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Rano Raraku

Listed under Volcanoes in Easter Island, Chile.

  • Photo of Rano Raraku
  • Photo of Rano Raraku
  • Photo of Rano Raraku
  • Photo of Rano Raraku
  • Photo of Rano Raraku
  • Photo of Rano Raraku
Photo of Rano Raraku
Photo by Photography: Mike Lyvers
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Long ago, seafaring Polynesians somehow found and colonized the most remote island in the world, which they called Rapa Nui - today known as Easter Island. As their population expanded, the tribes of Rapa Nui competed with each other for prestige by building hundreds of giant stylized stone heads (called moai) commemorating heroic tribal ancestors or gods. The moai were raised on large stone platforms called ahu and displayed prominently all around the island. Overpopulation eventually resulted in deforestation, overfishing, and loss of topsoil for farming, as well as a lack of living space, which in turn led to warfare and cannibalism. There were relatively few surviving natives left on the island when Captain Cook arrived. The dormant volcano Rano Raraku was the quarry where the moai were meticulously carved from the lava rock with a high degree of artistry before being transported elsewhere. Because the transport process required logs, the complete deforestation of the island meant that the hundred or so finished heads awaiting transport had to wait forever; they remain standing there today, gazing impassively across desolate Rapa Nui from the slopes of the volcano. It is as mysterious a place as I've ever seen. In some places the great stone heads seem to be in the process of emerging, godlike, from the ground. The largest one, nearly 70 feet tall, remains part of the lava escarpment from which it was carved. The full story behind these bizarre ancient monuments will never be told.

Written by  Mike Lyvers.

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