Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for Easter Island

Yes, this is one of those ones that most will have probably heard of, but E is a hard letter, okay!?!?

 is for Easter Island.

This is the first one I've researched where the first links that come up are tourism sites for those Easter Island bound. The Carnac Stones can be visited, but from behind a fence, and it is not a huge tourist destination except locally.

Easter Island is part of the Polynesian island chain. It was named by its discoverer, Admiral Roggeveen, who discovered it on Easter, but it is locally known as Rapa Nui. It is populated, but the population has gone up and down in the past due to overpopulation resulting in deforestation, colonialism introducing disease, new colonial population, civil war, cannibalism, etc.

The draw to this volcanic island (though the three volcanoes that make it up are extinct) are the "heads," properly known as moai or mo'ai. Though the heads are the largest and most graphic part, they do actually have small bodies beneath them. They are all different sizes, but the average is about 13 feet tall and 14 tons in weight.

By Rivi (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There are 887 mo'ai on Easter Island or in museums. Quite a few were found still in the Rano Raraku quarry inside one of the extinct volcanoes, along with the stone tools used to create them. The ones still in the quarry were incomplete. Indications are that this is where the Mo'ai were formed.

They also built stone platforms called ahu, which appear to have been for the mo'ai to stand on. One has 15 mo'ai on it. Some are empty or have only one.

Most of the mo'ai not in the quarry are on the coast, facing inland, rather than out to sea. One set of mo'ai are located farther inland, and they face outward toward the sea. Would more have been placed inland had they completed whatever their mission was?

By Paul Kempeneers (Personal collection of Paul
Kempeneers)  [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
The mystery inherent here is why they formed these mo'ai and how they got them from one quarry (though about 5% may have been made elsewhere) to points around the island. It has been suggested that they were meant to represent past rulers or family ancestries. If this is the case, why are they so similar and just...why? Scientists think it would have taken a significant amount of people and time to have not only moved them, but to have carved them in the first place.

Of course, aliens always come into play, as well. Were these tributes to aliens? Protection from them?

Was it to appease their gods? It was a volcanic island, and the statues are made of volcanic rock taken from directly in one of the volcanic craters. Were they trying to keep the gods from destroying the population and their island?

Were they meant to frighten away invaders? This might explain why they were moved so far to the coastlines. However, why were they facing inland then?

At one point, the people of Rapa Nui began tearing the statues down. This time period is known as huri mo'ai, or statue toppling. Why they tore them down is as unknown as why and how they put them up in the first place.

If you've ever wanted to visit Easter Island, you should do it soon. Sadly, the volcanic rock is being weathered significantly, removing the features from these statues and turning them into plain old rocks.

What theory do you think is correct? Were they glorified busts of their ancestors, tributes tot he gods, or guards?

May you find your Muse.

Letter E courtesy of Ted Gehring,


  1. Maybe they were symbolic of the rulers and there was a revolt, thus the tearing down of the statues?

  2. I had to do a paper on Easter Island in HS. Those stones really are pretty cool. I want to visit some day.
    Dani @ Entertaining Interests

  3. I've been there! It is a truly amazing and awe-inspiring place. When you know the history of those statues it's difficult to believe how they made them. There's a quarry there where you can see the half-finished ones and dotted around the island you come across one in a field. Jaw-droppingly incredible. And each face is different and the statues are all sizes (I'm waffling here because the place still affects me today).

  4. I'm going with aliens. And they'd better be back soon with their freakin' lasers to touch up the weathered deterioration!

  5. I think it was just some eccentric leader who wanted to leave behind a legacy to cause later visitors to scratch their heads and say, "Why??" It is certainly the kind of thing I might do if I was a)on an island in the middle of nowhere, b)wealthy enough to hire slaves to do the job and c) had such a huge source of malleable material!

    It also could have been a contest to see who could carve the likeness closest to the leader--and they made an outdoor museum of all the entrants!

    All joking aside, this was a fascinating post. I have heard of Easter Island, but never seen it. Thanks for the photos and info.

  6. My guess would be as some kind of tribute, but to what I have no idea

  7. I think maybe tribute to the gods but since their requests were not granted, they tore them down.

  8. This is such a great discovery - thanks for sharing.

  9. What a mystery over a pile of rocks...albeit large and curious ones with lots of theories as to their origin. Will we ever know their true story? Maybe..if Milo's (post above)theory works out. Very interesting and informative post for Letter E..also timely...just after Easter.
    AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

  10. It took a lot of people to build a pyramid so I guess this one ain't a shocker >_<

    Miss Uncertain---sidetracked

  11. Hi Shannon, thanks for tutorial on creating my hyperlink.
    Here is my first one: Mary at Mary A to Z

  12. I've always been fascinated by Easter Island. I don't entirely discount the theory that there may have been some kind of supernatural or extraterrestrial help in moving such heavy stones. Even Arthur C. Clarke, an admitted hardened skeptic, said on his show about unexplained phenomena that he couldn't figure out how those heavy statues came to be.

  13. The stones are pretty cool and an enigma.

  14. The stones are pretty cool and an enigma.

  15. A good mystery, I think it had to do with the kings or gods, they do have a typical Polynesian look.
    Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

  16. This news is great,
    First time hearing about this.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Lovely pics too.
    Keep informing
    Waiting for the next installment,
    Keeep inform
    Good Wishes
    Keep in touch
    I am
    Phil @ Philipscom
    An ambassador to A to Z Challenge @ Tina's Life is Good
    And My Bio-blog

  17. There are so many stories that could come from the mysteries of those statues. :D I like the aliens theory. ;)

  18. I love the stones of Easter island in the same way I love any huge ancient ones! Being Scottish I've see a lot of interesting standing stones but not so sculpted. Would love to visit Easter Island. Nancy at Welcome to she said, he said

  19. I never knew why it was called Easter Island before. I guess you learn something new everyday.

  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Hi Shannon,

    Easter Island, a most fascinating topic. Of course, subject to much speculation. I think they may be tribute to the gods. Or perhaps there was an alien force at work.

    Be well and happy alphabeting.


  22. Their structure is pretty cool.

    To appease Gods, I think.

  23. My guess would be tributes to their gods. It's sad to think rock is weathering so much, but I guess that is inevitable.

  24. I've always wondered about the Moai. I'd love to visit sometime and see them in person. Just another marvel that is quite hard to consider being done before a time of machinery.
    We Are Adventure

  25. There was a TV movie about this some time ago, and it presented the appeasement to the gods idea. Whatever the origin, Easter Island has a mystery about it.

  26. Easter Island has always fascinated me. They have such an interesting mythology there. I think the statues were meant to be guards. Ones that actually did come alive to fight off invaders.

  27. I'm going to go with aliens, as well.

    I think I read where they recently found bodies, to go with the heads, underground.

    Makes it even more interesting and a place I'd like to visit.

    Left and Write

  28. Hi Shannon,
    We have a rock in our back hill that reminds me of these Easter Island rock dudes. I think Easter Island would be a great name for a rock band. At my house we just call them "Hey Dumm dum give me Gum Gum" from Night at the Museum. A pointless but memorable scene.

    Enjoyed your post!
    Have a great A-Z
    Margot at A Devotional Mosaic and Spark My Creativity

  29. I think they are the alien race, which is why they're different sizes.

  30. It's big brother saying, "we're watching you."

  31. I think we'll never know the true purpose which is why they retain such mystery. Sad to hear they're being eroded though.

  32. Love these photos and the mysteries behind the amazing figures. Thanks for sharing.

  33. Maybe they represented people who died, or their rulers. Interesting post, thanks!

    The A to Z blog said in the latest post to add a link to your own A to Z blog in the comments, so here's mine:

  34. I would love to visit Easter Island and see the mo'ia. There was a show I watched once where some people did did some ghost hunting on the island and I don't think they found any ghosts, but had some interesting things happen.

    Patricia Lynne

  35. I think it would be cool to visit these statues first hand. The history of the island is interesting...even the cannibalism. And of course, I am going with alien involvement.

  36. The Easter Bunny created them! :)

  37. I would love to visit this place. The statues are just so epic it's hard not to want to see them up close

  38. Great post for E day - another fascinating topic. It's sad they are eroding, but that is the nature of all things.

  39. I would so love to see those things in person.

  40. I'd love to visit and see the statues, but I'd not want to be there after dark. I like the idea of using them to scare off invaders. (from the sea or the sky)

  41. How beautiful. I think they were for the gods.

    Chontali Kirk

  42. I like to think about the rock monuments devoted to ancient cultures that washed and blew away before we could've found them. Who knows what secrets they kept. It keeps in context our mysteries, knowing that as they fade, we build the mysteries for the people yet to come.

    The Pleasantest Life

  43. I would love to go there. I would be in total awe, probably stand with my mouth gaping open at the wonder of it. Good post!

  44. I find it unfortunate that the environment is taking down these landmarks. I'm not sure what they are, but if so much care had been taken to craft them and then move them around, they must've been something of great value to the people of the region once.

  45. What a great theme for the A-Z! I hadn't realised there were so many moai.
    Erina at A Pragmatic Pagan

  46. I didn't realise that the Easter Island heads actually had bodies underneath them. i always thought they were just heads. Well, I've learnt something new today!

  47. A lot of unanswerable questions again, Shannon. We will have ever know, probably not. But so very, very interesting.

  48. I've always thought these statues were fascinating too. So many impossible questions! But I've always liked to think they were looking outward - searching for new frontiers, new friends, new adventures!

  49. I have no idea why but I think if anyone does find out, it would be fascinating.

  50. That they were destroyed by a later people leads me to believe one of three things.
    1. Busts of former leaders, unloved by the later Rapa Nui'ans
    2. Busts of deities, unloved by the later Rapa Nui'ans
    3. Busts of aliens, torn down by a renegade faction of Rapa Nui'ans when they learned the Mo'ai were what stored the aliens' power to control them. Obviously, since some stones still stand, the aliens stopped them from toppling them all and both sides died in an epic battle.

  51. I'm happy that there still are so many mysteries from humanity's ancient past. It's fun to speculate and wonder about those people, not to mention all the inspiration such mysteries offer for storytellers.
    Jagoda at

  52. Alex, that would make sense. There was a civil war, but I didn't continue looking long enough to see when it was compared to when the stones were toppled.

    Dani, I bet you know way more than I put in here about it. I'd like to visit, too.

    Susan, that sounds amazing! I would so love to go there. I told hubby e need to do it soon since they're eroding.

    Milo, right!? They're slacking.

    TM Ornery, boy, I sure wouldn't want to look at thousands of my own likeness all around! I like the contest idea, that's fun!

    Maple, seems like it if they're looking in instead of out.

    Al, I'd certainly tear down my tributes if they didn't hook me up.

    Myriteofpassage, thanks for coming by!

    Sue, funny how many mysteries there are involving rocks!

    Miss Uncertain, that's true! These guys just put faces on it instead.

    Mary, my pleasure!

    Carrie-Anne, interesting that he said that. I think people were clever when they had to be, but I don't discount supernatural help, either.

    Lass, enigma is one of my favorite words. What is the saying? A mystery wrapped up in an enigma?

    Katie, they very much do have that look, don't they? Not like an alien, for instance.

    Phil, thank you!

  53. Laura, tons of stories, of all different kinds!

    Nancy, I haven't gotten to see any, at least any that weren't natural. How wonderful to have gotten to see megaliths!

    Melanie, I hadn't known either.

    Gary, the gods seem likely, but so do aliens. ;)

    Nandana, it is cool! The gods are winning, I think.

    Julie, it does make sense, but I'm sad they're being destroyed.

    Elliot, I do love a good marvel!

    Susan, I'm betting the gods idea is the most popular one in this instance. Rare. Usually it's the aliens!

    Christine, I love that theory! And I can completely picture it.

    Mark, each of the giant heads has a small body on the bottom, or at least a torso. Many of them were buried under the ground after all these years, but they're digging them out.

    Margot, haha, yes, I do like the EI head in Night at the Museum.

    Andrew, they're the alien race turned to stone, or they represent them?

    J.L., haha, could be! Everyone's got some form of Big Brother, right?

    Nick, I agree that it's sad. We take it for granted that so many things will just always be, but everything gets weathered, worn down, and damaged.

    Desert Rocks, it's a fun mystery!

  54. They're not turned to stone; they are stone. That's why they're different sizes, because the small ones aren't all grown up.

  55. Kristen, could you imagine such a tribute to each person who died? Knowing that you'd be represented forever by a statue? That would be fun.

    Patricia, that sounds interesting! Also interesting that they found no ghosts. Maybe all are at rest on the island.

    Chuck, would it be wrong to admit I want to do more research on the cannibalism?

    DL, ha! That's it, exactly!

    J Keith, I agree. I'd love to see them up close, towering above me.

    DarcNina, true, it is the nature of all things. But still sad. :(

    Jeff, me, too!

    D.G., I imagine they would be plenty creepy in the dark.

    Chontali, they are beautiful!

    Tesla, beautifully put. It is a wonder to consider.

    H. Sleuth, I imagine I'd be the same!

    Cynthia, they must have. They've lasted a long time, and there's a movement to start protecting them better now, so let's hope they can find a way to preserve them from here on out!

    Erina, I hadn't known how many there were, either.

    Imogen, I think most believe they're just heads. The bodies are quiet small in comparison!

    Cathrina, you're right, we'll probably never know the answers, but it's so fun to speculate!

    Jemi, I always assumed they were looking outward. That was a new one on me!

    Clarissa, I imagine no matter what the truth, it's an interesting story, to be sure.

    David, I believe #3 makes the most sense, by far. ;)

    Jagoda, I enjoy that there's so much we don't know. If we ever stop seeking answers, we're done for.

  56. Wouldn't it be wonderful to know?

  57. Perhaps they are there to watch over the island, which could explain why they are facing inland. To protect the island's people by watching over them, rather they looking out for invaders. We had a gargoyle at my old house that was left by the owner, to face the house. My mom said it was to "keep the evil spirits away".

  58. Hmm interesting. I'd never heard of the dismantling/toppling of the statues. I'd almost think the theory about previous rulers gains some weight. That is quite the quantity, though? 800+

    I like the idea of them being made to offer protection of some sort.

    But, ya know... if they can't protect you from being eaten by your own kind, what CAN they protect you from, am I right?

  59. I place my unfounded in anything vote on it being religious in nature. What I really dig is that they were carved within a volcano. Fascinating. Stratoz goes AtoZ

  60. Maggie, it would! Or maybe it wouldn't. I'm never quite sure.

    Rachel, how interesting! Where was the gargoyle positioned?

    Jak, HA!!! True, maybe they were to protect against the cannibals.

    Stratoz, that is cool, isn't it? How did they decide it wouldn't erupt? I would have thought they would have avoided a volcano all that time ago, not sure whether it was done. We're never really sure NOW.