Big Bang Theory Intro #16: Moai

The great mysterious monuments continue on this next picture. I haven’t been to this one yet. The source image was pretty easy to find.

These are the statues called Moai. They are human figured carved from the rock around Easter Island. Easter Island is interestingly, owned by Chile, even though it is over 2,000 miles from Santiago. It’s a quite small island in total, with only 63.1 square miles, and only about 40 miles if you walked around the whole thing on the outside. Mostly because of the statues, it’s a popular tourist destination.

Speaking of the statues, they are mostly carved out of volcanic ash which had been compressed after many years. There are lots of them on the island, 887 that have been found. They are carbon dated to around 1100 AD, which means they’re not all that old. They were carved by hand out of that stuff, using stone chisels which are actually much harder than the ash. Thirteen of the statues were carved out of basalt, which is much harder.

Interestingly, almost all of the statues are faced inwards. They would normally be placed on a big stone platform called an Ahu. The only ones that are facing the ocean are quite far inland at Ahu Akivi. Most of the statues aren’t on their platforms anymore, because there was a time in Easter Island’s past when the islanders got into a intra-island war and they toppled all the Moai, breaking a lot of them.

These ones have head dressings which are of a different stone and are called Pukao. They’re carved from a different volcanic stone, which is actually red which you can see in the color version of this photo. There’s actually a dent in the bottom of them, so that they can stand atop the statues like that.

The statues themselves are still being excavated actively from the island, with regular reports from the people at the Easter Island Statue Project. Their aim is to locate them all, document them, and also understand the context of all the statues that exist on the island. They’ve done some interesting experimental archaeology on how the statues were moved from the original quarry that all the rock came from to the different places on the island that they are at now. They’ve also laser scanned one which has been in the gallery at the British Museum for a while now.