Moai statues: the story
They are Easter Island’s most iconic monument, with more than 900 statues spread out across its land. What do they represent and where do they come from? In today’s blog, we share the principal theories behind these mythical constructions.
It’s said that the origin of the very first moai, or Easter Island statues, dates back to the year 700 AD and continues on until 1600 AD. There are more than 900 of these volcanic rock structures position all over the island. They attract attention from the world over, particularly because of their imposing size and the reported mysteries relating to their creation. With more than 900 of these “Easter Island heads” distributed all over Easter Island, they are, without a doubt, the area’s most representative symbol.
How did the moai, or Easter Island heads, first appear? How were they made and how were they transported from one place to another? There are many theories. Here, we share a few…
In the Rapa Nui language, the Easter Island statues are called Moai Aringa Ora, which means “the living face of our ancestors”. The most common interpretation is that these statues were created in order to preserve the energy of the natives after death. What’s more, it’s believed that this energy controlled the harvests and the animals.
According to various studies, the tradition of sculpting statues comes from ancient Polynesian customs. They were sculptured in a different range of volcanic rocks, including basalt, red scortia, and trachyte. Rocks from the Rano Raraku Volcano, were also extracted. The moai, or Easter Island statues, were carved directly from the rock.
This is an area of much debate. One of the most popular theories is that the Easter Island statues were tied up with rope and then moved by a group of people working together. Another theory claims that they were moved by laying them down on top of a wooden platform, which was then used to push them around.
The greatest number of these structures are positioned close to the Rano Raraku Volcano. It’s believed that the moai, or Easter Island statues, that are incomplete or situated in the remotest places on the island, were abandoned when being transported. A total of 280 Easter Island heads have been mounted on an ahu; stone platforms upon which the moai can then be placed vertically. A recent study, managed by the State University of California, suggests that a pattern exists with regards to the way in which the Easter Island statues are organized. The investigation explores the idea that these statues were deliberately positioned as a way of marking water points, a natural resource that used to be quite difficult to find. The theory toys with this idea owing to the extreme proximity between the moai and established fresh water points.
If you’d like to explore the history of the Easter Island heads, and other places on the island, in more detail, feel free to make a reservation here.