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Easter Island

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Tempest
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« on: February 13, 2007, 01:40:38 am »

Easter Island



Easter Island, known in the native language as Rapa Nui ("Big Rapa"; but see below) or Isla de Pascua in Spanish, is an island in the south Pacific Ocean belonging to Chile. Located 3,600 km (2,237 statute miles) west of continental Chile and 2,075 km (1,290 statute miles) east of Pitcairn Island, it is one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world. It was given its common name of "Easter" because it was discovered by the Dutch on Easter Sunday, 1722. It is located at 27°09′S 109°27′W, with a latitude close to that of the Chilean city of Caldera, north of Santiago. The island is approximately triangular in shape, with an area of 163.6 km² (63 sq. miles), and a population of 3,791 (2002 census), 3,304 of which live in the capital of Hanga Roa. Easter is made up of three volcanoes: Poike, Rano Kau and Terevaka. The island is famous for its numerous moai, the stone statues now located along the coastlines. Administratively, it is a province (containing a single municipality) of the Chilean Valparaíso Region. The standard time is six hours behind UTC (UTC-6) (five hours behind including one hour of daylight saving time).

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Tempest
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2007, 01:42:02 am »



Map of Easter Island.
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2007, 01:44:07 am »



Island flag
 
motto: (" Rapa Nui" )
Also called "Te Pito O Te Henua (Ombligo del mundo) (Navel of the world)"
Capital Hanga Roa
Area
 - City Proper
 163,6 km²
Population
 - City (2005)
 - Density (city proper)
3,791 Inhabitants
23,17 /km²
Time zone Central Time zone, UTC- 6
Telephone Prefix 32
Postal code 2779001
Gentilic Pascuense
Mayor Pedro Pablo Edmunds Paoa (PDC)
(2004-2008)
Official site http://www.rapanui.co.cl
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Tempest
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2007, 01:46:19 am »



First settlers

Early European visitors to Easter Island recorded the local oral traditions of the original settlers. In these traditions, Easter Islanders claimed that a chief Hotu Matu'a arrived on the island in one or two large canoes with his wife and extended family. They are believed to have been Polynesian. There is considerable uncertainty about the accuracy of this legend as well as the date of settlement. Published literature suggests the island was settled around AD 300-400, or at about the time of the arrival of the earliest settlers in Hawaii. Some scientists say that Easter Island was not inhabited until AD 700-800. This date range is based on glottochronological calculations and on three radiocarbon dates from charcoal that appears to have been produced during forest clearance activities.[1] On the other hand, a recent study, including radiocarbon dates from what is thought to be very early material, indicates that the island was settled as recently as AD 1200, the time of the deforestation of the island.[2].

The Austronesian Polynesians, who arguably settled the island, are likely to have arrived from the Marquesas Islands from the west. These settlers brought bananas, taro, sweet potato, sugarcane, and paper mulberry, as well as chickens and rats. The island at one time supported a relatively advanced and complex civilization.

Thor Heyerdahl pointed out many cultural similarities between Easter Island and South American Indian cultures which he suggested might have resulted from some settlers arriving also from the continent.[3] However, the current archeological consensus is that there was not any non-Polynesian influence on the island's prehistory, although the discussion has become very political around the subject. DNA analyses of Easter Island's current inhabitants offers strong evidence as to their Polynesian origins, a tool not available in Heyerdahl's time. However, as the number of islanders that survived the 19th century deportations was very small, perhaps just 1-2% of the peak population, this mainly confirms that the remaining population was of Polynesian origin.

The fact that sweet potatoes, a staple of the Polynesian diet, are of South American origin indicates that there must have been some contact between the two cultures. However, given the far greater navigational skills of Polynesians, it is more likely that they reached South America (returning with the sweet potato and possibly some cultural influences) than that South Americans travelled to Easter Island but no further. Some "Polynesian-like" cultural traits, including words like toki, have been described among the Mapuche people from southern Chile.[citation needed]

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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2007, 01:47:52 am »

Moai carving culture
(10th century AD - 16th / 17th century AD)


Trees are sparse on modern Easter Island, rarely forming small groves. The island once possessed a forest of palms and it has generally been thought that native Easter Islanders deforested the island in the process of erecting their statues. Experimental archaeology has clearly demonstrated that some statues certainly could have been placed on wooden frames and then pulled to their final destinations on ceremonial sites. Rapanui traditions metaphorically refer to spiritual power (mana) as the means by which the moai were "walked" from the quarry. Also important was the introduction of the Polynesian Rat, which apparently ate the palm's seeds. However, given the island's southern latitude, the (as yet poorly documented) climatic effects of the Little Ice Age (about 1650 to 1850) may have contributed to deforestation and other changes. Jared Diamond disregards the influence of climate in the collapse of the ancient Easter Islanders in his book 'Collapse'. The disappearance of the island's trees seems to coincide with a decline of the Easter Island civilization around the 17th-18th century AD. Midden contents show a sudden drop in quantities of fish and bird bones as the islanders lost the means to construct fishing vessels and the birds lost their nesting sites. Soil erosion due to lack of trees is apparent in some places. Sediment samples document that up to half of the native plants had become extinct and that the vegetation of the island was drastically altered. Chickens and rats became leading items of diet and there are (not unequivocally accepted) hints at cannibalism occurring, based on human remains associated with cooking sites, especially in caves. Obsidian spear points and the toppling of many statues indicate a breakdown of the social structure, possibly even leading to civil strife, though almost certainly not on as massive a scale as is often assumed.

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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2007, 01:50:02 am »

The Birdman cult
(16th / 17th century AD - 19th century AD)


The surviving population developed new traditions to allocate the remaining, scarce resources. Around 1680, a coup by military leaders called matatoa brought a new cult based around a previously unexceptional god Make-make. In the cult of the birdman (Rapanui: tangata manu), a competition was established in which every year a representative of each clan, chosen by the leaders, would dive into the sea and swim across shark-infested waters to Motu Nui, a nearby islet, to search for the season's first egg laid by a manutara (sooty tern). The first swimmer to return with an egg would be named "Birdman of the year" and secure control over distribution of the island's resources for his clan for the year. The tradition was still in existence at the time of first contact by Europeans. It ended in 1867.

 
Moto Nui islet, part of the Birdman Cult ceremony
European contacts


The first European contact with the island began on 5 April 1722 (which was Easter Sunday) when Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen found 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants on the island, although the population may have been as high as 10,000 to 15,000 only a century or two earlier. The civilization of Easter Island was long believed to have degenerated drastically during the century before the arrival of the Dutch, as a result of overpopulation, deforestation and exploitation of an extremely isolated island with limited natural resources.

French explorer, Jean François de Galaup La Pérouse visited Easter Island in 1786 after coming from Cape Horn, Chile. During his time there, he made a detailed map of Easter Island. He then continued his journey to the Hawaiian Islands and later to Japan and other Asian countries.


Slavery and annexation to Chile
 
A petroglyph found near Ahu TongarikiBy the mid-19th century, the population had recovered to about 4,000. Then, in only 20 years, deportation via slave traders to Peru and diseases brought by Westerners nearly exterminated the entire population — only 110 inhabitants remained on the island in 1877. Recollections of these events by the surviving descendants have led to the belief that they described ancient memories of a pre-contact collapse. Notably, the tales of a war between "long-ears" and "short-ears", traditionally interpreted as a major social conflict between castes (nobility which supposedly had the privilege of wearing earlobe jewelry vs. commoners or serfs) rather seems to recollect the deprivations of slave traders of European or South American origin; it is notable that the habit of extending earlobes was still present among the few survivors in the 1870s[citation needed]. The population of native Rapanui has since gradually recovered from this low point.

Easter Island was annexed by Chile in 1888 by Policarpo Toro, by means of the "Treaty of Annexation of the island" (Tratado de Anexión de la isla), that the government of Chile signed with the native people of the island.

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« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2007, 01:51:48 am »



A close up of the moai at Ahu Tahai, restored with coral eyes by the American archaeologist William Mulloy
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« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2007, 01:53:18 am »



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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« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2007, 01:56:19 am »

Moai are statues carved from compressed volcanic ash 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).[1] One unfinished sculpture has been found that would have been 21 metres (69 ft) tall and would have weighed about 270 tons.

Fewer than one-fifth of the statues were moved to ceremonial sites and then erected once they had red stone cylinders (pukau) placed on their heads. These "topknots", as they are often called, were carved in a single quarry known as Puna Pau. About 95% of the 887 moai known to date were carved out of compressed volcanic ash at Rano Raraku, where 394 moai still remain visible today. Recent GPS mapping in the 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. However, the pattern of work is very complex and is still being studied. Practically all of the completed moai that were moved from Rano Raraku and erected upright on ceremonial platforms were subsequently toppled by native islanders in the period after construction ceased.

In recent years, toppled moai have been found untouched and face-down. This led to the discovery that the famous deep eye sockets of the moai were designed to hold coral eyes. 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. The statues must have been extremely expensive to craft; 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, wooden sledges and/or rollers. Another theory is that the moai may have been "walked" by rocking them forward. (Pavel Pavel and his successful experiment [2] 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.

Ancient island legends speak of a clan chief called Hotu Matu'a, who left his original home in search of a new one. The place he chose is now known to us as Easter Island. When he died, the island was divided between his six sons and later sub-divided among their descendants. The islanders may have believed that their statues would capture the chiefs' "mana" (supernatural powers). They may have believed that by concentrating mana on the island good things would result, e.g., rain would fall and crops would grow. The settlement legend is a fragment of what was surely a much more complicated and multi-faceted, mythic sketch, and it has changed over time.
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« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2007, 01:58:12 am »



Ahu Tongariki, restored in the 1990's
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« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2007, 01:59:39 am »



Ahu Akivi, the only moai facing the ocean
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« Reply #11 on: March 03, 2007, 02:20:57 am »

Easter Island: land of mystery
 

David Pratt
November 2004

 

Part 3 of 4



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Contents
    6. Platforms (11/05)
    7. Rongorongo
    8. Chronology



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

6. Platforms


Easter Island has at least 313 ceremonial platforms or ahu – open-air temple sanctuaries erected in honour of the gods and deified ancestors. A few were built inland but most are situated around the coast, usually at sheltered coves and areas favourable for human habitation, though a few are located on cliff edges. They are composed of a rubble core faced with masonry, for which no mortar was used. Seaward walls often consist of uncut stones, but sometimes they consist of precisely carved and fitted blocks. On the landward side was a ramp, paved with lines of beach boulders and sloping down to an artificially levelled plaza.

Some ahu are quite small, but others are remarkable pieces of massive communal engineering, 150 m (500 ft) or more long and up to 7 m (23 ft) high. Some required the moving of 300 to 500 tons of stone, while the Tahai complex comprised three structures requiring 23,000 cubic metres of rock and earth fill, weighing an estimated 2000 tons.

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« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2007, 02:21:50 am »

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/dp5/ahu1.jpg
Fig. 6.1 Plan of an image platform.
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« Reply #13 on: March 03, 2007, 02:22:34 am »

Platforms served as social and religious centres, and also as boundary markers. A few platforms seem to have been built to contain burials, but this does not seem to have been the original function of the image platforms. No early skeletons have been discovered, whereas elaborate cremation pits have been found behind the central platform at many complexes, in contrast to the rest of central and eastern Polynesia, where cremation was not practised. At a later stage, bodies were interred in stone-lined tombs in the platforms and ramps. After the moai had been toppled, bodies were placed around the fallen moai or on other parts of ramps and then covered with stones. Semi-pyramidal platforms were the last type of ahu to be built: they were usually superimposed on the earlier, statue-bearing platforms, and seem to have been designed purely for burial purposes. Less than 75 are known, compared with more than 125 image platforms.

Some platforms seem to have been built in a single episode, but most image platforms show evidence of more than one construction phase, and some as many as eight. Based on radiocarbon dating, the earliest structure, at Tahai, is dated at 690 AD, though some archaeologists regard the association of the dated material with the structure as extremely doubtful.1 Platform building is generally believed to have become an obsession by 1200, and to have lasted until well into the 16th century.


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« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2007, 02:23:33 am »

Cyclopean masonry
The finest platform masonry, such as that found at Ahu Tahiri (one of the two ahu at Vinapu), consists of ‘enormous squared and tooled stones, that turn the edge of the toughest modern steel’.1 The best facade slabs commonly weigh 2 or 3 tons. At Vinapu one of the polished basalt slabs measures 2.5 by 1.7 m (8 by 5.5 ft) and weighs 6 or 7 tons, while one at Ahu Vai Mata is 3 by 2 m (10 by 6 ft), and weighs 9 or 10 tons.

The cyclopean masonry of Ahu Vinapu and certain other platforms is reminiscent of that of ‘Incan’ (or rather pre-Incan) monuments to be found at Cuzco, Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, and Sillustani in Peru. John Macmillan Brown writes:

The colossal blocks are tooled and cut so as to fit each other. In the Ahu Vinapu and in the fragment of the ahu near Hangaroa beach the stones are as colossal as in the old Temple of the Sun in Cuzco, they are as carefully tooled, and the irregularities of their sides that have to come together are so cut that the two faces exactly fit into each other. These blocks are too huge to have been shifted frequently to let the mason find out whether they fitted or not. They must have been cut and tooled to exact measurement or plan. There is no evidence of chipping after they have been laid. Every angle and projection must have been measured with scientific precision before the stones were nearing their finish.2

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