The statues on Easter Island are among the most famous and most distinctive pieces of sculpture in the world. With their gaunt staring faces, they appeal both to modern tastes and to the tastes of the more primitive people who made them. However no statues survive in their original form on the island. When the islands were first discovered in 1721 by Jacob Roggeveen, he reported that the whole island was surrounded by statues, but between then and the mid-19th century the native islanders took against them and pulled them all down, so that the ones we see today have all been resurrected.
The statues, known as Moai, were placed on platforms, and therefore to replace the statues one must first rebuild the platform (see my account of the much simpler platforms on Tahiti). About half a dozen platforms have been rebuilt on the island since 1956, and we visited most of them.
The most biggest group is at Tongariki in the South East corner of the island, next door to the quarry, where a group of no less than 14 statues have been resurrected.
They are a little bit difficult to photograph as they face north west with their backs to the sea, facing inland to the village, and therefore from photographer’s point of view, they are all too often against the sun, and difficult to photograph. Here is the frontal view of all 14 of them on their plinth, facing the sun, their faces in the shadow.
This slightly oblique view shows the statues somewhat better, with the sun at an angle. Note that one next to the far end has been restored with its red top-knot in place. There are other top knots lying around, so it is probable that most of them originally had topknots.
It is easier to photograph the statues from the back.This shows the elaborate platform on which they were set, which has been built up to a considerable height.
Here is a map of Easter Island showing the position of Tongariki, next door to the quarry where all the statues were quarried.
These statues had all been toppled and were lying by the platform when in 1960 the great earthquake in Japan cause a tsunami to hit Easter Island.The group suffered badly and many of the pieces of the statue were carried some distance inland. Thus in 1992 a Japanese crane building company, Tadano, funded the restoration of the group by archaeologists from the University of Chile, and supplied and shipped over a mammoth crane for this purpose.
As a reward, they were allowed to take one of the statues back to Japan for an exhibition, after which it was returned and has been re-erected a short distance away. It is known as the Travelling Moa, as it has travelled such a long way.
A feature of the Moai is that the statues were all set on elaborate platforms. The platform at Tongarikiwas particularly elaborate as can be seen here. It had been erected in at least three different phases, being lengthened each time. The platforms as we see them have all been reconstructed.