Discovery of New Moai Statue Brings Hope to Rapa Nui People
On October 11, 2021, a new Moai statue was discovered on Easter Island, a remote volcanic island that is a special territory of Chile. The Rapa Nui people, who settled the island between 600 and 800 CE, created nearly 1,000 monumental statues known as moai. These statues are made from volcanic tuff, and the tallest moai statue on the island stands at 33 feet tall and weighs up to 80 tons.
The moai statue discovered on February 20 was found in a dried wetland in Rapa Nui National Park. This new find is one of the smallest found, leading experts to believe that hidden within the reeds is the potential for a bounty of new statues. The Ma’u Henua Indigenous Community, which manages the UNESCO World Heritage Site, shared the news in a segment of Good Morning America.
Terry Hunt, a professor of archeology at the University of Arizona, says the moai are important because they represent the history of the Rapa Nui people. They are believed to represent deified ancestors, and are iconic worldwide. Unfortunately, these statues are vulnerable to damage or attack. For instance, an arsonist set fire to the island last fall, leaving some statues charred and cracked, while in 2020, another was knocked over by a runaway pickup truck.
The discovery of the new moai is a source of hope and optimism for the Rapa Nui people as they fight for the preservation of their ancestors. The team of archaeologists is currently on a mission to see what else they can unearth at the site, looking out for evidence of moai as well as the tools that might have been used to make them.
Michael Strahan, co-anchor of Good Morning America, reported live from Easter Island, exploring how climate change is affecting the remote volcanic island's famous moai stone statues and how plastic garbage is traveling through the ocean and inundating the island. Hunt stated that due to climate-related alterations, the island has been affected, and the drying of the lake created a “unusual opportunity” to analyze the area.
The moai figures are the biggest tourist attraction on Rapa Nui, and the British Museum holds two moai statues, which Rapa Nui leaders have asked to be returned.
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