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History, Heritage and Archaeology – Archaeology in the Ancient World: Maoi Statues Easter Island

Year 9 Elective History




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The island is famous for its gigantic stone statues, of which there are more than 600, and for the ruins of giant stone platforms (ahus) with open courtyards on their landward sides, some of which show masterly construction.

Google Arts and Culture

Rapa Nui, the indigenous name for Easter Island, is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world, separated from the coast of Chile by 2,300 miles. 

Ancient Origins

Easter Island, also known as  Rapa Nui , is a remote Chilean island a few thousand kilometers west of South America in the Pacific Ocean. Described as an archaeological Disneyland, the island has entered popular imagination thanks to the existence of 887 giant monolithic statues named  moai which have puzzled academics since they were first spotted by European explorers.


A Polynesian society blossomed in this unlikely locale after hardy souls somehow navigated a fleet of wooden outrigger canoes to this tiny speck in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. Here, in isolation some 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) west of South America and 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) from the nearest neighboring island, the Rapa Nui developed a distinct architectural and artistic culture. That culture reached its zenith during the tenth to 16th centuries, when the Rapa Nui carved and erected some 900 moai across the island.

For centuries, the mystery of how the colossal stone statues of Easter Island moved captivated scientists. See their theories come to life.

The Easter Island is one of the most remote islands in the world, but this didn't spare it from hundreds of years of human conflict. The Rapa Nui were the first people to have settled on the Island and even before the European colonial powers reached South America, the Rapa Nui underwent a turbulent history of Clan wars, of which the now famous Moai statues where often the center of attention. In this video we will learn about these 800 years of human activity on the Easter Island and much more. 


This documentary attempts to unlock the mysteries of the giant stone heads of Easter Island, while exploring how the thousand giant stone heads of Easter Island were made, and why.

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The moai are monolithic statues, and their minimalist style reflects forms found throughout Polynesia. Moai are carved from volcanic tuff (solidified ash). The human figures would be outlined in the rock wall first, then chipped away until only the image was left.

National Geographic

At latest count on the island, there are 1,043 complete moai, enormous statues with prominent heads made from volcanic stone. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t just heads—they have torsos too, though many are partially or completely buried. On average, they reach 13 feet in height and weigh 10 metric tons.

The Briitish Museum

The Museum cares for two large stone moai from Rapa Nui (Easter Island): Hoa Hakananai'a and Moai Hava. Moai are megalithic statues often placed upon ahu (ceremonial platforms). They are said to be the aringa ora, the living faces of the ancestors.