The moai are a mystery because there are so many different variations to their origins and the reasoning behind their creation, location, and destruction. Many stories mention dissent among the people, lots of fighting and a very disruptive society.
However, based on a new study, the history has proven to be very different. This study painted a new picture of a new sophisticate and collaborative society based on excavations four of the statues and the volcanic stone basalt tools used to carve them. It is now believed that the full body, 13-ton monuments represent important Rapa Nui ancestors. There are over 900 statues, many buried up to their heads due to the passage of time. The largest statue is over 70’ tall. Just admiring the sheer size and number is indicative of a complex, sophisticated society.
Ancient Rapa Nui had chiefs, priests, and guilds of workers who fished, farmed, and made the moai. There was a certain level of sociopolitical organization that was needed to carve almost a thousand statues.
Rapa Nui’s mysterious statues stand in silence but speak volumes about the achievements of their creators. The stone blocks carved into head-and-torso figures, average 13 feet (4 meters) tall and 14 tons. The effort to construct these monuments and move them around the island must have been considerable. Even though, most scholars now suspect that they were created to honor important personages, it’s impossible to be certain. Primarily because there is no written and little oral history exists on the island, so it’s impossible to be certain.
How did they build and move these giant monuments?
- The MOAI was outlined on the rock, a slow chiseling process.
- From the outline, they carved the MOAI out of the rock. The left a “heal” on its back, keeping a connection to the bed-rock.
- The keel is removed, and the MOAI is slid down the slope using a multitude of round trees or rocks.
- The MOAI is then placed in a pt so that the carving of its back can be finished.
We visited the MAPSE Museo Rapanui museum which was free and fairly easy to find. They had pieces of MOAI along with ancient artifacts. We discovered that of the hundreds of MOAI, less than 10 were female. One of the female MOAI is at the museum (top right photos)
With so many MOAI to see it will be hard to get it all in during our short stay, but I promise you we will try!