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Easter Island Underworld Facts

Giant moai statues on ahu platform on Easter Island.

Easter Island Underworld

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  • Based on pollen analysis derived from lake core samples, as well as the discovery of palm seed shells, and other evidence, it's clear that Easter Island was once covered by a huge palm forest.

  • The most common trees were similar to the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis), which can grow to about three feet (a meter) or more in diameter and up to 65 feet (20 meters) high!

  • According to recent research, there may have been as many as 16 million palm trees on the island and that it may have taken six to eight centuries (assuming several hundred people were employed to chop down the trees) to denude the island.

  • Finely crafted stone ahu on Easter Island have been compared to Inca stonework, giving Inca artists credit for the influence. While there are similarities between them, there are also distinct differences. Most notably, the ahu are back-filled with rubble and not made of solid stone blocks, and they date to an earlier time than the Inca, thereby disproving the theory.

  • Scientists and scholars have evaluated a wide range of disciplines, from linguistics to genetics, from ethnography to technology, and no solid evidence of direct contact between South America and Easter Island has ever been discovered.

  • Extensive DNA testing substantiates the conclusion that Easter Islanders are descendants of people from eastern Polynesia (which is also borne out in tracing the cultural evolution of their ancestors traveling eastward across the Pacific.

  • Scientists and scholars in a variety of disciplines have not found convincing evidence that South Americans first populated the island. In fact, genetisist have recently concluded that the current population of Eastern Islanders descended from people who journeyed from eastern Polynesia.

  • Rapa Nui islanders were kidnapped and taken as slaves by Peruvian (and other) slave traders during the 19th century, but they weren't taken to the guano mines. They were instead forced to be agricultural laborers and servants of wealthy Peruvian land owners.

  • While the Civil War raged in the United States, Peruvian slave traders made several trips to Easter Island during the 1860s and enslaved an estimated 1500 people. The slaves were forced to work as laborers and servants to wealthy land owners, though many died soon after they were removed from their home island.

  • "Rapa Nui" is the Polynesian name that was given to Easter Island after its European discovery in 1722, ostensibly by Tahitian sailors who wanted to differentiate between Easter Island and the island of Rapa, 404 miles [650 kilometers] south of Tahiti. In so far as Easter Island is larger than Rapa and "nui" is the Polynesian word for "big", the name "Rapa Nui" means "big Rapa".

  • Easter Island was named by Dutch explorers in 1722, who landed there on Easter Sunday. The inhibitants of the island call it "Rapa Nui", which in Polynesian means "Great Rapa", and distinguishes the island itself from another island named Rapa that is located south of Tahiti.

  • These conditions may have contributed to the necessity of the islanders building manavai — walled gardens — designed to protect sensitive crops from harsh island conditions, including strong offshore winds which can not only knock over delicate plants but cause soil dessication.

  • The combinatin of erosion and the pourous nature of the volcanic ground beneath the island may explain the existance of "manavai" –or walled gardens. The gardens were designed to protect crops, such as banannas and yams, that could be destroyed by offshore winds and harsh conditions.

  • Radiocarbon dating suggests that during the last half of the 19th century, islanders began to uses grasses as fuel. This finding indicates a widespread change within the island's vegetation.

  • A tsunami in modern times struck Easter Island in May of 1960 and laid waste to the remains of the Tongariki ahu (platform), tossing 15 moai (some weighing up to 30 tons each) 700 yards (640 meters) inland.

  • In May 1960, a tsunami hit Easter Island destroying the Tongariki ahu, carrying 15 multi-ton moai 700 yards (640 meters) inland.

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