How was Easter Island settled

The story of Easter Island is a sad one

The history of Easter Island

Easter Island is a single open-air museum in terms of finds and sights, and yet the history of the island is basically a very sad chapter.

In its current form, Easter Island has existed for around 240,000 years. At that time, "Terevaka", located in the north, grew out of the Pacific and connected the existing volcanoes Poike and Rano Kau to Easter Island. However, 240,000 years ago, the island was slightly larger than it is today. The volcanic rock is porous and over the millennia the Pacific has gnawed away parts of the island. This becomes very clear when the south-western flank of the Rano Kau breaks off, the edge of which today falls around 300 meters vertically into the Pacific. The islands of Motu Kao Kao, Motu Iti and Motu Nui off the Rano Kau are said to be remnants of the Rano Kau volcano.

According to current theories, Easter Island was only settled around 1,500 years ago. The majority of the experts believe that the first settlers came from Polynesia, but the Norwegian adventurer and researcher Thor Heyerdahl claims that the first settlers came from Peru in South America. Which opinion comes closest to the truth has not yet been proven.

In the oral traditions of the Rapa Nui a name appears again and again, namely the founding father of the Rapa Nui king "Hotu Matuá". King Hotu Matuá is said to have visited Easter Island around 1350 AD. with a retinue of up to 200 subjects. The sons of Hotu Matuá are said to have been the founding fathers of the different tribes. To what extent this myth is true can no longer be proven today; there are no records or concrete findings on this.

According to archaeologists, Easter Island, which is now bare, was once forested with around 10 million palm trees. When the Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen discovered Easter Island in 1722, however, a very bare landscape emerged with grasses and some bushes that were no higher than two to three meters. The common theory about the deforested island is that the islanders cut down the palm trees between the 11th and 16th centuries to transport their moai's. After that it is said to have come to an ecological catastrophe, which resulted in famines and bitter tribal feuds.

On Easter Island there are endless traces of a lost high culture that the inhabitants of 1722 could neither explain nor live. Admiral Jacob Roggeveen found people whose boats were in poor condition and subsequent visitors even report that the islanders were in poor condition and had only a few stone tools. Even then, the indigenous people reported that their long-eared and short-eared ancestors fought a great war around 1680 during which all long-eared people were destroyed. Science assumes that this dispute actually took place and that the long-eared people were the spiritual elite of the island. In many publications it can be read that the production of moai's was stopped at this point in time and that from this point on all moai's were thrown from their ahu platforms. The former will probably be true, because the "Moai factory" on Rano Raraku still looks today as if the craftsmen had left their work place overnight. Thor Heyerdahl reports that even in 1955 there were hundreds of stone tools at Rano Raraku that were between the half-finished moai's.

The Moai's were demonstrably not overturned during or shortly after the great war around 1680. The European visitors unanimously report that there were still standing Moai's in the 18th and even towards the end of the 19th century. Today's science suspects that in the course of the ever-growing tribal feuds, the Moai's were also gradually overturned. In addition, the syphilis disease brought in by the Europeans is said to have been the cause of the last Moai's being pulled from their pedestals. According to the Rapa Nui belief, the moai's had a divine power (mana) that could protect or punish and apparently the moai's had lost their power or the islanders wanted to oppose the punishments of the Moai by overthrowing the moai Protect Colossi.

The catastrophes caused by the Rapa Nui themselves with the deforestation of their island as well as the complete extinction of the intellectual elite were nothing to the catastrophes that the Europeans should bring the islanders: Especially in the 19th century, the Europeans first brought syphilis to the Rapa Nui the displacement of the inhabitants to Peru and Tahiti, with the few returnees bringing in smallpox and later leprosy. In their excessive zeal, Catholic missionaries arranged for the Rongorongo tablets to be destroyed. In 1877 there were only 36 Rapa Nui left on Easter Island who had lived there for more than a generation.

The Rapa Nui suffered from their foreign rulers until the late 20th century. After Chile annexed the island in 1888 and there was a Rapa Nui uprising in 1915, martial law prevailed on Easter Island until 1965. The islanders were in quarantine for a long time and were not allowed to go to mainland Chile until 1956; Chilean citizenship and passports did not exist until 1966. The cultural value of Easter Island was not recognized by Chile until the 1970s. The native language Rapanui has been taught in schools again since 1975, and since 1984 Rapanui and local folklore have even become compulsory subjects in schools.

Even in the 21st century there are unrest among the native Rapa Nui on Easter Island. Protests against the Chilean government alternate with bloody crackdowns on insurgents. A radical group calls for the independence of Easter Island; moderate groups and also the majority of the Rapa Nui are of the opinion that the island can only survive with the help of the Chilean economic power.