Easter Island Facts

Easter Island Facts and History


The Easter Islands are located in the eastern part of the South Pacific and about 3,700 km from South America. The nearest neighboring island is Pitcairn, which is 1,800 km away. Politically, the Easter Islands belong to Chile.

Geographically, however, they belong to the Polynesian Islands, which in the South Pacific include the Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Pitcairn, Samoa, American Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu as well as Wallis and Futuna.

They have an extension of only 163 km².

Kevin Costner’s film “Rapa Nui” in 1993 brought the islands into the consciousness of numerous people. This is the name of the islands in the native language. In addition, the archipelago is still known in Spanish under the name “Isla de Pascua”.

The archipelago lies at latitude 27 ° 09 ‘south and longitude 109 ° 26’ west. This makes the Easter Islands the easternmost and almost also the southernmost group of islands in the South Pacific.

The group of islands was originally called Te Pito o Te Henua, which means “navel of the world”.

Today the world-famous, erected stone figures, which are important witnesses of a bygone culture, can be found on the islands.

In contrast to all other islands, the Easter Islands are located on the East Pacific ridge. The coast, which is mainly provided with cliffs, falls steeply into the sea to a depth of approx. 300 m. The archipelago also consists of three no longer active volcanoes.

The islands have always attracted fantasists and esotericists who tried to interpret the lost culture. To this day, however, the writing on Easter Island has not been deciphered. The Easter Islands are the only group of islands in the South Pacific that had a type of writing.

The population is generally healthier than the mainland Chileans, as many diseases such as cholera are non-existent on the island.

The Norwegian anthropologist Thor Hyerdahl (1914-2002) tried in the 1950s with his Kon-Tiki raft to prove that the Easter Islands and the Polynesian Islands were settled from South America. As an occasion for his theory, he took the sweet potato, which is widespread throughout the Polynesian region and clearly has its origin in Latin America. Recently, however, this thesis was clearly refuted by DNA studies. The Polynesians are genetically related to the peoples of Southeast Asia.


The oldest of the stone statues, Ahu Tahai, is dated to the year 690 AD and the youngest, Ahu Akivi, to the year 1460 AD.

Between these two epochs there was a change to the bird man cult in Orongo Overpopulation, resource depletion and hunger can be traced back.

During his visit in 1774, James Cook (1728-1779) saw the clashes between the individual tribes as the statues were tossed from their pedestals.

Around 1840 almost all statues were overturned by human violence or as a result of earthquakes.

Name of the archipelago Easter Island/Rapa Nui
Form of government Part of Chile
Location In the South Pacific; between latitude 27 ° 09 ‘south and longitude 109 ° 26’ west
National anthem That of Chile
Population Around 3,800 (Credit: Countryaah: Easter Island Facts)
Ethnicities Of the 3,800 residents, 60% are Rapa Nui, 39% are Caucasian mainland Chileans and 1% are other.
Religions The predominant religion is Catholicism.
Languages Spanish and Rapa Nui, a Polynesian language
Capital Hanga Roa
Surface 163 km²
Highest mountain Maunga Terevaka, with a height of 507m
Longest river there are no rivers on the isla
Largest lake in area There are only a number of smaller crater lakes
International license plate RCH, that of Chile
Currency Chilean Peso (CLP)
Time difference to CET – 7 h
International phone code + 59, the area code for Chile
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .tl

Easter Island: History

Colonization by the Polynesians

The islanders, the Rapanui, believed that they were descended from Hotu Matu’a. He had set out from Te Hiva, the land of the ancestors, and landed with his canoe on Anakena Beach. The founding myth is similar to that of many Polynesian islands. The island was settled from Eastern Polynesia at the same time as Hawaii was settled.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, it is believed that the first settlers came from the Marquesa Islands or Mangareve Islands in French Polynesia and made their way to Easter Island between 400-600 AD. Signs of this are tattoos and tapa clothing.

A second settlement probably took place around 1400 from the Austral Islands.

Population growth

Between the 7th and 8th centuries, the population of Easter Island increased rapidly. Scientists suspect that it was around this time that the sweet potato arrived on the island and that this nutritious new food source was the cause.

Catastrophic developments

Around 1350 armed conflicts arose and the individual tribes overturned each other’s statues. Here, too, there are only guesses for the causes. One attempt to explain it is the assumption of a small ice age, which fell over Europe around the same time. Or the arrival of the second wave of colonization from the Austral Islands under the leadership of the legendary Chief Chief Hotu Matua.

However, it is fairly certain that the island was once heavily forested. This forest was gradually cut down for the transport of the many statues until the islanders were literally trapped on their island because they could no longer build boats. As a result of the lack of food, the islanders turned to cannibalism. On Easter Island this was not religious or ritual, but people ate human flesh because it tasted good.

With this change on the island, a counter-cult or religion to the statue worshipers was introduced at the same time.

The bird man cult was introduced. There were annual competitions for the first bird’s egg on Mata Nui. The one who first came back from the island with a bird’s egg became the bird man for a year. This title was associated with the power of disposal over the scarce food for the tribe of the victor. The Vogelmannkult was thus an ingenious invention to avoid armed conflicts and to bring them to the level of a playful competition.

It is now considered certain that the “long-eared” tribe ruled the “short-eared” tribe until 1680. But the short-eared people planned an uprising as a result of which they drove the long-eared people to the Poike peninsula in the northeast of the island. There they holed up and dug a trench to burn the expected attackers in it. However, since a long-eared woman was married to a “short-eared woman”, the plan was betrayed and the short-eared people drove the long-eared ones into the ditch, where they burned.

European explorers

Around Easter 1722 the Dutch admiral Jakob Roggeveen (1659-1729) reached the archipelago. On his shore leave he wreaked horrific slaughter among the natives. He gave the island its current name because he entered the island on Easter Sunday.

However, at that time the population was already decimated from approx. 20,000 to 4,000 residents due to armed conflicts between the rulers – the long-eared people – and their subjects – the short-eared people.

Gonzalez followed in 1770, James Cook in 1774 on his second voyage and in 1786 la Perouse (1741-1788). He documented the statues on the island in his Atlas du Monde.

Every now and then in the following years whalers, seal hunters and slave traders reached the island. In the year

Annexing the island

Human traffickers on ships from Peru caught around 1,400 locals in 1862 and dragged them to the sugar cane plantations and mines in Peru. Among these was the entire intelligentsia as well as the king of the island.

After protests by missionaries and diplomats, few survivors returned to the island, with the effect that they infected those who remained with the deadly smallpox.

In 1866 French missionaries came to the island and successfully converted the population to Catholicism. At the same time, business people from Tahiti came to buy land to raise cattle. Both groups sent Rapa Nui to Tahiti, from where the returnees brought in the leprosy.

By 1880 only 110 of the Rapa Nui were still alive.

Chile annexed the island in 1888 after successfully asserting itself against Bolivia and Peru in the 1883 war. It was hoped that with the opening of the Panama Canal, the port on the island would gain in importance, but this did not happen.

As a result, Chile soon leased the island to a British wool company that stayed on the island until 1953. As a result, the soil became deserted and the stones from the archaeological sites were used to build fences. The locals were not allowed to cross the border wall of the capital Hanga Roa.


After the British withdrew, the Chilean Navy took over the administration. Almost nothing has changed for the locals.

A regional administration was not allowed to be elected until 1965. With Pinochet’s criminal seizure of power in 1973, however, self-determination was restricted again.

In 1990 democracy was reintroduced.

Easter Island Facts