Wednesday 13 February 2013

Scratching my head about the heads

I've got a couple of stories to write about Easter Island and, you know, even having been there now, the place is still such a mystery. I've just been watching video of an experiment in Hawaii showing how three small teams of people moved a 4.4-tonne replica of a moai by using ropes to rock it 100 metres along a flat path. Like a fridge! But many of the statues on Easter Island are much bigger than that, plus they were moved miles over rough terrain, plus they were placed on platforms about a metre high, plus they had red vocanic stone 'hats' that were put on their heads last of all. So many unanswered questions.
They're not all alike, either. Everyone's seen pictures of the ones like this, with the clean lines and sharp nose and chin that appears to us most striking and attractive, but actually there are lots of different looks, as in the Easter Island First XV in the top photo (so called because they have nothing above the eyes). They're actually ariki, or chieftans, not gods, so their features are based on real people.

Though it's an amazing place to visit, it's also a bit of a downer, because of the environmental destruction - denuded of its forests, pests imported, people exported for slavery to Peru, then a few stragglers returned again bringing disease, foreign capitalist farmers imprisoning the people in their town so actual generations never set foot in the sea... It's an object lesson in what not to do.

And another oddity of the place is that, with all those statues, because of the dedicated work of the imported rats and falcons, I only ever saw one with a bird on its head. Is that a plus?

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