The Mysterious Easter Island
Easter Island, also known Rapa Nui, is an island famous for its enigmatic monument in Chile, some 2,200 miles off the southeastern Pacific Ocean, and among the world’s most remote inhabited islands.
Unlike the Island of Dolls which is known for its creepy story of hanged dolls, the Easter Island is widely known for its nearly 1,000 monumental statues, called Moai, created by the early Rapa Nui people, In brief, the prehistory of Easter Island is one of supreme accomplishment, flourishing and civilization, followed by environmental devastation and decline.
It is not clear when the Rapa Nui people settled on the island, but estimates suggests that they moved in between 800 and 1200 AD, while creating a thriving and industrious culture, as evidenced by the island’s artifacts. Legend says that the people left for Easter Island because their own island was slowly being swallowed by the sea.
Archaeological evidence showed that the Easter Island was blessed with trees of various sorts, including the largest palm tree species in the world, which furnished the residents with cloth, rope, and canoes. Birds were abundant as well, and provided food for them. Fishing was the local practice, as the mild climate favored an easy life, and abundant waters yielded fish and oysters.
As the population grew, so did pressures on the island’s environment. Deforestation of the island’s trees gradually increased, and as this main resource was depleted, the islander fouind it hard to continue making rope, canoes, and all the necessities to hunt and fish, and ultimately, support the culture that produced the giant stone figurines.
The late period of the island’s civilization was characterized by civil wars and general destruction; more statues were demolished, and many mataa, or obsidian spearpoints were found dating to that period.
Island tradition claims that around 1680, after peacefully coexisting for many years, one of the island’s two main groups, known as the Short-Ears, rebelled against the Long-Ears, burning many of them to death on a pyre constructed along an ancient ditch at Poike, on the island’s far northeastern coast. Apparently, the disagreements broke out with some violence as confidence in the old religion was lost.
In 1995, UNESCO named Easter Island a World Heritage site. It is now home to a mixed population, mostly of Polynesian ancestry and made up of the descendants of the Long-Ears and Short-Ears. Till date, the sculptures and the origin of the Polynesians who discovered the island are still an unexplained mystery. No archaeologist has known who the craftsmen were, why they made the artifacts and how they transported those massive stone figurines.
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