Friday, 5 April 2013

Easter Island Heads

On this day in 1722 the first recorded European visitor arrived at Easter Island - the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen.  Actually he was looking for somewhere else and found it by mistake!  In that year Easter Sunday was the 5th April - so he called the Island 'Easter Island'.

We now know the statues so well now - but I am trying to think what it must have been like to come across them for the first time.  They are incredible.  It must have been rather daunting, and maybe a bit frightening.   I think it is still a bit of a mystery as to how those great lumps of carved stone were moved.  There is a lovely story about a woman who lived at the top of the mountain, and she ordered them to walk wherever she wanted!.

Most of the heads are carved in a stone which is compressed volcanic ash (the island is a volcano) and though now weathered and eroded by time, when newly made, the surface would have been burnished and smoothed.  The carvers finished the heads by rubbing them with pumice.   Many stone tools have been found on the Island, and we know that the statues were carved with different types, big heavy picks and finer basalt and obsidian tools to finish details.  

Just the same process I use in my workshop here - but they were working blocks of stone measuring 30 feet or so, and weighing 80 tonnes!

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