RAPA NUI is the indigenous name of EASTER ISLAND, and it bears witness to a unique cultural phenomenon. A society of Polynesian origin, that settled there in 300AD, established a powerful, imaginative and original tradition of monumental sculpture and architecture, free from external influence. From the 10th-16th century, this society built shrines and erected enormous stone figures known as MOIA, which created an unrivaled cultural landscape that continues to fascinate people throughout the world.
RAPA NUI National Park is a protected Chilean wildlife area located in Easter Island, which concentrates the legacy of the Rapa Nui Culture. Easter Island, the “most remote inhabited island on the planet”, is 3,70km from the coast of Chile and has an area of 16,628 hectares, while the World Heritage Property occupies an area of approximately 7,000 hectares, including 4 nearby islets.
The island was colonized towards the end of the 1st millennium of the Christian era, by a small group of settlers from Eastern Polynesia, whose culture manifested itself between the 11th and 17th centuries, in great works such as the AHU (ceremonial platforms) and carved MOAI (colossal statues) representing ancestors. Rapa Nui National Park’s most prominent attributes are the archaeological sites. It is estimated that there are about 900 statues, more than 300 ceremonial platforms and 1000s of structures related to agriculture, funeral rites, housing and production and other types of activities. Prominent among the archaeological pieces are the MOAI that range in height from 2m-20m, and are for the most part carved from the yellow-brown lava tuff, using simple picks (TOKI) made from hard basalt and then lowered down the slopes into previously dug holes.
Also extremely valuable are the rock-art sites, which include a large variety of styles, techniques and motifs. There is also a village of a ceremonial nature named ORONGO which stands out because of its location and architecture. The structures are of great interest. According to some studies, the depletion of natural resources had brought about an ecological crisis and the decline of the ancient RPA NUI society by the 16th century, which led to the decline and to the spiritual transformation in which these megalithic monuments were destroyed. The original cult of the ancestors was replaced by the cult of the “man-bird”, which has an exceptional testimony ——– the ceremonial village of ORONGO. 54 semi-subterranean stone houses of “elliptical floor plans” complement this sacred place, profusely decorated with petroglyphs alluding to both the “man-bird” & “fertility”. This cult saw its end in the middle of the 19th century.
Colonization, the introduction of livestock, the confinement of the original inhabitants to smaller areas, the dramatic effect of foreign diseases and, above all, slavery reduced the population of RAPA NUI, as well as immigrants from diverse backgrounds accounting for a significant mixed population.
Rapa Nui National Park is a testimony to the undeniably unique character of a culture that suffered a debacle, as a result of an ecological crisis followed by irruption(sudden increase) from the outside world. The substantial remains of this culture blend with their natural surroundings to create an “unparalleled cultural landscape”.
The Rapa Nui National Park covers approximately 40% of the island and incorporates an ensemble of sites that is highly representative of the totality of the archaeological sites and of the most outstanding manifestations of their numerous typologies. The management and conservation efforts, still insufficient, focus on addressing anthropic factors and the effects of weathering both on the material ———- volcanic lava and tuff ———- and on the stability of structures. Progress has been made in the closure of areas, monitoring and the layout of roads, so as to maintain the “visual integrity” of the landscape.
The entire island was declared a NATIONAL MONUMENT in 1935, and the same was done with the islets adjacent to Easter Island in 1976. The essential requirement for the protection and management of this property lies in the multi-faceted statues as a World Heritage Site, as a reference point and basis for the development of the population of the island and repository of answers to fundamental questions that are far from being revealed. On 22nd of March, 1996, UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site.