Easter Island: Land of Giant Stones and Mysteries

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Easter Island: Land of Giant Stones and Mysteries

Part 2: Some Answers

In all, 887 moai have been located on the island. Only 288 of those were moved; the rest were either still in the quarries or were en route to the clifftop watch locations of the others. The ones that were moved, historians think, were moved on wooden logs used as rollers, much like historians now think the ancient Egyptians moved the giant stones that made up the Pyramids. Using a series of rollers and ropes, the Rapa Nui (the name for the people as well as the island) got the large stones from the quarries to the cliffs. Then, it was just a matter of getting them to stand up.

Historians now think that the Rapa Nui used levers and ropes and built stone ramps on which to move the moai into an upright position.

Why did the people of Easter Island make all these statues? Why did they clear lots of good farmland so they could drag the giant stones through it on the way to the sentinel positions?

Historians now think that it had something to do with the religion that the Rapa Nui practiced, that the stones were representative of the spirits of the chieftains and the gods. The stones themselves don't all look alike, but they follow a large handful of patterns. Archaeologists think that the patterns were close to how the Rapa Nui chieftains looked.

As for the Rapa Nui themselves, they gradually died out, from a combination of in-fighting and exposure to the rest of civilization. As many as 10,000 people once lived on the island at once, historians think. Civil wars (which also made the moai targets) and plagues have considerably reduced that number. Today, the descendants of those people number in the hundreds. Today's Rapa Nui keep alive their traditions and stories, however, and archaeological efforts in recent years have protected the moai from further destruction.

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