The Quarry is one of the major sights on the Island, and the only one, together with the birdman sanctuary for which a charge is made for entrance.
The quarry is the source of almost all the statues on the island. It is set at the eastern end of the island and is adjacent to one of the three major extinct volcanoes which form the corners of the island. The volcanic rock is ideal for carving, as it is very soft when first exposed to the air, but it rapidly hardens, giving a fine hard surface to the finished statue.
The quarry is full of statues — over 300 of them. These are in different states of readiness. Some are half-carved, still in position waiting to be cut from the rock, so one can see the process of the carving. Some of these are very large, indeed one wonders whether they were so large that it proved impossible to finish them and remove them.
Others however are standing upright and appeared to be ready for transport. It remains uncertain whether statues were carved and left in the quarry until the time was ripe for their erection — when perhaps the chief in whose honour they were carved, finally died and was ready to be made immortal by having his statue erected on the platform. Or was it that the carving was still in process when the islanders cut down the last trees and therefore ran out of ropes, so although they were able to carve their statues, they were no longer able to transport them?
The quarry seen at a distance, with the statues scattered over the hillside.
This is the outside edge of the volcano — the crater is over the other side and will be seen in the photos below
When one approaches close-up, one can see that many of the statues are standing upright, buried mostly up to their shoulders, more or less fully carved and ready for transport
And this is one of my favourites, a poor abandoned Moai, staring into space out over the boundless ocean.
Not all the statues were still standing. This one had either been toppled over, or had fallen over, though it has since been partly excavated
This is the most controversial moai, since it is in a completely different style, sitting down instead of standing up and with its head at an angle. It was completely buried until it was rediscovered by Thor Heyerdahl in his 1956 expedition. He then used it as evidence for his theory that there were two different racial types on the island, and this showed the other type. However most archaeologists believe it is simply a variant of the usual type.
This is one of the most controversial statues, for it has a European style sailing ship carved on the front. The carving cannot presumably have been made prior to 1722, the date of the first European contact: but does this mean that the statues were still being carved in 1722? Or is this a graffito, a secondary carving made on a statue that had been carved perhaps two centuries earlier?
This is the biggest statue on the island. It had been begun, but was never completed, and still remains in the quarry.
However it is very interesting evidence for how the statues were carved in position, lying on their back until eventually the carvers removed the rock underneath and they were loosened from the rock.
This is another unfinished statue, and one of the best known, demonstrating how tall some of the statutes were intended to be.
The main collection of moai stands in the quarries on the outside of the volcano but there were also other statues being carved inside the crater. This is a panoramic view of the interior of the crater, showing the lake in the interior, and some of the statues on the far side.
The hill that rises to the right is the other side of the quarry seen above. Click on the picture, and then click again to enlarge it to a full-screen, so that the statues can be seen. Then use the back button to return
Here is a detailed view of the statues standing on the other side creature. Unfortunately when we visited, we did not realise that there was so fine a collection in the crater. We had been told that it was possible to swim in the lake, but this was clearly not possible – at least not for the ordinary visitor.
Nevertheless I wish now I had crossed over to the other side, for the statues have not yet been subjected to the strict regimentation that has been imposed on the moai on the outside of the volcanic crater.
However this is a view from the long-distance lens of my camera showing that there are a number of statutes fully carved and awaiting transportation. I wish I had visited them close up.