Fundoo Times
Information on the history of Easter Rapa island. Easter Island is famous for its massive Moai stone monoliths.

Easter Island

Easter Island has long been the subject of interest and speculation. Easter Island, also known as "Rapa Nui" and "Isla de Pascua", is one of the youngest inhabited territories on Earth. Much to the amazement, questions, such as how and why the local inhabitants carved and transported the massive statues which dot the island, are still left unanswered. It is believed that a Dutch sea captain, Jacob Roggeveen reached the island on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1722. The island was known as Te Pito o Te Henua by the early settlers which meant "The Navel of the World". It was, then, renamed as Paasch-Eyland, the Dutch word for Easter Island. Today, the island's official Spanish name is Isla de Pascua, which also means "Easter Island".

The Polynesian name of the island is "Rapa Nui" or "Big Rapa" that was coined, after the slave raids were carried out in Rapa Nui in the early 1860s. Easter Island is one of the most isolated inhabited places on the surface of Earth about 2,000 miles from Tahiti and Chile, the nearest populated regions. The island is spread across 63 miles and has three extinct volcanoes. Moreover, the island itself is a single massive volcano that rose over 10,000 feet from the ocean floor. Easter Island is best known for its massive stone monoliths: Moai, that dot the coastline.

There has been much debate, speculation and uncertainty about the origin of the Easter Island. According to Heyerdahl, the people who built these statues had Peruvian descent. He put forward his theory on the basis of similarity between Rapa Nui and the Incan stonework. Archaeological evidences credit the Polynesians as the discoverers of this island, around 400 A.D. A remarkable and mysterious culture began to develop after their arrival. Besides these massive statues, the islanders also possessed the Rongorongo script; the only written language in Oceania.

Increase in the population of the Easter Island took a heavy toll of the fragile ecosystem, leading to ecological disaster. Resources became scant and the once luxurious palm forests were ruined. They were cleared for agriculture and the massive stone Moai were also moved. Henceforth, a flourishing and advanced social order became decadent because of civil war. Ultimately, all of the Moai standing along the coast were torn down in the feud. The statues, that we see today, have been revived by the archaeologists. Contacts with the westerners proved to be disastrous for the population, which lead to a decrease in the number, leaving approximately 111 people by the turn of the century. However, annexation by Chile in 1888, led to increase in population of the Easter Island.

Easter Island is still, one of the most fascinating and evocative places that one can ever come across. The landscape is truly astonishing. The opening of the Mataveri International Airport in 1967 has made the island more accessible for visitors from across the globe. The Easter Island is home to various natural features like volcanic craters, lava formations, beaches, dazzling blue water and archaeological sites. The mysterious and fascinating culture of the Easter Island can be seen in an open air museum on the Island. The local people, Rapanui, are very friendly even with strangers.