A privately owned pickup truck has destroyed one of Easter Island’s world-famous archaeological treasures – the imposing and mysterious Moai statues.
The vehicle, reportedly belonging to a Chilean man, slammed into the ancient stone monument in early March, reported Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio.
Local authorities reportedly believe the collision to have been the result of a brake failure that sent the truck sliding downhill and into the Moai and the platform upon which it stood. No one was inside the truck when it crashed.
Although the destruction is assumed to have proceeded from an accident, the truck’s owner was promptly arrested and charged with damaging a national monument.
In a statement to CNN, Camilo Rapu, president of the Mau Henua community – which is responsible for the care and preservation of the island’s archaeological and historical sites, including the Moai – said, “The damage is incalculable.”
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed island’s mayor, Pedro Pablo Petero Edmunds Paoa, is reportedly calling for stronger regulations to prevent vehicles from operating in such close proximity to any of the nearly 1,000 carved Moai monoliths on the island.
Rapu said that he plans to make an urgent appeal, “to lawmakers and authorities in order to review the legal framework that protects the historical and cultural heritage of native peoples. Let’s not wait for more damage to occur...”
The Moai are not only important historically and archaeologically, but also hold spiritual value for the Rapa Nui, Easter Island’s original inhabitants. “The Moai are sacred structures of religious value for the Rapa Nui people, ” Rapu declared. “Furthermore, (the damage of the Moai) is an offence to a culture that has lived many years struggling to recover its heritage and archaeology.”
Carved between the 13th and 16th centuries out of basalt rock from an extinct volcano, the purpose of the Moai largely remains a mystery, although it’s supposed that they represent ancestral figures. The Polynesian island, a Chilean territory, is one of the world’s most remote inhabited places, being over 3,200km away from mainland Chile, and continues to fascinate archaeologists and historians. – By Laurie Baratti/TravelPulse/Tribune News Services