The Easter Island heads have bodies.
Source: Original photo by David Madison/ Getty Images
Next Fact

The Easter Island heads have bodies.

Few historical artifacts are as mesmerizing — or as mysterious — as the Easter Island statues. Known as moai (pronounced mo-eye), meaning “statue” in Rapa Nui (the native name for the island, its Indigenous people, and their language), the statues are believed to represent ancestral chiefs who protected the inhabitants of this 63-square-mile island in the Pacific centuries ago. Possibly built between 1400 and 1650 CE, the statues were transported to massive stone platforms known as ahu, and usually arranged so their backs faced the sea. Although their average height is only around 13 feet (bodies and heads included), many weigh more than 10 metric tons.

Easter Island is one of the most isolated inhabited places on Earth.
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Incorrect.
It's a Fact
With the closest inhabited island, Pitcairn Island, some 1,200 miles away, Easter Island takes the phrase “middle of nowhere” to the next level. Even Chile, which annexed the island in 1888, is 2,200 miles away.

Most of the 900 or so moai aren’t buried, and when Europeans first arrived in the early 18th century, they could clearly see their bodies standing tall. But the 150 or so that are buried have become the most popular and photogenic. Resting on the slopes of the Rano Raraku volcanic crater (which is also the stone quarry for the statues), these moai were slowly entombed by continuous erosion and landslides over hundreds of years until only their heads remained. Luckily, this unintended burial preserved their tattoo-like markings, a strong tradition among the Rapa Nui people.

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Numbers Don’t Lie
Number of Rapa Nui people still living on the island, according to a 2017 Chilean census
3,512
The year the first European, Jacob Roggeveen, arrived on the island on Easter Sunday (hence the name)
1722
Height (in feet) of the largest moai, called “El Gigante”
71.93
The year the moai emoji was added to Unicode 6.0
2010
Most moai statues were originally made from _______, a soft volcanic rock found in the Rano Raraku crater.
Most moai statues were originally made from tuff, a soft volcanic rock found in the Rano Raraku crater.
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Think Twice
By 1868, nearly all the moai on Easter Island were toppled.

When Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen arrived on Easter Island in 1722, he noticed the moai standing watch on their ceremonial ahu, remarking in his ship’s log that “the people … relied in case of need on their gods or idols which stand erected all along the sea shore in great numbers.” Decades later, in 1774, Captain James Cook’s expedition noted that some moai had fallen down, and by 1868, no statue was left standing. Most experts think this toppling — called the “huri moai” phase, or “statue-overthrowing” — began due to civil strife, likely caused by resource scarcity and European contact. Others believe earthquakes or nonviolent rituals caused the moai to fall. The precise reason remains a mystery, but historians and archaeologists throughout the 20th century restored many of these fallen moai to their original vertical positions.

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