Those Easter Island Statues Aren’t Just Heads, They Have Bodies

Easter Island is a small island located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. The island is most well-known for its giant statues, known as moai, which were created by the Rapa Nui people who once inhabited the island. The moai are one of the most famous examples of ancient sculpture in the world and have fascinated people for decades. Until recently, it was believed that the moai only represented the heads of the figures, but recent research has shown that they actually have bodies as well.

Archaeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg has spent years studying the moai on Easter Island. She and her team have been working on a project called the Easter Island Statue Project, which aims to document and preserve the moai before they are damaged beyond repair. One of the main goals of the project was to uncover the true nature of the moai – whether they were just heads or if they had bodies as well.

Through a combination of excavation and 3D modeling, Van Tilburg and her team were able to determine that all of the moai had bodies. The bodies are often buried beneath the ground, which is why they have been missed by previous researchers. The team was able to excavate around the base of some of the moai and use 3D modeling to create digital images of what the statues would look like if they were fully exposed.

The discovery of the moai bodies has changed the way that people think about these ancient statues. Many have wondered why the Rapa Nui would create such massive sculptures without bodies, but Van Tilburg believes that the bodies were always there – they were just buried. The Rapa Nui likely believed that the moai were living beings, and they buried the bodies as a way of showing respect for the deceased.

The discovery of the bodies has also shed new light on the construction of the moai. It was previously believed that the statues were constructed in separate pieces – the head and body – and then brought together. However, Van Tilburg’s team believes that the moai were created as a whole, with the body carved out of the same stone as the head. The bodies were then buried, with the head left exposed.


While the discovery of the moai bodies is certainly fascinating, it also raises new questions about the Rapa Nui people and their culture. How did they manage to construct the moai, which can weigh up to 80 tons? How did they move them across the island without modern machinery? Why did they spend so much time and effort creating these massive sculptures?

The answers to these questions are still being uncovered, and the Easter Island Statue Project is playing an important role in that process. By documenting and preserving the moai, Van Tilburg and her team are helping to ensure that future generations will be able to appreciate these remarkable sculptures.

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