The Earth holds innumerable mysteries. From lost settlements in the Canadian Arctic to ancient ruins in the Indonesian jungle, our world is strewn with fascinating clues as to who and what came before us. It is no small distinction then that even on a planet so full of mystifying sights and archaeological puzzles, Easter Island is in a class of its own.
Known as Rapa Nui in the local tongue, this far-flung jewel in the South Pacific is the most remote populated area on Earth. Although it measures only a mere 63 square miles in size — about the size of the city of St. Louis — it boasts some of the most perplexing mysteries that our world has to offer.
Conventional belief is that Easter Island existed in total isolation from the rest of the planet until it was discovered by Polynesian seafarers around 400 AD. Its lack of connection with any external ecology spurred the evolution of hundreds of plant and animal species that are unique to the Island. People come to Rapa Nui from around the world to simply catch a glimpse of a single bird or flower found nowhere else. This mesmerizing ecosystem, however, is only one of the gifts that Easter Island has to offer..
When Dutch explorers first arrived in 1722 (on Easter Sunday), they were amazed to find not only local inhabitants, but hundreds of massive stone statues, known as moai, which have captivated the world ever since. There are 887 statues scattered around the island, dominating the landscape with their curious facial features and enigmatic expressions. Even today, there is no widely accepted theory as to why the statues were constructed or how they were moved from place to place.
Even beyond the mysteries of the moai, Easter Island has a long and storied history that has been passed down through mysterious petroglyphs, intricate wood carvings, a unique form of stone architecture, and oral history. Local tradition suggests that there were once two ethnic groups on the island, commonly referred to as the “short-ears” and “long-ears”, but who these groups were — and how they are connected to the islanders of today — is unknown. Add to this the controversial Birdman cult and the overarching questions around the rise and fall of the island’s mysterious civilization, and a visit to Rapa Nui becomes irresistible.
Easter Island was one of the very first places identified as a World Heritage Site, and yet modern anthropologists and archaeologists alike have barely begun to understand the true heritage of the island. Join us for an unforgettable week as we grapple with some of the most compelling mysteries that our planet has to offer.Request Info