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Photographer's Note

Although I would have preferred to have an islander in the photo, the tourist taking a picture seemed to be planted immovably in place, refusing to budge... like the moai he was shooting. At least, he offers a measure of scale.

Easter Island is a virtual speck 117 square km (45 square miles) in area in the Pacific Ocean covering 165 million square km (64 million square miles). According to modern archaeologists, the island was first inhabited around the year 400 by Polynesians who navigated in a pair of open canoes from Tahiti. Under their chief, Hotu Matu’a, leading them through the uncharted waters, they brought with them their fowl, their religious idols and other memories of their culture on Tahiti. They named the island “Rapa Nui,” as it is still known by the islanders. Then on Easter Sunday in 1722 the Dutch explorer Admiral Jacob Roggeveen came upon the island, abused the inhabitants, and gave the island its present name. The archaeologists also determined that these monolithic rocks, close to a thousand in all, were carved by native artists from hardened volcanic magma during the period from 1250 to 1500, a practice virtually denuding the island of trees (logs presumably had to be used as rollers to transport statues weighing up to 86 tons, with an even more massive one weighing 270 tons that had never left the quarry). According to native lore, "...they walked into place." This has served as a clue for a novel theory that they were moved standing upright. They were never actually lifted off the ground, but rocked back and forth by three teams of people using ropes. Their cross-sections at the base resemble the letter "D" (with the round part facing forward) which would have made it easier to steer them forwards.

The moai most likely represented the souls of the islanders' ancestors, there to oversee their society and to protect them. They all face inward, as seen in this photo. With steady gazes into the horizon, they make haunting figures, silent witnesses to history. No definitive explanation has been given for whence the practice of creating came, or why it was abruptly abandoned. Visitors are now kept 5-10 yards from the statues, lest they damage them. In 2008 a Finnish tourist was fined $17,000 for breaking off an ear as a souvenir.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6057 W: 464 N: 10512] (35373)
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