This tiny island thousands of kilometers off mainland Chile is one of the world’s most interesting and important archeological sites. Easter Island has amazed and captivated historians, geologists, archeologists and scientists alike for hundreds of years. The island is home to Moai, enormous stone carvings of faces that span back at least 500 years. While there are plenty of remaining questions on these mysterious and monumental structures, a few things are for certain. Here are seven facts about Easter Island’s Moai.
Incredible Facts About Easter Island’s Moai
1. Nobody Knows Exactly How They Moved The Moai
With the largest Moai weighing in at 82 tons, nobody is quite sure how the islanders moved them. It’s for certain the islanders did this without the use of wheels, large animals, or machinery – but how? Most theories suggest that the islanders must have used some sort of log roller. Even so, a log roller transporting more than 80 tons of lava rock is pretty impressive.
2. The Moai Have Bodies
While often referred to as the ‘Easter Island heads,’ many miss the fact that the Moai actually have bodies, too. Most of the popular Moai, however, are buried up to their shoulders, so the only thing visible is the towering heads. The bodies, while buried underground, are equally as impressive and ginormous.
3. Could They Have Been a Response To Leprosy?
Some theories suggest that the reasoning behind the Moai’s strange and elongated faces points to leprosy. The thinking is that the islanders constructed their faces this way in an effort to ward off the disease. Leprosy was highly associated with the deformities it caused. So to combat this, the Moai have exaggerated features to ‘protect’ the island from the disease.
4. There Are A Lot Of Them
Around 900 to be exact. There are 887 Moai scattered across Easter Island, all in various stages of construction. Even more fascinating, there are more than likely several still underground just waiting for discovery.
5. “So That He Can Exist”
Of all the questions surrounding Easter Island’s Moai, one thing is for certain. The natives built the Moai to honour a God or chief of the island. The word ‘Moai’ comes from the Polynesian language of Easter Island, Rapa Nui, and means ‘so that he can exist.’
6. The First Pacific Island Nation Recognized By UNESCO
In 1995, Easter Island became the first Polynesian Island listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO names Easter Island for it’s ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ and played a large part in the conservation and continued excavations of the Moai.
7. Easter Island Is A Modern Name
Lastly, Easter Island is the name given by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen who just so happened to ‘discover’ the island on Easter Sunday. The older names of the island, and there are several, include ‘Te Pito o Te Henua’ and ‘Mata-Ki-Te-Rani.’ Te Pito o Te Henua translates to ‘The Center Of The World’, and Mata-Ki-Te-Rani means ‘Eyes Looking Into The Heaven.’