Visiting Easter Island (Land-Based)

Moai Quarry at Rano Raraku (continued)

Numerous moai scattered across the landscape on the side of the volcano. The two moai in the right-hand picture are also visible in about the center of the left-hand picture.

A closer view of the same two moai.  

When you stare at a moai, first of all, you are staring at a stylized human. It is art, to be sure, but it also represents a one-time real, live, human being. A person, and most likely a Very Important Person. There in the red dirt and grass is his icon, that represents him, staring back at you—eye-to-eye communication across the centuries, across the vast differences between cultures, theirs and ours.

But what is the message carried via this physical-level, eye-to-eye communication? Nobody knows for sure, but if you ask me, the message is this: I was here, I was important, I died, but I want to be remembered—no, I demand to be remembered. A 20-ton moai is not a wish to be remembered, or even a request—it is a demand. Furthermore, I want to be remembered forever, to be immortal. They did their level best to create immortality, to the limits of their technology. The moai will demand remembrances for thousands of years, until they crumble to dust. In fact they will demand remembrances for so long, an impossibly wide chasm will develop between their culture and the culture of future visitors—hence, the perpetual mystery, the enigma: Who were they, what were they like, what happened to them?

Another point: We can tell something of the ancient people by how they chose to be immortalized. The features of the moai are likely to be desirable characteristics, even regal characteristics. We are looking at kings, and at how they wanted to be portrayed: deep-set intense eyes under chiseled brows, a long, stately nose, pursed narrow lips, sharp chin. When you look at a moai and meet its gaze, you are looking at what is unquestionably one helluva cool-looking dude, from an artistic or stylistic perspective. They are not ugly, or even bizarre—they are cool, way cool! This is how they chose to portray themselves, and who could blame them. Your own personal icon, representing you for eternity, as a way cool Very Important Person—hey, I want a moai for myself! Maybe we can start up a moai garden stateside, say, someplace in California. I bet it would take off.

A closer view of the left-hand moai.   A closer view of the right-hand moai.

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