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We learned a new vocabulary while on Rapa Nui, AHU for the platforms that the MOAI, the iconic and mysterious, monolithic sculptures stand upon … There are 887 moai in different stages of creation, repair, disrepair, standing proudly on ahu or overthrown, lying on their noses, buried up to their necks in their nursery.

I loved my initial viewing of a new group, a single moai or driving along the south coast with its countless ruins. The moai have puzzled and befuddled scientists, writers, archeologists for centuries. All one knows for certain is that they are magnificent. A high achievement on the part of mankind.

The 887 moai were created between 1250 and 1500. They represented living faces of deified ancestors and are each quite different. The tallest moai created was 10m (33′) tall and weighed 75 tons, the heaviest erected at Ahu Tongariki weighed 86 tons and the huge unfinished moai at the quarry would have been 21 m (69′) tall weighing 270 tons. It is incredible that they were able to be moved around the island.

All but 53 of the known moai were carved from tuff (a compressed volcanic ash) … 13 carved from basalt, 22 from trachyte and 17 from red scoria. Their red topnots, PUKAO, were carved out of red scoria.

The toppling of the moai occurred between the Dutchman Roggeveen’s 1722 visit and visits in 1868 when no upright statues were to be seen, except those buried on the outer slopes of Rano Raraku. The last upright statue was seen in 1838.

Various archaeologists have, in the 20th century, restored several ahu (platforms) which are such a delight and wonder to the world.

I loved seeing the moai at various times of day, morning light, late afternoon light. They were always different, always compelling.

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