Toppled Statues on Rapa Nui

(Listening to: Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool.)

Look out from Easter Island and all you’ll see is a vast expanse of blue ocean rising up to meet the vast expanse of blue sky. Each melts into the other, the horizon disappears, and you feel you’re alone on a green disk of an island in the midst of all that eternal blue.

Imagine. That island is all you’ve ever known. All your forefathers have ever known. As far as you’re concerned, this is it. This is your entire world. This is THE entire world.

And food and wood you need to survive? It’s finite. And you’re nearing the end.

The idea of Easter Island (aka: Rapa Nui) is fascinating to me, because it strikes me as being a microcosm of our entire planet. By looking at the history of the island, we can study up on what happens to human beings once resources run thin and competition ramps up. Reading about it, a chill runs down my spine.


A photo from a display at the Museum on Easter Island.

From above: “The increasing need to demonstrate power and prestige through the Moai eventually led the clans to dispute resources like food and wood.” “Today, the toppled Moai are proof of the wars that occurred on Rapa Nui.”

It’s utterly foreboding.

It’s fascinating to me how others talk about what happened on Easter Island to wipe out everything… as if that’s just some unique problem those particular people had there. I say this is not limited to the Rapa Nui. This is a human problem, a human issue, this is what we human beings are doing right now to each other and our planet.

What happened on Easter Island? Yeah. That’s all of us.


Gazing at a toppled Maoi statue… and the dormant volcano Rano Raraku.

Just think… they had no idea the world extended beyond their island.

And then one day… a ship emerged from the blue beyond. With people. Europeans. What must that have been like? Aliens!

Some hypothesize that this may have been the beginning of the downfall of the Rapa Nui culture, the catalyst for really striving to claim the limited resources each for themselves.

But we can’t really know.

On our second last night in Hanga Roa, we met up with a Rapa Nui historian (and friend of Andrew) who spoke to us a bit about this. I could’ve listened for a very long time. If you’re going to Easter Island, let me know and I can put you in touch with him.


As we waited to meet Andrew’s friend, the sunset was magnificent.


2 responses to “Toppled Statues on Rapa Nui

  1. I think what the people of Easter Island experienced when that first ship arrived is very similar to what many cultures around the world will have experienced when Europeans started exploring the world. Very very interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, probably the effect on their culture was similar. But I would guess the element of surprise at discovering the human world is bigger than one petite island would have been an exceptionally surreal shock. Difficult to imagine…


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