Rano Raraku - Today we headed for the quarry, about 18 km from Hanga Roa on Easter Island, where the moai (statues) were extracted from the rock cliffs which are the back side of an extinct volcano. There are almost 400 moai left here in various stages of completion. As we approached, we could see the side of the volcano studded with moai, gazing outward.
Volcano Rano Raraku with 100s of moai
Many for the most part have been partially buried over the years from falling earth, carving residue, and general erosion. So what is visible are mainly the heads of the moai (which are only about one third of the size of the entire moai) with the bodies now covered. These moai have never been restored or re-erected - they are in the same positions as when work at the quarry suddenly and mysteriously ceased.
Many moai through the years are now partially buried
So basically, here's a theory of how it works. The moai was carved lying on its back with all details completed except eye sockets. The moai's back would then be chipped away at the spine from the tuff (hardened volcanic ash) and carefully slid down the volcano slope with ropes and pulleys and no doubt everyone hoped for no accidents!
Can you spot this 21-m moai still on its back?
It was lowered into a prepared pit or trench where the back of the moai may have had designs carved on it and then somehow transported to an ahu (platforms throughout the island) where it was erected, and the eye detail completely carved.
The largest moai ever carved (above), though not freed from the bedrock, was just under 21 m in length, 4 m across the shoulders, 1.5 m thick, and a weight greater than 200 tons! Even then, the bigger the better. (Largest moai ever placed on an ahu was 10 m high.)
There are numerous theories as to how the moai were transported and erected. An amazing feat considering the size and weight. If a moai broke, it was abandoned, even though it probably took a year or more to carve. Sorry, boss! The popular theory is that they were transported standing up, rolled on palm logs. It is believed that the island was originally covered in palms, but they were wiped out by the obsessive moai construction and transportation. Palm trees now present have been imported from Tahiti.
Half buried moai
We walked the many trails heading up and around the volcano, seeing so many fascinating moai.
What are they looking at?
A most unique moai was excavated in 1955 because of its unusual head shape and appearance (rounded head sporting a goatee). It was then discovered that it was kneeling, making it one of a kind.
Tukuturi - almost 4 m high
We also walked to the inside of the volcano where there was a lake and a few outriggers practicing for popular competitions. There were about 80 more moai to be seen around the lake, but we were not allowed to get close to these without a guide.
Very pretty scene in crater