Moai Ahu at Hanga Roa Easter Island

Photo Essay – The Magic of the Moai (Statues) of Easter Island, Chile

Posted on Posted in Easter Island, South America
Ahu Tongariki - the Moai of Easter Island Statues
Ahu Tongariki, a famous collection of Moai of Easter Island

**Originally published after my Easter Island trip, but updated and posted for you to discover (or re-discover) one of my favorite experiences – a bucklist trip for many to see the Easter Island statues***

Paul, our guide, visited Easter Island in the 60’s as a teenager assisting the archeological team at the time.  He is a wealth of knowledge of the island and the moai with the perspective of a visitor, an archeologist and now a resident.  He stopped one tour guide to correct her in Spanish, he said, she was giving incorrect information to her group.  He is passionate about the island, the history and making sure you understand. It was with this passion that I feel under the spell of the island in a way that made me personalize each Moai (statue) of Easter Island.  I created stories and imagined lives of the those living at the time in the middle of the world building the statues. It made me remember the Moai – the group, the individuals and the fallen.

I felt sad if a Moai was broken or lying flat on the ground, having been knocked from its altar.

Fallen Moai Easter Island statues
Fallen Moai on Easter Island

Sad, that some spirits were trapped inside (based on the stories Paul told of the legend of the Moai).  Sad that the one moai all alone, away from the road was rarely visited as evidenced by the high grass and lack of parking spaces set aside for visitors – he was a blip on the map that I wanted to find to let him know he wasn’t alone. You can see that the elements have taken their toll.

Maoi of Easter Island statues left alone in a field with no visitors
Maoi left alone in a field with no visitors as he is hard to find off the paved road

Yes, I know, I’ve seen too many Toy Story movies and think when we aren’t looking they come alive at night – that it’s magic!  And when you see how large the statues are on Easter Island, where they came from in the quarry and wonder how they got to their resting places, once has to think that magic was involved, right?  I mean how the heck did this topknot (hat) get on the statue way back then? It weighs a few tons and is massive!  So for my visit, let me pretend for a little while….

A tumbled Top Knot Hat from the Moai of Easter Island Statues
A tumbled Top Knot from a Moai on Easter Island

The Moai were primarily made from the mountain rock in the quarry to represent ancestors of the tribes obviously with some creative license given the larger heads, smaller bodies, lack of arms and protruding features.  They were moved to the various locations along the coast of the island and then arranged on their altars to protect the people – the stone pebbles in front of the altars are not to be walked on as they are deemed to be sacred.  A few were given topknots (or hats). No one looks the same in my opinion.

Moai of Easter Island statues at the Anakena
Moai of Easter Island at the Anakena


Ahu Akivi - 7 Moai of Easter Island statues (inland)
Ahu Akivi – 7 Moai of Easter Island (inland)


Ahu Tongariki- 15 Moai of Easter Island Statues
Ahu Tongariki – 15 Moai of Easter Island

The view from behind the altar

the Moai of Easter Island Statues view from behind
Looking behind the Moai of Easter Island


There is one kneeling Moai believed to be a monk and given feet (which was rare).

Kneeling Monk Easter Island statues
Kneeling Monk Easter Island Statue alone

Over the years, many archeologists have explored the island.  At the quarry, where the famous faces of the island are and the images that you see most, the majority of Moai remain buried below their shoulders.

Moai of Easter Island statues at the Quarry
Moai at the Quarry on Easter Island – their bodies are buried underground and left that way

In another place you may think you see an alien (another theory is aliens, of course) among the many faces.

Moai heads of Easter Island statues
You make the call – E.T. phone home? The early Moai heads of Easter Island

This one looks like a birdman or owl?

Easter Island statues birdman or owl looking
Moai – birdman? owl? What type of Easter Island statue do you think it is?

This Moai never made it to the altar

Moai left behind Easter Island statues
Moai left behind in the field away from the altar

This Easter Island statue can now see the light

Moai buried on Easter Island statues
Moai buried face up toward the sun on Easter Island

But no one sees the water as they all face inland to look out for their descendants.

Coastline Easter Island statues Chile
What a view of the ocean on Easter Island

So in touring the island, take a good look at each Moai and decide for yourself if you will give them your own story to add to your experience….to the magic.

Ahu at Hanga Roa Moai of Easter Island Statues
Ahu at Hanga Roa on Easter Island

11 thoughts on “Photo Essay – The Magic of the Moai (Statues) of Easter Island, Chile

  1. Great pics and comments about the stories of the island and Moai. Looks like a great place to visit and learn a lot from quality tour guides. It must have been interesting to see the quarry where all the rock was taken from as well. Thanks for sharing!

  2. It is kind of a cool and magical thought that they might come to life when no one is looking. I mean who’s to say they aren’t. It might just be that we aren’t clever enough to catch them coming to life. 😀

  3. This is a brilliant post! I felt so sorry for the neglected Moai all alone there. And as a pagan with a bit of animism thrown into my spiritual beliefs, I do tend to think there is some truth to the possibility that the Moai could take on a spirit of their own. It’s just a belief but it certainly does make the whole thing a lot more personal, doesn’t it.

    1. Thanks Karyn Jane! I think Easter Island is definitely a personalized experience that is so much more than statues. I believe since it is such a mystery as to why, where, how it only adds to the imagination.

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