|Fig.1: A quarterback's ideal offensive line.
A big question is how Easter Island got its name. Yes, those large statues do make great hiding spots for colored eggs, but there has to be a more symbolic reason based on the idea of resurrection and the renewal of life, right? Or not: the Dutch guy who accidentally discovered it in 1722 did so on Easter Sunday. Wow, that's deep. I'm glad there's not an island that was first encountered by Europeans on Christmas. (Oh wait.) The original name of the island is a subject for debate, mostly within the Polynesian Etymology Club active at every high school. The current name of Rapa Nui (Big Rapa) appears to come from its topographic and cultural similarities with Rapa Iti (Little Rapa) in French Polynesia over 2,000 miles away, even though this name makes Easter Island feel self-conscious about its weight. Another possible name, albeit a mouthful of one, is Te Pito o Te Henua, which could mean, "The Navel of the World." This would make sense based on its isolated location in the Pacific, and its reputation as the world's largest exporter of belly button lint.
|Fig.2: Sadly, most pizza places refuse to deliver to
houses with an Easter Island address.
The abundance of volcanic rock allowed for the creation of Easter Island's best known feature: the moai statues. Tradition states that the moai represented the deified ancestors of past chiefs, built to look after the island's residents to ensure peace among the clans, tranquility with nature, and that the youngsters were eating all of their vegetables. The Rapa Nui believed in a mystical force called mana, similar to "karma" in Eastern cultures and "comeuppance" in the made-up-words community. The larger the moai that a chief built for his ancestor, the more mana he would receive, and thus the more luck he would have a the craps table. An average moai weighs about 14 tons, with the largest erect statue coming in at about 82 tons, putting him in the super heavyweight division of Ultimate Moai Wrestling. This creates Stonehedge-esque questions as to how they were moved from the quarry to their eventual locations, mostly around the coast. Theories include rolling them along logs, rocking them back and forth along their bases, and even having the god Make-Make to use his Jedi powers to levitate the monolith (as such, Make-Make runs the most successful moving company in the Pacific).
|Fig.3: Being named the Bird-man
gave you the inside track to
becoming a successful defense
Unfortunately, friendly competitions between clans gave way to unfriendly civil warfare. This social upheaval may have been a result of the complete deforestation of the island by 1650, leading to no timber to construct fishing boats, no birds to prey upon, and tons of Loraxes around to get all annoyingly preachy and environmental on everyone. The lack of resources created the same strife between the island's various groups as that Easter where my siblings and I had to share a single Tomagotchi (we try not to speak of that horrific day in my household). By the time of Jacob Roggeveen's 1722 Easter Sunday visit and clever name-giving, the population shrank to a maximum of 3,000 people. The clans also practiced spiritual warfare against each other by actually toppling over their respective moai; European visits between 1770 and 1825 reported seeing less and less standing statues visible from the coasts. While it was tragic that the Rapa Nui attempted to destroy a major part of their historical legacy due to petty arguments about resources (not to mention nearly putting the Polynesians back into historical irrelevancy as far as I'm concerned), it must have been extremely liberating to push those giant things over! Stress balls have nothing on that!
|Fig.4: Go home, moai! You're drunk!
|Fig.5: It is theorized that the Rapa Nui
used coral to design eyeballs for their
moai, just to give them more of a that
Today, the moai statues are protected under a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and tourism to see the one-of-a-kind sculptures drives the local economy. But what about the Rapa Nui people (fig.6)? Their population has increased to over 3,000 by the time of writing, but their culture, language, and religion is constantly being undermined by that of their Chilean administrators. Sure, the moai were built to protect the people, but how much can they really do with their arms pinned to their sides like that? T-Rex arms are more effective! I have a huge respect for these Polynesians who actually did something cool (unlike those lazy useless Samoans), so I say that the Rapa Nui people need to be protected all the same. Let's take some of them from their natural habitat and display in museums all around the world, just like the moai! It's the only way to protect them while spreading the word about their glorious heritage and can-do attitude!
|Fig.6: Seriously, Rapa Nui people? An accordion? You guys just lost all your cool points!