A group of UCLA archaeologists (who formed the Easter Island Statue Project) unearthed several Maoi statues. Through this project, the team was able to excavate a number of the heads which ultimately revealed a torso and body that remained concealed beneath the ground all this time.
As you can see, the excavations managed to uncover a few remarkable discoveries regarding the Moai that were never known before. This gave researchers vital clues surrounding the statue’s past and the people that went through the effort of erecting them on a remote island somewhere in the vast Pacific Ocean. A considerable amount of red pigments were also discovered within the stone figures. Most likely, the material could have been used by its mysterious builders to paint the Moai.
Like a Sore Thumb
The Tukuturi is unlike any other Moai you will find anywhere on the island. First, the unique Moai is fixed in a kneeling position while the rest of the other statues are standing upright. Second, the Tukuturi sports a beard while all the other statues follow cleanly shaven heads. It’s also significantly smaller in size than the typical Moai scattered everywhere on Easter Island. Researchers think that the Tukuturi served as a physical embodiment of an ancient singer
The one-of-a-kind Moai was found in the island’s Rano Raraku quarry, where the majority of the Easter Island’s iconic stone figures were carved. Also, compared to the common, flat-faced Easter Island heads that were largely carved from tuff, which is compressed volcanic ash, Tukuturi was carved from red scoria, which is a more fragile type of volcanic rock. On the nearly one thousand Moai found on the island, only 19 – including Tukuturi – were made from the special material scoria while the rest were carved out of ordinary tuff.
Similar to the rest of the phenomenal ancient structures all over the world, something as mysterious as the Easter Island heads is bound to attract plenty of theories that attempt to explain its true nature and purpose. An entirely left-field theory proposed that the massive statues may have been built by extraterrestrial beings or aliens. The idea was suggested by Erich von Daniken which he discussed in his book, Chariots of the Gods?: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past.
Aside from his proposed alien-based explanations surrounding the Moai, von Daniken also believes that highly intelligent and advanced beings from outer space also had a hand in the construction of the Egyptian Pyramids and the Nazca line drawings as well. But regardless if you believe this theory or not, one important fact remained and that is that the material used to build the colossal figures didn’t come from Easter Island itself.
The early Rapa Nui was truly a mysterious people but slowly, researchers learned more and more about them as they continued to study the ancient structures and stumbled into new discoveries. One of the most unique archaeological features that can be attributed to these ancient islanders was the type of tools that they used. Known as Mata, the tools were made from volcanic glass, which the Rapa Nui would then tailor into numerous different designs and sizes.
The majority of the Mata was intentionally crafted to be sharp, so it would be able to cut through tough fibers, carve hardwood and even serve as a weapon. These tools are widely known relics of many Rapa Nui exhibits in various museums all over the world.
As one of the only reported heists made on Easter Island and its iconic Moai, a tourist from Finland traveled to Anakena Beach and sliced off an ear from one of the statues. Fortunately, a person saw the plaintiff, Marko Kulju, escaping from the scene of the crime carrying the missing ear from the Moai that he hacked off and reported him to the authorities. The police managed to apprehend Kulju and for his sacrilegious act, was charged with a fine amounting to $17,000 USD.
No matter how you view it, the penalty was a slap on the wrist given the fact that Kulju could have potentially faced a sentence of up to seven years in jail for his crime against the people of Easter Island and their ancestors who built the Moai as well. On the positive side, the incident paved the way for tighter security procedures for tourists of the Rapa Nui National park.