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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Easter Islands


Easter island1 Easter Islands
 
Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeastern most point of the Polynesian triangle. The island is a special territory of Chile. Easter Island is famous for its monumental statues, called moai created by the Rapa Nui people. It is a world heritage site with much of the island protected within the Rapa Nui National Park.Easter island2 Easter Islands
The name “Easter Island” was given by the island’s first recorded European visitor, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who encountered it on Easter Sunday 1722, while searching for Davis or David’s island. The island’s official Spanish name, Isla de Pascua, is Spanish for “Easter Island”.
The current Polynesian name of the island, “Rapa Nui” or “Big Rapa”, was coined by labor immigrants from Rapa in the Bass Islands, who likened it to their home island in the aftermath of the Peruvian slave deportations in the 1870s. However, Thor Heyerdahl has claimed that the naming would have been the opposite, Rapa being the original name of Easter Island, and Rapa Iti was named by its refugees.
There are several hypotheses about the “original” Polynesian name for Easter Island, including Te pito o te henua, or “The Navel of the World” due to its isolation. Legends claim that the island was first named as Te pito o te kainga a Hau Maka, or the “Little piece of land of Hau Maka”. Another name, Mata-ki-Te-rangi, means “Eyes that talk to the sky.”

Easter island3 Easter Islands

Easter island4 Easter Islands

Easter island5 Easter Islands
Easter Island is a volcanic high island, consisting mainly of three extinct volcanoes: Terevaka forms the bulk of the island. Two other volcanoes, Poike and Rano Kau, form the eastern and southern headlands and give the island its approximately triangular shape. There are numerous lesser cones and other volcanic features, including the crater Rano Raraku, the cinder cone Puna Pau and many volcanic caves including lava tubes. Poike used to be an island until volcanic material from Terevaka united it to Easter Island. The island is dominated by hawaiite and basalt flows which are rich in iron and shows affinity with igneous rocks found in Galapagos Islands.
Easter Island and surrounding islets such as Motu Nui, Motu Iti are the summit of a large volcanic mountain which rises over two thousand metres from the sea bed. It is part of the Sala y Gómez Ridge, a mountain range with dozens of seamounts starting with Pukao and then Moai, two seamounts to the west of Easter Island, and extending 2,700 km (1,700 mi) east to the Nazca Seamount.
Pukao, Moai and Easter Island were formed in the last 750,000 years, with the most recent eruption a little over a hundred thousand years ago. They are the youngest mountains of the Sala y Gómez Ridge, which has been formed by the Nazca Plate floating over the Easter hotspot. Only at Easter Island, its surrounding islets and Sala y Gómez does the Sala y Gómez Ridge form dry land.
In the first half of the 20th century, steam came out of the Rano Kau crater wall. This was photographed by the island’s manager, Mr Edmunds.

Easter island6 Easter Islands

Easter island7 Easter Islands

Easter island8 Easter Islands

Easter island10 Easter Islands

Easter island11 Easter Islands
Trees are sparse on modern Easter Island, rarely forming small groves. The island once had a forest of palms, and it has been argued that native Easter Islanders deforested the island in the process of erecting their statues. Experimental archaeology has 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. Rapanui traditions metaphorically refer to spiritual power (mana) as the means by which the moai were “walked” from the quarry. But, given the island’s southern latitude, the climatic effects of the Little Ice Age may have contributed to deforestation and other changes, though such speculation is unproven.
Jared Diamond dismisses past climate change as a dominant factor on the Island’s deforestation in his book Collapse which presents an extensive look into the collapse of the ancient Easter Islanders. Diamond argues that the disappearance of the island’s trees seems to coincide with a decline of its civilization around the 17th and 18th century. Midden contents show a sudden drop in quantities of fish and bird bones as the islanders lost the means to construct fishing vessels and the birds lost their nesting sites. Soil erosion due to lack of trees is apparent in some places. Sediment samples document that up to half of the native plants had become extinct and that the vegetation of the island was drastically altered. Chickens and rats became leading items of diet and there are contested hints that cannibalism occurred, based on human remains associated with cooking sites, especially in caves.

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Easter island27 Easter Islands
The large stone statues, or moai, for which Easter Island is world-famous, were carved during a relatively short and intense burst of creative and productive megalithic activity. 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 are actually complete torsos, the figures kneeling on bent knees with their hands over their stomach. Some upright moai have become buried up to their necks by shifting soils.
The period when the statues were produced remains disputed, with estimates ranging from 400 CE to 1500–1700 CE. Almost all (95%) moais were carved out of distinctive, compressed, easily worked volcanic ash or tuff found at a single site inside the extinct volcano Rano Raraku. The native islanders who carved them used only stone hand chisels, mainly basalt toki, which still lie in place all over the quarry. The stone chisels were re-sharpened by chipping off a new edge when dulled. The volcanic stone the moai were carved from was first wetted to soften it before sculpting began, then again periodically during the process. While many teams worked on different statues at the same time, a single moai would take a team of five or six men approximately one year to complete. Each statue represents a deceased long-ear chief or important person, their body interred within the ahu, or coastal platforms, the moai stand upon.

Easter island13 Easter Islands

Easter island12 Easter Islands

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Easter island25 Easter Islands

Easter island26 Easter Islands
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