Rapa Nui National Park (World Heritage)

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The large stone sculptures, the so-called moais, on Easter Island, which the indigenous people called Rapa Nui, are world-famous. According to pharmacylib, 3700 km from mainland South America and 4200 km from Tahiti, Easter Island is one of the most isolated places on earth.

Rapa Nui National Park: Facts

Official title: Rapa Nui National Park (Easter Island)
Cultural monument: Easter Island, also known as “Te Pito O Te Henua”, d. H. “Navel of the World” and Rapa Nui (“Big Island”); there so-called stone sculptures (Moai) on ceremonial platforms (Ahu), such as Ahu Te Pito Kura, Ahu Huri A Urenga and Ahu Akivi, largest colossal figure 20.9 m; 254 ahu and almost 1000 moais weighing up to 240 t, plus more than 4000 rock carvings with Vogelmann representations
Continent: Australia / Oceania
Country: Chile
Location: Rapa Nui (Easter Island), about 3800 km west of mainland South America (Chile)
Appointment: 1995
Meaning: unique stone evidence of Polynesian culture

Rapa Nui National Park: History

probably around 380 Polynesian settlement
1722 Sighting of the islands by the Dutch captain Jacob Roggeveen
1770 Spanish expedition
1774 Landing of Captain James Cook
1786 Landing of a French expedition
1862 Landing of Peruvian ships and enslavement of more than 1000 islanders
1864 “Discovery” of the only written language in Oceania from the time before the 20th century on so-called “talking woods” (Kohau rongorongo)
1888 Annexation by Chile
1934/35 Franco-Belgian expedition and transport of a stone statue to the Jubelparkmuseum (Brussels)
1955/56 Norwegian archaeological expedition with Thor Heyerdal
1986 Expedition of the Norwegian Kon-Tiki Museum

The “wandering stone figures” of Easter Island

“Land in sight!” Yelled a shout from the lookout of the Dutch sailing ship “Afrikaansche Galei”, on whose deck the crew had gathered to hear mass on Easter Sunday. Captain Jacob Roggeveen paused in amazement and then gave the order to anchor. In the middle of the Pacific, thousands of kilometers from the nearest islands, he wasn’t really expecting any land. Roggeveen noted: “(…) we named (…) the island Paasch Eyland (Easter Island) because we discovered it at Easter.”

When the superstitious sailors saw the island’s huge stone figures, they cried out in amazement and horror. Roggeveen wrote in his on-board journal with astonishment: “These stone figures fill us with astonishment, because we cannot understand how people without fixed lifting trees and without ropes were able to erect them.” For the islanders this was no problem at all, because they were convinced that the »Moais«, which weighed tons, wandered to their place alone with the help of the magical power of their priests!

The huge stone statues established the glory of Easter Island. They are and remain the symbol of a past that has remained mysterious to this day. Why is so little known about this unique culture? When the first scientifically interested researchers arrived in 1934, almost all islanders had been abducted by unscrupulous whalers and slave hunters. And with them not only the royal family but also the priestly class with all their knowledge had been destroyed.

We owe a lot of interesting information to the English researcher Katherine Routledge and the French Alfred Métraux for their precise records. The Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl raised the awareness of the Easter Island statues in the mid-1950s with his “Norwegian Archaeological Expedition”.

It is certain that the residents of Easter Island are of Polynesian descent. According to oral tradition, King Hotu Matua and his followers are said to have reached the uninhabited island in two double canoes, which for them became “Te Pito O Te Henua” – the “navel of the world”. Their descendants formed several tribes, each of which built a cult and grave complex on their territory. A platform (»Ahu«) was built from mighty, precisely intermingled stone blocks, on which the huge statues (»Moai«) were placed. You stand with your back to the sea and look at the fairground in front of you with an expression that seems haughty to us. Over the centuries the style of the figures changed, the heads became elongated, the facial features more pronounced and stylized, the ornaments on the body more artistic.

It was only recently, during the excavation of the Ahu Nau Nau, that it was found that the statues had eyes that “looked up at the sky” instead of sightless eyes. The many plate-sized obsidian discs that were found on the statues and whose function was previously unexplained, formed the black pupils that sat in the eye sockets lined with white limestone.

The statues were carved out of the slopes of the Rano Raraku, an extinct volcano. This is where the statues lie and stand, commenced and almost finished, as if suddenly touched by a magic wand and frozen for centuries, spread over a huge area. Métraux was fascinated: “You walk around this quarry as if it were a holiday. The workers have just gone into the village, but they will come back tomorrow. Again the slopes of the mountain will echo with the blows of stone hammers. Laughter will be heard. You will hear the conversations and the rhythmic chants of the men towing the statues. Why shouldn’t the sculptors return? They have left their tools at the feet of their works: you only have to bend down to pick up the tools. ”

Rapa Nui National Park (World Heritage)

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