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 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.
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.
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….
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 alters 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 got topknots (or hats). No one looks the same in my opinion.
The view from behind the altar
There is one kneeling Moai believed to be a monk and given feet (which was rare).
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.
In another place you may think you see an alien (another theory is aliens, of course) among the many faces.
This one looks like a birdman or owl?
This one never made it to the altar
This one can now see the light
But no one sees the water as they all face inland to look out for their descendants.
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.