Two volcanic craters, Rano Raraku and Rano Kau, were the main sources for the rock, and today it is still possible to see partially carved statues that were never finished within their craters. Like any remote Pacific island worth its salt, Easter Island features a handful of stunning, white sandy beaches and good conditions for surfing. Less than a mile off the coast are a number of islets which are popular for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Historical accounts describe a contest between tribes - the challenge, to swim across a mile of sea and climb a cliff to bring back a bird's egg. Whichever tribe won got first call on the Island's diminishing resources. In place of warfare there was an orderly distribution of food.
Easter Island – Faces of Mystery
Genetic science has resolved the first great question: from where did they sail? In the 1950s, the world famous explorer, Thor Heyerdahl demonstrated that it was possible to cross the open ocean from South America to Easter Island. Plenty of other scientists felt that the seafaring Polynesian people were more likely to have made such an awesome journey. Only recently though has DNA evidence provided proof of the first Islanders' origins. Erika Hagelberg has studied the DNA of skeletons unearthed on Easter Island. They contain a genetic marker, the so-called Polynesian motif, characteristic DNA that categorically shows the link between Polynesia and Easter Island's first settlers. They came to the Island from the west not the east, a journey which marked the furthest outpost of Polynesian society. Heyerdahl's hypothesis has been disproved.
The Mystery of Easter Island by Katherine Routledge
Using these and other ancient techniques scientists have now undertaken all the great Polynesian voyages - including the journey to Easter Island - using reconstructed Polynesian canoes. A voyage was made recently, by the members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, from Mangareva to Easter Island - the trip took was remarkably quick - it took just 17 days.
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Few topics on Easter Island have aroused so much passion as the question of how the statues were moved. Of the 887 statues that were carved, 540 were moved out of the quarry. It was a monumental achievement for a primitive people armed only with stone tools. Island legend says that the statues 'walked' from the quarry to their platforms around the island. Charlie Love and Sergio Rapu are among those who take this as a hint that the statues were moved upright. Charlie cites the dozens of statues that have been abandoned en route to their platforms, many of which are broken in pieces. This could only have happened if they fell from a vertical position. On the other hand Jo Anne Van Tilburg points out that moving the statues vertically was inherently unstable, and it would surely have made more sense to move them horizontally. Whether they were moved upright or lying down, it is generally agreed that large numbers of logs would have been necessary to use as rollers. Even here though there is a dissenting view: Sergio Rapu argues that rounded rocks could have been used as pivots under the base of the statues - and indeed some statues do have a base which appears grooved in a way that might support this idea. The truth is that no-one really knows how the statues were moved. This is one mystery that modern science has been unable to solve.
The Other Mystery of Easter Island • Damn Interesting
John Flenley's studies of pollen from lakebeds shows Easter Island was once covered with palms. Yet the Dutch in 1722 described an island devoid of trees. The disappearance of tree pollen coincides with the civil war. The society relied on wood to make canoes. Treeless, their ability to fish for food was limited.