Facts about Easter Island
Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is a corner and special territory of Chile in the Pacific Ocean, one of the world's most remote inhabited places. It is small, with an area of about 164 km2 (64 sq mi), but despite its small size, it is a place of fascinating history, full of secrets. Its inhabitants have created a unique culture, as evidenced by the stone moai and other artifacts. UNESCO has declared the island a World Heritage Site.
1Easter Island is an island and special territory of Chile in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania.
The Polynesian Triangle is a region of the Pacific Ocean with three groups of islands at its tips: Hawaii, Easter Island, and New Zealand. The term is often used to define Polynesia.
2The name "Easter Island" was given to it by a European - the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen.
He came across it on Easter Sunday in 1722 while looking for Davis Land, a supposed island that had been put on maps for some time but was later found not to exist. The island was believed to be in the Pacific Ocean, near South America.
Its name came from the pirate Edward Davis, who reportedly spotted it in 1687 while sailing across the Pacific south of the Galapagos Islands toward Cape Horn. Davis made raids on Spanish settlements along the coasts of Mexico, Peru, and Chile.
3Roggeveen called it Paasch-Eyland (the 18th-century Dutch name for "Easter Island").
The official Spanish name of the island Isla de Pascua also means "Easter Island." The current Polynesian name for the island, Rapa Nui ("Big Rapa"), originated in the early 1860s and refers to the island's topographical similarity to Rapa Island (sometimes called Rapa Iti, or "Little Rapa," the largest and only inhabited island of the Bass Islands in French Polynesia. In the local language, the island's name also means "Big Earth" or "Navel of the World" (Te Pito o Te Henua).
4Easter Island is geologically one of the youngest areas on Earth and the longest isolated.
Oral tradition has it that the island was first settled by a two-kayak expedition from Hawaiki, the mythical land from which some Polynesian peoples are thought to have originated, led by the chief Hotu Matu'a and his captain Tu'u ko Iho.
The literature says that this was around 300-400 AD when the first settlers arrived in Hawaii.
Recent research shows that the island was settled no earlier than 1200 AD. The Polynesians who first settled on the island probably came from the Marquesas Islands, Gambier Islands, or any of the present-day islands of French Polynesia, 3200 km away. They brought with them bananas, sugar cane, taro (edible colocasia), as well as Polynesian chickens and rats (the third most widespread species of rat, after the common rat and the black rat).
5That they were Polynesians was supported by similarities in customs, facial features, clothing, and language.
The author of another theory was Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian biologist and ethnographer, later a traveler and sailor. He claims that some of the later inhabitants of the island, known as the "long-eared," came from South America, as evidenced by the cultivation of the sweet potato, legends of the inhabitants, and features of the appearance of the former inhabitants inferred from statues.
6Heyerdahl experimentally proved in 1947 the feasibility of sailing from South America to Polynesia on the Kon-Tiki raft.
According to legend, the "long-eared" people, who constituted the aristocracy, were almost completely exterminated during an uprising by the oppressed "short-eared" people of Polynesian descent.
Civil war took place there after the Dutch discovered the island in 1722 and before James Cook discovered the Polynesian islands in 1773/1774.
7When Jacob Roggeveen discovered the island on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1722, the island was inhabited by 2 - 3 thousand people.
Previously, the island may have been inhabited by 10-15 thousand people, but the depletion of natural resources and the cutting down of all trees caused the population to decline. According to the locals, there were fights and even cannibalism due to a lack of food. Another thesis is that the spread of the Polynesian rat caused the lack of food and deforestation.
8By the mid-19th century, the population had recovered to about 4 thousand.
However, within twenty years, it had dwindled to 110 inhabitants in 1877. The population decline was caused by the forced removal of natives for slave labor to Peru and Chile.
9Missionaries arrived on the island in the 1860s, and by the 1870s, Easter Islanders had adopted Catholicism.
Intervention by the church hierarchy caused the deportation of the inhabitants to cease. Those who survived slavery were allowed to return to the island. However, they were largely carriers of smallpox, which spread throughout the island and decimated the remaining population. Among those who died were the tumi ivi 'atua - the bearers of the island's culture, history and genealogy. All that remains are tablets with rongorongo writing - a system of glyphs (signs in architecture and archaeology) discovered in the 19th century that appear to be a script or protoscript. Attempts have been made to decipher them, but none have been successful.
Between 1862 and 1888, about 94% of the population died or emigrated.
10On September 9, 1888, Chile's annexed Easter Island under the "Annexation Treaty."
The Chilean government, represented by Chilean naval officer Policarpo Toro, signed the treaty with Atamu Tekena, appointed king of Rapa Nui by Catholic missionaries after the death of the paramount chief and his successor. The Chileans leased the island to a British company, which established a sheep farm on it.