Easter Island

Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. A special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, created by the early Rapanui people. It is a World Heritage Site (as determined by UNESCO) with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park. In recent times the island has served as a warning of the cultural and environmental dangers of overexploitation. Ethnographers and archaeologists also blame diseases carried by European colonizers and slave raiding of the 1860s for devastating the local peoples.

One of the world’s most famous yet least visited archaeological sites, Easter Island is a small, hilly, now treeless island of volcanic origin. Located in the Pacific Ocean at 27 degrees south of the equator and some 2200 miles (3600 kilometers) off the coast of Chile, it is considered to be the world’s most remote inhabited island. Sixty-three square miles in size and with three extinct volcanoes (the tallest rising to 1674 feet), the island is, technically speaking, a single massive volcano rising over ten thousand feet from the Pacific Ocean floor. The oldest known traditional name of the island is Te Pito o Te Henua, meaning ‘The Center (or Navel) of the World.’ In the 1860’s Tahitian sailors gave the island the name Rapa Nui, meaning ‘Great Rapa,’ due to its resemblance to another island in Polynesia called Rapa Iti, meaning ‘Little Rapa’. The island received its most well known current name from the Dutch sea captain Jacob Roggeveen, who, on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1722, became the first European to visit.

The mystery of Easter Island (Isla de Pascua) and its indigenous inhabitants, the Rapanui, has intrigued travelers and archaeologists for many years. Where did these ancient people come from? How did they transport almost 1,000 giant statues from the quarry to their platforms? What cataclysmic event caused them to overthrow all they had erected with so much effort? And most important, what does it all mean?

With the opening of Mataveri airport in 1967, Easter Island became more easily accessible, and many visitors now take the opportunity to pause and ponder the largest and most awesome collection of prehistoric monuments in the Pacific. This is one of the most evocative places you will ever visit.

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~ by ferry1984 on September 12, 2011.

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