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The Island of Rapa Nui

Rapa Nui is the easternmost island of the Polynesian Triangle and the most isolated, inhabited
location on Earth. Archaeological estimates vary, but Polynesian colonists arrived in large, double-
hulled, ocean-going canoes by at least 1000 years ago. According to oral tradition, under the leadership
of Hotu Matu’a, the first settlement was built at Anakena Beach. The island first provided a rich set of
resources to support a complex Polynesian society based upon agriculture and fishing, with a hereditary
line of chiefs, a class of priests, and Polynesian religious beliefs. This included construction of shrines to
honor powerful ancestors and leaders after their death. On Rapa Nui, these developed into the large
platforms or ahu on which the monumental statues or moai were placed. The ahus, which dot the coast,
are the largest in all of Polynesia and are the most recognizable aspect of Rapa Nui to most outsiders.

Akivi statues from iphotos.jpg

What are moai?

Moai or moʻai are colossal human figures carved out of volcanic tuff by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island.  These megalithic statues were often placed upon ahu (giant stone ceremonial platforms) facing landward, although nearly half never were removed from the quarry where they were carved.

Rapa Nui Rock Art

The rock art of Rapa Nui is intriguing for the variety of complex designs and motifs. The research and publications by archaeologist, Dr. Georgia Lee has brought attention to the spectacular pictographs and petroglyphs of the island. Over 4000 petroglyphs have been documented on Easter Island.

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