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Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of
Chile Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America South America is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention ra ...

Chile
in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the
Polynesian Triangle 300px, The Polynesian Triangle is a geographical region of the Pacific Ocean with Hawaii (1), New Zealand () (2) and Easter Island">New_Zealand.html" ;"title="Hawaii (1), New Zealand">Hawaii (1), New Zealand () (2) and Easter Island (''Rapa Nui'') ...
in
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a geographic region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth ...

Oceania
. The island is most famous for its nearly 1,000 extant monumental statues, called ''
moai Moai or moʻai ( es, moái, rap, moʻai, meaning "statue" in Rapa Nui language, Rapa Nui) are monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island in eastern Polynesia between the years 1250 and 1500. Nearly half are still a ...

moai
'', which were created by the early
Rapa Nui people The Rapa Nui are the Indigenous peoples of Oceania, indigenous Polynesians, Polynesian people of Easter Island. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the descendants of the original people of Easter Island make up about 60% of the current Easter Is ...
. In 1995,
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (french: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'éducation, la science et la culture) is a List of specialized agencies of the United Nations, specialised agency of th ...

UNESCO
named Easter Island a
World Heritage Site A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for ha ...
, with much of the island protected within
Rapa Nui National Park Rapa Nui National Park ( es, Parque nacional Rapa Nui) is a national park A national park is a park in use for Conservation (ethic), conservation purposes, created and protected by national governments. Often it is a reserve of natural, semi-n ...
. Experts disagree on when the island's
Polynesian Polynesian is the adjectival form of Polynesia. It may refer to: * Polynesians, an ethnic group * Polynesian culture, the culture of the indigenous peoples of Polynesia * Polynesian mythology, the oral traditions of the people of Polynesia * Polyne ...
inhabitants first reached the island. While many in the research community cited evidence that they arrived around 800 CE, convincing data presented in a 2007 study suggested the time to be 1200 CE. The inhabitants created a thriving and industrious culture, as evidenced by the island's numerous enormous stone ''moai'' and other artifacts. However, land clearing for cultivation and the introduction of the
Polynesian rat The Polynesian rat, Pacific rat or little rat (''Rattus exulans''), known to the Māori as ''kiore'', is the third most widespread species of rat in the world behind the brown rat and black rat. The Polynesian rat originated in Southeast Asia, a ...
led to gradual
deforestation deforestation in 1750-2004 (net loss) showing anthropogenic modification of remaining forest. File:MODIS (2020-08-01).jpg, 300px, Dry seasons, exacerbated by climate change, and the use of slash-and-burn methods for clearing tropical forest ...

deforestation
. By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population was estimated to be 2,000 to 3,000. European diseases, Peruvian
slave raiding Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for another person (a slaver), while treated as property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract and co ...
expeditions in the 1860s, and emigration to other islands such as
Tahiti Tahiti (; Tahitian language, Tahitian ; ; previously also known as Otaheite) is the largest island of the Windward Islands (Society Islands), Windward group of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, located in the central part of the Pacific ...

Tahiti
further depleted the population, reducing it to a low of 111 native inhabitants in 1877. Chile annexed Easter Island in 1888. In 1966, the Rapa Nui were granted Chilean citizenship. In 2007 the island gained the constitutional status of "special territory" ( es, territorio especial). Administratively, it belongs to the
Valparaíso Region The Valparaíso Region ( es, Región de Valparaíso, links=no, ) is one of Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of Chile (), is a country in western South America. It occupies a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes to ...
, constituting a single
commune A commune is an intentional community of people sharing living spaces, interests, values, beliefs, and often property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract and concrete, abstract is what belongs to or with something, whether ...
of the
Province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many similar terms, are g ...
Isla de Pascua. The 2017 Chilean census registered 7,750 people on the island, of whom 3,512 (45%) considered themselves Rapa Nui. Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. The nearest inhabited land (around 50 residents in 2013) is
Pitcairn Island The Pitcairn Islands consist of four islands: Pitcairn Island (a volcanic high island), Henderson Island (an uplifted coral Corals are marine invertebrates within the class (biology), class Anthozoa of the phylum Cnidaria. They typically li ...

Pitcairn Island
, away; the nearest town with a population over 500 is
Rikitea Rikitea is a small town on Mangareva, which is part of the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia. A majority of the islanders live in Rikitea. The island was a protectorate of France in 1871 and was annexed in 1881. History The town's history dates ...
, on the island of
Mangareva Mangareva is the central and largest island of the Gambier Islands The Gambier Islands ( or ) are an archipelago in French Polynesia, located at the southeast terminus of the Tuamotu archipelago. They cover an area of , and are the remnants ...

Mangareva
, away; the nearest continental point lies in central Chile, away.


Etymology

The name "Easter Island" was given by the island's first recorded European visitor, the Dutch explorer
Jacob Roggeveen Jacob Roggeveen (1 February 1659 – 31 January 1729) was a Dutch Republic, Dutch explorer who was sent to find Terra Australis and Davis Land, but instead found Easter Island (called so because he landed there on Easter Sunday). Jacob Roggeveen a ...

Jacob Roggeveen
, who encountered it on
Easter Sunday Easter,Traditional names for the feast in English are "Easter Day", as in the ''Book of Common Prayer A book is a medium for recording information in the form of writing or images, typically composed of many page (paper), pages (made of ...

Easter Sunday
(5 April) in 1722, while searching for " Davis Land". Roggeveen named it ''Paasch-Eyland'' (18th-century
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () *Dutch language , spoken in Belgium (also referred as ''flemish'') Dutch may also refer to:" Castle * Dutch Castle Places * ...
for "Easter Island").An English translation of the originally Dutch journal by Jacob Roggeveen, with additional significant information from the log by Cornelis Bouwman, was published in: Andrew Sharp (ed.), The Journal of Jacob Roggeveen (Oxford 1970). The island's official Spanish name, ''Isla de Pascua'', also means "Easter Island". The current Polynesian name of the island, ''Rapa Nui'' ("Big Rapa"), was coined after the slave raids of the early 1860s, and refers to the island's topographic resemblance to the island of Rapa in the
Bass Islands The Bass Islands are three United States, American islands in the western half of Lake Erie. They are north of Sandusky, Ohio, Sandusky, Ohio, and south of Pelee, Ontario, Pelee Island, Ontario. South Bass Island () is the largest of the islands, ...
of the
Austral Islands The Austral Islands (french: Îles Australes, officially ''Archipel des Australes;'' ty, Tuha'a Pae) are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia )Territorial motto: ( en, "Great Tahiti of the Golden Haze") , anthem = "La Mars ...
group. However, Norwegian
ethnographer Ethnography (from Greek language, Greek ''ethnos'' "folk, people, nation" and ''grapho'' "I write") is a branch of anthropology and the systematic study of individual cultures. Ethnography explores cultural phenomena from the point of view o ...
Thor Heyerdahl Thor Heyerdahl (; 6 October 1914 – 18 April 2002) was a Norway, Norwegian adventurer and Ethnography, ethnographer with a background in zoology, botany and geography. Heyerdahl is notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition, ''Kon-Tiki'' expedition i ...

Thor Heyerdahl
argued that ''Rapa'' was the original name of Easter Island and that ''Rapa Iti'' was named by refugees from there. The phrase ''Te pito o te henua'' has been said to be the original name of the island since French ethnologist Alphonse Pinart gave it the romantic translation "the Navel of the World" in his ''Voyage à l'Île de Pâques'', published in 1877. William Churchill (1912) inquired about the phrase and was told that there were three ''te pito o te henua'', these being the three capes (land's ends) of the island. The phrase appears to have been used in the same sense as the designation of "Land's End" at the tip of
Cornwall Cornwall (; kw, Kernow ) is a Historic counties of England, historic county and Ceremonial counties of England, ceremonial county in South West England. It is recognised as one of the Celtic nations, and is the homeland of the Cornish people ...

Cornwall
. He was unable to elicit a Polynesian name for the island and concluded that there may not have been one. According to Barthel (1974),
oral tradition Oral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication Human communication, or anthroposemiotics, is the field dedicated to understanding how human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of prima ...
has it that the island was first named ''Te pito o te kainga a Hau Maka'', "The little piece of land of Hau Maka". However, there are two words pronounced ''pito'' in Rapa Nui, one meaning 'end' and one 'navel', and the phrase can thus also mean "The Navel of the World". Another name, ''Mata ki te rangi'', means "Eyes looking to the sky". Islanders are referred to in Spanish as ''pascuense''; however it is common to refer to members of the indigenous community as ''Rapa Nui''. Felipe González de Ahedo named it ''Isla de San Carlos'' ("' Island", the patron saint of
Charles III of Spain it, Carlo Sebastiano di Borbone e Farnese , house = BourbonBourbon may refer to: Food and drink * Bourbon whiskey, an American whiskey made using a corn-based mash * Bourbon barrel aged beer, a type of beer aged in bourbon barrels * ...

Charles III of Spain
) or ''Isla de David'' (probably the phantom island of Davis Land; sometimes translated as "Davis's Island") in 1770. In Wikimedia Commons.


History


Introduction

Oral tradition states the island was first settled by a two-canoe expedition, originating from Marae Renga (or Marae Toe Hau), and led by the chief Hotu Matu'a and his captain Tu'u ko Iho. The island was first scouted after Haumaka dreamed of such a far-off country; Hotu deemed it a worthwhile place to flee from a neighboring chief, one to whom he had already lost three battles. At their time of arrival, the island had one lone settler, Nga Tavake 'a Te Rona. After a brief stay at Anakena, the colonists settled in different parts of the island. Hotu's heir, Tu'u ma Heke, was born on the island. Tu'u ko Iho is viewed as the leader who brought the statues and caused them to walk. The Easter Islanders are considered to be South-East Polynesians. Similar sacred zones with statuary (''
marae A ' (in New Zealand Māori, Cook Islands Māori, Tahitian), ' (in Tongan), ' (in Marquesan The Marquesas Islands (; french: Îles Marquises or ' or '; Marquesan language, Marquesan: ' (North Marquesan language, North Marquesan) and ' (S ...
'' and ''ahu'') in East Polynesia demonstrates homology with most of Eastern Polynesia. At contact, populations were about 3,000–4,000. By the 15th century, two confederations, ''hanau'', of social groupings, ''mata'', existed, based on lineage. The western and northern portion of the island belonged to the Tu'u, which included the royal Miru, with the royal center at Anakena, though Tahai and Te Peu served as earlier capitals. The eastern portion of the island belonged to the 'Otu 'Itu. Shortly after the Dutch visit, from 1724 until 1750, the 'Otu 'Itu fought the Tu'u for control of the island. This fighting continued until the 1860s. Famine followed the burning of huts and the destruction of fields. Social control vanished as the ordered way of life gave way to lawlessness and predatory bands as the warrior class took over. Homelessness prevailed, with many living underground. After the Spanish visit, from 1770 onwards, a period of statue toppling, ''huri mo'ai'', commenced. This was an attempt by competing groups to destroy the socio-spiritual power, or ''mana'', represented by statues, making sure to break them in the fall to ensure they were dead and without power. None were left standing by the time of the arrival of the French missionaries in the 1860s. Between 1862 and 1888, about 94% of the population perished or emigrated. The island was victimized by
blackbirding Blackbirding involves the coercion of people through deception or kidnapping to work as slaves or poorly paid labourers in countries distant to their native land. The term has been most commonly applied to the large-scale taking of people indige ...
from 1862 to 1863, resulting in the abduction or killing of about 1,500, with 1,408 working as
indentured servant Indentured servitude is a form of labor in which a person is contracted to work without salary for a specific number of years. The contract, called an "indenture", may be entered voluntarily for eventual compensation or debt repayment, or it may be ...
s in Peru. Only about a dozen eventually returned to Easter Island, but they brought smallpox, which decimated the remaining population of 1,500. Those who perished included the island's ''tumu ivi 'atua'', bearers of the island's culture, history, and genealogy besides the ''
rongorongo Rongorongo (Rapa Nui Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of Chile (), is a country in western South America. It occupies a long, na ...
'' experts.


Rapa Nui settlement

Estimated dates of initial settlement of Easter Island have ranged from 300 to 1200 CE, though the current best estimate for colonization is in the . Easter Island colonization likely coincided with the arrival of the first settlers in Hawaii. Rectifications in
radiocarbon dating Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material Organic matter, organic material, or natural organic matter refers to the large source of ...
have changed almost all of the previously posited early settlement dates in Polynesia. Ongoing archaeological studies provide this late date: "Radiocarbon dates for the earliest stratigraphic layers at Anakena, Easter Island, and analysis of previous radiocarbon dates imply that the island was colonized late, about . Significant ecological impacts and major cultural investments in monumental architecture and statuary thus began soon after initial settlement." According to oral tradition, the first settlement was at . Researchers have noted that the Caleta Anakena landing point provides the island's best shelter from prevailing swells as well as a sandy beach for canoe landings and launchings, so it is a likely early place of settlement. However
radiocarbon dating Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material Organic matter, organic material, or natural organic matter refers to the large source of ...
concludes that other sites preceded Anakena by many years, especially the by several centuries. The island was populated by Polynesians who most likely navigated in canoes or
catamaran A Formula 16 beachable catamaran Powered catamaran passenger ferry at Salem, Massachusetts, United States A catamaran () (informally, a "cat") is a multi-hulled watercraft Watercraft, also known as water vessels or waterborne vessels, a ...

catamaran
s from the
Gambier Islands The Gambier Islands ( or ) are an archipelago in French Polynesia, located at the southeast terminus of the Tuamotu archipelago. They cover an area of , and are the remnants of a caldera along with islets on the surrounding fringing reef. They a ...
(Mangareva, away) or the
Marquesas Islands The Marquesas Islands (; french: Îles Marquises or ' or '; Marquesan language, Marquesan: ' (North Marquesan language, North Marquesan) and ' (South Marquesan language, South Marquesan), both meaning "the land of men") are a group of volcano, ...
, away. According to some theories, such as the Polynesian Diaspora Theory, there is a possibility that early Polynesian settlers arrived from
South America South America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continent ...

South America
due to their remarkable sea-navigation abilities. Theorists have supported this through the agricultural evidence of the
sweet potato The sweet potato or sweetpotato (''Ipomoea batatas'') is a dicotyledon The dicotyledons, also known as dicots (or more rarely dicotyls), are one of the two groups into which all the flowering plant The flowering plants, also known as Angio ...

sweet potato
. The sweet potato was a favoured crop in Polynesian society for generations but it originated in South America, suggesting interaction between these two geographic areas. However, recent research suggests that sweet potatoes may have spread to Polynesia by long-distance dispersal long before the Polynesians arrived. When
James Cook Captain Captain is a title for the commander of a military unit, the commander of a ship, aeroplane, spacecraft, or other vessel, or the commander of a port, fire department or police department, election precinct, etc. The captain is a milit ...

James Cook
visited the island, one of his crew members, a Polynesian from
Bora Bora Bora Bora (French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in W ...

Bora Bora
, Hitihiti, was able to communicate with the Rapa Nui. The language most similar to Rapa Nui is Mangarevan, with an estimated 80% similar vocabulary. In 1999, a voyage with reconstructed Polynesian boats was able to reach Easter Island from Mangareva in 19 days. According to oral traditions recorded by
missionaries A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to promote their faith or provide services, such as education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, value (ethics), ...
in the 1860s, the island originally had a strong
class system A social class is a set of concepts in the social sciences Social science is the branch The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany Botany, also called , plant biolog ...
: an ''ariki'', or high
chief Chief may refer to: Title or rank Military and law enforcement * Chief master sergeant Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt) is the ninth, and highest, United States Air Force enlisted rank insignia, enlisted rank in the United States Air Force, ...
, wielded great power over nine other clans and their respective chiefs. The high chief was the eldest descendant through first-born lines of the island's legendary founder, Hotu Matu'a. The most visible element in the culture was the production of massive moai statues that some believe represented deified ancestors. According to ''National Geographic'', "Most scholars suspect that the moai were created to honor ancestors, chiefs, or other important personages, However, no written and little oral history exists on the island, so it’s impossible to be certain." It was believed that the living had a
symbiotic relationship Symbiosis (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approx ...

symbiotic relationship
with the dead in which the dead provided everything that the living needed (health, fertility of land and animals, fortune etc.) and the living, through offerings, provided the dead with a better place in the spirit world. Most settlements were located on the coast, and most moai were erected along the coastline, watching over their descendants in the settlements before them, with their backs toward the spirit world in the sea. In his book '' Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed'',
Jared Diamond Jared Mason Diamond (born September 10, 1937) is an American geographer A geographer is a physical scientist, social scientist or humanist whose area of study is geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth d ...

Jared Diamond
suggested that
cannibalism Cannibalism is the act of consuming another individual of the same species as food Food is any substance consumed to provide Nutrient, nutritional support for an organism. Food is usually of plant, animal or Fungus, fungal origin, and cont ...

cannibalism
took place on Easter Island after the construction of the moai contributed to
environment Environment most often refers to: __NOTOC__ * Natural environment, all living and non-living things occurring naturally * Biophysical environment, the physical and biological factors along with their chemical interactions that affect an organism or ...

environment
al degradation when extreme deforestation destabilized an already precarious ecosystem. Archeological record shows that at the time of the initial settlement the island was home to many species of trees, including at least three species which grew up to or more: ''
Paschalococos ''Paschalococos disperta'', the Rapa Nui palm or Easter Island palm, formerly ''Jubaea disperta,'' was the native cocoid Arecaceae, palm species of Easter Island. It disappeared from the pollen core, pollen record circa AD 1650. It is not known ...
'' (possibly the largest palm trees in the world at the time), '' Alphitonia zizyphoides'', and '' Elaeocarpus rarotongensis.'' At least six species of land birds were known to live on the island. A major factor that contributed to the extinction of multiple plant species was the introduction of the
Polynesian rat The Polynesian rat, Pacific rat or little rat (''Rattus exulans''), known to the Māori as ''kiore'', is the third most widespread species of rat in the world behind the brown rat and black rat. The Polynesian rat originated in Southeast Asia, a ...
. Studies by paleobotanists have shown rats can dramatically affect the reproduction of vegetation in an ecosystem. In the case of Rapa Nui, recovered plant seed shells showed markings of being gnawed on by rats. Barbara A. West wrote, "Sometime before the arrival of Europeans on Easter Island, the Rapanui experienced a tremendous upheaval in their social system brought about by a change in their island's ecology... By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population had dropped to 2,000–3,000 from a high of approximately 15,000 just a century earlier." By that time, 21 species of trees and all species of land birds through some combination of over-harvesting, over-hunting, rat predation, and climate change. The island was largely
deforested deforestation in 1750-2004 (net loss) showing anthropogenic modification of remaining forest. File:MODIS (2020-08-01).jpg, 300px, Dry seasons, exacerbated by climate change, and the use of slash-and-burn methods for clearing tropical forest ...

deforested
, and it did not have any trees taller than . Loss of large trees meant that residents were no longer able to build seaworthy vessels, significantly diminishing their fishing abilities. One theory is that the trees were used as rollers to move the statues to their place of erection from the quarry at
Rano Raraku Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater formed of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff, and located on the lower slopes of Terevaka in the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island in Chile. It was a quarry for about 500 years until the early eighteenth cent ...

Rano Raraku
. Deforestation also caused erosion which caused a sharp decline in agricultural production. This was exacerbated by the loss of land birds and the collapse in seabird populations as a source of food. By the 18th century, islanders were largely sustained by farming, with domestic chickens as the primary source of protein. As the island became overpopulated and resources diminished, warriors known as ''matatoa'' gained more power and the Ancestor Cult ended, making way for the Bird Man Cult. Beverly Haun wrote, "The concept of mana (power) invested in hereditary leaders was recast into the person of the birdman, apparently beginning circa 1540, and coinciding with the final vestiges of the moai period." This cult maintained that, although the ancestors still provided for their descendants, the medium through which the living could contact the dead was no longer statues but human beings chosen through a competition. The god responsible for creating humans,
Makemake Makemake ( minor-planet designation 136472 Makemake) is a likely dwarf planet A dwarf planet is a planetary-mass object that does not dominate its region of space (as a planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar ...
, played an important role in this process. , who systematically collected the island's traditions in her 1919 expedition, showed that the competitions for Bird Man (Rapa Nui: ''
tangata manu The ''Tangata manu'' ("bird-man," from ''tangata'' "human beings" + ''manu'' "bird") was the winner of a traditional competition on Rapa Nui Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile ...
'') started around 1760, after the arrival of the first Europeans, and ended in 1878, with the construction of the first church by Roman Catholic missionaries who formally arrived in 1864.
Petroglyphs , Spain (4th–2nd millennium BCE), depicting cup and ring marks and deer hunting scenes A petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock (geology), rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock ar ...

Petroglyphs
representing Bird Men on Easter Island are the same as some in Hawaii, indicating that this concept was probably brought by the original settlers; only the competition itself was unique to Easter Island. According to Diamond and Heyerdahl's version of the island's history, the ''huri mo'ai''"statue-toppling"continued into the 1830s as a part of fierce internal wars. By 1838, the only standing moai were on the slopes of Rano Raraku, in in
Orongo Orongo is a stone village and ceremonial center at the southwestern tip of Rapa Nui Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of Chile (), i ...

Orongo
, and Ariki Paro in Ahu Te Pito Kura. A study headed by Douglas Owsley published in 1994 asserted that there is little archaeological evidence of pre-European
societal collapse A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction In social science, a social relation or social interaction is any relationship between two or more individuals. Social relations derived from individual agenc ...
.
Bone pathology Orthopedic pathology, also known as bone pathology is a subspecialty of surgical pathology which deals with the diagnosis and feature of many bone diseases, specifically studying the cause and effects of disorders of the Human musculoskeletal system ...
and osteometric data from islanders of that period clearly suggest few fatalities can be attributed directly to violence. Research by Binghamton University anthropologists Robert DiNapoli and Carl Lipo in 2021 determined that the island experienced steady population growth from its initial settlement until European contact in 1722. The island never had more than a few thousand people prior to European contact, and their numbers were increasing rather than dwindling.


European contact

The first recorded European contact with the island was on 5 April 1722,
Easter Sunday Easter,Traditional names for the feast in English are "Easter Day", as in the ''Book of Common Prayer A book is a medium for recording information in the form of writing or images, typically composed of many page (paper), pages (made of ...

Easter Sunday
, by Dutch navigator
Jacob Roggeveen Jacob Roggeveen (1 February 1659 – 31 January 1729) was a Dutch Republic, Dutch explorer who was sent to find Terra Australis and Davis Land, but instead found Easter Island (called so because he landed there on Easter Sunday). Jacob Roggeveen a ...

Jacob Roggeveen
. His visit resulted in the death of about a dozen islanders, including the ''tumu ivi 'atua'', and the wounding of many others. The next foreign visitors (on 15 November 1770) were two Spanish ships, ''San Lorenzo'' and ''Santa Rosalia'', under the command of Captain Don Felipe Gonzalez de Ahedo. The Spanish were amazed by the "standing idols", all of which were erect at the time. Four years later, in 1774, British explorer
James Cook Captain Captain is a title for the commander of a military unit, the commander of a ship, aeroplane, spacecraft, or other vessel, or the commander of a port, fire department or police department, election precinct, etc. The captain is a milit ...

James Cook
visited Easter Island; he reported that some statues had been toppled. Through the interpretation of Hitihiti, Cook learned the statues commemorated their former high chiefs, including their names and ranks. On 10 April 1786, French Admiral
Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse Jean François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse (; variant spelling of his name: ''comte de La Pérouse''; 23 August 17411788?) was a French naval officer and explorer. Having enlisted at the age of 15, he had a successful naval career and in 1785 ...
anchored at Hanga Roa at the start of a circumnavigation of the Pacific. He made a detailed map of the bay, including his anchorage points, as well as a more generalised map of the island, plus some illustrations.


19th century

A series of devastating events killed or removed most of the population in the 1860s. In December 1862,
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = Seal (device), National seal , national_mott ...

Peru
vian slave raiders struck. Violent abductions continued for several months, eventually capturing around 1,500 men and women, half of the island's population. Among those captured were the island's paramount chief, his heir, and those who knew how to read and write the
rongorongo Rongorongo (Rapa Nui Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of Chile (), is a country in western South America. It occupies a long, na ...
script, the only Polynesian script to have been found to date, although debate exists about whether this is
proto-writing Proto-writing consists of visible marks Communication, communicating limited information. Such systems emerged from earlier traditions of symbol systems in the early Neolithic, as early as the 7th millennium BC in Ancient China, China. They used ...
or true writing. When the slave raiders were forced to repatriate the people they had kidnapped, carriers of
smallpox Smallpox was an infectious disease An infection is the invasion of an organism's body Tissue (biology), tissues by Pathogen, disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host (biology), host tissues to the infectious ...

smallpox
disembarked together with a few survivors on each of the islands. This created devastating epidemics from Easter Island to the
Marquesas The Marquesas Islands (; french: Îles Marquises or ' or '; Marquesan language, Marquesan: ' (North Marquesan language, North Marquesan) and ' (South Marquesan language, South Marquesan), both meaning "the land of men") are a group of volcano, ...
islands. Easter Island's population was reduced to the point where some of the dead were not even buried.
Tuberculosis Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease An infection is the invasion of an organism's body Tissue (biology), tissues by Pathogen, disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host (biology), host tissues to the in ...

Tuberculosis
, introduced by whalers in the mid-19th century, had already killed several islanders when the first Christian missionary, , died from this disease in 1867. It ultimately killed approximately a quarter of the island's population. In the following years, the managers of the sheep ranch and the missionaries started buying the newly available lands of the deceased, and this led to great confrontations between natives and settlers. bought up all of the island apart from the missionaries' area around
Hanga Roa Hanga Roa () (Spanish: ''Bahía Larga'') is the main town, harbour and capital of Easter Island Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of ...
and moved a few hundred Rapa Nui to
Tahiti Tahiti (; Tahitian language, Tahitian ; ; previously also known as Otaheite) is the largest island of the Windward Islands (Society Islands), Windward group of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, located in the central part of the Pacific ...

Tahiti
to work for his backers. In 1871 the missionaries, having fallen out with Dutrou-Bornier, evacuated all but 171 Rapa Nui to the
Gambier islands The Gambier Islands ( or ) are an archipelago in French Polynesia, located at the southeast terminus of the Tuamotu archipelago. They cover an area of , and are the remnants of a caldera along with islets on the surrounding fringing reef. They a ...
. Those who remained were mostly older men. Six years later, only 111 people lived on Easter Island, and only 36 of them had any offspring. From that point on, the island's population slowly recovered. But with over 97% of the population dead or gone in less than a decade, much of the island's cultural knowledge had been lost. Alexander Salmon, Jr., a son of an English Jewish merchant and a Pōmare Dynasty prince, eventually worked to repatriate workers from his inherited
copra Copra ( > ) refers to the dried coconut The coconut tree (''Cocos nucifera'') is a member of the palm tree family (biology), family (Arecaceae) and the only living species of the genus ''Cocos''. The term "coconut" (or the archaic "coc ...

copra
plantation. He eventually bought up all lands on the island with the exception of the mission, and was its sole employer. He worked to develop tourism on the island and was the principal informant for the British and German archaeological expeditions for the island. He sent several pieces of genuine Rongorongo to his niece's husband, the German consul in
Valparaíso Valparaíso (; ) is a major city, seaport, , and educational centre in the commune of Valparaíso, . "Greater Valparaíso" is the second largest metropolitan area in the country. Valparaíso is located about northwest of by road and is one of t ...

Valparaíso
, Chile. Salmon sold the Brander Easter Island holdings to the Chilean government on 2 January 1888, and signed as a witness to the cession of the island. He returned to Tahiti in December 1888. He effectively ruled the island from 1878 until his cession to Chile in 1888. Easter Island was annexed by Chile on 9 September 1888 by by means of the "Treaty of Annexation of the Island" (Tratado de Anexión de la isla). Toro, representing the government of Chile, signed with Atamu Tekena, designated "King" by the Roman Catholic missionaries after the paramount chief and his heir had died. The validity of this treaty is still contested by some Rapa Nui. Officially, Chile purchased the nearly all encompassing Mason-Brander sheep ranch, comprised from lands purchased from the descendants of Rapa Nui who died during the epidemics, and then claimed sovereignty over the island.


20th century

Until the 1960s, the surviving Rapa Nui were confined to Hanga Roa. The rest of the island was rented to the Williamson-Balfour Company as a sheep farm until 1953. This exemplified the introduction of private property into Rapa Nui. The island was then managed by the
Chilean Navy The Chilean Navy ( es, Armada de Chile) is the naval warfare Naval warfare is human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and int ...
until 1966, at which point the island was reopened in its entirety. In 1966, the Rapa Nui were colonized and given Chilean citizenship. Following the
1973 Chilean coup d'état The 1973 Chilean coup d'état was a military coup in Chile Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively ...
that brought
Augusto Pinochet Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (, also , , ; 25 November 1915 – 10 December 2006) was a Chilean Army The Chilean Army ( es, Ejército de Chile) is the land arm of the Military of Chile. This 80,000-person army (9,200 of which are con ...

Augusto Pinochet
to power, Easter Island was placed under
martial law Martial law is the temporary imposition of direct military control of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law by a government, especially in response to a temporary emergency where civil forces are overwhelmed, or in an occupied te ...
. Tourism slowed, land was broken up, and private property was distributed to investors. During his time in power, Pinochet visited Easter Island on three occasions. The military built military facilities and a city hall. After an agreement in 1985 between Chile and United States, the runway at
Mataveri International Airport Mataveri International Airport or Isla de Pascua Airport is at Hanga Roa on Rapa Nui Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of Chile (), ...
was enlarged and was inaugurated in 1987. The runway was expanded , reaching . Pinochet is reported to have refused to attend the inauguration in protest at pressures from the United States over human rights.


21st century

Fishers of Rapa Nui have shown their concern of illegal fishing on the island. "Since the year 2000 we started to lose tuna, which is the basis of the fishing on the island, so then we began to take the fish from the shore to feed our families, but in less than two years we depleted all of it", Pakarati said. On 30 July 2007, a constitutional reform gave Easter Island and the Juan Fernández Islands (also known as Robinson Crusoe Island) the status of "special territories" of Chile. Pending the enactment of a special charter, the island continues to be governed as a province of the V Region of
Valparaíso Valparaíso (; ) is a major city, seaport, , and educational centre in the commune of Valparaíso, . "Greater Valparaíso" is the second largest metropolitan area in the country. Valparaíso is located about northwest of by road and is one of t ...

Valparaíso
. Species of fish were collected in Easter Island for one month in different habitats including shallow lava pools and deep waters. Within these habitats, two holotypes and paratypes, ''Antennarius randalli'' and ''Antennarius moai'', were discovered. These are considered frog-fish because of their characteristics: "12 dorsal rays, last two or three branched; bony part of first dorsal spine slightly shorter than second dorsal spine; body without bold zebra-like markings; caudal peduncle short, but distinct; last pelvic ray divided; pectoral rays 11 or 12". In 2018, the government decided to limit the stay period for tourists from 90 to 30 days because of social and environmental issues faced by the Island to preserve its historical importance.


Indigenous rights movement

Starting in August 2010, members of the indigenous Hitorangi clan occupied the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa. The occupiers allege that the hotel was bought from the Pinochet government, in violation of a Chilean agreement with the indigenous Rapa Nui, in the 1990s. The occupiers say their ancestors had been cheated into giving up the land. According to a BBC report, on 3 December 2010, at least 25 people were injured when Chilean police using Rubber bullet, pellet guns attempted to evict from these buildings a group of Rapa Nui who had claimed that the land the buildings stood on had been illegally taken from their ancestors. In January 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous People, James Anaya, expressed concern about the treatment of the indigenous Rapa Nui by the Chilean government, urging Chile to "make every effort to conduct a dialogue in good faith with representatives of the
Rapa Nui people The Rapa Nui are the Indigenous peoples of Oceania, indigenous Polynesians, Polynesian people of Easter Island. The easternmost Polynesian culture, the descendants of the original people of Easter Island make up about 60% of the current Easter Is ...
to solve, as soon as possible the real underlying problems that explain the current situation". The incident ended in February 2011, when up to 50 armed police broke into the hotel to remove the final five occupiers. They were arrested by the government, and no injuries were reported.


Geography

Easter Island is one of the world's most isolated inhabited islands. Its closest inhabited neighbours are the Chilean Juan Fernandez Islands, to the east, with approximately 850 inhabitants. The nearest continental point lies in central Chile near Concepción, Chile, Concepción, at . Easter Island's latitude is similar to that of Caldera, Chile, and it lies west of continental Chile at its nearest point (between Lota, Chile, Lota and Lebu, Chile, Lebu in the Biobío Region). Isla Salas y Gómez, to the east, is closer but is uninhabited. The Tristan da Cunha archipelago in the southern Atlantic competes for the title of the most remote island, lying from Saint Helena island and from the South African coast. The island is about long by at its widest point; its overall shape is triangular. It has an area of , and a maximum elevation of above mean sea level. There are three ''Rano'' (freshwater volcanic crater lake, crater lakes), at Rano Kau, Rano Raraku and Rano Aroi, near the summit of Terevaka, but no permanent streams or rivers.


Geology

Easter Island is a volcanic high island, consisting mainly of three extinct coalesced volcanoes: Terevaka (altitude 507 metres) forms the bulk of the island, while two other volcanoes, Poike and Rano Kau, form the eastern and southern headlands and give the island its roughly triangular shape. Lesser cones and other volcanic features include the crater Rano Raraku, the cinder cone Puna Pau and many volcanic caves including lava tubes. Poike used to be a separate island until volcanic material from Terevaka united it to the larger whole. The island is dominated by hawaiite and basalt flows which are rich in iron and show affinity with igneous rocks found in the Galápagos Islands. Easter Island and surrounding islets, such as Motu Nui and Motu Iti (Rapa Nui), Motu Iti, form the summit of a large volcanic mountain rising over from the sea bed. The mountain is part of the Salas y Gómez Ridge, a (mostly submarine) mountain range with dozens of seamounts, formed by the Easter hotspot. The range begins with Pukao (Seamount), Pukao and next Moai (seamount), Moai, two seamounts to the west of Easter Island, and extends east to the Nazca Ridge. The ridge was formed by the Nazca Plate moving over the Easter hotspot. Located about east of the East Pacific Rise, Easter Island lies within the Nazca Plate, bordering the Easter Plate, Easter Microplate. The Nazca-Pacific relative plate movement due to the seafloor spreading, amounts to about per year. This movement over the Easter hotspot has resulted in the Easter Seamount Chain, which merges into the Nazca Ridge further to the east. Easter Island and Isla Salas y Gómez are surface representations of that chain. The chain has progressively younger ages to the west. The current hotspot location is speculated to be west of Easter Island, amidst the Ahu, Umu and Tupa submarine volcanic fields and the Pukao and Moai seamounts. Easter Island lies atop the Rano Kau Ridge, and consists of three shield volcanoes with parallel geologic histories. Poike and Rano Kau exist on the east and south slopes of Terevaka, respectively. Rano Kau developed between 0.78 and 0.46 Megaannum, Ma from tholeiitic to Calc-alkaline, alkalic basalts. This volcano possesses a clearly defined summit caldera. Benmoreite, Benmoreitic lavas extrusive (geology), extruded about the rim from 0.35 to 0.34 Ma. Finally, between 0.24 and 0.11 Ma, a fracture (geology), fissure developed along a NE–SW trend, forming monogenetic volcanic field, monogenetic vents and rhyolitic intrusions. These include the cryptodome islets of Motu Nui and Motu Iti, the islet of Motu Kao Kao, the sheet intrusion of Te Kari Kari, the Perlitic Structure, perlitic obsidian Te Manavai dome and the Maunga Orito dome. Poike formed from tholeiitic to alkali basalts from 0.78 to 0.41 Ma. Its summit collapsed into a caldera which was subsequently filled by the Puakatiki lava cone pahoehoe flows at 0.36 Ma. Finally, the trachyte, trachytic lava domes of Maunga Vai a Heva, Maunga Tea Tea, and Maunga Parehe formed along a NE-SW trending fissure. Terevaka formed around 0.77 Ma of tholeiitic to alkali basalts, followed by the collapse of its summit into a caldera. Then at about 0.3Ma, cinder cones formed along a NNE-SSW trend on the western rim, while porphyritic benmoreitic lava filled the caldera, and pahoehoe flowed towards the northern coast, forming lava tubes, and to the southeast. Lava domes and a vent complex formed in the Maunga Puka area, while breccias formed along the vents on the western portion of Rano Aroi crater. This volcano's southern and southeastern flanks are composed of younger flows consisting of basalt, alkali basalt, hawaiite, mugearite, and benmoreite from eruptive fissures starting at 0.24 Ma. The youngest lava flow, Roiho, is dated at 0.11 Ma. The Hanga O Teo embayment is interpreted to be a 200 m high landslide escarpment, scarp. Rano Raraku and Maunga Toa Toa are isolated tuff cones of about 0.21 Ma. The crater of Rano Raraku contains a freshwater lake. The stratum, stratified tuff is composed of sideromelane, slightly altered to palagonite, and somewhat lithified. The tuff contains lithic fragment (geology), lithic fragments of older lava flows. The northwest sector of Rano Raraku contains reddish volcanic ash. According to Bandy, "...all of the great images of Easter Island are carved from" the light and porous tuff from Rano Raraku. A carving was abandoned when a large, dense and hardness scale, hard lithic fragment was encountered. However, these lithics became the basis for stone hammers and chisels. The Puna Pau crater contains an extremely porous pumice, from which was carved the Pukao "hats". The Maunga Orito obsidian was used to make the "mataa" spearheads. In the first half of the 20th century, steam reportedly came out of the Rano Kau crater wall. This was photographed by the island's manager, Mr. Edmunds.


Climate

Under the Köppen climate classification, the climate of Easter Island is classified as a tropical rainforest climate (''Af'') that borders on a humid subtropical climate (''Cfa''). The lowest temperatures are recorded in July and August (minimum ) and the highest in February (maximum temperature ), the summer season in the southern hemisphere. Winters are relatively mild. The rainiest month is May, though the island experiences year-round rainfall. Easter Island's isolated location exposes it to winds which help to keep the temperature fairly cool. Precipitation averages per year. Occasionally, heavy rainfall and rainstorms strike the island. These occur mostly in the winter months (June–August). Since it is close to the South Pacific High and outside the range of the intertropical convergence zone, cyclones and hurricanes do not occur around Easter Island. There is significant temperature moderation due to its isolated position in the middle of the ocean.


Ecology

Easter Island, together with its closest neighbour, the tiny island of Isla Salas y Gómez farther east, is recognized by ecologists as a distinct ecoregion, the Rapa Nui subtropical broadleaf forests. The original tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, subtropical moist broadleaf forests are now gone, but paleobotany, paleobotanical studies of fossil pollen, tree moulds left by lava flows, and root casts found in local soils indicate that the island was formerly forested, with a range of trees, shrubs, ferns, and grasses. A large extinction, extinct Arecaceae, palm, ''Paschalococos, Paschalococos disperta'', related to the Chilean wine palm ''(Jubaea chilensis)'', was one of the dominant trees as attested by fossil evidence. Like its Chilean counterpart it probably took close to 100 years to reach adult height. The
Polynesian rat The Polynesian rat, Pacific rat or little rat (''Rattus exulans''), known to the Māori as ''kiore'', is the third most widespread species of rat in the world behind the brown rat and black rat. The Polynesian rat originated in Southeast Asia, a ...
, which the original settlers brought with them, played a very important role in the disappearance of the Rapa Nui palm. Although some may believe that rats played a major role in the degradation of the forest, less than 10% of palm nuts show teeth marks from rats. The remains of palm stumps in different places indicate that humans caused the trees to fall because in large areas, the stumps were cut efficiently. In 2018, a New York Times article announced that Easter Island is eroding. The clearance of the palms to make the settlements led to their extinction almost 350 years ago. The toromiro tree ''(Sophora toromiro)'' was prehistorically present on Easter Island, but is now extinct in the wild. However, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Göteborg Botanical Garden are jointly leading a scientific program to reintroduce the toromiro to Easter Island. With the palm and the toromiro virtually gone, there was considerably less rainfall as a result of less condensation. After the island was used to feed thousands of sheep for almost a century, by the mid-1900s the island was mostly covered in grassland with totora (plant), ''nga'atu'' or bulrush (''Schoenoplectus californicus tatora'') in the crater lakes of Rano Raraku and Rano Kau. The presence of these reeds, which are called ''totora'' in the Andes, was used to support the argument of a South American origin of the statue builders, but pollen analysis of lake sediments shows these reeds have grown on the island for over 30,000 years. Before the arrival of humans, Easter Island had vast seabird colonies containing probably over 30 resident species, perhaps the world's richest. Such colonies are no longer found on the main island. Fossil evidence indicates six species of land birds (two Late Quaternary prehistoric birds#Gruiformes, rails, two Late Quaternary prehistoric birds#Psittaciformes, parrots, one owl, and one Late Quaternary prehistoric birds#Ciconiiformes, heron), all of which have become extinct. Five Introduced species, introduced species of land bird are known to have breeding populations (see List of birds of Easter Island). Lack of studies results in poor understanding of the oceanic fauna of Easter Island and waters in its vicinity; however, possibilities of undiscovered breeding grounds for humpback whale, humpback, blue whale, southern blue and pygmy blue whales including Easter Island and Isla Salas y Gómez have been considered. Potential breeding areas for fin whales have been detected off northeast of the island as well. File:Easter Island ESA419941 (cropped, lightened).jpg, Satellite view of Easter Island 2019. The Poike peninsula is on the right. File:RAPA NUI.JPG, Digital recreation of its ancient landscape, with tropical forest and palm trees File:Easter Island 3.jpg, Hanga Roa seen from Terevaka, the highest point of the island File:Easter Island 13.jpg, View of Rano Kau and Pacific Ocean The immunosuppressant drug sirolimus was first discovered in the bacterium ''Streptomyces hygroscopicus'' in a soil sample from Easter Island. The drug is also known as rapamycin, after Rapa Nui. It is now being studied for extending longevity in mice. Trees are sparse, rarely forming natural grove (nature), groves, and it has been argued whether native Easter Islanders deforested the island in the process of erecting their statues, and in providing sustenance for an overconsumption of natural resources from a overcrowding, overcrowded island. Experimental archaeology demonstrated that some statues certainly could have been placed on "Y" shaped wooden frames called ''miro manga erua'' and then pulled to their final destinations on ceremonial sites. Other theories involve the use of "ladders" (parallel wooden rails) over which the statues could have been dragged. Rapa Nui traditions metaphorically refer to spiritual power ''(mana)'' as the means by which the moai were "walked" from the quarry. Recent experimental recreations have proven that it is fully possible that the moai were literally walked from their quarries to their final positions by use of ropes, casting doubt on the role that their existence plays in the environmental collapse of the island. Given the island's southern latitude, the climatic effects of the Little Ice Age (about 1650 to 1850) may have exacerbated deforestation, although this remains speculative. Many researchers point to the climatic downtrend caused by the Little Ice Age as a contributing factor to resource stress and to the palm tree's disappearance. Experts, however, do not agree on when the island's palms became extinct.
Jared Diamond Jared Mason Diamond (born September 10, 1937) is an American geographer A geographer is a physical scientist, social scientist or humanist whose area of study is geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth d ...

Jared Diamond
dismisses past climate change as a dominant cause of the island's deforestation in his book ''Collapse (book), Collapse'' which assesses the collapse of the ancient Easter Islanders. Influenced by Heyerdahl's romantic interpretation of Easter's history, Diamond insists that the disappearance of the island's trees seems to coincide with a decline of its civilization around the 17th and 18th centuries. He notes that they stopped making statues at that time and started destroying the ahu. But the link is weakened because the Bird Man cult continued to thrive and survived the great impact caused by the arrival of explorers, whalers, sandalwood traders, and slave raiders. Midden contents show that the main source of protein was tuna and dolphin. With the loss of the trees, there was a sudden drop in the quantities of fish bones found in middens as the islanders lost the means to construct fishing vessels, coinciding with a large increase in bird bones. This was followed by a decrease in the number of bird bones as birds lost their nesting sites or became extinct. A new style of art from this period shows people with exposed ribs and distended bellies, indicative of malnutrition, and it is around this time that many islanders moved to live in fortified caves, and the first signs of warfare and
cannibalism Cannibalism is the act of consuming another individual of the same species as food Food is any substance consumed to provide Nutrient, nutritional support for an organism. Food is usually of plant, animal or Fungus, fungal origin, and cont ...

cannibalism
appear. Soil erosion because of 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 drastically altered. Polynesians were primarily farmers, not fishermen, and their diet consisted mainly of cultivated staples such as taro root, sweet potato, yams, cassava, and bananas. With no trees to protect them, sea spray led to crop failures exacerbated by a sudden reduction in freshwater flows. There is evidence that the islanders took to planting crops in caves beneath collapsed ceilings and covered the soil with rocks to reduce evaporation. Cannibalism occurred on many Polynesian islands, sometimes in times of plenty as well as famine. Its presence on Easter Island (based on human remains associated with cooking sites, especially in caves) is supported by oral histories. Benny Peiser noted evidence of self-sufficiency when Europeans first arrived. The island still had smaller trees, mainly toromiro, which became extinct in the wild in the 20th century probably because of slow growth and changes in the island's ecosystem. Cornelis Bouman, Jakob Roggeveen's captain, stated in his logbook, "... of Yam (vegetable), yams, bananas and small coconut palms we saw little and no other trees or crops." According to Carl Friedrich Behrens, Roggeveen's officer, "The natives presented palm branches as peace offerings." According to ethnographer Alfred Mètraux, the most common type of house was called "hare paenga" (and is known today as "boathouse") because the roof resembled an overturned boat. The foundations of the houses were made of buried basalt slabs with holes for wooden beams to connect with each other throughout the width of the house. These were then covered with a layer of totora reed, followed by a layer of woven sugarcane leaves, and lastly a layer of woven grass. Peiser claims that these reports indicate that large trees existed at that time, which is perhaps contradicted by the Bouman quote above. Plantations were often located farther inland, next to foothills, inside open-ceiling lava tubes, and in other places protected from the strong salt winds and salt spray affecting areas closer to the coast. It is possible many of the Europeans did not venture inland. The statue quarry, only from the coast with an impressive cliff high, was not explored by Europeans until well into the 19th century. Easter Island has suffered from heavy soil erosion in recent centuries, perhaps aggravated by agriculture and massive
deforestation deforestation in 1750-2004 (net loss) showing anthropogenic modification of remaining forest. File:MODIS (2020-08-01).jpg, 300px, Dry seasons, exacerbated by climate change, and the use of slash-and-burn methods for clearing tropical forest ...

deforestation
. This process seems to have been gradual and may have been aggravated by sheep farming throughout most of the 20th century. Jakob Roggeveen reported that Easter Island was exceptionally fertile. "Fowls are the only animals they keep. They cultivate bananas, sugar cane, and above all sweet potatoes." In 1786 Jean-François de La Pérouse visited Easter Island and his gardener declared that "three days' work a year" would be enough to support the population. Rollin, a major in the Pérouse expedition, wrote, "Instead of meeting with men exhausted by famine... I found, on the contrary, a considerable population, with more beauty and grace than I afterwards met in any other island; and a soil, which, with very little labor, furnished excellent provisions, and in an abundance more than sufficient for the consumption of the inhabitants." According to Diamond, the oral traditions (the veracity of which has been questioned by Routledge, Henri Lavachery, Lavachery, Mètraux, Peiser, and others) of the current islanders seem obsessed with cannibalism, which he offers as evidence supporting a rapid collapse. For example, he states, to severely insult an enemy one would say, "The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth." This, Diamond asserts, means the food supply of the people ultimately ran out. Cannibalism, however, was widespread across Polynesian cultures. Human bones have not been found in earth ovens other than those behind the religious platforms, indicating that cannibalism in Easter Island was a ritualistic practice. Contemporary ethnographic research has proven there is scarcely any tangible evidence for widespread cannibalism anywhere and at any time on the island. The first scientific exploration of Easter Island (1914) recorded that the indigenous population strongly rejected allegations that they or their ancestors had been cannibals.


Culture


Mythology

The most important Mythology, myths are: * Tangata manu, the Birdman cult which was practised until the 1860s. *
Makemake Makemake ( minor-planet designation 136472 Makemake) is a likely dwarf planet A dwarf planet is a planetary-mass object that does not dominate its region of space (as a planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar ...
, an important god. * Aku-aku, the guardians of the sacred family caves. * Moai-kava-kava a ghost man of the Hanau epe (long-ears.) * Hekai ite umu pare haonga takapu Hanau epe kai noruego, the sacred chant to appease the aku-aku before entering a family cave.


Stone work

The Rapa Nui people had a Stone Age culture and made extensive use of local stone: * Basalt, a hard, dense stone used for basalt toki, toki and at least Hoa Hakananai'a, one of the moai. * Obsidian, a volcanic glass with sharp edges used for sharp-edged implements such as Mataa and for the black pupils of the eyes of the moai. * Red scoria from Puna Pau, a very light red stone used for the pukao and a few moai. * Tuff from
Rano Raraku Rano Raraku is a volcanic crater formed of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff, and located on the lower slopes of Terevaka in the Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island in Chile. It was a quarry for about 500 years until the early eighteenth cent ...

Rano Raraku
, a much more easily worked rock than basalt that was used for most of the moai.


Statues

The large stone statues, or ''moai'', for which Easter Island is famous, were carved in the period 1100–1680 CE (rectified radio-carbon dates). A total of 887 monolithic stone statues have been inventoried on the island and in museum collections. Although often identified as "Easter Island heads", the statues have torsos, most of them ending at the top of the thighs; a small number are complete figures that kneel on bent knees with their hands over their stomachs. Some upright moai have become buried up to their necks by shifting soils. Almost all (95%) moai were carved from compressed, easily worked solidified volcanic ash or tuff, found at a single site on the side of the extinct volcano Rano Raraku. The native islanders who carved them used only stone hand chisels, mainly basalt ''toki'', which lie in place all over the quarry. The stone chisels were sharpened by chipping off a new edge when dulled. While sculpting was going on, the volcanic stone was splashed with water to soften it. While many teams worked on different statues at the same time, a single moai took a team of five or six men approximately a year to complete. Each statue represented the deceased head of a :wikt:lineage, lineage. Only a quarter of the statues were installed. Nearly half remained in the quarry at Rano Raraku, and the rest sat elsewhere, presumably on their way to intended locations. The largest moai raised on a platform is known as "Paro". It weighs and is long. Several other statues of similar weight were transported to ahu on the north and south coasts. Possible means by which the statues were moved include employment of a ''miro manga erua'', a Y-shaped sledge with cross pieces, pulled with ropes made from the tough bark of the Hibiscus tilliaceus, hau tree and tied around the statue's neck. Anywhere from 180 to 250 men were required for pulling, depending on the size of the moai. Among other researchers on moving and erecting the moai was Vincent Richards Lee, Vince Lee, who reenacted a moai moving scenario. Some 50 of the statues were re-erected in modern times. One of the first was on Ahu Ature Huke in Anakena beach in 1956. It was raised using traditional methods during a Heyerdahl expedition. Another method that might have been used to transport the moai would be to attach ropes to the statue and rock it, tugging it forward as it rocked. This would fit the legend of the Mo'ai 'walking' to their final locations. This might have been managed by as few as 15 people, supported by the following evidence: * The heads of the moai in the quarry are sloped forward, whereas the ones moved to final locations are not. This would serve to provide a better centre of gravity for transport. * The statues found along the transport roads have wider bases than statues installed on ahu; this would facilitate more stable transport. Studies have shown fractures along the bases of the statues in transport; these could have arisen from rocking the statue back and forth and placing great pressures on the edges. The statues found mounted on ahu do not have wide bases, and stone chips found at the sites suggest they were further modified on placement. * The abandoned and fallen statues near the old roads are found (more often than would be expected from chance) face down on ascending grades and on their backs when headed uphill. Some were documented standing upright along the old roads, e.g., by a party from Captain Cook's voyage that rested in the shade of a standing statue. This would be consistent with upright transport. There is debate regarding the effects of the monument creation process on the environment. Some believe that the process of creating the moai caused widespread deforestation and ultimately a civil war over scarce resources. In 2011, a large moai statue was excavated from the ground. During the same excavation program, some larger moai were found to have complex dorsal petroglyphs, revealed by deep excavation of the torso. In 2020, a pickup truck crashed into and destroyed a moai statue due to brake failure. No one was injured in the incident. File:Kneeled moai Easter Island.jpg, Rano Raraku#Tukuturi, Tukuturi, an unusual bearded kneeling moai File:Ahu-Tongariki-2013.jpg, All fifteen standing moai at Ahu Tongariki, excavated and restored in the 1990s File:Ahu-Akivi-1.JPG, Ahu Akivi, one of the few inland ahu, with the only moai facing the ocean


Stone platforms

''Ahu'' are stone platforms. Varying greatly in layout, many were reworked during or after Moai#1722–1868 Toppling of the Moai, the ''huri mo'ai'' or ''statue-toppling'' era; many became ossuary, ossuaries, one was dynamited open, and Ahu Tongariki was swept inland by a tsunami. Of the 313 known ahu, 125 carried moaiusually just one, probably because of the shortness of the moai period and transportation difficulties. Ahu Tongariki, from Rano Raraku, had the most and tallest moai, 15 in total. Other notable ahu with moai are Ahu Akivi, restored in 1960 by William Mulloy, Nau Nau at Anakena and Tahai. Some moai may have been made from wood and were lost. The classic elements of ahu design are: * A retaining rear wall several feet high, usually facing the sea * A front wall made of rectangular basalt slabs called ''paenga'' * A fascia made of red scoria that went over the front wall (platforms built after 1300) * A sloping ramp in the inland part of the platform, extending outward like wings * A pavement of even-sized, round water-worn stones called ''poro'' * An alignment of stones before the ramp * A paved plaza before the ahu. This was called ''marae'' * Inside the ahu was a fill of rubble. On top of many ahu would have been: * Moai on squarish "pedestals" looking inland, the ramp with the poro before them. * Pukao or Hau Hiti Rau on the moai heads (platforms built after 1300). * When a ceremony took place, "eyes" were placed on the statues. The whites of the eyes were made of coral, the iris was made of obsidian or red scoria. Ahu evolved from the traditional Polynesian ''
marae A ' (in New Zealand Māori, Cook Islands Māori, Tahitian), ' (in Tongan), ' (in Marquesan The Marquesas Islands (; french: Îles Marquises or ' or '; Marquesan language, Marquesan: ' (North Marquesan language, North Marquesan) and ' (S ...
''. In this context, ''ahu'' referred to a small structure sometimes covered with a thatched roof where sacred objects, including statues, were stored. The ahu were usually adjacent to the marae or main central court where ceremonies took place, though on Easter Island, ahu and moai evolved to much greater size. There the marae is the unpaved plaza before the ahu. The biggest ahu is and holds 15 statues, some of which are high. The filling of an ahu was sourced locally (apart from broken, old moai, fragments of which have been used in the fill). Individual stones are mostly far smaller than the moai, so less work was needed to transport the raw material, but artificially leveling the terrain for the plaza and filling the ahu was laborious. Ahu are found mostly on the coast, where they are distributed fairly evenly, except on the western slopes of Mount Terevaka and the Rano Kau and Poike headlands. These are the three areas with the least low-lying coastal land and, apart from Poike, the furthest areas from Rano Raraku. One ahu with several moai was recorded on the cliffs at Rano Kau in the 1880s but had fallen to the beach before the Katherine Routledge, Routledge expedition.


Stone walls

One of the highest-quality examples of Easter Island stone masonry is the rear wall of the ahu at Ahu Vinapu, Vinapu. Made without mortar by shaping hard basalt rocks of up to to match each other exactly, it has a superficial similarity to some Inca stone walls in South America.


Stone houses

Two types of houses are known from the past: ''hare paenga'', a house with an elliptical foundation, made with basalt slabs and covered with a thatched roof that resembled an overturned boat, and ''hare oka'', a round stone structure. Related stone structures called ''Tupa'' look very similar to the ''hare oka'', except that the ''Tupa'' were inhabited by astronomer-priests and located near the coast, where the movements of the stars could be easily observed. Settlements also contain ''hare moa'' ("chicken house"), oblong stone structures that housed chickens. The houses at the ceremonial village of Orongo are unique in that they are shaped like ''hare paenga'' but are made entirely of flat basalt slabs found inside Rano Kao crater. The entrances to all the houses are very low, and entry requires crawling. In early times the people of Rapa Nui reportedly sent the dead out to sea in small funerary canoes, as did their Polynesian counterparts on other islands. They later started burying people in secret caves to save the bones from desecration by enemies. During the turmoil of the late 18th century, the islanders seem to have started to bury their dead in the space between the belly of a fallen moai and the front wall of the structure. During the time of the epidemics they made mass graves that were semi-pyramidal stone structures.


Petroglyphs

Easter Island has one of the richest collections of petroglyphs in all Polynesia. Around 1,000 sites with more than 4,000 petroglyphs are catalogued. Designs and images were carved out of rock for a variety of reasons: to create totems, to mark territory, or to memorialize a person or event. There are distinct variations around the island in the frequency of themes among petroglyphs, with a concentration of Birdmen at Orongo. Other subjects include sea turtles, Komari (vulvas) and Makemake, the chief god of the ''Tangata manu'' or Birdman cult. File:Makemake.jpeg,
Makemake Makemake ( minor-planet designation 136472 Makemake) is a likely dwarf planet A dwarf planet is a planetary-mass object that does not dominate its region of space (as a planet A planet is an astronomical body orbiting a star or Stellar ...
with two Tangata Manu, birdmen, carved from red scoria File:Ahu-Tongariki-4-Petroglyph.JPG, Fish petroglyph found near Ahu Tongariki


Caves

The island and neighbouring Motu Nui are riddled with caves, many of which show signs of past human use for planting and as fortifications, including narrowed entrances and crawl spaces with ambush points. Many caves feature in the myths and legends of the Rapa Nui.


Other stones

The ''Pu o Hiro'' or ''Hiro's Trumpet'' is a stone on the north coast of Easter Island. It was once a musical instrument used in fertility rituals.


Rongorongo

Easter Island once had an apparent script called ''
rongorongo Rongorongo (Rapa Nui Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of Chile (), is a country in western South America. It occupies a long, na ...
''. Glyphs include pictographic and geometric shapes; the texts were incised in wood in reverse boustrophedon direction. It was first reported by French missionary in 1864. At that time, several islanders said they could understand the writing, but according to tradition, only ruling families and priests were ever literate, and none survived the slave raids and subsequent epidemics. Despite numerous attempts, the surviving texts have not been deciphered, and without decipherment it is not certain that they are actually writing. Part of the problem is the small amount that has survived: only two dozen texts, none of which remain on the island. There are also only a couple of similarities with the #Petroglyphs, petroglyphs on the island.


Wood carving

Wood was scarce on Easter Island during the 18th and 19th centuries, but a number of highly detailed and distinctive carvings have found their way to the world's museums. Particular forms include: * Reimiro, a gorget or breast ornament of crescent shape with a head at one or both tips. The same design appears on the flag of Rapa Nui. Two Rei Miru at the British Museum are inscribed with Rongorongo. * Moko Miro, a man with a lizard head. The Moko Miro was used as a club because of the legs, which formed a handle shape. If it wasn't held by hand, dancers wore it around their necks during feasts. The Moko Miro would also be placed at the doorway to protect the household from harm. It would be hanging from the roof or set in the ground. The original form had eyes made from white shells, and the pupils were made of obsidian. * Moai kavakava are male carvings and the Moai Paepae are female carvings.Encyclopædia Britannica Online
"Moai Figure"
.
These grotesque and highly detailed human figures carved from Toromiro pine, represent ancestors. Sometimes these statues were used for fertility rites. Usually, they are used for harvest celebrations; "the first picking of fruits was heaped around them as offerings". When the statues were not used, they would be wrapped in bark cloth and kept at home. There were a few times that are reported when the islanders would pick up the figures like dolls and dance with them. The earlier figures are rare and generally depict a male figure with an emaciated body and a goatee. The figures' ribs and vertebrae are exposed and many examples show carved glyphs on various parts of the body but more specifically, on the top of the head. The female figures, rarer than the males, depict the body as flat and often with the female's hand lying across the body. The figures, although some were quite large, were worn as ornamental pieces around a tribesman's neck. The more figures worn, the more important the man. The figures have a shiny patina developed from constant handling and contact with human skin. * Ao, a large dancing paddle


21st-century culture

The Rapanui sponsor an annual festival, the ''Tapati'', held since 1975 around the beginning of February to celebrate Rapa Nui culture. The islanders also maintain a CF Rapa Nui, national football team and three discos in the town of Hanga Roa. Other cultural activities include a music of Easter Island, musical tradition that combines South American and Polynesian influences and woodcarving.


Sports

The Chilean leg of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series takes place on the Island of Rapa Nui.


Tapati Festival

Tapati Rapa Nui festival ("week festival" in the local language) is an annual two-week long festival celebrating Easter Island culture. The Tapati is centered around a competition between two families/ clans competing in various competitions to earn points. The winning team has their candidate crowned 'queen' of the island for the next year. The competitions are a way to maintain and celebrate traditional cultural activities such as cooking, jewelry-making, woodcarving, and canoeing.


Demographics


2012 census

Population at the 2012 census was 5,761 (increased from 3,791 in 2002). In 2002, 60% were persons of indigenous Rapa Nui people, Rapa Nui origin, 39% were mainland Demographics of Chile, Chileans (or their Easter Island-born descendants) of European (mostly Spanish) or mestizo (mixed European and indigenous Chilean Amerindian) origin and Easter Island-born mestizos of European and Rapa Nui and/or native Chilean descent, and the remaining 1% were indigenous mainland Chilean Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Amerindians (or their Easter Island-born descendants). , the population density on Easter Island was . File:TAMURE.png, Polynesian culture, Polynesian dancing with feather costumes is on the tourist itinerary. File:HangaroaAlcaldía.jpg, Hanga Roa town hall File:EasterIslandsFishingBoats.jpg, Fishing boats File:Hanga Roa Catholic Church exterior 1.JPG, Front view of the Catholic Church, Hanga Roa File:Hanga Roa Catholic Church exterior 2.JPG, Catholic Church, Hanga Roa File:Hanga Roa Catholic Church interior.JPG, Interior view of the Catholic Church in Hanga Roa


Demographic history

The 1982 population was 1,936. The increase in population in the last census was partly caused by the arrival of people of European ethnic groups, European or mixed European and Native American descent from the Chilean mainland. However, most married a Rapa Nui spouse. Around 70% of the population were natives. Estimates of the pre-European population range from 7–17,000. Easter Island's all-time low of 111 inhabitants was reported in 1877. Out of these 111 Rapa Nui, only 36 had descendants, and all of today's Rapa Nui claim descent from those 36.


Languages

Easter Island's traditional language is Rapa Nui language, Rapa Nui, an Eastern Polynesian languages, Eastern Polynesian language, sharing some similarities with Hawaiian language, Hawaiian and Tahitian language, Tahitian. However, as in the rest of mainland
Chile Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America South America is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention ra ...

Chile
, the official language used is Spanish language, Spanish. It is supposed that the 2,700 Rapa Nui people, indigenous Rapa Nui living in the island have a certain degree of knowledge of their traditional language; however, census data does not exist on the primary known and spoken languages among Easter Island's inhabitants and there are recent claims that the number of fluent speakers is as low as 800. Indeed, Rapa Nui has been suffering processes of decline and Hispanicization, because the island is under the jurisdiction of Chile and is now home to a number of Chilean continentals, most of whom speak only Spanish. For this reason, most Rapa Nui children now grow up speaking Spanish, and those who do learn Rapa Nui begin learning it later in life. Even with efforts to revitalize the language, Ethnologue has established that Rapa Nui is currently a threatened language. Easter Island's indigenous Rapa Nui toponymy has survived with few Spanish additions or replacements, a fact that has been attributed in part to the survival of the Rapa Nui language.


Administration and legal status

Easter Island shares with Juan Fernández Islands the constitutional status of "special territory" of Chile, granted in 2007. a special charter for the island was under discussion in the Congress of Chile, Chilean Congress. Administratively, the island is a Provinces of Chile, province of the
Valparaíso Region The Valparaíso Region ( es, Región de Valparaíso, links=no, ) is one of Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of Chile (), is a country in western South America. It occupies a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes to ...
and contains a single commune (''comuna''). Both the province and the commune are called ''Isla de Pascua'' and encompass the whole island and its surrounding islets and rocks, plus Isla Salas y Gómez, some to the east. The provincial governor is appointed by the President of Chile, President of the Republic. The municipal administration is located in Hanga Roa, led by a Alcalde, mayor and a six-member municipal council, all directly elected for a four-year mandate. In August 2018, a law took effect prohibiting non-residents from staying on the island for more than 30 days. Since 1966 rape, sexual abuse and crimes against property in Easter Island have lower sentences than corresponding offences in mainland Chile.


Notable people

* Laura Alarcón Rapu, governor (since 2018) *Tiare Aguilera Hey, member of the Constitutional Convention (Chile), Chilean Constitutional Convention (since 2021) * Angata, native catechist and prophetess who led a 1914 rebellion * Sebastian Englert, missionary and ethnologist * , missionary *
Thor Heyerdahl Thor Heyerdahl (; 6 October 1914 – 18 April 2002) was a Norway, Norwegian adventurer and Ethnography, ethnographer with a background in zoology, botany and geography. Heyerdahl is notable for his Kon-Tiki expedition, ''Kon-Tiki'' expedition i ...

Thor Heyerdahl
, ethnographer * Melania Carolina Hotu Hey, governor (2006–2010, 2015–2018) * Marta Raquel Hotus Tuki, governor (2014–2015) * Riro Kāinga, last person to hold title of king and rule before Chilean consolidation * Kings of Easter Island * Hotu Matuʻa, island founder * William Mulloy, archaeologist * Nga'ara, one of the last ‘ariki * Jacobo Hey Paoa, first Rapa Nui male to earn a law degree and become an attorney * Pedro Pablo Edmunds Paoa, mayor and former governor * Juan Edmunds Rapahango, former mayor * Hippolyte Roussel, missionary * , archaeologist and anthropologist * Mahani Teave, classical pianist * Atamu Tekena, missionary installed King who ceded island to Chile * José Fati Tepano, first Rapa Nui male to serve as a titular judge upon completing the training imparted by the Judicial Academy of Chile * Juan Tepano, indigenous leader and cultural informant


Transportation

Easter Island is served by
Mataveri International Airport Mataveri International Airport or Isla de Pascua Airport is at Hanga Roa on Rapa Nui Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of Chile (), ...
, with jet service (currently Boeing 787s) from LATAM Chile and, seasonally, subsidiaries such as LATAM Perú.


See also

* List of largest monoliths * Lists of islands * North Sentinel Island * Omphalos * Podesta (island), Podesta


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * *
in Internet Archive
* * Vergano, Dan

''USA Today'' (15 November 2009)


External links

*
Terevaka Archaeological Outreach (TAO)
– Non-profit Educational Outreach & Cultural Awareness on Easter Island
Easter Island – The Statues and Rock Art of Rapa Nui
– Bradshaw Foundation / Dr Georgia Lee
Chile Cultural Society – Easter Island

Rapa Nui Digital Media Archive
– Creative Commons – licensed photos, laser scans, panoramas, focused in the area around Rano Raraku and Ahu Te Pito Kura with data from an Autodesk/CyArk research partnership
Mystery of Easter Island
– PBS Nova program
Current Archaeology's comprehensive description of island and discussion of dating controversies

Books and Texts about Easter Island from the Internet Archive
{{Authority control Easter Island, Archaeological sites in Chile Archaeological sites in Oceania Communes of Chile Ecoregions of Chile Geography of Polynesia Pacific islands of Chile Islands of Oceania Islands of Valparaíso Region Oceanian ecoregions Provinces of Chile Volcanic islands