Easter Island (or Rapa Nui, as it is known in Polynesian) received its first recorded European visitor, Jacob Roggebeen, on Easter Sunday in 1722 – hence the name. The island is famous for its hundreds of enormous (and abandoned) stone statues, called moai, believed to have been built between AD 1400 and 1600.
People continue to puzzle over how and why the early inhabitants of Easter Island undertook the monumental effort to build and transport these huge statues – and what happened to the society that created them. One prevalent theory is that the statues were moved on giant roller systems fashioned from the island’s now-extinct palm trees – forming an ‘environmental morality’ tale of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources through deforestation. But others have recently suggested that the statues were moved by being ‘walked’ upright using ropes, calling into question the link between deforestation and statue building.
What really happened on Easter Island? Food for thought this Easter Sunday!