QuickCheck: Do the Easter Islands heads have bodies?


Moai facing inland at Ahu Tongariki, restored by Chilean archaeologist Claudio Cristino in the 1990s.

FAR out in the Pacific ocean is the picturesque, if somewhat bleak, Easter Island. This little piece of Chile is one of the isolated places on Earth to have a permanent settlement and has long been famed for its iconic "Heads".

But is it true that far from being just heads, the Easter Island statues actually have bodies buried deep in the ground?

Verdict:

TRUE

Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it's called by the indigenous Polynesians who live there, had upwards of 900 statues, or moai, scattered around the island with 53 still standing.

They reach 10m in height and can weigh up to 86 tonnes, making it an astounding achievement for the local islanders who made them as metal tools had yet to reach Rapa Nui when they started chiselling the monoliths out from a volcanic crater on the island's eastern coast.

Archaeologists believe that the Rapa Nui first started carving the statues in 1250 with the last one being erected in 1500.

Many of the Moai are buried up to the shoulders. This excavated Moai features petroglyphs carved in the yet undeciphered Rapa Nui script called rongorongo. - Public DomainMany of the Moai are buried up to the shoulders. This excavated Moai features petroglyphs carved in the yet undeciphered Rapa Nui script called rongorongo. - Public Domain

While pop culture have long dubbed the statues the "Easter Island Heads", this is partially due to the moai's unique proportions as well as the fact that the majority of them are buried up to their shoulders.

Some theorise that the Rapa Nui people erected the monuments to represent dead ancestors, or as the embodiment of a powerful living chief as well as status symbols for important lineages.

Truth be told, the actual history behind the moai and the reasons behind their erection has been lost to time as the Rapa Nui people lost much of their culture, history and traditions after first contact with Europeans in 1722.

References:

1. http://www.eisp.org/

2. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19125621-100-easter-island-a-monumental-collapse/

3. https://news.artnet.com/art-world/easter-island-head-bodies-293799

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