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the Moai of Rapa Nui

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Author Topic: the Moai of Rapa Nui  (Read 141 times)
Kerry Lenzendorf
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« on: July 26, 2007, 10:43:27 pm »

Moai are stone statues on Rapa Nui / Easter Island, Chile. The statues are all monolithic, that is, carved in one piece. The largest moai erected, "Paro", was almost 10 metres (33 feet) high and weighed 75 tonnes (74 Imperial tons, 83 American tons). One unfinished sculpture has been found that would have been 21 metres (69 ft) tall and would have weighed about 270 tons. Almost all follow a particular style with a disproportionately large head.
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2007, 10:45:26 pm »



Rano Raraku Moai
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2007, 10:46:25 pm »

History and description

The Moai of Easter Island are a giant form of statues that are widespread across Polynesia, there is some evidence that larger and larger Moai were carved during the islands statue building phase.

Completed statues were moved to ahus (ceremonial platforms) mostly on the coast. Then erected, usually with red stone cylinders (pukau) on their heads. These "topknots", as they are often called, were carved out of red scoria, a very light rock from a quarry at Puna Pau. About 95% of the 887 moai known to date were carved from Tuff (a compressed volcanic ash) from Rano Raraku, where 394 moai and incomplete moai still remain visible today (there are also some Moai carved either from Basalt or from Red Scoria). Further detailed exploration including an early twentyfirst century GPS mapping of the island interior may add additional moai to that count. The quarries in Rano Raraku appear to have been abandoned abruptly, with many incomplete statues still in situ; an alternative interpretation is that when inclusions were encountered the carvers would abandon a partial statue and start a new one (Tuff is a very soft rock with occasional lumps of much harder rock included in it). However, the pattern of work is very complex and is still being studied.

Sometime between the eighteenth century visits to the Island and the mid nineteenth century all of the Moai were toppled from their Ahus. Oral histories indicate that this was part of internecine conflict among the islanders rather than earthquake or other cause.
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2007, 10:47:28 pm »



The only kneeling Moai
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2007, 10:48:18 pm »

Although often described as "heads", the moai are actually whole body statues with oversized heads and simplified torsos. Some of the iconic images of moai show statues on the slopes of Rano Raraku buried to their shoulders, this may be the origin of the stone head description(the Routledge expedition of 1915 excavated some of the stoneheads and discovered that they did indeed have buried bodies).

Those Moai that aren't too eroded typically have designs carved on their backs and posteriors, the Routledge expedition of 1915 established a cultural link between these designs and the islands tattooing tradition which had been repressed by missionaries half a century earlier. Until modern DNA analysis this was a key scientific proof that the Moai had been carved by the Rapa Nui and not by a separate group from South America.

In recent years, it has been discovered that the famous deep eye sockets of the moai were designed to hold coral eyes with obsidian pupils. Once the broken fragments of white coral were found to fit together to form an eye many previously uncategorised finds in the Easter Island museum were re-examined and recategorised as eye fragments. Replica eyes have been constructed and placed in some statues for photographs.

The statues were carved by the Polynesian colonizers of the island beginning by about A.D. 1000 1100. In addition to representing deceased ancestors, the moai, once they were erect on ceremonial sites, may also have been regarded as the embodiment of powerful living chiefs. They were also important lineage status symbols. The moai were carved by a distinguished class of professional carvers who were comparable in status to high-ranking members of other Polynesian craft guilds, or alternatively by members of each clan. The oral histories show that the Rano Raraku quarry was subdivided into different territories for each clan. The statues must have been extremely expensive to craft and transport; not only would the actual carving of each statue require effort and resources, but the finished product was then hauled to its final location and erected. It is not known exactly how the moai were moved but the process almost certainly required human energy, ropes, and possibly wooden sledges and/or rollers; as well as levelled tracks across the island (the Easter Island roads). Oral histories and current science currently support the theory that the main method was that the moai were "walked" by a rocking process. (Pavel Pavel and his successful experiment showed that only 17 people with ropes are needed for relatively fast transportation of moderately small statues and suggest this technique could be scaled to move larger statues as well). By the mid-1800s, all the moai outside of Rano Raraku and many within the quarry itself had been knocked over. Today, about 50 moai have been re-erected on their ceremonial sites or museums elsewhere.

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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2007, 10:49:14 pm »



Maps of Easter Island showing locations of Moai
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2007, 10:50:20 pm »



First European drawings of moais, in the lower half of a c.1772 Spanish map of Easter Island
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2007, 10:51:21 pm »



A close up of the moai at Ahu Tahai, restored with coral & obsidian eyes by the American archaeologist William Mulloy
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2007, 10:52:24 pm »



Moai from Ahu Ko Te Riku in Hanga Roa, with Chilean Navy training ship Buque Escuela Esmeralda cruising behind. This moai is currently the only one with replica eyes.
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2007, 10:53:27 pm »



Ahu Tongariki, restored in the 1990s
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« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2007, 10:54:21 pm »



Ahu Akivi, the only moai facing the ocean
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2007, 10:55:54 pm »



Rano Kao
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« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2007, 10:56:53 pm »



Ahu Te Pito Kura, the world's navel according to local folklore.
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Kerry Lenzendorf
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« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2007, 10:57:36 pm »

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« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2007, 10:58:48 pm »



The rongorongo script of the Easter Island
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