Easter Island Statues – What is So Holy about it?

Posted in South America | March 12, 2010 | 0 Comments

Situated some 2200 miles west of Chili on the Pacific coast, the Easter Island is an island formed by two volcanoes an age ago. Known by the Polynesians as Rapa Nui, the island is known for its sacred monolithic human figures made from rock called Moai between 1250 and 1500. These Easter Islands statues are usually seen as large heads, which are in the ratio of three is to five with their body’s size symbolizing the living faces (aringa ora) of holy ancestors (aringa ora ata tepuna).

Although half of these statues are seen at Rano Raraku, which is the main moai pit, hundreds of them stand today on the ahu, the stone platforms ringing the island’s border. This transportation and construction are marked as a brilliant and intellectual accomplishment.


The Easter Islands statues symbolized authority and position and that their pedestals called ahu acted as the ritual sites which is said to be the home of a living spirit, mana.


The Polynesian colony’s inhabitants are said to have built the statues as an honor to their late ancestors and that they symbolize powerful living or former chiefs. When the statues were completely carved, they were moved to ahu on the coast following a small erection with red stone cylinders (pukao) on their heads.

According to the research, constructing and bringing Moai to the Ahu might have been very costly due to the different places of production and erection, which must have require many resources and timeless effort. The production place, the quarries in Rano Raraku, was suddenly discarded leaving behind the relics of stone tools, many completed moai nearby that were not transported, and many incomplete statues. This made the archaeologists believe in the 19th century that the island was the remains of a submerged continent due to which most completed moai resided on the sea floor.

So, it is concluded that there were some statues that were never built with the intention to complete, some were found incomplete due to the workers who would take up a new one and abandon the current on workload, some statues completed at Rano Raraku were to remain there permanently and were not meant for transportation, and that some could not see its complete body due to the culmination of the statue-building age.


The Easter Islands statues are featured with large, broad noses; chins; rectangular ears; and deep eye cuts. Carved in flat planes, their faces exhibit proud, but mysterious expressions. The large heads indicating the Polynesian belief of the holiness of the chiefly head show lofty brows and extended noses with distinctive nostrils. Because the heads are so big, the moai are called the Easter Island heads despite being the whole body statues.

The lips jut in a thin sulk, while the nose and ears are in stretched and rectangular state. The torsos are lofty, while the arms in bas relief rest in various positions – the hands and long fingers along the hip’s crests and the thumbs pointing the navel. The back sometimes contains a ring and girdle motif on the buttocks. The statues are without legs, only the one kneeling down have them. Out of 887 moai, 53 are carved from a compressed volcanic ash, 13 from basalt, 22 from trachyte, and 17 from fragile red scoria.

The tallest moai is named Paro that is 33 feet high weighing 75 tons; while the heaviest, but a shorter one at Ahu Tongariki weighs 86 tons.

According to the archaeologists in 1979, the hemispherical deep eye sockets were supposed to hold coral eyes with red scoria pupils.

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