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Rapa Nui

Approximately 3500 km west of the Chilean coast, in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, sits one of the most isolated inhabited pieces of land in the world. Rapa Nui, or as it is more commonly known, Easter Island, is a small island made from three extinct volcanoes. It has been a source of awe and mystery for hundreds of years. Rapa Nui is extremely remote and isolated, yet a distinct culture thrived here and produced enormous artistic monuments. The most famous of these monuments are the Moai: large stone figures of kneeling men that dot the grassy landscape. Impressive engineering feats were required to raise and move these statues, showing a high level of social organization. Yet within a span of 50 years in the 18th century, accounts from two Western explorers show a sudden change in life and politics on Easter Island as it became overpopulated. Moai were toppled and defaced in tribal conflicts, and the inhabitants of Rapa Nui seemed to be warring over scarce resources after they had completely deforested their island. Today the inhabitants fight a continuing struggle to regain their heritage and culture while preserving its ancient remains and managing the potential risks from ever-growing tourism.

Field Documentation
February 3, 2008
Polynesian, Rapa Nui
Historical Period
300 CE - 1550 CE
27° 10' 17" S, 109° 24' 24" W


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