, or Rapa Nui as the locals call it, is one of the most remote inhabited islands, located a whopping 3500 km from Chile's
First Polynesian settlers arrived by seagoing canoes around 500 AD from Mangareva
, or the Marquesas
were able navigators
and may have had knowledge of mainland South America as well.
Initially the island had lush
rainforests but when Jacob Roggeveen
visited in 1722 the forests were gone and all the land was cultivated. He was also the first European
to report on the large stone statues, called moais
, that probable represent revered or important ancestors.
The moai culture ended with
a period of violent unrest in which all the moais were toppled for unknown reasons and the Bird Man cult
rose to power.
struck when in 1862 Peruvian slavers deported or murdered half of the population.
After international protests a few survivors
returned home only to bring with them smallpox that decimated the remaining population. Missionaries and especially privateer Dutrou-Bornier
their part to destroy what was left of the local culture.
Chile annexed the island in 1888 and locked up the locals in Hanga
Roa with the rest of the island used for sheep farming. In 1956 Riroroko Tuki escaped in an open boat and brought the fate of
the Rapanui in the international spotlight. Chile was forced to grand them full access to their island and since 2007 Rapa
Nui is a special territory of Chile.
Some Rapanui strive for more autonomy and often clash with local authorities.
visited Rapa Nui and its moais in August 2011
When you are in a hurry click the Highlights album.