Presenter Zay Harding and the AHU VAI URI, Easter Island
The Easter Islands are the most remote inhabited islands in the world, and famed for its Moai stone sculptures, hewn out of rock by a mysterious lost civilisation.
What’s The History here?
Throughout the last few hundred years there’s been a great deal of speculation about the origins of the civilisation that built the enormous statues with which Easter Island has become synonymous. Some have noted the similarity between the Moai statues and Inca stonework, and have surmised that they were built by people of Peruvian descent. Others have even gone so far as to suggest that the Moai were built by extra-terrestrials. The most plausible hypothesis, however, is that Easter Island was discovered by a small group of Polynesians in about 400 AD, whose fledgling civilisation developed in complete isolation for over a thousand years. These early settlers called the island Te Pito O Te Henua or ‘Navel of The World’.
We also can’t be sure of why the inhabitants built the Moai. It may be that they were representations of deified ancestors, who where thought to watch over the living. What we do know is that a few centuries after settlement disaster struck the Easter Island community. Whether caused by a population explosion, ecological disaster or cultural revolution, the crisis reached desperate proportions and the Moai were destroyed by the islanders themselves.
On Easter Day 1722 the island was ‘discovered’ by Admiral Roggeveen, who named it Easter Island. When the Europeans arrived in 1750 they found a primitive people residing among the ruins of a once great civilisation. The native population dwindled further as a result of disease and slavery, which the westerners brought with them, but since Easter Island was annexed to Chile in 1888 it has enjoyed a period of recovery.
Archaeologists set about reconstructing the ruined Moai monuments and trying to learn more about the culture which made them. More than 900 Moai have been found, and the sites where they stand are known as known as Ahu.