Tahai is the nearest site to the town of Hanga Roa, indeed it is only a short walk away. It is one of the most complete sites on the island, for it has no less than three ahu, that is platforms for the moai, while the original village, that lay in front of it, has partly been excavated.
The site was excavated by the American archaeologist Bill Mulloy, who not only restored the moai, but also excavated the village in front and an interesting canoe ramp where the canoes could be pulled out
Unfortunately when we were there, the weather was overcast and indeed it ended in rain — see below. Thus my photos are not particularly bright, but I hope they give some idea of what is to be found there.
This is the overall view of the site with the five moai standing on their platform, and to the right, two individual moai, also on their platforms. In the centre of the plaza in front of them are is another fallen statue with a fence around it.
And here is a close-up of the main group of five moai, standing on their platform. In front of the platform is the ramp, an elaborate construction made of beach boulders.
And here is a view of the other two statues, each standing on its own ahu. That in the far distance has been restored with a topknot and also with replica eyes (click to see enlargement).
In front of the statues was the village, overlooked by the ancestors. The village at Tahai has been partly excavated, and here we see a typical example of one of the grander houses an oval or boat shaped house with a single elaborate entrance.
Note the holes in the stones that outline the house, which presumably held the withy uprights that formed the walls. Conditions must have been somewhat cramped in the very narrow house, but this is the style of all the grander houses on the island
Another feature of the architecture are the so-called chicken houses. According to the evidence of the oldest inhabitants in the 19th century, these were used for housing chickens.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Easter Island was racked by constant warfare and it was important to keep the vital chickens safe, so the chickens were herded into these houses and the very small doors were blocked up and made invisible so that raiders did not know which stones to remove to get in — though in this case the surrounding lintels seemed clear enough. But excavations have found chicken bones in the floors.
There are only two beaches on the island where it is possible to land canoes, but it would appear that all the many villages must have had canoe ramps for launching their canoes. This canoe ramp at Tahai was restored – heavily restored? – by Bill Mulloy.
And this is the memorial to Bill Mulloy where his ashes are actually buried. William Mulloy was Professor of Anthropology at Wyoming university, and first came to Easter Island with Heyerdahl’s 1955 expedition. He never shared Heyerdahl’s beliefs, but subsequently he made over 20 visits to the island over the course of 24 years and is responsible for most of the restorations seen on the island today, both here at Tahai, at Ahu Akivi, and most spectacularly at the birdman’s village at Orongo.
At at the back of the site is a natural cave. I do not know whether there is any evidence for it being used by the villagers, but many caves were used by the Rapanui, (as the Easter Islanders tend to be called) and it proved very useful to us when it came on to rain with a short sharp shower
And here we are sheltering in the cave, when my umbrella no longer sufficed.
And here are two girls (mother and daughter?) sheltering from the rain, who took our photos, so I took theirs. They were from Chile and spoke only little English (and I speak no Spanish) but there was a large four mast sailing ship in the bay, and I think they said that they were from the crew of the sailing ship.
And here is the view from the cave in the rain. In the distance can be seen the moai on their ahu, to the left is the chicken house, and in the foreground, mud.
But 10 minutes later it was brilliant sunshine!