On This Day

Easter Island Moai

Two Moai on the Rano Raraku crater on Rapa Nui from a 1914-15 expedition photograph held in the British Museum
Two Moai on the Rano Raraku crater on Rapa Nui from a 1914-15 expedition photograph held in the British Museum

Historical Context

The monumental sculptures of Easter Island or Rapa Nui were first seen by the west when the island was discovered by Europeans in 1722. They represent one of the world's great sculptural traditions and have inspired awe ever since. Around 800 of these sculptures or moai were made from 1100 AD when the island was settled until 1600 AD. Most remain in Rapa Nui with a few examples existing in institutions such as the British Museum and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

Carved out of local basalt rock moai represent the faces of ancestral chiefs, built to offer the local population protection for this life and the next. They usually range in height from 2 - 10 meters but one unfinished moai stands 20 meters high. They were usually situated on a ahu (stone platform) facing outwards.

Artifact Info

Photographer: Katherine Maria Routledge
Location: Easter Island / Rapa Nui, Chile

Source: British Museum

Related Events

  • 1722-04-05 Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen is the first European to discover Easter Island / Rapa Nui in the southeastern Pacific
  • 1888-09-09 Easter Island / Rapa Nui in the Pacific is annexed by Chile

Historical Artifacts