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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. It is the southernmost country in the world, and the closest to Antarctica, occupying a long and narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east a ...

Chile
in the southeastern
Pacific Ocean The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's five oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean (or, depending on definition, to Antarctica) in the south, and is bounded by the continen ...

Pacific Ocean
, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a region, geographical region that includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Spanning the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Western Hemisphere, Western hemispheres, Oceania is estimated to have a land area of ...

Oceania
. The island is most famous for its nearly 1,000 extant monumental statues, called ''
moai
moai
'', which were created by the early Rapa Nui people. In 1995,
UNESCO The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a List of specialized agencies of the United Nations, specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) aimed at promoting world peace and security through international coope ...

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 UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNES ...
, with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park. Experts disagree on when the island's Polynesian inhabitants first reached the island. While many in the research community cited evidence that they arrived around the year 800, there is compelling evidence presented in a 2007 study that places their arrival closer to 1200. 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 led to gradual
deforestation Deforestation or forest clearance is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land that is then land conversion, converted to non-forest use. Deforestation can involve conversion of forest land to farms, ranches, or urban area, urban ...

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 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. It is located in the central part of the P ...

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, constituting a single commune ( Isla de Pascua) of the
Province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or sovereign state, state. The term derives from the ancient Roman ''Roman province, provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire ...
of 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 , away; the nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea, on the island of , 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 , who encountered it on (5 April) in 1722, while searching for " Davis Land". Roggeveen named it ''Paasch-Eyland'' (18th-century Dutch 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 of the Austral Islands group. However, Norwegian ethnographer 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 wherein knowledge, art, ideas and Culture, cultural material is received, preserved, and transmitted orally from one generation to another.Jan Vansina, Vansina, Jan: ''Oral Traditio ...
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 Charles III (born Charles Sebastian; es, Carlos Sebastián; 20 January 1716 – 14 December 1788) was King of Spain (1759–1788). He also was Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, as Charles I (1731–1735); Kingdom of Naples, ...

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 – otherwise known as
Cook Islands ) , image_map = Cook Islands on the globe (small islands magnified) (Polynesia centered).svg , capital = Avarua , coordinates = , largest_city = Avarua , official_languages = , langu ...
), 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 , 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'' 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 from 1862 to 1863, resulting in the abduction or killing of about 1,500, with 1,408 working as indentured servants 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'' 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 by using the properties of radiocarbon, a radioactive isotope of carbon. The method was ...
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 by using the properties of radiocarbon, a radioactive isotope of carbon. The method was ...
concludes that other sites preceded Anakena by many years, especially the Tahai by several centuries. The island was populated by Polynesians who most likely navigated in canoes or
catamaran file:Bladef16-1up.jpg, A Formula 16 (sailing), Formula 16 beachable catamaran file:Salem Ferry.JPG, Powered catamaran passenger ferry at Salem, Massachusetts, Salem, Massachusetts, United States A catamaran () (informally, a "cat") is a multihu ...
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 made up of the Mangareva Islands, a group of high islands remnants of a caldera alo ...
(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 Pre-Columbian transoceanic contact theories are speculative theories which propose that possible visits to the Americas, possible interactions with the indigenous peoples of the Americas, or both, were made by people from Africa, Asia, Europe, ...
, there is a possibility that early Polynesian settlers arrived from
South America South America is a continent entirely in the Western Hemisphere and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere at the northern tip of the continent. It can also be described as the souther ...
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 dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the Convolvulus, bindweed or morning glory family (biology), family, Convolvulaceae. Its large, starchy, sweet-tasting tuberous roots are used as a r ...
. 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 James Cook (7 November 1728Old Style and New Style dates, Old Style date: 27 October – 14 February 1779) was a British explorer, navigator, cartography, cartographer, and captain (Royal Navy), captain in the British Royal Navy, famous for ...
visited the island, one of his crew members, a Polynesian from
Bora Bora Bora Bora (French language, French: ''Bora-Bora''; Tahitian language, Tahitian: ''Pora Pora'') is an island group in the Leeward Islands (Society Islands), Leeward Islands. The Leeward Islands comprise the western part of the Society Islands o ...
, 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 denomination, religious group which is sent into an area in order to promote its faith or provide services to people, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care, and economic development.Tho ...
in the 1860s, the island originally had a strong class system: an ''ariki'', or high chief, 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 Ancient Greek, Greek , , "living together", from , , "together", and , bíōsis, "living") is any type of a close and long-term biological interaction between two different Organism, biological organisms, be it Mutualism (biolog ...
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, historian, ornithologist, and author best known for his popular science books '' The Third Chimpanzee'' (1991); '' Guns, Germs, and Steel'' (1997, awarded a Pulitzer Pr ...
suggested that
cannibalism Cannibalism is the act of consuming another individual of the same species as food. Cannibalism is a common ecology, ecological interaction in the animal kingdom and has been recorded in more than 1,500 species. Human cannibalism is well docum ...
took place on Easter Island after the construction of the moai contributed to environmental 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 palm Palm most commonly refers to: * Palm of the hand, the central region of the front of the hand * Palm plants, of family ...
'' (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. 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 became extinct through some combination of over-harvesting, over-hunting, rat predation, and climate change. The island was largely
deforested Deforestation or forest clearance is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land that is then land conversion, converted to non-forest use. Deforestation can involve conversion of forest land to farms, ranches, or urban area, urban ...
, 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 ...
. 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 dwarf planet and – depending on how they are defined – the second-largest Kuiper belt object in the Classical Kuiper belt object, classical population, with a diameter approxim ...
, played an important role in this process.
Katherine Routledge Katherine Maria Routledge (), née Pease (11 August 1866 – 13 December 1935), was an English archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the scientific study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The ...
, 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 "human beings" + "bird") was the winner of a traditional competition on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The ritual was an annual competition to collect the first sooty tern () egg of the season from the islet of ...
'') 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 A petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock (geology), rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrasion (geology), abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", ...
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 Hoa Hakananai'a in 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 Societal collapse (also known as civilizational collapse) is the fall of a complex human society characterized by the loss of cultural identity and of socioeconomic complexity, the downfall of government, and the rise of violence. Possible causes ...
. Bone pathology 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''; "Easter Sunday", used by James Ussher''The Whole Works of the Most Rev. James Ussher, Volume 4'') and Samuel Pepys''The Diary of Samuel P ...
, by Dutch navigator . 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 James Cook (7 November 1728Old Style and New Style dates, Old Style date: 27 October – 14 February 1779) was a British explorer, navigator, cartography, cartographer, and captain (Royal Navy), captain in the British Royal Navy, famous for ...
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 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 (emblem), National seal , national_motto = "Fi ...
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 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 Eastern Europe and Ancient Chin ...
or true writing. When the slave raiders were forced to repatriate the people they had kidnapped, carriers of
smallpox Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by variola virus (often called smallpox virus) which belongs to the genus Orthopoxvirus. The Ali Maow Maalin#Maalin's case, last naturally occurring case was diagnosed in October 1977, and the World ...
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: ' ( North Marquesan) and ' ( South Marquesan), both meaning "the land of men") are a group of volcanic A volcano is a rupture in the Crust (geology), crust of a Plane ...
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 usually caused by ''Mycobacterium tuberculosis'' (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections show no symptoms, in ...
, introduced by whalers in the mid-19th century, had already killed several islanders when the first Christian missionary, Eugène Eyraud, 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. Jean-Baptiste Dutrou-Bornier bought up all of the island apart from the missionaries' area around Hanga Roa 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. It is located in the central part of the P ...

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 made up of the Mangareva Islands, a group of high islands remnants of a caldera alo ...
. 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., the son of an English Jewish merchant and a Pōmare Dynasty princess, eventually worked to repatriate workers from his inherited
copra Copra (from ) is the dried, white flesh of the coconut from which coconut oil is extracted. Traditionally, the coconuts are sun-dried, especially for export, before the oil, also known as copra oil, is pressed out. The oil extracted from copr ...
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, naval base, and educational centre in the commune of Valparaíso, Chile. "Greater Valparaíso" is the second largest metropolitan area in the country. Valparaíso is located about northwest of Santiago ...
, 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 Policarpo Toro 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 service branch of the Chilean Armed Forces. It is under the Ministry of National Defense (Chile), Ministry of National Defense. Its headquarters are at Edificio Armada de Chile, Valpar ...
until 1966, at which point the island was reopened in its entirety. The Rapa Nui were given Chilean citizenship in 1966. Following the
1973 Chilean coup d'état The 1973 Chilean coup d'état Enciclopedia Virtual > Historia > Historia de Chile > Del gobierno militar a la democracia" on LaTercera.cl. Retrieved 22 September 2006. In October 1972, Chile suffered the first of many strikes. Among the par ...
that brought
Augusto Pinochet Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (, , , ; 25 November 1915 – 10 December 2006) was a Chilean Captain general#Chile, general who ruled Military dictatorship of Chile (1973–1990), Chile from 1973 to 1990, first as the leader of the Gover ...
to power, Easter Island was placed under
martial law Martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law by a government, especially in response to an emergency where civil forces are overwhelmed, or in an military occupation, occupied t ...
. 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) (''Isla de Pascua'' in Spanish language, Spanish). The most remote airport in the world (defined as distance to another airport), it is from ...
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 Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) is an issue around the world. Fishing industry observers believe IUU occurs in most fisheries, and accounts for up to 30% of total catches in some important fisheries. Illegal fishing takes pl ...
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, naval base, and educational centre in the commune of Valparaíso, Chile. "Greater Valparaíso" is the second largest metropolitan area in the country. Valparaíso is located about northwest of Santiago ...
. 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. A tsunami warning was declared for Easter Island after the 2022 Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha'apai eruption and tsunami. Easter Island was closed to tourists from March 17, 2020 until August 4, 2022 due to the
COVID-19 Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by a virus, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first known case was COVID-19 pandemic in Hubei, identified in Wuhan, China, in December ...
pandemic A pandemic () is an epidemic of an infectious disease that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a substantial number of individuals. A widespread endemic (epidemiology), endemic disease wi ...
. Then in early October 2022, just two months after the island was reopened to tourists, a forest fire burned nearly 148 acres (60 hectares) of the island, causing irreparable damage to some of the ''moai''.
Arson Arson is the crime of willfully and deliberately setting fire to or charring property. Although the act of arson typically involves Building, buildings, the term can also refer to the intentional Combustion, burning of other things, such as ...
is suspected.


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 #REDIRECT BBC
Here i going to introduce about the best teacher of my life b BALAJI sir. He is the precious gift that I got befor 2yrs . How has helped and thought all the concept and made my success in the 10th board exam. ...
report, on 3 December 2010, at least 25 people were injured when Chilean police using 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 2020 the conflict was settled. The property rights were transferred to the Hitorangi clan while the owners retained the exploitation of the hotel for 15 years. 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 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 neighbour is , to the east, with approximately 50 inhabitants. The nearest continental point lies in central Chile near Concepción, at . Easter Island's
latitude In geography, latitude is a Geographic coordinate system, coordinate that specifies the north–south position of a point on the surface of the Earth or another celestial body. Latitude is given as an angle that ranges from –90° at the south ...
is similar to that of Caldera, Chile, and it lies west of continental Chile at its nearest point (between Lota and Lebu in the
Biobío Region The Biobío Region ( es, Región del Biobío ), is one of Chile Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America. It is the southernmost country in the world, and the closest to Antarctica, occu ...
). Isla Salas y Gómez, to the east, is closer but is uninhabited. The
Tristan da Cunha Tristan da Cunha (), colloquially Tristan, is a remote group of volcano, volcanic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is the Extreme points of Earth, most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying approximately from Cape Town, Sou ...
archipelago in the southern Atlantic competes for the title of the most remote island, lying from
Saint Helena Saint Helena () is a British overseas territory located in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a remote volcanic tropical island west of the coast of south-western Africa, and east of Rio de Janeiro in South America. It is one of three constitu ...
island and from the
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the Southern Africa, southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by of coastline that stretch along the Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the ...
n 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
crater lake Crater Lake (Klamath language, Klamath: ''Giiwas'') is a volcanic crater lake in south-central Oregon in the western United States. It is the main feature of Crater Lake National Park and is famous for its deep blue color and water clarity. The ...
s), 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 A volcano is a rupture in the Crust (geology), crust of a Planet#Planetary-mass objects, planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and volcanic gas, gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface. On Ear ...
high island Geologically, a high island or volcanic island is an island of volcano, volcanic origin. The term can be used to distinguish such islands from low islands, which are formed from sedimentation or the Tectonic uplift, uplifting of coral reefs ...
, consisting mainly of three extinct coalesced
volcano A volcano is a rupture in the Crust (geology), crust of a Planet#Planetary-mass objects, planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and volcanic gas, gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface. On Ear ...
es: 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 A cinder cone (or scoria cone) is a steep conical hill of loose pyroclastic fragments, such as volcanic clinkers, volcanic ash, or scoria that has been built around a volcanic vent. The pyroclastic fragments are formed by explosive eruptions or ...
Puna Pau and many volcanic caves including
lava tubes A lava tube, or pyroduct, is a natural conduit formed by flowing lava from a volcano, volcanic vent that moves beneath the hardened surface of a lava flow. If lava in the tube empties, it will leave a cave. Formation A lava tube is a type o ...
. Poike used to be a separate island until volcanic material from Terevaka united it to the larger whole. The island is dominated by
hawaiite Hawaiite is an olivine basalt with a composition between alkali basalt and mugearite. It was first used as a name for some lavas found on the island of Hawaii (island), Hawaii. It occurs during the later stages of volcanic activity on oceanic is ...
and
basalt Basalt (; ) is an aphanite, aphanitic (fine-grained) extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of low-viscosity lava rich in magnesium and iron (mafic lava) exposed at or very near the planetary surface, surface of a terrestrial ...
flows which are rich in iron and show affinity with
igneous rock Igneous rock (derived from the Latin word ''ignis'' meaning fire), or magmatic rock, is one of the three main The three types of rocks, rock types, the others being Sedimentary rock, sedimentary and metamorphic rock, metamorphic. Igneous rock ...
s found in the
Galápagos Islands The Galápagos Islands (Spanish language, Spanish: , , ) are an archipelago of High island, volcanic islands. They are distributed on each side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean, surrounding the centre of the Western Hemisphere, and are par ...
. Easter Island and surrounding islets, such as Motu Nui and 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 A mountain range or hill range is a series of mountains or hills arranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with similarity in form, structure, and alignment that have arise ...
with dozens of
seamount A seamount is a large geologic landform that rises from the ocean floor that does not reach to the water's surface (sea level), and thus is not an island, islet or cliff, cliff-rock. Seamounts are typically formed from volcano#Extinct, extinct v ...
s, formed by the Easter hotspot. The range begins with Pukao and next
Moai Moai or moʻai ( ; es, moái; rap, moʻai, , statue) are monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island, Rapa Nui in eastern Polynesia between the years 1250 and 1500. Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main mo ...
, two seamounts to the west of Easter Island, and extends east to the
Nazca Ridge The Nazca Ridge is a Undersea mountain range, submarine ridge, located on the Nazca Plate off the west coast of South America. This plate and ridge are currently subducting under the South American Plate at a convergent boundary known as the Peru- ...
. The ridge was formed by the
Nazca Plate The Nazca Plate or Nasca Plate, named after the Nazca region of southern Peru, is an oceanic list of tectonic plates, tectonic plate in the eastern Pacific Ocean basin off the west coast of South America. The ongoing subduction, along the Peru ...
moving over the Easter hotspot. Located about east of the
East Pacific Rise The East Pacific Rise is a mid-ocean rise (termed an oceanic rise and not a mid-ocean ridge due to its higher rate of spreading that results in less elevation increase and more regular terrain), a divergent boundary, divergent tectonic plate bou ...
, Easter Island lies within the Nazca Plate, bordering the Easter Microplate. The Nazca-Pacific relative plate movement due to the
seafloor spreading Seafloor spreading or Seafloor spread is a process that occurs at mid-ocean ridges, where new oceanic crust is formed through volcanic activity and then gradually moves away from the ridge. History of study Earlier theories by Alfred Wegene ...
, 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 A shield volcano is a type of volcano A volcano is a rupture in the Crust (geology), crust of a Planet#Planetary-mass objects, planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and volcanic gas, gases to escape from ...
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 Ma from tholeiitic to alkalic basalts. This volcano possesses a clearly defined summit
caldera A caldera ( ) is a large cauldron-like hollow that forms shortly after the emptying of a magma chamber in a volcano eruption. When large volumes of magma are erupted over a short time, structural support for the rock above the magma chamber is ...
. Benmoreitic lavas
extruded Extrusion is a process used to create objects of a fixed cross section (geometry), cross-sectional profile by pushing material through a Die (manufacturing), die of the desired cross-section. Its two main advantages over other manufacturing pro ...
about the rim from 0.35 to 0.34 Ma. Finally, between 0.24 and 0.11 Ma, a
fissure A fissure is a long, narrow crack opening along the surface of Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. While large list of largest lakes and seas in the Solar System, volume ...
developed along a NE–SW trend, forming monogenetic vents and
rhyolitic Rhyolite ( ) is the most silica-rich of volcanic rocks. It is generally glassy or fine-grained (aphanitic) in texture (geology), texture, but may be porphyritic, containing larger mineral crystals (phenocrysts) in an otherwise fine-grained matri ...
intrusion In geology, an igneous intrusion (or intrusive body or simply intrusion) is a body of Intrusive rock, intrusive igneous rock that forms by crystallization of magma slowly cooling below the surface of the Earth. Intrusions have a wide variety o ...
s. These include the cryptodome
islet An islet is a very small, often unnamed island. Most definitions are not precise, but some suggest that an islet has little or no vegetation and cannot support human habitation. It may be made of rock, sand and/or hard coral; may be permanent ...
s of Motu Nui and Motu Iti, the islet of Motu Kao Kao, the
sheet intrusion A sheet intrusion, or tabular intrusion, is a plane (geometry), planar sheet of roughly the same thickness, that forms inside a pre-existing rock.Essentials of Geology, 3rd Ed, Stephen Marshak When it cuts into another unlayered mass, or across lay ...
of Te Kari Kari, the perlitic
obsidian Obsidian () is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed when lava extrusive rock, extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimal crystal growth. It is an igneous rock. Obsidian is produced from felsic lava, rich in the lighter elements s ...
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 Lava is molten or partially molten rock (magma) that has been expelled from the interior of a terrestrial planet (such as Earth) or a Natural satellite, moon onto its surface. Lava may be erupted at a volcano or through a Fissure vent, fract ...
flows at 0.36 Ma. Finally, the 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 Porphyritic is an adjective used in geology Geology () is a branch of natural science concerned with Earth and other Astronomical object, astronomical objects, the features or rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the processes ...
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 Mugearite () is a type of oligoclase-bearing basalt, comprising olivine, apatite, and opaque oxides. The main feldspar in mugearite is oligoclase. Mugearite is a sodium-rich member of the alkaline magma series. In the TAS classification of volc ...
, 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 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 stratified tuff is composed of sideromelane, slightly altered to
palagonite Palagonite is an alteration product from the interaction of water with volcanic glass Volcanic glass is the amorphous solid, amorphous (uncrystallized) product of rapidly cooling magma. Like all types of glass, it is a state of matter intermedi ...
, and somewhat
lithified Lithification (from the Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following p ...
. The tuff contains lithic fragments of older lava flows. The northwest sector of Rano Raraku contains reddish
volcanic ash Volcanic ash consists of fragments of rock, mineral crystals, and volcanic glass, created during volcano, volcanic eruptions and measuring less than 2 mm (0.079 inches) in diameter. The term volcanic ash is also often loosely used t ...
. According to Bandy, "...all of the great images of Easter Island are carved from" the light and
porous Porosity or void fraction is a measure of the void (i.e. "empty") spaces in a material Material is a matter, substance or mixture of substances that constitutes an Physical object, object. Materials can be pure or impure, living or non-living ...
tuff from Rano Raraku. A carving was abandoned when a large, dense and 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 Pumice (), called pumicite in its powdered or dust form, is a volcanic rock that consists of highly Vesicular texture, vesicular rough-textured volcanic glass, which may or may not contain crystals. It is typically light-colored. Scoria is ano ...
, 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 Köppen climate classification is one of the most widely used climate classification systems. It was first published by German-Russian climatologist Wladimir Köppen (1846–1940) in 1884, with several later modifications by Köppen, nota ...
, the climate of Easter Island is classified as a
humid subtropical climate A humid subtropical climate is a zone of climate characterized by hot and humid summers, and cool to mild winters. These climates normally lie on the southeast side of all continents (except Antarctica), generally between latitudes 25° and 40° ...
(''Cfa'') that borders on a
tropical rainforest climate A tropical rainforest climate, humid tropical climate or equatorial climate is a tropical climate sub-type usually found within 10 to 15 degrees latitude of the equator The equator is a circle of latitude, about in circumference, that div ...
(''Af''). 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 The South Pacific High is a semi-permanent subtropical The subtropical zones or subtropics are geographical zone, geographical and Köppen climate classification, climate zones to the Northern Hemisphere, north and Southern Hemisphere, south ...
and outside the range of the
intertropical convergence zone The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ ), known by sailors as the doldrums or the calms because of its monotonous windless weather, is the area where the northeast and the southeast trade winds converge. It encircles Earth near the thermal e ...
,
cyclone In meteorology, a cyclone () is a large air mass that rotates around a strong center of low atmospheric pressure, counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere as viewed from above (opposite to an antic ...
s and
hurricane A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm, storm system characterized by a Low-pressure area, low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, Beaufort scale, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms tha ...
s 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 An ecoregion (ecological region) or ecozone (ecological zone) is an ecology, ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion, which in turn is smaller than a biogeographic realm. Ecoregions cover relatively large a ...
, the Rapa Nui subtropical broadleaf forests. The original subtropical moist broadleaf forests are now gone, but paleobotanical studies of
fossil A fossil (from Classical Latin , ) is any preserved remains, impression, or trace of any once-living thing from a past geological age. Examples include bones, shells, exoskeletons, stone imprints of animals or microbes, objects preserved ...
pollen Pollen is a powdery substance produced by Spermatophyte, seed plants. It consists of pollen grains (highly reduced microgametophytes), which produce male gametes (sperm cells). Pollen grains have a hard coat made of sporopollenin that protects ...
, tree moulds left by
lava Lava is molten or partially molten rock (magma) that has been expelled from the interior of a terrestrial planet (such as Earth) or a Natural satellite, moon onto its surface. Lava may be erupted at a volcano or through a Fissure vent, fract ...
flows, and root casts found in local
soil Soil, also commonly referred to as earth or dirt, is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organism In biology, an organism () is any life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organi ...
s indicate that the island was formerly forested, with a range of trees, shrubs, ferns, and grasses. A large
extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism or of a group of kinds (taxon), usually a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the Endling, last individual of the species, although the Functional ext ...
palm Palm most commonly refers to: * Palm of the hand, the central region of the front of the hand * Palm plants, of family Arecaceae **List of Arecaceae genera * Several Arecaceae#Other plants, other plants known as "palm" Palm or Palms may also refer ...
, '' 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, 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 ''Sophora toromiro'', commonly known as toromiro, is a species of flowering tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, usually supporting branches and leaves. In some usages ...
tree ''(
Sophora ''Sophora'' is a genus of about 45 species of small trees and shrubs in the pea family (biology), family Fabaceae. The species have a pantropical distribution. The generic name is derived from ''sophera'', an Arabic name for a pea-flowered tree. ...
toromiro)'' was prehistorically present on Easter Island, but is now extinct in the wild. However, the
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a non-departmental public body In the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-we ...
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 A grassland is an area where the vegetation is dominated by grasses (Poaceae). However, sedge (Cyperaceae) and rush (Juncaceae) can also be found along with variable proportions of legumes, like clover, and other Herbaceous plant, herbs. Grassl ...
with ''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 The Andes, Andes Mountains or Andean Mountains (; ) are the longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of South America South America is a continent entirely in the Western ...
, 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 Seabirds (also known as marine birds) are birds that are adaptation, adapted to life within the marine (ocean), marine environment. While seabirds vary greatly in lifestyle, behaviour and physiology, they often exhibit striking convergent ev ...
colonies containing probably over 30 resident species, perhaps the world's richest. Such colonies are no longer found on the main island.
Fossil A fossil (from Classical Latin , ) is any preserved remains, impression, or trace of any once-living thing from a past geological age. Examples include bones, shells, exoskeletons, stone imprints of animals or microbes, objects preserved ...
evidence indicates six species of land birds (two
rails Rail or rails may refer to: Rail transport *Rail transport and related matters *Rail (rail transport) or railway lines, the running surface of a railway Arts and media Film *Rails (film), ''Rails'' (film), a 1929 Italian film by Mario Camerini ...
, two
parrots Parrots, also known as psittacines (), are birds of the roughly 398 species in 92 genus (biology), genera comprising the order (biology), order Psittaciformes (), found mostly in tropics, tropical and subtropics, subtropical regions. The order ...
, one owl, and one
heron The herons are long-legged, long-necked, freshwater and coastal birds in the family Ardeidae, with 72 recognised species, some of which are referred to as egrets or bitterns rather than herons. Members of the genera ''Botaurus'' and ''Ixobrychus ...
), all of which have become extinct. Five 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, southern blue and
pygmy blue whale The pygmy blue whale (''Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda'') is a subspecies of the blue whale (''Balaenoptera musculus'') found in the Indian Ocean and the southern Pacific Ocean. Reaching lengths of up to 24 metres (79 ft) it is small ...
s including Easter Island and Isla Salas y Gómez have been considered. Potential breeding areas for
fin whale The fin whale (''Balaenoptera physalus''), also known as finback whale or common rorqual and formerly known as herring whale or razorback whale, is a cetacean belonging to the Order (biology)#Zoology, parvorder of baleen whales. It is the secon ...
s 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 Immunosuppressive drugs, also known as immunosuppressive agents, immunosuppressants and antirejection medications, are medication, drugs that inhibit or prevent activity of the immune system. Classification Immunosuppressive drugs can be cla ...
drug
sirolimus Sirolimus, also known as rapamycin and sold under the brand name Rapamune among others, is a macrolide compound that is used to coat coronary stents, prevent organ rejection, organ transplant rejection, treat a rare lung disease called lymphangi ...
was first discovered in the bacterium ''
Streptomyces hygroscopicus ''Streptomyces hygroscopicus'' is a bacterial species in the genus ''Streptomyces''. It was first described by Hans Laurits Jensen in 1931. Biochemistry Cultures of different strains of ''S. hygroscopicus'' can be used to produce a number of ...
'' in a
soil Soil, also commonly referred to as earth or dirt, is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organism In biology, an organism () is any life, living system that functions as an individual entity. All organi ...
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 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 Overconsumption describes a situation where a consumer overuses their available goods and services to where they can't, or don't want to, replenish or reuse them. In microeconomics, this may be described as the point where the marginal cost of a ...
of natural resources from a overcrowded island.
Experimental archaeology Experimental archaeology (also called experiment archaeology) is a field of study which attempts to generate and test archaeological hypotheses, usually by replicating or approximating the feasibility of ancient cultures performing various tasks ...
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 The Little Ice Age (LIA) was a period of regional cooling, particularly pronounced in the North Atlantic region. It was not a true ice age of global extent. The term was introduced into scientific literature by François E. Matthes in 1939. Mat ...
(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, historian, ornithologist, and author best known for his popular science books '' The Third Chimpanzee'' (1991); '' Guns, Germs, and Steel'' (1997, awarded a Pulitzer Pr ...
dismisses past climate change as a dominant cause of the island's deforestation in his 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 Sandalwood is a class of woods from trees in the genus '' Santalum''. The woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained, and, unlike many other aromatic woods, they retain their fragrance for decades. Sandalwood oil is extracted from the woods fo ...
traders, and slave raiders.
Midden A midden (also kitchen midden or shell heap) is an old landfill, dump for domestic waste which may consist of animal bone, feces, human excrement, botanical material, mollusc shells, potsherds, Lithic flake, lithics (especially debitage), an ...
contents show that the main source of protein was
tuna A tuna is a saltwater fish that belongs to the Tribe (biology), tribe Thunnini, a subgrouping of the Scombridae (mackerel) family. The Thunnini comprise 15 species across five genera, the sizes of which vary greatly, ranging from the bullet ...
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. Cannibalism is a common ecology, ecological interaction in the animal kingdom and has been recorded in more than 1,500 species. Human cannibalism is well docum ...
appear.
Soil erosion Soil erosion is the denudation or wearing away of the Topsoil, upper layer of soil. It is a form of soil degradation. This natural process is caused by the dynamic activity of erosive agents, that is, water, ice (glaciers), snow, Atmosphere of Ea ...
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 ''Sophora toromiro'', commonly known as toromiro, is a species of flowering tree In botany, a tree is a perennial plant with an elongated Plant stem, stem, or trunk (botany), trunk, usually supporting branches and leaves. In some usages ...
, 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 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 ...
's captain, stated in his
logbook A logbook (or log book) is a record used to record states, events, or conditions applicable to complex machines or the personnel who operate them. Logbooks are commonly associated with the operation of aircraft, nuclear plants, particle accelera ...
, "... of yams, bananas and small
coconut palm The coconut tree (''Cocos nucifera'') is a member of the palm tree The Arecaceae is a family (biology), family of Perennial plant, perennial flowering plants in the Monocotyledon, monocot order (biology), order Arecales. Their growth ...
s 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 or forest clearance is the removal of a forest or stand of trees from land that is then land conversion, converted to non-forest use. Deforestation can involve conversion of forest land to farms, ranches, or urban area, urban ...

deforestation
. This process seems to have been gradual and may have been aggravated by
sheep farming Sheep farming or sheep husbandry is the raising and breeding of domestic sheep Sheep or domestic sheep (''Ovis aries'') are domesticated, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Although the term ''sheep'' can apply to other species ...
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, 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
myths Myth is a folklore genre consisting of Narrative, narratives that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or Origin myth, origin myths. Since "myth" is widely used to imply that a story is not Objectivity (philosophy), ...
are: *
Tangata manu The ''Tangata manu'' ("bird-man," from "human beings" + "bird") was the winner of a traditional competition on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The ritual was an annual competition to collect the first sooty tern () egg of the season from the islet of ...
, the Birdman cult which was practised until the 1860s. *
Makemake Makemake (minor-planet designation 136472 Makemake) is a dwarf planet and – depending on how they are defined – the second-largest Kuiper belt object in the Classical Kuiper belt object, classical population, with a diameter approxim ...
, 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 Basalt (; ) is an aphanite, aphanitic (fine-grained) extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of low-viscosity lava rich in magnesium and iron (mafic lava) exposed at or very near the planetary surface, surface of a terrestrial ...
, a hard, dense stone used for toki and at least one of the moai. *
Obsidian Obsidian () is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed when lava extrusive rock, extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimal crystal growth. It is an igneous rock. Obsidian is produced from felsic lava, rich in the lighter elements s ...
, 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 Scoria is a pyroclastic, highly Vesicular texture, vesicular, dark-colored volcanic rock that was ejected from a volcano as a molten blob and cooled in the air to form discrete grains or clasts.Neuendorf, K.K.E., J.P. Mehl, Jr., and J.A. Jackso ...
from Puna Pau, a very light red stone used for the pukao and a few moai. *
Tuff Tuff is a type of Rock (geology), rock made of volcanic ash ejected from a Volcano, vent during a volcanic eruption. Following ejection and deposition, the ash is lithified into a solid rock. Rock that contains greater than 75% ash is conside ...
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 ...
, 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 Tuff is a type of Rock (geology), rock made of volcanic ash ejected from a Volcano, vent during a volcanic eruption. Following ejection and deposition, the ash is lithified into a solid rock. Rock that contains greater than 75% ash is conside ...
, 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 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 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 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
petroglyph A petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock (geology), rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrasion (geology), abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", ...
s, 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, 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 the ''huri mo'ai'' or ''statue-toppling'' era; many became
ossuaries An ossuary is a chest, box, building, well, or site made to serve as the final resting place of human skeleton, skeletal remains. They are frequently used where burial space is scarce. A body is first buried in a temporary Grave (burial), grave, ...
, one was dynamited open, and Ahu Tongariki was swept inland by a
tsunami A tsunami ( ; from ja, 津波, lit=harbour wave, ) is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a tsunamis in lakes, large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and othe ...
. 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''. 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 Routledge expedition.


Stone walls

One of the highest-quality examples of Easter Island stone masonry is the rear wall of the ahu at 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 The Inca Empire (also Quechuan and Aymaran spelling shift, known as the Incan Empire and the Inka Empire), called ''Tawantinsuyu'' by its subjects, (Quechuan languages, Quechua for the "Realm of the Four Parts",  "four parts together" ) wa ...
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
petroglyph A petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock (geology), rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrasion (geology), abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", ...
s 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 turtle Sea turtles (superfamily Chelonioidea), sometimes called marine turtles, are reptiles of the order Testudines and of the suborder Cryptodira. The seven existing species of sea turtles are the flatback sea turtle, flatback, green sea turtle, green ...
s, Komari (vulvas) and Makemake, the chief god of the ''
Tangata manu The ''Tangata manu'' ("bird-man," from "human beings" + "bird") was the winner of a traditional competition on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The ritual was an annual competition to collect the first sooty tern () egg of the season from the islet of ...
'' or Birdman cult. File:Makemake.jpeg,
Makemake Makemake (minor-planet designation 136472 Makemake) is a dwarf planet and – depending on how they are defined – the second-largest Kuiper belt object in the Classical Kuiper belt object, classical population, with a diameter approxim ...
with two birdmen, carved from red
scoria Scoria is a pyroclastic, highly Vesicular texture, vesicular, dark-colored volcanic rock that was ejected from a volcano as a molten blob and cooled in the air to form discrete grains or clasts.Neuendorf, K.K.E., J.P. Mehl, Jr., and J.A. Jackso ...
File:Ahu-Tongariki-4-Petroglyph.JPG, Fish
petroglyph A petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock (geology), rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrasion (geology), abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", ...
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''. Glyphs include pictographic and geometric shapes; the texts were incised in wood in reverse
boustrophedon Boustrophedon is a style of writing in which alternate lines of writing are reversed, with letters also written in reverse, mirror-style. This is in contrast to modern European languages, where lines always begin on the same side, usually the le ...
direction. It was first reported by French missionary Eugène Eyraud 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 A petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock (geology), rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrasion (geology), abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", ...
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 A gorget , from the French ' meaning throat, was a band of linen wrapped around a woman's neck and head in the English medieval clothing, medieval period or the lower part of a simple chaperon (headgear), chaperon hood. The term later describe ...
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 Patina ( or ) is a thin layer that variously forms on the surface of copper, brass, bronze and similar metals and metal alloys (tarnish produced by oxidation or other chemical processes) or certain stones and wooden furniture (sheen produced b ...
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 national football team and three
disco Disco is a music genre, genre of dance music and a subculture that emerged in the 1970s in music, 1970s from the United States' urban nightclub, nightlife scene. Its sound is typified by four-on-the-floor (music), four-on-the-floor beats, syncop ...
s in the town of Hanga Roa. Other cultural activities include a musical tradition that combines South American and Polynesian influences and woodcarving.


Sports

The Chilean leg of the
Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, established in 2009 and created by Red Bull Red Bull is a brand of energy drinks of Austria, Austrian company Red Bull GmbH. With 38% market share, it is the most popular energy drink brand as of 20 ...
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 Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania. The island is most famous for its nearly ...
origin, 39% were mainland
Chileans Chileans ( es, Chilenos) are people identified with the country of Chile, whose connection may be residential, legal, historical, ethnic, or cultural. For most Chileans, several or all of these connections exist and are collectively the source ...
(or their Easter Island-born descendants) of European (mostly Spanish) or
mestizo (; ; fem. ) is a term used for racial classification to refer to a person of mixed Ethnic groups in Europe, European and Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Indigenous American ancestry. In certain regions such as Latin America, it may also r ...
(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
Amerindians The Indigenous peoples of the Americas are the inhabitants of the Americas before the arrival of the European colonization of the Americas, European settlers in the 15th century, and the ethnic groups who now identify themselves with those peopl ...
(or their Easter Island-born descendants). , the population density on Easter Island was .


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 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 Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania. The island is most famous for its nearly ...
, an Eastern Polynesian language, sharing some similarities with Hawaiian and 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. It is the southernmost country in the world, and the closest to Antarctica, occupying a long and narrow strip of land between the Andes to the east a ...

Chile
, the official language used is
Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Cana ...
. Easter Island is the only territory in
Polynesia Polynesia () "many" and νῆσος () "island"), to, Polinisia; mi, Porinihia; haw, Polenekia; fj, Polinisia; sm, Polenisia; rar, Porinetia; ty, Pōrīnetia; tvl, Polenisia; tkl, Polenihia (, ) is a subregion of Oceania, made up of ...
where Spanish is an official language. It is supposed that the 2,700 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 declining in its number of speakers as the island undergoes
Hispanicization Hispanicization ( es, hispanización) refers to the process by which a place or person becomes influenced by Hispanic culture The term ''Hispanic'' ( es, hispano) refers to people, cultures Culture () is an umbrella term which encompass ...
, 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 ''Ethnologue: Languages of the World'' (stylized as ''Ethnoloɠue'') is an annual reference publication in print and online that provides statistics and other information on the living languages of the world. It is the world's most comprehensi ...
has established that Rapa Nui is currently a threatened language. Easter Island's indigenous Rapa Nui
toponymy Toponymy, toponymics, or toponomastics is the study of '' toponyms'' ( proper names of places, also known as place names and geographic names), including their origins, meanings, usage and types. Toponym is the general term for a proper name o ...
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
Chilean Congress The National Congress of Chile ( es, Congreso Nacional de Chile) is the legislative branch A legislature is an assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country A country is a distinct part of the ...
. Administratively, the island is a
province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or sovereign state, state. The term derives from the ancient Roman ''Roman province, provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire ...
( Isla de Pascua Province) of the Valparaíso Region and contains a single commune (''comuna'') (
Isla de Pascua 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. It is the southernmost country in the world, ...
). 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 the Republic. The municipal administration is located in Hanga Roa, led by a
mayor In many countries, a mayor is the highest-ranking official in a municipal government A municipality is usually a single administrative division having municipal corporation, corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as ...
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 Chilean Constitutional Convention (since 2021) * Felipe González de Ahedo (1714–1802), a Spanish navigator and cartographer; annexed Easter Island in 1770. * Angata ( 1853–1914), native catechist and prophetess who led a 1914 rebellion * Thomas Barthel (1923–1997) a German ethnologist and epigrapher * Carmen Cardinali (born 1944) a Rapa Nui Chilean professor, governor of Easter Island, 2010-2014. * Jean-Baptiste Dutrou-Bornier (1834–1876) a French mariner, removed many of the Rapa Nui people and turned the island into a sheep ranch. * Sebastian Englert (1888–1969), missionary and ethnologist * Eugène Eyraud (1820–1868), missionary * Thor Heyerdahl (1914–2002), a Norwegian adventurer and ethnographer * Melania Hotu (born 1959), governor (2006–2010, 2015–2018) * Marta Hotus Tuki (born 1969), governor (2014–2015) * Riro Kāinga (died 1898 or 1899), last person to hold title of king and rule before Chilean consolidation * Kings of Easter Island * Hotu Matuꞌa, island founder * William Mulloy (1917–1978), an American anthropologist and archaeologist * Nga'ara (died 1859), one of the last ‘
ariki An ariki (New Zealand, Cook Islands), ꞌariki (Easter Island), aliki (Tokelau, Tuvalu), ali‘i (Samoa, Hawaii, Hawai‘i), ari'i (Society Islands, Tahiti), aiki or hakaiki (Marquesas Islands), akariki (Gambier Islands) or ‘eiki (Tonga) is or wa ...
* Jacobo Hey Paoa, first Rapa Nui male to earn a law degree and become an attorney * Pedro Edmunds Paoa (born 1961), mayor and former governor * Juan Edmunds Rapahango (1923–2012), former mayor * Hippolyte Roussel (1824–1898), a French priest and missionary *
Katherine Routledge Katherine Maria Routledge (), née Pease (11 August 1866 – 13 December 1935), was an English archaeologist Archaeology or archeology is the scientific study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The ...
(1866–1935), an English archaeologist and anthropologist * Alexander Ariʻipaea Salmon (1855–1914) English-Jewish-Tahitian de facto ruler of Easter Island, 1878-1888. * Mahani Teave (born 1983), a Chilean American classical pianist * Atamu Tekena ( 1850–1892), missionary installed King who ceded island to Chile * José Fati Tepano, first Rapa Nui male to serve as a titular judge upon completing training in Chile * Juan Tepano (1867–1947), indigenous leader and cultural informant * Valentino Riroroko Tuki (1932–2017) last claimant to the Rapa Nui throne * Lynn Rapu Tuki (born 1969), head-teacher, promotes the arts and traditions of the Rapa Nui People. * Luz Zasso Paoa a Rapa Nui politician, mayor of Easter Island, 2008-2012.


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) (''Isla de Pascua'' in Spanish language, Spanish). The most remote airport in the world (defined as distance to another airport), it is from ...
, with jet service (currently
Boeing 787 The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is an American wide-body jet airliner developed and manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. After dropping its unconventional Sonic Cruiser project, Boeing announced the conventional 7E7 on January 29, 2003, ...
s) from
LATAM Chile LATAM Airlines Chile (formerly LAN Airlines and LAN-Chile) is an airline based in Santiago, Chile, one of the founders of LATAM Airlines Group, Latin America's largest airline holding company. The main hub is Arturo Merino Benítez International ...
and, seasonally, subsidiaries such as LATAM Perú.


Gallery

File:HangaroaAlcaldía.jpg, Hanga Roa town hall File:TAMURE.png, Polynesian dancing with feather costumes is on the tourist itinerary. 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


See also

*
List of largest monoliths This is a list of monoliths organized according to the size of the largest block of stone on the site. A monolith A monolith is a geological feature consisting of a single massive rock (geology), stone or rock, such as some mountains. For ...
* Lists of islands *
North Sentinel Island North Sentinel Island is one of the Andaman Islands, an Indian archipelago in the Bay of Bengal which also includes South Sentinel Island. It is home to the Sentinelese, an uncontacted peoples, indigenous people in voluntary isolation who have d ...
*
Omphalos An omphalos is a religious stone artifact, or baetylus Baetylus (also Baetyl, Bethel, or Betyl, from Semitic languages, Semitic ''bet El (deity), el'' "house of god"; compare Bethel, Beit El) are sacred stones that were supposedly endowed wit ...
* Podesta


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading

* * * * * * * *
in Internet Archive
* *


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 Creative Commons (CC) is an American non-profit organization and international network devoted to educational access and expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has release ...
– 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 Archaeological sites in Chile Archaeological sites in Oceania Ecoregions of Chile Geography of Polynesia Pacific islands of Chile Islands of Oceania Islands of Valparaíso Region Oceanian ecoregions Volcanic islands Eastern Indo-Pacific Marine ecoregions