• View up close the massive
statues that stand guard over
• Learn from local experts the dark tale of the rise and fall of
• Enjoy the unique, environmentally friendly Explora Rapa Nui,
your hotel on Easter Island
• Explore the sites of the vibrant city of
• Visit an authentic Chilean craft center
• Photograph the scenery of
Rano Raraku, the most iconic area of
Easter Island with dramatic Moais
Easter Island is one of the most
isolated islands on Earth. Early settlers called the island "Te
Pito O Te Henua" (Navel of The World).
Officially a territory of Chile, it lies far off in the Pacific
Ocean, roughly halfway to Tahiti. It is most famous for its
enigmatic giant stone busts, built centuries ago, which reflect
the history of the dramatic rise and fall of the most isolated
The English name of the island commemorates its European
discovery by a Dutch exploration vessel on Easter Sunday in
Ever since Thor Heyerdahl and a small party of adventurers
sailed their raft from South America to the Tuamotu islands, far
to the north of Easter Island, a controversy has raged over the
origin of the islanders. Today DNA testing has proved
conclusively that the polynesians arrived from the west rather
than the east, and that the people of Easter Island are
descendants of intrepid voyagers who set out from Taiwan
thousands of years ago.
In brief, the prehistory of Easter Island is one of supreme
accomplishment, flourishing and civilization, followed by
environmental devastation and decline. Although it is not agreed
when people first arrived on Easter Island (with estimates
ranging from several hundred to more than one thousand years
ago), consensus seems to be that the first peoples arrived from
Polynesia. Rather than being inhabited by mistake or chance,
evidence has suggested that Easter Island was colonized
deliberately by large boats with many settlers -- a remarkable
feat given the distance of Easter Island from any other land in
the Pacific Ocean.
The first islanders found a land of undoubted paradise --
archaeological evidence shows that the island was covered in
trees of various sorts, including the largest palm tree species
in the world, whose bark and wood furnished the natives with
cloth, rope, and canoes. Birds were abundant as well, and
provided food for them. A mild climate favored an easy life, and
abundant waters yielded fish and oysters.
The islanders prospered due to these advantages, and a
reflection of this is the religion which sprouted in their
leisure, which had at its centerpiece the giant moai, or heads,
that are the island's most distinctive feature today. These moai,
which the island is littered with, are supposed to have been
depictions of ancestors, whose presence likely was considered a
blessing or watchful safekeeping eye over each small village.
The ruins of Rano Raraku crater, the stone quarry where scores
if not hundreds of moai sit today, is a testament to how central
these figures were to the islanders, and how their life revolved
around these creations. It has been suggested that their
isolation from all other peoples fueled this outlet of trade and
creativity -- lacking any other significant way to direct their
skills and resources. The birdman culture (seen in petroglyphs),
is an obvious testament to the islanders' fascination with the
ability to leave their island for distant lands.
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