The Polynesians call it Rapa Nui, while the Spanish refer to it as Isla de Pascua , but Easter Island is the name most people around the world refer to the intriguing attraction located in the South Pacific. Easter Island is a land mass that belongs to Chile and was given the name by the Dutch explorer who discovered it on Easter Sunday in 1722. In this article, you will learn more about the culture, history and significance of the island.
Easter Island is situated between Chile and Tahiti, making it one of the most isolated yet inhabited islands in the world. The closest inhabited land to the island is Pitcairn Island, which is 1,290 miles to the west. It was formed out of an ancient volcanic eruption. One of the most impressive sights associated with the island is the interesting-looking statues with the tight lips. The Rapa Nui people erected the attractions between the 10th and 16th centuries AD, and has always been of some mysterious to visitors. No one really knows how and why the ancient statues were put together.
The History of Easter Island
The mystery of the statues on Easter Island has led to an array of theories about the origins of the people from the island. Archaeologists and historians have tried to flesh out an outline regarding the history of the island. It is thought that the people of Easter Island started at a settlement where Polynesians established homes there in around 400 AD. The culture is believed to have originated from the islands of Mangareva or Pitcairn to the west. The settlers brought bananas, taro, sweet potato, sugarcane, paper mulberry and chickens to the island. From there, the civilization evolved into an advanced and complex culture.
‘Easter Island’ is a name that comes from the Europeans, and even ‘Rapa Nui’ is not linked to the people. Labor immigrants that came from the original Rapa in the Bass Islands saw the land as a home island. The Europeans discovered the island when a Dutch navigator named Jakob Roggeveen found his way to the land on Easter Sunday in 1722. On the island, Roggeveen came across about 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants that called the land their home. There was as many as 10,000 to 15,000 of the native people living on the island throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. Before the Dutch had ever set foot on the island, the numbers of people there was already dwindling. Overpopulation, deforestation and robbing the land of its natural resources were to blame.
Highlights of the Island
As a visitor, a trip to Easter Island will expose you to the following sights:
- Ahu Tahai: The ceremonial platform called the ahu is found at Tahai and is considered one of the earliest ahu structures on the island , dating back to 690 AD.
- Ahu Tongariki: Arranged in a military lineup, it is here that you will find 15 moai statues.
- Rano Raraku: This mountain quarry produced the volcanic rock that the people used to create the moai statues of the island.
- Rano Kau: Panoramic views await the tourist that hikes to the summit of this volcano.
- Orongo: This crater is now a lake that is filled with the fragments of the Birdman cult that was practiced until 1867.