Easter Island 

Easter Island : is one of the loneliest and most isolated islands on Earth.  It is located approximately 2000 miles from South America in one direction; and approximately 2000 miles from a few pacific islands in another.  Easter Island is famed for its remarkable stone statues, with one or more of them scattered every few hundred yards, around the grassy slopes of the island.  The massive stone statues are thought to represent stone guardian gods, but exactly where they came from does remain a mystery.  It is thought that the Easter Islanders made the stones by copying the faces of their ancestors as the result of some form of ancestor worship.

"There are statues, but smaller ones, of stone and wood, on other Polynesian Islands," reveals Jo Anne Tilburg, director of the 'Easter Island Statue Project' at the University of California.

"We think of those giant heads as gazing out to sea, but they don't.  The gods face inwards, turning their backs on the sea to protect the fields and villages.  Some are lined up on platforms over burial chambers; some are grouped around the quarry where they were made."

Strangely enough, when the statues were made around a tenth of them were wearing hats, which were made of scarlet stone and sat balanced upon their heads.

"They represented feather headdresses of some kind," says Van Tilburg.

"They may have been status symbols, showing the rank of people in a higher social position - priests, chiefs or someone higher in the hierarchy.  They also had eyes.

Easter Island was so named when it was discovered by a Dutch sea voyager called Admiral Jacob Roggeveen on 5 April 1722.  The day was Easter Sunday, and so it was called Easter Island.

It is now believed that the island was first inhabited around 400 A.D. and that the islanders carved out small statues and ceremonial platforms, for many centuries.  This continued till around 1100 A.D. when the islanders began to create the first stone giants, which were carved directly from the walls of a dormant volcano called 'Rano Raraku'.  The majority of the statues weighed 25-40 tonnes and stood 3.5-7.5 (12-25 feet) tall.  However this size was to increase over the years, with one incomplete example still laid inside the crater at Rano Raraku.  This statue is reported as weighing approximately 270 tonnes with a length of around 21 metres (70 feet).

Sadly, the real meaning of the statues has been lost, because in 1862 a Peruvian slave ship abducted the majority of the Easter Island's men.  They were transported to Peru to work in the mines.  Many died, but those who survived became infected with smallpox which they inadvertently took home with them on their return.  By 1877, there were only 111 islander left, and those who could decipher the unique picture writing carved on wooden slabs had perished.  Today the writing remains undeciphered leaving the island, its population and statues shrouded in mystery.


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