Ahu Akivi - 7 moai
This site is unlike the other sites because
it is built inland with a view of the western
part of the island. According to oral tradition,
the 7 moai (each about 4.5 metres tall) represent
the young explorers sent to explore the island
before the arrival of the colonisers led
by Hotu Matu’a. Just like other ahu,
this ceremonial centre is oriented astronomically,
and the moai look straight to the sunset
during equinoxes. Ahu Akivi is believed to
have been constructed during the 15th century and was probably one of the first.
It was reconstructed in 1972 by William Mullay.
Ahu Vaihu - ceremonial centre
Also called Ahu Hange Te’e, this ceremonial
centre is a good illustration of the huri moai period, when the statues were knocked down.
8 of the moai were knocked down and their
pukao have even rolled as far as the seashore.
There is a circle of stones called paina
in front of the ahu, where certain commemorative
rituals were carried out. The adjacent bay
has been a major fishing site from ancient
times until the present day.
Ahu Tongariki – 15 Moai
This impressive megalithic monument with
a central ahu (platform) that is nearly 100
metres long once supported 15 moai. In 1960
when an earthquake devastated the south of
China, a gigantic tsunami wave struck the
eastern side of the island. Some of the moai
were deposited more than 100 metres from
their original position. For 4 years starting
in 1992, a team from the University of Chile,
sponsored by a Japanese crane company, rebuilt
the monument. The statues vary from 5.6 to
8.7 metres tall and weigh an average 40 tons.
We were told that the French want to borrow
a single moai for an exhibition. The Government
has agreed but the islanders are against
Ahu Te Pito Kura - navel of the world
This ahu has a small wall that, until the
century, supported the heavy moai Te Paro
– the largest ever erected anywhere
on the island, measuring 10 metres high and
80 tons. The pukao weighs approx 12 tons,
being one of the largest ever carved and
moved from the Puna Pau quarry. Tradition
says that the erection of this lone moai
was ordered by a widow in memory of her husband.
Paro was one of the last statues knocked
down some time after 1838.
Also on this site is the Te Pito O Te Henua
large stone that represents ‘the navel
of the world’ for the ancient Rapa
Nui. It is perfectly round and said to
have magnetic properties, hence it has become
a cult object where tourists sit and lay
their hands on the stone to fill themselves
with its mana.
Anakena – bay and moai
According to tradition, the legendary king
Hotu Matu’a arrived at this small bay
of white sand. The present name actually
refers to a small cave used by the migratory
bird, Kena, which is located above a ravine
where water used to reach. There are 2 reconstructed
ahu – Ahu Ature Huki by the Kon-Tiki
expedition in 1954 and Ahu Naunau by Sergio
Rapu in 1980. Ahu Naunau is built upon the
remains of several other ahu. The statues
at Ahu Naunau are known for the detailed
carvings on their backs. Along with traditional
loin cloth reliefs are fishhook patterns
that are found on none of the other statues.
The detail work in the statues is remarkable
with precisely chiselled facial features,
long ears and thin lips.
Ana Kai Tangata
This cave played a major role in the history
of Rapa Nui because of its connection to
the ceremony of the Tangata Manu –
the bird cult. On the ceiling of the cave
are red, white and black coloured cave paintings.
Most of them depict the Sooty Tern or Manutara,
a migrant seabird that nested every spring
in the islets infront of Orongo. This place
was also used to build vaku ama, small canoes
made of sewn planks that were typical of
the times when the island was running short
This complex comprises two large monumental
ahu with a huge 3m wall that is orientated
astronomically. (and views over the airport
fuel tanks!). Just like the other ceremonial
centres, all moai were knocked down around
centuries. Captain Cook's logs tell
of up to 20 moai erected in this area. There
are several buried around the ahu with only
their faces visible and the remains of red
scordia monuments have also been found on
the site including a rare column-like monument
whose carvings and meaning have eroded forever.
The main ahu, also called Vinapu I or Tahira,
features one of the finest island architectural
works made up of stone blocks that weigh
several tons, such stonework is not found
on any other Polynesian site. These blocks
are not only positioned with amazing accuracy
but are also artistic in their appearance.
While this type of precise stone fitting
is nonexistent in Pacific Island cultures,
it is common among South American cultures
that occurred before and during Easter Island’s
occupation. It is this striking similarity
that has lead some, most notably, Thor Heyerdahl,
to suggest that it is evidence that South
Americans (in particular Peruvians) colonized,
or at least were present on Easter Island,
and influenced the culture. One other mystery
is that Ahu Vinapu is considered to be a
fairly early site. Generally you would assume
that an earlier site would have less craftsmanship
involved than a later site, yet, in this
case we see the reverse.
Are these walls the proof of South American
influence or just as one archeologist put
it: "there are only so many ways to
carve a rock."
A feminine statue carved in red scoria, which
originally had two heads, is located in front
of the other ahu, Vinapu II. It was used
as a funerary pillar where a frame was installed
for drying dead bodies.