“Art is the signature of civilizations”

The other day I came across a photo that I was so utterly convinced was a fake that I spent about an hour of precious homework time (well, precious procrastination time) researching it. Here is the photo:

But as it turns out, it wasn’t fake and was actually from the EISP – Easter Island Statue Project (check it out!).  Did anyone else know that nearly all of the Easter Island statues have bodies? Because I definitely didn’t and am a little ashamed of that. So after all this research, I figured I might as well waste more time and make a post about it too.

Easter Island, located in a volcanic hotspot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is so named because it was discovered on Easter Sunday in 1722 by a Dutch explorer named Jacob Roggeveen. In the native language, the island is actually called Rapa Nui. The island is most famous for the “Easter Island Heads”, or more accurately called Moai.

Moai are human figures carved from stone and date back to sometime between 1250 CE and 1500 CE. Note that I said figures, not just heads, because most of the statues actually have bodies – but for some reason they are usually buried up to their shoulders. This is a major misconception for a lot of people I think, because the most common representation of these statues are heads lined along the coast, on large stone platforms called ahu.

(Like this)

Another misconception stems from the fact that most images of the Moai are like those of the statues above – a few statues lined up in a very epic and monumental fashion. However, there are nearly 900 of these statues scattered throughout the island. Most are still located in the quarry where they were carved and only about a quarter of them have actually been moved to other locations (mostly along the coast facing inward toward the island).

  • The tallest statue is named Paro – it is 33 feet high and weighs in at 82 tons!
  • But another statue would have towered over this one if it was completed – if finished to the standard design ratio of the Moai, it would have weighed 270 tons!

It is still unknown how the statues were transported from the quarry to their final positions. The leading hypothesis from scholars is that they were pulled along rollers or sleds by human power. Though this is the best explanation so far, it still seems unlikely because of the sheer amount of people that would have been required for this feat – the weigh of some statues suggests hundreds of people would have been needed to complete this epic feat. My personal belief as to the source of the power needed to move these mammoth statues? Aliens.

I had a hard time imagining how these might have been carved in an ancient quarry – here’s the answer.

Another debatable question about the Moai is the reason for their production. The general consensus is that they were carved as part of ancestor worship, and these giant statues represent important people in the tribe. This theory works well given the large proportions of the heads of the Moai and the fact that culture of the ancient islanders exemplified the persona as being centered in the head.

So that’s that, I guess I will get back to homework now.  Or napping….

What’s Coming Soon:

As a senior “Wolverine” at the University of Michigan, I feel like this post is obligatory before I graduate…

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