The Giant Statues of Easter Island

Eater Island Statues
Some of the statues on Easter Island, Chile

Way out in the middle of the southeastern Pacific Ocean sits one of the most remote inhabited islands on the planet. It's called Easter Island, and its most interesting feature is a collection of massive stone statues, called moai.

The island got its name from a Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggeveen. The first day he saw the island was Easter Sunday in 1722. The island's Polynesian name is Rapa Nui, and the indigenous people are also known as Rapa Nui.

Chile annexed Easter Island in 1888. In 1966, the Rapa Nui were granted Chilean citizenship. It was the Rapa Nui people that carved the statues, and that happened around 1100–1680 AD. Sometimes people refer to the statues as the "Easter Island heads," but there are bodies attached to them!

Most of the torsos stop near the top of the thighs, but some are kneeling. The idea that they were disembodied heads may have come from the fact that some of the statues have gotten buried up to their necks in soil.

The giant stone statues were carved out of compressed volcanic ash that came from a single site near an extinct volcano. The Rapa Nui people employed stone hand-chisels to create the statues. They made about 1,000 of the monuments, and 887 have been inventoried, either on the island, or in museums.

Only around 25 percent of the statues were ever installed by their makers. Approximately half of them stayed in the quarry where they were carved.

One of the largest statues, installed on a raised platform, was "Paro." It weighs over 90 tons and measures more than 32 ft in length.

How could the Rapa Nui have moved such large, heavy objects? Experts believe they employed a dragging frame, and somewhere around 200 strong men pulled the statues into position.