Those who live on Easter Island call it, Rapa Nui. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the island is located on the eastern point of the Polynesian Triangle of which Hawaii and New Zealand make up the other two. Today, Rapa Nui has a population of 3,000 that consists of 34 clan families.
For 250 years, a multitude of ethnologists and archaeologists from all over the world have come to discover the secrets of this mysterious island. It contains around 600 bizarre stone monuments known as ‘Moais’, that measure between 4 and 10 metres high. The island’s large, angry-looking statues have sharp, elongated heads, long, narrow ears, deep-set eyes and thin lips. A large number of the first inhabitants' cruel rituals took place on the island’s steep coast. It was there that many were sacrificed in the name of the gods.
Ahu Tongariki was the island’s largest location for cult ceremonies and its Moais point straight toward the island’s volcano. The stone structures that are situated at Orongo, a former place of ritual, are cave-like buildings in which the dead were entombed within small stone chambers known as ‘Ahus’.
During the 1950s, the Norwegian researcher Thor Heyerdahl spent an entire year on Rapa Nui. When first discovered, not one of the figures stood on its original foundation but with the aid of the islanders, Heyerdahl managed to re-erect a single Moai.
Beginning in 1935 and for the next 30 years, the German pastor, Sebastian Englert, searched the island for its secrets. Today, his discoveries are on display in a museum and one of the finds, a skull, has been expertly reconstructed and now reveals the appearance of one of the island’s original inhabitants.
Over the years, none of the island’s simple appeal and fascinating mystique has faded. Easter Island is one of the largest cultural and natural treasures in the world and a much-prized heritage of civilization.