The moai, or moai, locally ‘mo’ai’, are the monumental statues of Easter Island (island belonging to Chile located in Polynesia), they are dated chronologically between 1250 and 1500. The majority of these monoliths are carved in tufa mainly from the Rano Raraku quarry. Some have however been carved in other volcanic rocks of the island (basalt, trachyte or volcanic tuff). Their size varies from 2.5 to 9 meters, for an average weight of 14 tons, up to the largest ones. All are monoliths turned mainly towards the interior of the island with the exception of Ahu Akivi whose moai look at the ocean. According to Jo Anne Van Tilburg, the number of Moai on the entire island is close to 887 with an average weight of, all are not visible, some are fragmented or have been recovered to build other monuments . The moai as they were to be in their final state, after edification, had white eyes made of white coral and red irises in volcanic tuff or black obsidian. Some of them wear a kind of cap, the pukao, made of red tuff, from the quarry of Puna Pau, and weighing itself several tons. Emblem of the island, the moai, large stone statues, were erected by the matamua (“the first” in Maori), former inhabitants of the island, who identified as descendants of the Polynesian discoverer Hotu Matu’a, come, according to their oral tradition, of “Hiva”, perhaps Hiva Oa or Nuku Hiva. The ahu, ceremonial platforms hosting moai, became necropolis from the secondary tombs for the reburial of skeletons brought from elsewhere are arranged there. In the Moai quarry, located on a slope of the Rano Raraku volcano, in the east of the island, one can see hundreds of statues, some seeming almost completed, others in the draft stage. It is thought that the extraction of the statues ceased because of the replacement of the ancestor cult by that of the god Make-make and the Tangata manu, the “bird-man”, at s.

Before, Roggeveen, González, Cook and La Perouse find and represent the relatively wooded island and the platforms ahu bearing standing moai. On the other hand, to and to the German crew of gunboat S.M.S. Hyane, Catherine Routledge, Alfred Metals and Thor Heyerdahl find the island devoid of trees and the moai overthrown from their ahu. What has happened in the meantime? The oral tradition speaks of internal wars, paleoenvironmentalists evoke droughts, earthquakes and tsunamis (the island, volcanic, is at the crossroads of two mid-oceanic ridges), historians and economists describe the appropriation of the island by sheep breeders and the action of missionaries. These causes, of course, are not exclusive of each other. Already in, we knew 3 types of positions for moai: those who had been put down and lay all along (some have since been straightened and restored on their ahu); those, erected on the flanks of the Rano Raraku, of which only the head protruded from the ground, and those, unfinished, frozen in a horizontal position in the quarry of the same rano (volcano). The majority of archaeologists believe that moai whose head is beyond the stage of finishing: slipped down Rano Raraku, they were stuck in a hole to straighten them, complete their sculptures (especially in the back, inaccessible at the time of their excavation of the rock) and style them with their pukao. Perhaps the hole was filled to access the upper parts of the moai, as the lower parts were finished. After the production of moai was interrupted by the abandonment of ancestor worship, time and erosion buried them to the top of the torso or to the neck. From 1916, Catherine Routledge wrote that the visible part is only the top of larger statues, she is the first to perform an excavation to reveal the buried body of a moai. In 1936, the work of Alfred Métraux’s Franco-Belgian expedition confirmed that, like the Polynesian tikis, the moai all had a body with arms and hands. In statues depicting a woman, often with swollen belly, the hands are brought forward on either side of the navel, which is interpreted as a sign of fertility; the back of the statues presents petroglyphs of various shapes and sizes. In 2010 and 2011, a team of archaeologists and volunteers co-directed by Jo Anne Van Tilburg and Cristián Arévalo Pakarati undertakes to excavate 90 of these statues in order to study and compare their buried part.

Little is known about the reasons that led the matamua, the first people on Easter Island, to increase the size of their statues: it may well be a kind of prestige competition between clans. that of a sacred act strengthening the cohesion of the whole population. Thes theoreticians of the collapse of the Haumaka civilization as Jared Diamond (contested theory) assume that this industry has exhausted a significant portion of the resources of the island but for their opponents, as Benny Peiser relying on the old descriptions before 1860, it was flourishing and it is the domestic animals introduced by the Europeans who made disappear forests and ravaged the soil. Dating methods are used to date the rock but not the period when it was cut. It seems that the first carved moai were of size and human morphology, as elsewhere in Polynesia, to evolve to larger morphologies as we know them today. This cult came to an end and authors like Jared Diamond assumed that it was because the inhabitants of the island would have destroyed their wood resources. The oral tradition says nothing about it, but reports wars between clans, or perhaps between social classes, if the “long-ears” it evokes are not a clan, but the caste of priests and their warriors . Still, a religious change was underway and a new worship, that of Make-make, was put in place when the island was discovered on April 10, 1722 by a Dutch sailor, Jacob Roggeveen. The quasi-extermination of the population of Matamua origin by the Peruvian slavers in 1862 and its replacement by evangelized Polynesians, brought from Rapa by the French missionaries and planters, removed all traces of the ancient cults, so that most of the memories of this civilization were lost. Nevertheless, the moai by their spectacular side (and long mysterious) are deeply rooted in the culture of Pascuans, and beyond, around the world: ten moais are expatriates in Paris, London, Brussels, Washington, Viña del Mar, La Serena and Santiago. One of them is peculiar: it is the one nicknamed “Hoa Hakananai’a” (the “stolen friend” in Maori of the Easter Island), removed from the Orongo ceremonial place by the British crew of the ship, brought back to Portsmouth on and exposed since at the British Museum of London. It is a moai whose back is carved with petroglyphs representing the Tangata manu (“man-bird”, a ritual related to the worship of Make-make), which was hidden in a cave and always revered at, and c Perhaps for this reason and on the suggestion of the missionary Eugene Eyraud it is part of the moai taken out of the island. France, for its part, has three moai heads:

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