Visiting Easter Island (Land-Based)

Moai Quarry at Rano Raraku

A really nice panorama of Rano Raraku in the morning light. I took this picture the morning after my official visit as I drove past on my way across the island. The automatic panorama software did a pretty good job this time, stitching together four pictures. You can click on this picture to enlarge it (176 kb); use your browser's "back" command to return here.  

Two more views of Rano Raraku. The left-hand picture was taken the morning after, the right-hand picture was taken today during my official visit.

Closer views of the moai quarry on Rano Raraku. You can see some moai standing on the side of the volcano.

When I reached the quarry I turned off the main road and headed up the bumpy dirt and rock road to the parking lot (all the other roads were paved, except the side roads to Vinapu cove). The quarry was simply spectacular, both the natural features of the landscape and the man-made additions.

The part provided by nature consisted of a large craggy eroded volcano cone. The seaward side of the volcano ended in sheer cliffs, where the hard rock of the volcano core remained after the softer rock eroded away. The southwest side of the volcano was also steep, but it had a mantle of soil and grass covering much of the slope.

Embedded in the sloping soil were dozens of dark hulking moai, highly stylized human forms carved centuries ago. The moai at the quarry were mostly finished works that had not yet been transported to their final ceremonial sites. They were stuck in the soil, some at odd angles, most facing away from the volcano. The view was absolutely riveting—such enigmas, in the form of many-ton human figures, staring back at you as you stared at them, puzzling over their meaning and purpose. That they had a meaning and purpose is obvious—they were so important to the culture that vast amounts of time and effort went into their construction, transportation, and erection. All this done by people using stone-age tools.

Imagine yourself, plunked down by magic on Rapa Nui centuries ago. What would it take for you to spend thousands of hours of hard work to hew an immense statue out of the solid rock of a cliff? I'm thinking it would take quite a lot of motivation and justification for a normal, reasonable person to spend that much time and effort. So the moai were not only important to the ancient culture, they were essential.

The left-hand view is from the parking lot, and the right-hand view from just inside the entrance.

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