Birdman And The Destruction Of The Moai On Easter Island

Image

Birdman And The Destruction Of The Moai On Easter Island

“History teaches us many things. Most importantly, the things that made us who and what we are.” Robert Bonvill

When Jacob Roggeveen arrives on Easter Island he finds few trees, a couple of thousand people and nine hundred statues.

Both he and later Captain Cook surmise that there must have been a much larger population at one time to have built all these giant statues. The statues are lying on the ground in disarray and the natives ignore them.

The statues you see standing up now have been restored.

The story goes that at some point in the island’s history, the art and the increasing population were depleting the natural resources. There were too many trees being cut down. Without trees you have no canoes to get fish.There are no fishing nets to be made  without the mulberry trees. Rats were overrunning the island and eating the seeds and fruit.

Speculation is that the people were starving, fighting and blamed their idols.

They threw them down or lay them down and started killing each other. There is evidence of cannibalism.

The natives that were there when the Europeans came, follow a Birdman Cult, Tangata-Manu. The Rano Kau area has been considered sacred since ancient times. It is here in the fifteenth or sixteenth century that the Orongo ceremonial village is built for the new order.

After the fall of the Moai carving era society, new gods replaced the old ones while a struggle for power came to light. In order to settle this in a non-violent way, the Birdman Cult competition was established to help decide who would lead the Rapa Nui each year. They competed in a yearly Hunger Games-style race to retrieve an egg from an island in shark-infested waters with many deaths. The supreme deity of the Birdman Cult was the fertility god Make-Make.

There are petroglyphs that show the fish, marine life and canoes near Papa Vaku. Many Birdman petroglyphs were found near the Orongo village.

Over the next 150 years the remaining Rapa Nui culture shrunk to 150 people due mostly to European diseases.

The fate of the Rapa Nui on Easter Island is often used to illustrate how humans destroy their communities with environmental destruction and warfare. They had a highly developed civilization for about six hundred years and then they destroyed the environment and it ended in catastrophe.

We don’t know what is true and what isn’t, but the Moai stand as a reminder of the demise of an ancient culture.

As we deplete our natural resources, do we go the way of the Rapa Nui or do we hold ourselves accountable for our global excess?

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Advertisements

The Moai Walked – Easter Island

Image

The Moai Walked – Easter Island

“It’s a toss up when you decide to leave the beaten track, many are called but few are chosen”. Somerset Maugham

No one can agree on the history of Easter Island. It was named Easter Island by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who landed there on Easter Day in 1722. They found a population of between 1,500 and 3,000 inhabitants and about 900 giant stone statues. The statues, called Moai, were carved from compressed volcanic ash and stood as high as thirty feet, weighing 90 tons.

The locals did not care to explain their significance or method of creation. Captain James Cook wrote in 1774. “We could hardly conceive how these islanders, wholly unacquainted with any mechanical power, could raise such stupendous figures,”

When did the first people arrive? Where did they come from? Why did they carve such enormous statues? How did they move them and raise them up onto platforms?

The missionary’s stories, the explorer’s diaries, the archaeologist’s shovel, the anthropologist’s bones and the Rapa Nui oral tradition have all revealed something of the story. No one agrees on any of the answers to these questions.

The Rapa Nui have a story. When the first king Hotu Matu’a arrived on the island he brought seven different races with him, which became the seven tribes of Rapa Nui.

All the Moai sites have names. It is believed that the seven statues at Ahu Akivi represent the original ancestors from the kings of other Polynesian islands. Most of the statues face inland guarding the island and protecting the inhabitants but these seven face the sea remembering where they came from.

The quarry is one of my favorite places on the island. It is on a volcano called Rano Raraku.

The steep path winds through an astonishing landscape of Moai – giant heads, broken bodies, some tilted and without order, some fallen facedown on the slope.

The astonishing discovery by Thor Heyerdahl of Kon Tiki fame was that these giant heads had giant bodies under the ground.

They say, when a statue was almost complete, the carvers drilled holes to break it off from the bedrock, then slid it down the slope into a big hole so they could stand to finish it. Eye sockets were carved once a statue was on the platform and white coral and obsidian eyes were inserted during ceremonies to awaken the moai’s power. I bought an artist’s model of the eye.

In some cases, the statues were adorned with huge cylindrical hats or topknots of red scoria, another volcanic stone.

The hats were made at another quarry that had the red scoria.

The faces of the statues look very human and more Peruvian than the current Rapa Nui. Thor Heyerdahl believes there were early Peruvians.

There is a lot of speculation on how the islanders moved the Moai from the quarry where they were carried to their many locations.

Archaeologists have proposed methods for moving the statues, using various combinations of log rollers, sledges and ropes.
In the Rapa Nui oral tradition, the Moai were infused with mana, a spiritual force from the ancestors and the Moai walked.

The Rapa Nui stories make just as much sense of the unknown as the scientific theories. There is no proof that it did not happen that way.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Arriving On Easter Island

Image

Arriving On Easter Island (Isla de Pascua)

“The farther you go, however, the harder it is to return. The world has many edges, and it’s easy to fall off.” Anderson Cooper

The idea of a bucket list is weird. The thought that there is a set number of activities that you have to do in the world to die happy is depressing.  Life changes and things happen and your goals and desires change with that. I love lists. I make them all the time. They are more travel goals than bucket lists. The thing about these lists is to never finish them and always add new ideas.

The plane landed at another place on my list that I can check off – Easter Island. It is one of the most remote places in the world and has all those statues. We have flown six hours from Santiago to get here. You can only fly from Santiago or Tahiti on Latam Airlines to get there.

When you land on Easter Island you’ll notice that the runway appears to be really huge, because it’s really huge.  Back when NASA was working out the flight plans for the space shuttle in the 1980s, Easter Island aligned perfectly with one of the designated landing spots and the US government made a deal with the government of Chile to upgrade and extend the runway on Easter Island in exchange for possibly letting the space shuttle land there in case of an emergency.  Although never needed by NASA the runway expansion helped Easter Island greatly, as this meant larger planes could ferry tourists and supplies to the island.

In 2007 the Explora all-inclusive hotel opened on Easter Island. The hotel has expansive windows and outdoor areas to see the beautiful views on the south side of the island. The air smells so good. It feels like pollution has not yet come to this remote part of the world.

We arrive at lunchtime and a woman starts talking to us. I travel alone often and I’m always in awe of people who can do that. We are a little surprised but chat a bit with her about the island.

After lunch, we are taken on our first tour of the Moai with two couples from Missouri. Meeting Americans abroad is tricky in Trump’s America. We are sure they are Trump supporters and to them we must be California liberals. We know they own guns. In our minds this means that they must like racist, narcissistic bullies. Someone asks me what I do? I say that I  write a travel blog. Another one snaps, ”I don’t want to be in your blog.” I want to answer that I’m way too self-centered to write about you. This isn’t starting well.

We make a decision to not talk about politics and not be those judgmental California liberals that we were about to become. Those people turn out to be nice and interesting. I don’t know who they voted for but they aren’t thrilled with what is happening in the country now either. They became the people who experienced Easter Island at the same time in the same way that we did. They will always be part of our amazing memories here. The woman who snapped at me wasn’t feeling well and we were tired from jet lag and the long plane rides. The lesson for me is don’t judge people on your worst traveling day.

It is the tours to the Moai and surrounding areas and especially the staff and tour guides that really make this place so wonderful.

They are young, passionate, fun, very knowledgeable with great communication skills and a lot of information.

We spend most of our time with Bruno and Ika. Bruno is Chilean and had worked at Explora in the Atacama desert.

Ika is Rapa Nui and from the island. It is interesting to get their different take on the Moia stories.

Paulina the hostess is always around making sure that everything is going smoothly with kindness and humor.

Francisco the manager is always visible and asking about your day. I have amazing massages with Moea at the end of hiking days.  The girl who runs the gift shop makes a pharmacy run for me.

The friendliness and kindness of Explora is catching. We are having lunch a few days later. A couple sits down next to us. ” So did you just get here? Where are you from?” I ask.

I will always have a bucket list of places but it is the people you meet who live and work in these places and the encounters with other travelers that shapes your travel experience.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Ten Things To Do On Easter Island

Ten Things To Do On Easter Island

“Whether an island such as Easter Island can be considered remote is simply a matter of perspective. Those who live there, the Rapa Nui, call their homeland Te Pito Te Henua, ‘the navel of the world’. Any point on the infinite globe of the Earth can become a centre.” Judith Schalansky

1. Get there. Easter Island is one of the most remote places in the world. There is one airline that flies there which is LATAM. You can only fly there from  Santiago, Chile or Papeete, Tahiti.  It is six hours away from each place.

2. See the Moai. Easter Island is famous for the Moai statues. A plethora of theories surround the origins and construction of these giant, monolithic stone statues, but the truth is that they are the legacy left behind by the Rapa Nui civilization that once inhabited the island.

3.See the Moai at sunrise and sunset.

4.Hang out at the beach.

5.Hike the volcanoes.

6.See the other ruins from the Rapa Nui – the petroglyphs.

7.See a Rapa Nui cultural show. Rapa Nui are similar to the Māori.

8.Bike around the island. You can do the entire island in a day.

9.Take amazing photos.

10.Get an Easter Island Moai stamp at the Post Office (not the airport) on your passport. I’m so doing that. This is a bucket list thing for me!!!!

Fly safe,

JAZ