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Steve Plattner | profile | all galleries >> Easter Island: Navel of the World tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Easter Island: Navel of the World

These photographs were taken over a four-day period in August, 2007. Easter Island (Rapa Nui/Isla de Pascua), is the world's most isolated, continuously-inhabited island located 2500 miles due west of Santiago, Chile. Populated by about 3,500 islanders, it is home to a collection of more than 887 "moai," statues carved from volcanic rock by former inhabitants of the 50 square-mile island between 1000 and roughly 1550 A.D.

Of the 887 known moai, 397 lie unmoved and often unfinished in quarries like Rano Raraka, located near the southeastern coast of the island. Nearly 300 moai were carved and transported to other locations on Easter Island. Studies show that the average moai is 13 feet in height, and weighs 14 tons. The largest standing moai is Ahu Te Pito Kura--32 feet high, and weighing 82 tons. The moai are carved out of rough, gray volcanic rock. A few moai, like the one below in Hanga Roa, received an additional red volcanic rock "hat". Most moai were toppled during tribal conflicts on the island, or, owing to their locations along the rugged shoreline, taken down by tsunamis. Relatively few stand today. The fifteen moai at Ahu Tongariki, were re-erected in the 1990's with cranes donated by a Japanese company.

What do the moai represent? Their is no written record explaining how they came to be. However, it is thought that they represent the spirits of ancestors and tribal chiefs. Instead of portraying individuals, the moai are most likely standardized representations of powerful male individuals.

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Moai at dusk, Rano Raraku.
Moai at dusk, Rano Raraku.
Moai in Hanga Roa, with freighter from Chilean mainland in background.
Moai in Hanga Roa, with freighter from Chilean mainland in background.
Moai at dawn, Ahu Tongariki.
Moai at dawn, Ahu Tongariki.
Moai, early morning, Ahu Tongariki.
Moai, early morning, Ahu Tongariki.
Moai, early morning, Ahu Tongariki.
Moai, early morning, Ahu Tongariki.
Horses on a hilltop, near Ahu Tongariki.
Horses on a hilltop, near Ahu Tongariki.
Moai at dawn, Ahu Tongariki.
Moai at dawn, Ahu Tongariki.
Fallen moai, Ahu Tongariki.
Fallen moai, Ahu Tongariki.
Moai, early morning, Ahu Tongariki.
Moai, early morning, Ahu Tongariki.
Moai, early morning.
Moai, early morning.
Moai, early morning, Ahu Tongariki.
Moai, early morning, Ahu Tongariki.
Wild horses, Ahu Tongariki.
Wild horses, Ahu Tongariki.
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