupiers. They were arrested by the government and no injuries were reported.

Ecology


Easter Island, together with its closest neighbor, the tiny island of Isla Sala y Gómez 415 kilometres (257.9 mi) further east, is recognized by ecologists as a distinct ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

, the Rapa Nui subtropical broadleaf forests. The original subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests
Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests , also known as tropical moist forests, are a tropical and subtropical forest biome....

 are now gone, but paleobotanical
Paleobotany
Paleobotany, also spelled as palaeobotany , is the branch of paleontology or paleobiology dealing with the recovery and identification of plant remains from geological contexts, and their use for the biological reconstruction of past environments , and both the evolutionary history of plants, with a...

 studies of fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 pollen
Pollen
Pollen is a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes . Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement from the stamens to the pistil of flowering plants or from the male cone to the...

 and tree moulds left by lava
Lava
Lava refers both to molten rock expelled by a volcano during an eruption and the resulting rock after solidification and cooling. This molten rock is formed in the interior of some planets, including Earth, and some of their satellites. When first erupted from a volcanic vent, lava is a liquid at...

 flows indicate that the island was formerly forested, with a range of trees, shrubs, ferns, and grasses. A large extinct
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

 palm
Arecaceae
Arecaceae or Palmae , are a family of flowering plants, the only family in the monocot order Arecales. There are roughly 202 currently known genera with around 2600 species, most of which are restricted to tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates...

, Paschalococos disperta
Paschalococos
Paschalococos disperta , formerly Jubaea disperta, was the native cocoid palm species of Easter Island...

, related to the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea
Jubaea
Jubaea chilensis is the sole extant species in the genus Jubaea in the palm family Arecaceae. It is native to southwestern South America, where it is endemic to a small area of central Chile, between 32°S and 35°S in southern Coquimbo, Valparaíso, Santiago, O'Higgins and northern Maule regions...

 chilensis)
, was one of the dominant trees as attested by fossil evidence. Like its Chilean counterpart it probably took close to 100 years to reach adult height. The Polynesian rat
Polynesian Rat
The Polynesian Rat, or Pacific Rat , known to the Māori as kiore, is the third most widespread species of rat in the world behind the Brown Rat and Black Rat. The Polynesian Rat originates in Southeast Asia but, like its cousins, has become well travelled – infiltrating Fiji and most Polynesian...

, which the original settlers brought with them, played a very important role in the disappearance of the Rapanui palm. Rat teeth marks can be observed in 99% of the nuts found preserved in caves or excavated in different sites, indicating that the Polynesian rat impeded the palm's reproduction. That, and the clearance of the palms to make the settlements, led to their extinction almost 350 years ago. The toromiro
Toromiro
Sophora toromiro, commonly known as Toromiro, is a species of flowering tree in the legume family, Fabaceae, that is endemic to Easter Island. Heavy deforestation had eliminated most of the island's forests by the first half of the 17th century , and the once common toromiro became rare and...

 tree (Sophora
Sophora
Sophora is a genus of about 45 species of small trees and shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family, Fabaceae. The species are native to southeast Europe, southern Asia, Australasia, various islands in the Pacific Ocean, western South America, the western United States, the Southern US...

 toromiro)
was prehistorically present on Easter Island, but is now extinct in the wild. However the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, usually referred to as Kew Gardens, is 121 hectares of gardens and botanical glasshouses between Richmond and Kew in southwest London, England. "The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" and the brand name "Kew" are also used as umbrella terms for the institution that runs...

 and the Göteborg Botanical Garden
Göteborg Botanical Garden
The Gothenburg Botanical Garden is located in Gothenburg, Sweden, and one of the leading botanical gardens in Europe.-History:It was planned by the city council, created thanks to generous donors, and inaugurated in 1923 when Gothenburg celebrated its 300th anniversary.One of the prominent...

 are jointly leading a scientific program to reintroduce the toromiro to Easter Island. With the palm and the toromiro virtually gone, there was considerably less rainfall as a result of less condensation. After the island was used to feed thousands of sheep for almost a century, by the mid 1900s the island was mostly covered in grassland
Grassland
Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses and other herbaceous plants . However, sedge and rush families can also be found. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica...

 with nga'atu or bulrush
Totora (plant)
Totora is a subspecies of the giant bulrush sedge. It is found in South America - notably on Lake Titicaca, the middle coast of Perú and on Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean...

 (Schoenoplectus californicus tatora) in the crater lakes of Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater formed of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff, and located on the lower slopes of Terevaka in the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island. It was a quarry for about 500 years until the early eighteenth century, and supplied the stone from which about 95% of the...

 and Rano Kau
Rano Kau
Rano Kau is a tall extinct volcano that forms the southwestern headland of Easter Island, a Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. It was formed of basaltic lava flows in the Pleistocene with its youngest rocks dated at between 150,000 and 210,000 years ago.- The crater :Rano Kau has a crater...

. The presence of these reeds, which are called totora in the Andes
Andes
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

, was used to support the argument of a South American origin of the statue builders, but pollen analysis of lake sediments shows these reeds have grown on the island for over 30,000 years. Before the arrival of humans, Easter Island had vast seabird
Seabird
Seabirds are birds that have adapted to life within the marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent evolution, as the same environmental problems and feeding niches have resulted in similar adaptations...

 colonies containing probably over 30 resident species, perhaps the world's richest. Such colonies are no longer found on the main island. Fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 evidence indicates five species of landbirds (two rails, two parrots and a heron), all of which have become extinct.

The immunosuppressant
Immunosuppressant
An immunosuppressant is any substance that performs immunosuppression of the immune system. They may be either exogenous, as immunosuppressive drugs, or endogenous, as ,e. g., testosterone...

 drug sirolimus
Sirolimus
Sirolimus , also known as rapamycin, is an immunosuppressant drug used to prevent rejection in organ transplantation; it is especially useful in kidney transplants. A macrolide, sirolimus was first discovered as a product of the bacterium Streptomyces hygroscopicus in a soil sample from Easter...

 was first discovered in the bacterium Streptomyces
Streptomyces
Streptomyces is the largest genus of Actinobacteria and the type genus of the family Streptomycetaceae. Over 500 species of Streptomyces bacteria have been described. As with the other Actinobacteria, streptomycetes are gram-positive, and have genomes with high guanine and cytosine content...

 hygroscopicus
in a soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

 sample from Easter Island. The drug is also known as rapamycin, after Rapa Nui. It is now being studied for extending longevity in mice.
Trees are sparse, rarely forming natural groves
Grove (nature)
A grove is a small group of trees with minimal or no undergrowth, such as a sequoia grove, or a small orchard planted for the cultivation of fruits or nuts...

, and it has been argued whether native Easter Islanders deforested the island in the process of erecting their statues, and in providing sustenance for an overpopulated
Overpopulation
Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth...

 island. Experimental archaeology
Experimental archaeology
Experimental archaeology employs a number of different methods, techniques, analyses, and approaches in order to generate and test hypotheses, based upon archaeological source material, like ancient structures or artifacts. It should not be confused with primitive technology which is not concerned...

 demonstrated that some statues certainly could have been placed on "Y" shaped wooden frames called miro manga erua and then pulled to their final destinations on ceremonial sites. Other theories involve the use of "ladders" (parallel wooden rails) over which the statues could have been dragged. Rapanui traditions metaphorically refer to spiritual power (mana) as the means by which the moai were "walked" from the quarry.

Given the island's southern latitude, the climatic effects of the Little Ice Age
Little Ice Age
The Little Ice Age was a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period . While not a true ice age, the term was introduced into the scientific literature by François E. Matthes in 1939...

 (about 1650 to 1850) may have exacerbated deforestation, although this remains speculative. Many researchers point to the climatic downtrend caused by the Little Ice Age as a contributing factor to resource stress and to the palm tree's disappearance. Experts, however, do not agree on when exactly the island's palms became extinct.

Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond
Jared Mason Diamond is an American scientist and author whose work draws from a variety of fields. He is currently Professor of Geography and Physiology at UCLA...

 dismisses past climate change as a dominant cause of the island's deforestation in his book Collapse
Collapse (book)
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed is a 2005 book by Jared M. Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles...

which assesses the collapse of the ancient Easter Islanders. Influenced by Heyerdahl's romantic interpretation of Easter's history (as he acknowledges in chapter 2 of Collapse), Diamond insists that the disappearance of the island's trees seems to coincide with a decline of its civilization around the 17th and 18th centuries. He notes that they stopped making statues at that time and started destroying the ahu. But the link is weakened because the Bird Man cult continued to thrive and survived the great impact caused by the arrival of explorers, whalers, sandalwood
Sandalwood
Sandalwood is the name of a class of fragrant woods from trees in the genus Santalum. The woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained, and unlike many other aromatic woods they retain their fragrance for decades. As well as using the harvested and cut wood in-situ, essential oils are also extracted...

 traders, and slave raiders.

Midden
Midden
A midden, is an old dump for domestic waste which may consist of animal bone, human excrement, botanical material, vermin, shells, sherds, lithics , and other artifacts and ecofacts associated with past human occupation...

 contents show a sudden drop in quantities of fish and bird bones as the islanders lost the means to construct fishing vessels and the birds lost their nesting sites. Soil erosion because of lack of trees is apparent in some places. Sediment samples document that up to half of the native plants had become extinct and that the vegetation of the island drastically altered. Polynesians were primarily farmers, not fishermen, and their diet consisted mainly of cultivated staples such as taro root, sweet potato, yams, cassava, and bananas. Chickens were more important protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 sources than fish. Cannibalism
Cannibalism
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy...

 occurred on all Polynesian islands in times of both plenty and famine. Its presence on Easter Island (based on human remains associated with cooking sites, especially in caves) is not definitive evidence for the collapse of civilization.

Benny Peiser
Benny Peiser
Benny Josef Peiser, born 1957, is a social anthropologist specializing in the environmental and socio-economic impact of physical activity on health...

 noted evidence of self-sufficiency when Europeans first arrived. The island still had smaller trees, mainly toromiro
Toromiro
Sophora toromiro, commonly known as Toromiro, is a species of flowering tree in the legume family, Fabaceae, that is endemic to Easter Island. Heavy deforestation had eliminated most of the island's forests by the first half of the 17th century , and the once common toromiro became rare and...

, which became extinct in the 20th century probably because of slow growth and changes in the island's ecosystem. Cornelis Bouman, Jakob Roggeveen
Jakob Roggeveen
Jacob Roggeveen was a Dutch explorer who was sent to find Terra Australis, but he instead came across Easter Island...

's captain, stated in his logbook
Logbook
A logbook was originally a book for recording readings from the chip log, and is used to determine the distance a ship traveled within a certain amount of time...

, "... of yams
Yam (vegetable)
Yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea . These are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania...

, bananas and small coconut palms we saw little and no other trees or crops." According to Carl Friedrich Behrens, Roggeveen's officer, "The natives presented palm branches as peace offerings." According to ethnographer Alfred Mètraux, the most common type of house was called "hare paenga" (and is known today as "boat house") because the roof resembled an overturned boat. The foundations of the houses were made of buried basalt slabs with holes for wooden beams to connect with each other throughout the width of the house. These were then covered with a layer of totora reed, followed by a layer of woven sugarcane leaves, and lastly a layer of woven grass. There were reports by European visitors who said they had seen "boles of large palm trees". Peiser claims that these reports indicate that large trees existed at that time, which is perhaps contradicted by the Bouman quote above. Plantations were often located further inland, next to foothills, inside open-ceiling lava tubes, and in other places protected from the strong salt winds and salt spray affecting areas closer to the coast. It is possible many of the Europeans did not venture inland. The statue quarry, only one kilometre from the coast with an impressive cliff 100 m (328.1 ft) high, was not explored by Europeans until well into the 19th century.

Easter Island has suffered from heavy soil erosion in recent centuries, perhaps aggravated by agriculture and massive deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

. This process seems to have been gradual and may have been aggravated by sheep farming throughout most of the 20th century. Jakob Roggeveen
Jakob Roggeveen
Jacob Roggeveen was a Dutch explorer who was sent to find Terra Australis, but he instead came across Easter Island...

 reported that Easter Island was exceptionally fertile. "Fowls are the only animals they keep. They cultivate bananas, sugar cane, and above all sweet potatoes." In 1786 Jean-François de La Pérouse
Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse
Jean François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse was a French Navy officer and explorer whose expedition vanished in Oceania.-Early career:...

 visited Easter Island and his gardener declared that "three days' work a year" would be enough to support the population.

Rollin, a major in the Pérouse expedition, wrote, "Instead of meeting with men exhausted by famine... I found, on the contrary, a considerable population, with more beauty and grace than I afterwards met in any other island; and a soil, which, with very little labor, furnished excellent provisions, and in an abundance more than sufficient for the consumption of the inhabitants."

According to Diamond, the oral traditions (the veracity of which has been questioned by Routledge, Lavachery
Henri Lavachery
Henri Alfred Lavachery was a Belgian archeologist and ethnologist. In 1934, he became the first professional archaeologist to visit Easter Island, and was later known for his study of its art...

, Mètraux, Peiser and others) of the current islanders seem obsessed with cannibalism, which he offers as evidence supporting a rapid collapse. For example, he states, to severely insult an enemy one would say, "The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth." This, Diamond asserts, means the food supply of the people ultimately ran out. Cannibalism, however, was widespread across Polynesian cultures. Human bones have not been found in earth ovens other than those behind the religious platforms, indicating that cannibalism in Easter Island was a ritualistic practice. Contemporary ethnographic research has proven there is scarcely any tangible evidence for widespread cannibalism anywhere and at any time on the Island. The first scientific exploration of Easter Island (1914) recorded that the indigenous population strongly rejected allegations that they or their ancestors had been cannibals.

Culture



Mythology



The most important myths
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 are:
  • Tangata manu
    Tangata manu
    The Tangata manu , was the winner of a traditional competition on Rapa Nui . The ritual was an annual competition to collect the first Sooty Tern egg of the season from the islet of Motu Nui, swim back to Rapa Nui and climb the sea cliff of Rano Kau to the clifftop village of Orongo.-Myth:In the...

    , the Birdman cult which was practiced until the 1860s.
  • Makemake
    Makemake (mythology)
    Makemake in the Rapa Nui mythology of Easter Island, was the creator of humanity, the god of fertility and the chief god of the "Tangata manu" or bird-man cult .He is a frequent subject of the island's Petroglyphs.-In Astronomy:The trans-Neptunian...

    , an important god.
  • Aku-aku
    Aku-Aku
    Aku-Aku, the Secret of Easter Island is a 1958 book by Thor Heyerdahl that described his research at Rano Raraku and Anakena on the many giant stone statues or moai found on Easter Island and the culture that created them....

    , the guardians of the sacred family caves.
  • Moai-kava-kava a ghost man of the Hanau epe
    Hanau epe
    The Hanau epe or Long-ears were a group of semi-legendary people who are said to have arrived at Easter Island. According to some theories , they were a South American indigenous people, but most evidence suggests that the original Easter Islanders were Polynesian in origin.Sebastian Englert states...

     (long-ears.)
  • Hekai ite umu pare haonga takapu Hanau epe kai noruego, the sacred chant to appease the aku-aku before entering a family cave.

Stone work


The Rapa Nui people had a Stone Age civilization and made extensive use of several different types of local stone:
  • Basalt
    Basalt
    Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

    , a hard, dense stone used for toki and at least one of the moai
    Hoa Hakananai'a
    Hoa Hakananai'a is a moai housed in the British Museum in London. The name Hoa hakanani'a is from the Rapa Nui language; it means "stolen or hidden friend." It was removed from Orongo, Easter Island on 7 November 1868 by the crew of the English ship HMS Topaze, and arrived in Portsmouth on 25...

    .
  • Obsidian
    Obsidian
    Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock.It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth...

    , a volcanic glass with sharp edges used for sharp-edged implements such as Mataa and also for the black pupils of the eyes of the moai.
  • Red scoria
    Scoria
    Scoria is a volcanic rock containing many holes or vesicles. It is most generally dark in color , and basaltic or andesitic in composition. Scoria is relatively low in mass as a result of its numerous macroscopic ellipsoidal vesicles, but in contrast to pumice, all scoria has a specific gravity...

     from Puna Pau
    Puna Pau
    Puna Pau is a quarry in a small crater or cinder cone on the outskirts of Hanga Roa in the south west of Easter Island...

    , a very light red stone used for the pukao and a few moai.
  • Tuff
    Tuff
    Tuff is a type of rock consisting of consolidated volcanic ash ejected from vents during a volcanic eruption. Tuff is sometimes called tufa, particularly when used as construction material, although tufa also refers to a quite different rock. Rock that contains greater than 50% tuff is considered...

     from Rano Raraku
    Rano Raraku
    Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater formed of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff, and located on the lower slopes of Terevaka in the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island. It was a quarry for about 500 years until the early eighteenth century, and supplied the stone from which about 95% of the...

    , a much more easily worked rock than basalt, and was used for most of the moai.

Moai (statues)


The large stone statues, or moai
Moai
Moai , or mo‘ai, are monolithic human figures carved from rock on the Chilean Polynesian island of Easter Island between the years 1250 and 1500. Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahu around the...

, for which Easter Island is world-famous, were carved from 1100–1680 CE (rectified radio-carbon dates). A total of 887 monolithic stone statues have been inventoried on the island and in museum collections so far. Although often identified as "Easter Island heads", the statues are actually torsos, with most of them ending at the top of the thighs, although a small number of them are complete, with the figures kneeling on bent knees with their hands over their stomachs. Some upright moai have become buried up to their necks by shifting soils.

Almost all (95%) moai were carved out of distinctive, compressed, easily worked solidified volcanic ash or tuff
Tuff
Tuff is a type of rock consisting of consolidated volcanic ash ejected from vents during a volcanic eruption. Tuff is sometimes called tufa, particularly when used as construction material, although tufa also refers to a quite different rock. Rock that contains greater than 50% tuff is considered...

 found at a single site inside the extinct volcano Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater formed of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff, and located on the lower slopes of Terevaka in the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island. It was a quarry for about 500 years until the early eighteenth century, and supplied the stone from which about 95% of the...

. The native islanders who carved them used only stone hand chisels, mainly basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

 toki, which lie in place all over the quarry. The stone chisels were sharpened by chipping off a new edge when dulled. The volcanic stone was first wetted to soften it before sculpting began, then again periodically during the process. While many teams worked on different statues at the same time, a single moai took a team of five or six men approximately one year to complete. Each statue represented the deceased head of a lineage.



Only a quarter of the statues were installed, while nearly half remained in the quarry at Rano Raraku and the rest sat elsewhere, probably on their way to final locations. The largest moai ever raised on a platform is known as "Paro". It weighs 82 tons and 9.8 m (32.15 ft) long. Several other statues of similar weight were transported to several ahu on the North and South coasts. It is not yet known how they transported the statues. Possibilities include employing a miro manga erua, a Y-shaped sledge with cross pieces, pulled with ropes made from the tough bark of the hau-hau tree, and tied around the statue's neck. Anywhere from 180 to 250 men were required for pulling, depending on the size of the moai. Some 50 of the statues were re-erected in modern times. One of the first was on Ahu Ature Huke in Anakena
Anakena
Anakena is a white coral sand beach in Rapa Nui National Park on Rapa Nui , a Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. Anakena has two ahus, one with a single moai and the other with six...

 beach in 1958. It was raised using traditional methods during a Heyerdahl expedition.

Recently, a large Moai statue was excavated from the ground, suggesting that the statues are much older and larger than previously thought. http://www.eisp.org/3879/

Ahu



Ahu are stone platforms. Varying greatly in layout, many were reworked during or after the huri mo'ai or statue–toppling era; many became ossuaries
Ossuary
An ossuary is a chest, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeletal remains. They are frequently used where burial space is scarce. A body is first buried in a temporary grave, then after some years the skeletal remains are removed and placed in an ossuary...

; one was dynamited open; and Ahu Tongariki
Ahu Tongariki
Ahu Tongariki is the largest ahu on Rapa Nui/Easter Island . Its moai were toppled during the island's civil wars and in the twentieth century the ahu was swept inland by a tsunami. It has since been restored and has fifteen moai including an 86 tonne moai that was the heaviest ever erected on the...

 was swept inland by a tsunami
Tsunami
A tsunami is a series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, typically an ocean or a large lake...

. Of the 313 known ahu, 125 carried moai—usually just one, probably because of the shortness of the moai period and transportation difficulties. Ahu Tongariki
Ahu Tongariki
Ahu Tongariki is the largest ahu on Rapa Nui/Easter Island . Its moai were toppled during the island's civil wars and in the twentieth century the ahu was swept inland by a tsunami. It has since been restored and has fifteen moai including an 86 tonne moai that was the heaviest ever erected on the...

, one kilometer from Rano Raraku, had the most and tallest moai, 15 in total. Other notable ahu with moai are Ahu Akivi
Ahu Akivi
Ahu Akivi is an ahu with seven moai on Rapa Nui in Chilean Polynesia. The ahu and its moai were restored in 1960 by the American archaeologist William Mulloy and his Chilean colleague, Gonzalo Figueroa García-Huidobro...

, restored in 1960 by William Mulloy
William Mulloy
William Thomas Mulloy, Jr. was an American anthropologist. While his early research established him as a formidable scholar and skillful fieldwork supervisor in the province of North American Plains archaeology, he is best known for his studies of Polynesian prehistory, especially his...

, Nau Nau at Anakena
Anakena
Anakena is a white coral sand beach in Rapa Nui National Park on Rapa Nui , a Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. Anakena has two ahus, one with a single moai and the other with six...

 and Tahai. Some moai may have been made from wood and were lost.

The classic elements of ahu design are:
  • A retaining rear wall several feet high, usually facing the sea
  • A front wall made of rectangular basalt slabs called paenga
  • A facia made of red scoria that went over the front wall (platforms built after 1300)
  • A sloping ramp in the inland part of the platform, extending outward like wings
  • A pavement of even–sized, round water–worn stones called poro
  • An alignment of stones before the ramp
  • A paved plaza before the ahu. This was called marae
  • Inside the ahu was a fill of rubble.


On top of many ahu would have been:
  • Moai on squareish "pedestals" looking inland, the ramp with the poro before them.
  • Pukao or Hau Hiti Rau on the moai heads (platforms built after 1300).
  • When a ceremony took place, "eyes" were placed on the Statues. The whites of the eyes were made of coral, the iris was made of obsidian or red scoria.


Ahu evolved from the traditional Polynesian marae
Marae
A marae malae , malae , is a communal or sacred place which serves religious and social purposes in Polynesian societies...

. In this context ahu referred to a small structure sometimes covered with a thatched roof where sacred objects, including statues, were stored. The ahu were usually adjacent to the marae or main central court where ceremonies took place, though on Easter Island ahu and moai evolved to much greater size. There the marae is the unpaved plaza before the ahu. The biggest ahu is 220 metres (721.8 ft) and holds 15 statues, some of which are 9 metres (29.5 ft) high. The filling of an ahu was sourced locally (apart from broken, old moai, fragments of which have also been used in the fill). Individual stones are mostly far smaller than the moai, so less work was needed to transport the raw material, but artificially leveling the terrain for the plaza and filling the ahu was laborious.

Ahu are found mostly on the coast, where they are distributed fairly evenly except on the western slopes of Mount Terevaka
Terevaka
Ma′unga Terevaka is the largest, tallest and youngest of three main extinct volcanoes that form Rapa Nui...

 and the Rano Kau
Rano Kau
Rano Kau is a tall extinct volcano that forms the southwestern headland of Easter Island, a Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. It was formed of basaltic lava flows in the Pleistocene with its youngest rocks dated at between 150,000 and 210,000 years ago.- The crater :Rano Kau has a crater...

 and Poike
Poike
Poike is one of three main extinct volcanoes that form Rapa Nui . At 370 metres, it is the island's second highest peak after Terevaka.right|275 px|thumb|[[Ahu Tongariki]] with Poike in the background...

 headlands. These are the three areas with the least low–lying coastal land, and apart from Poike the furthest areas from Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku
Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater formed of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff, and located on the lower slopes of Terevaka in the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island. It was a quarry for about 500 years until the early eighteenth century, and supplied the stone from which about 95% of the...

. One ahu with several moai was recorded on the cliffs at Rano Kau in the 1880s, but had fallen to the beach before the Routledge expedition
Katherine Routledge
Katherine Maria Routledge, née Pease was a British archaeologist who initiated the first true survey of Easter Island....

.

Stone walls


One of the highest-quality examples of Easter Island stone masonry is the rear wall of the ahu at Vinapu
Ahu Vinapu
Ahu Vinapu is an archaeological site on Rapa Nui in Chilean Polynesia.The ceremonial center of Vinapu includes one of the larger ahu on Rapa Nui. The ahu exhibits extraordinary stonemasonry consisting of large, carefully fitted slabs of basalt...

. Made without mortar by shaping hard basalt
Basalt
Basalt is a common extrusive volcanic rock. It is usually grey to black and fine-grained due to rapid cooling of lava at the surface of a planet. It may be porphyritic containing larger crystals in a fine matrix, or vesicular, or frothy scoria. Unweathered basalt is black or grey...

 rocks of up to seven ton
Ton
The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

s to match each other exactly, it has a superficial similarity to some Inca stone walls in South America.

Stone houses


Two types of houses are known from the past: hare paenga, a house with an elliptical foundation, made with basalt slabs and covered with a thatched roof that resembled an overturned boat, and hare oka, a round stone structure. Related stone structures called Tupa look very similar to the hare oka, except that the Tupa were inhabited by astronomer-priests and located near the coast, where the movements of the stars could be easily observed. Settlements also contain hare moa ("chicken house"), oblong stone structures that were used to house chickens. The houses at the ceremonial village of Orongo
Orongo
‘Orongo is a stone village and ceremonial centre at the southwestern tip of Rapa Nui . The first half of the ceremonial village's 53 stone masonry houses were investigated and restored in 1974 by American archaeologist William Mulloy...

 are unique in that they are shaped like hare paenga but are made entirely of flat basalt slabs found inside Rano Kao crater. The entrances to all the houses are very low, and entry requires crawling.

In early times the people of Rapa Nui reportedly set the dead out to sea in small funerary canoes, as did their Polynesian counterparts in other islands. They later started burying people in secret caves in order to save the bones from desecration by enemies. During the turmoil of the late 18th century, the islanders seem to have started to bury their dead in the space between the belly of a fallen moai and the front wall of the structure. During the time of the epidemics they made mass graves that were semi-pyramidal stone structures.

Petroglyphs


Petroglyph
Petroglyph
Petroglyphs are pictogram and logogram images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, and abrading. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", "engraving", or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images...

s
are pictures carved into rock, and Easter Island has one of the richest collections in all Polynesia
Polynesia
Polynesia is a subregion of Oceania, made up of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean. The indigenous people who inhabit the islands of Polynesia are termed Polynesians and they share many similar traits including language, culture and beliefs...

. Around 1,000 sites with more than 4,000 petroglyphs are catalogued. Designs and images were carved out of rock for a variety of reasons: to create totems, to mark territory or to memorialize a person or event. There are distinct variations around the island in terms of the frequency of particular themes among petroglyphs, with a concentration of Birdmen at Orongo
Orongo
‘Orongo is a stone village and ceremonial centre at the southwestern tip of Rapa Nui . The first half of the ceremonial village's 53 stone masonry houses were investigated and restored in 1974 by American archaeologist William Mulloy...

. Other subjects include sea turtle
Sea turtle
Sea turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all of the world's oceans except the Arctic.-Distribution:...

s, Komari (vulvas) and Makemake
Makemake (mythology)
Makemake in the Rapa Nui mythology of Easter Island, was the creator of humanity, the god of fertility and the chief god of the "Tangata manu" or bird-man cult .He is a frequent subject of the island's Petroglyphs.-In Astronomy:The trans-Neptunian...

, the chief god of the Tangata manu
Tangata manu
The Tangata manu , was the winner of a traditional competition on Rapa Nui . The ritual was an annual competition to collect the first Sooty Tern egg of the season from the islet of Motu Nui, swim back to Rapa Nui and climb the sea cliff of Rano Kau to the clifftop village of Orongo.-Myth:In the...

or Birdman cult.

Petroglyphs are also common in the Marquesas islands.

Caves


The island and neighboring Motu Nui
Motu Nui
Motu Nui is the largest of three islets just south of Easter Island and is the most westerly place in Chile. All three islets have sea birds but Motu Nui was also an essential location for the Tangata manu cult which was the island religion between the moai era and the Christian times...

 are riddled with caves, many of which show signs of past human use for planting and as fortifications, including narrowed entrances and crawl spaces with ambush points. Many caves feature in the myths and legends of the Rapa Nui.


Rongorongo



Easter Island once had an apparent script called rongorongo
Rongorongo
Rongorongo is a system of glyphs discovered in the 19th century on Easter Island that appears to be writing or proto-writing. It cannot be read despite numerous attempts at decipherment. Although some calendrical and what might prove to be genealogical information has been identified, not even...

. Glyphs include pictographic and geometric shapes; the texts were incised in wood in reverse boustrophedon
Boustrophedon
Boustrophedon , is a type of bi-directional text, mostly seen in ancient manuscripts and other inscriptions. Every other line of writing is flipped or reversed, with reversed letters. Rather than going left-to-right as in modern English, or right-to-left as in Arabic and Hebrew, alternate lines in...

 direction. It was first reported by a French missionary, Eugène Eyraud
Eugène Eyraud
Eugène Eyraud was a lay friar of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the first Westerner to live on Easter Island.- Early life :...

, in 1864. At that time, several islanders said they could understand the writing, but according to tradition, only ruling families and priests were ever literate, and none survived the slave raids and subsequent epidemics. Despite numerous attempts, the surviving texts have not been deciphered, and without decipherment it is not certain that they are actually writing. Part of the problem is the small amount that has survived: only two dozen texts, none of which remain on the island. There are also only a couple similarities with the petroglyphs on the island.

Wood carving


Wood was scarce on Easter Island during the 18th and 19th centuries, but a number of highly detailed and distinctive carvings have found their way to the world's museums. Particular forms include:
  • Reimiro
    Reimiro
    A reimiro is a decorative crescent-shaped pectoral ornament once worn by the women of Easter Island. The name comes from the Rapanui rei 'stern' or 'prow' and miro 'boat'. Thus the crescent represents a Polynesian canoe....

    , a gorget
    Gorget
    A gorget originally was a steel or leather collar designed to protect the throat. It was a feature of older types of armour and intended to protect against swords and other non-projectile weapons...

     or breast ornament of crescent shape with a head at one or both tips. The same design appears on the flag of Rapa Nui
    Flag of Rapa Nui
    The flag of Easter Island, also known as the flag of Rapa Nui or Isla de Pascua, is a white flag charged with a red Reimiro, an Easter Island wood carving. The red Reimiro was made out of wood and worn by the women of Rapa Nui. It was adopted on 9 May, 2006.-References:...

    . Two Rei Miru at the British Museum are inscribed with Rongorongo.
  • Moko Miro, a man with a lizard head
  • Moai kavakava
    Moai kavakava
    A mo‘ai kavakava is a small wooden figure of a standing, slightly stooped male with an emaciated body.These figures originate from Rapa Nui . The name mo‘ai kavakava is formed from mo‘ai for the monumental monolithic human figures found on Easter Island and the word kavakava meaning ribs...

    , grotesque and highly detailed human figures carved from Toromiro pine, representing ancestors. The earlier figures are rare and generally depict a male figure with an emaciated body and a goatee. The figures' ribs and vertebrae are exposed and many examples show carved glyphs on various parts of the body but more specifically, on the top of the head. The female figures, rarer then the males, depict the body as flat and often with the female's hand lying across the body. The figures, although some were quite large, were worn as ornamental pieces around a tribesman's neck. The more figures worn, the more important the man. The figures have a shiny patina
    Patina
    Patina is a tarnish that forms on the surface of bronze and similar metals ; a sheen on wooden furniture produced by age, wear, and polishing; or any such acquired change of a surface through age and exposure...

     developed from constant handling and contact with human skin.
  • Ao, a large dancing paddle

Twenty-first century culture


The Rapanui
Rapanui
The Rapa Nui or Rapanui are the native Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in the Pacific Ocean. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the Rapa Nui people make up 60% of Easter Island's population, with some living also in mainland Chile...

 sponsor an annual festival, the Tapati, held since 1975 around the beginning of February to celebrate Rapanui culture. The islanders also maintain a national football team
CF Rapa Nui
CF Rapa Nui is an association football team from Chile which represents the territory of Easter Island at association football. Their home games are played at the Estadio de Hanga Roa, which has a capacity of approximately 2,500 people....

 and three disco
Disco
Disco is a genre of dance music. Disco acts charted high during the mid-1970s, and the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1970s. It had its roots in clubs that catered to African American, gay, psychedelic, and other communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and...

s in the town of Hanga Roa
Hanga Roa
Hanga Roa is the main town, harbour and capital of the Chilean province of Easter Island. It is located in the southern part of the island's west coast, in the lowlands between the extinct volcanoes of Terevaka and Rano Kau....

. Other cultural activities include a musical tradition
Music of Easter Island
Easter Island is located in the Pacific Ocean. Though its earliest inhabitants are ethnically Polynesian, the island is part of the South American state of Chile.-History:...

 that combines South American and Polynesian influences and woodcarving.

Demography


2002 census


Population at the 2002 census was 3,791; 60% were Rapanui, Chileans
Demographics of Chile
This article is about the demographic features of Chile, including population density, ethnicity, economic status and other aspects of the population....

 of European or castizo
Castizo
Castizo is a Spanish word with a general meaning of "pure" or "genuine". The feminine form is castiza. From this meaning it evolved other meanings, such as "typical of an area" and it was also used for one of the colonial Spanish race categories, the castas, that evolved in the seventeenth...

 descent were 39% of the population, and the remaining 1% were Native Americans
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 from mainland Chile. Castizos may include people of European and Rapanui or European, Native American, and Rapanui descent. Rapanui have also migrated out of the island. Population density on Easter Island is only 23 PD/sqkm. The Rapanui today are trying to restrict immigration of mainland Chileans, which requires a change in the Chilean constitution.

Demographic history


The 1982 population was 1,936. The increase in population in the last census was partly caused by the arrival of people of European
European ethnic groups
The ethnic groups in Europe are the various ethnic groups that reside in the nations of Europe. European ethnology is the field of anthropology focusing on Europe....

 or castizo
Castizo
Castizo is a Spanish word with a general meaning of "pure" or "genuine". The feminine form is castiza. From this meaning it evolved other meanings, such as "typical of an area" and it was also used for one of the colonial Spanish race categories, the castas, that evolved in the seventeenth...

 descent from the Chilean mainland. However, most married a Rapanui partner. Around 70% of the population were natives. Estimates of the pre–European population range from 7–17,000. Easter Island's all-time low of 111 inhabitants was reported in 1877. Out of these 111 Rapanui, only 36 had descendants, but all of today's Rapanui claim descent from those 36.

Administration and legal status



Easter Island shares with Juan Fernández Islands
Juan Fernández Islands
The Juan Fernández Islands are a sparsely inhabited island group reliant on tourism and fishing in the South Pacific Ocean, situated about off the coast of Chile, and is composed of three main volcanic islands; Robinson Crusoe Island, Alejandro Selkirk Island and Santa Clara Island, the first...

 the sui generis
Sui generis
Sui generis is a Latin expression, literally meaning of its own kind/genus or unique in its characteristics. The expression is often used in analytic philosophy to indicate an idea, an entity, or a reality which cannot be included in a wider concept....

constitutional status of "special territory" of Chile, granted in 2007. As of 2011 a special charter for the island was under discussion in the Chilean Congress.

Administratively, the island is a province
Provinces of Chile
A province is the second largest administrative division in Chile, after a region. Each region is divided into provinces. There are 54 provinces in total....

 of the Valparaíso Region
Valparaíso Region
The V Valparaíso Region is one of Chile's 15 first order administrative divisions.Valparaíso Region, 2006 With the country's third highest population of 1,539,852 million in 2002 and third smallest area of , the region is Chile's second most densely populated after the Santiago Metropolitan Region...

 and contains a single commune (comuna). Both the province and the commune are called Isla de Pascua and encompass the whole island and its surrounding islets and rocks, plus Isla Salas y Gómez, some 380 km (236 mi) to the east.

Authorities and representatives


Within the electoral divisions of Chile, Easter Island belongs to the 13th electoral district and 6th senatorial constituency. Together with the commune of Juan Fernández
Juan Fernández Islands
The Juan Fernández Islands are a sparsely inhabited island group reliant on tourism and fishing in the South Pacific Ocean, situated about off the coast of Chile, and is composed of three main volcanic islands; Robinson Crusoe Island, Alejandro Selkirk Island and Santa Clara Island, the first...

, the people are represented in the Chamber of Deputies
Chamber of Deputies
Chamber of deputies is the name given to a legislative body such as the lower house of a bicameral legislature, or can refer to a unicameral legislature.-Description:...

 by Joaquín Godoy (RN
National Renewal (Chile)
National Renewal , is a liberal conservative political party belonging to the Chilean right-wing political coalition Coalition for Change in conjunction with the Independent Democratic Union and the Chile First movement...

) and Aldo Cornejo (PDC). Constituents are also represented by two senators
Senate of Chile
The Senate of the Republic of Chile is the upper house of Chile's bicameral National Congress, as established in the current Constitution of Chile.-Composition:...

, Francisco Chahuán (RN) and Ricardo Lagos Weber
Ricardo Lagos Weber
Ricardo Andrés Lagos Weber , son of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, is a politician who served as the Ministry General Secretariat of Government of Chile in the administration of former President Michelle Bachelet after having worked for Bachelet's 2005-2006 campaign...

 (PPD
Party for Democracy
The Party for Democracy is a political party in Chile; it is social democratic in its political orientation. It was founded in December 1987 by Ricardo Lagos, who aimed at forming a legal social democratic party . The party continued to function after the defeat of Pinochet...

).
  • Provincial Governor
    Governor
    A governor is a governing official, usually the executive of a non-sovereign level of government, ranking under the head of state...

    : Pedro Pablo Edmunds Paoa
    Pedro Pablo Edmunds Paoa
    Pedro Pablo Petero Edmunds Paoa is a Chilean Christian Democrat politician. He is currently the governor of the Easter Island Province...

     (2010–). Appointed by the President of the Republic
    President of Chile
    The President of the Republic of Chile is both the head of state and the head of government of the Republic of Chile. The President is responsible of the government and state administration...

    .
  • Mayor
    Alcalde
    Alcalde , or Alcalde ordinario, is the traditional Spanish municipal magistrate, who had both judicial and administrative functions. An alcalde was, in the absence of a corregidor, the presiding officer of the Castilian cabildo and judge of first instance of a town...

    : Luz Zasso Paoa (PDC), directly-elected for four years (2008–2012). Municipality
    Municipality
    A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...

     located in Hanga Roa
    Hanga Roa
    Hanga Roa is the main town, harbour and capital of the Chilean province of Easter Island. It is located in the southern part of the island's west coast, in the lowlands between the extinct volcanoes of Terevaka and Rano Kau....

    .

  • Municipal council
    Municipal council
    A municipal council is the local government of a municipality. Specifically the term can refer to the institutions of various countries that can be translated by this term...

    , directly elected for four years (2008–2012):
    • Marta Raquel Hotus Tuki (PDC)
    • Ximena Trengove Vallejos (PDC)
    • Julio Araki Tepano (UDI
      Independent Democrat Union
      The Independent Democrat Union is a Chilean right-wing, conservative political party, founded in 1983. Its main inspirer was the lawyer, politician and law professor Jaime Guzmán, a former senator of the Republic of Chile from 1990 until his assassination on April 1, 1991.Its ideological origins...

      )
    • Eliana Amelia Olivares San Juan (UDI)
    • Alberto Hotus Chávez (PPD)
    • Marcelo Pont Hill (PPD)

Notable people

  • Hotu Matuʻa – island founder
  • King Nga'ara
    King Nga'ara
    Nga‘araThe name Nga‘ara has been variously spelled Gnaara, Gaara, Ngaara, Nga-Ara, Gahara, and Gobara. The letter g is a common convention in the Pacific for the ng-sound , and Roussel, the one who transcribed the name as Gahara, frequently used h for glottal stop...

     – One of the last ‘ariki
    Ariki
    An Ariki , ‘Ariki , Aliki , Ali‘i , Ari'i or ‘Eiki is or was a member of a hereditary chiefly or noble rank in Polynesia.-Aotearoa Ariki:Political leadership or governance in Māori society has traditionally come from two...

  • Kings of Easter Island
    Kings of Easter Island
    - The First King :The legendary first king of Easter Island is said to have been Hotu Matu‘a, who supposedly arrived around 500 to 600. Legend insists that this man was the chief of a tribe that lived on Marae Renga. The Marae Renga is said to have existed in a place known as the "Hiva region"...

  • Thor Heyerdahl
    Thor Heyerdahl
    Thor Heyerdahl was a Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer with a background in zoology and geography. He became notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition, in which he sailed by raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands...

     – ethnographer
  • Fr Sebastian Englert, OFM Cap.
    Sebastian Englert
    Father Sebastian Englert OFM Cap., was a Capuchin Franciscan friar, Roman Catholic priest, missionary, linguist and ethnologist from Germany....

     – missionary and ethnologist
  • William Mulloy
    William Mulloy
    William Thomas Mulloy, Jr. was an American anthropologist. While his early research established him as a formidable scholar and skillful fieldwork supervisor in the province of North American Plains archaeology, he is best known for his studies of Polynesian prehistory, especially his...

     – archaeologist
  • Pedro Pablo Edmunds Paoa
    Pedro Pablo Edmunds Paoa
    Pedro Pablo Petero Edmunds Paoa is a Chilean Christian Democrat politician. He is currently the governor of the Easter Island Province...

     – former Governor
  • Melania Carolina Hotu Hey
    Melania Carolina Hotu Hey
    Melania Carolina Hotu Hey served as the provincial governor of Easter Island , in Chilean Polynesia, from March 11, 2006 to March 18, 2010. She was appointed in 2006 by newly elected Chilean President Michelle Bachelet Jeria as part of the President's undertaking to increase female representation...

     – former Governor (2006–2010)
  • Juan Edmunds Rapahango
    Juan Edmunds Rapahango
    Juan Edmunds Rapahango is a retired Rapa Nui politician, the former Mayor of Hanga Roa, the municipality of Rapa Nui , in Chilean Polynesia. He is the son of Henry Percy Edmunds, director of the Williamson-Balfour Company, and Victoria Rapahango, an important native respondent for early...

     – former Mayor

Transportation


Easter Island is served by Mataveri International Airport
Mataveri International Airport
-See also:*Extreme points of Earth*Shuttle Down, a 1980 novel by American author G. Harry Stine , which gives a fictional account of the Space Shuttle Atlantis making an emergency landing.-External links:***...

, with jet service (currently Boeing 767
Boeing 767
The Boeing 767 is a mid-size, wide-body twin-engine jet airliner built by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It was the manufacturer's first wide-body twinjet and its first airliner with a two-crew glass cockpit. The aircraft features two turbofan engines, a supercritical wing, and a conventional tail...

's) from Lan Airlines
LAN Airlines
LAN Airlines S.A. is an airline based in Santiago, Chile. LAN is currently positioned amongst the largest airlines in Latin America, serving Latin America, United States, the Caribbean, Oceania, and Europe. It is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance...

 and, seasonally, subsidiaries such as Lan Peru
LAN Peru
LAN Perú S.A. is an airline based in Lima, Peru. It is a subsidiary of Chilean publicly-traded company LAN Airlines , which owns 49% of the airline. It operates scheduled domestic and international services. Its main base is on the grounds of Jorge Chávez International Airport...

.

See also



  • Omphalos
    Omphalos
    An omphalos is an ancient religious stone artifact, or baetylus. In Greek, the word omphalos means "navel" . According to the ancient Greeks, Zeus sent out two eagles to fly across the world to meet at its center, the "navel" of the world...

  • List of megalithic sites
  • Mataveri International Airport
    Mataveri International Airport
    -See also:*Extreme points of Earth*Shuttle Down, a 1980 novel by American author G. Harry Stine , which gives a fictional account of the Space Shuttle Atlantis making an emergency landing.-External links:***...

     

  • Podesta (island)
    Podesta (island)
    Podesta is a phantom island reported at by the Italian Captain Pinocchio of the vessel Barone Podestà in 1879 claiming it to be just over a kilometre in circumference located 1390 km due west of El Quisco, Chile. It was originally located 900 miles west of Chile's coast...

  • Rapa Nui language
    Rapa Nui language
    Rapa Nui , also known as Pascuan or Pascuense, is an Eastern Polynesian language spoken on the island of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island....

  • Rapa Nui mythology
    Rapa Nui mythology
    The Rapa Nui mythology, also known as Pascuense mythology or Easter Island mythology, is the name given to the myths, legends and beliefs of the native Rapanui people of the island of Rapa Nui , located in the south eastern Pacific Ocean, almost four thousand kilometers from continental...



External links


  • Chile Cultural Society - Easter Island
  • Rapa Nui Digital Media Archive (creative commons-licensed photos, laser scans, panoramas), focused in the area around Rano Raraku and Ahu Te Pito Kura with data from a Autodesk/CyArk
    CyArk
    CyArk is a 501 nonprofit organization located in Oakland, California, United States. The company's website refers to it as a "digital archive of the world’s heritage sites for preservation and education"...

    research partnership
  • Easter Island