On the planet where we live, people of many races have their own beliefs, and they hope that the gods they believe in can shelter themselves. Polynesians living on small islands in the South Pacific mostly worship their ancestors. Easter Island, the most isolated island, is one of them.
Many people know to go to the mysterious Easter Island to see the stone statues. In fact, in addition to the stone statues, there are not only picturesque island scenery, but also the change of islanders’ beliefs, which is also worth exploring.
The triangular Easter Island covers an area of only 165 square kilometers and is composed of three volcanoes distributed at the three corners of the island. The residents of the island are concentrated in the small town of Hanga Roa in the southwest corner. There is a volcanic lake Rano Kau not far from the town. My trip around the island started here.
The huge volcanic lake is like a giant pond surrounded by reeds, now covered by various algae and plants, and the reeds sway gently in the sea breeze that penetrates through a gap in the corner. Although the sun is shining, it seems that a storm can dump the entire lake back into the sea. The lake looks a bit dirty, but surrounded by the vast ocean, this lake is one of the important freshwater sources on Easter Island.
Sitting on the slope by the lake and watching it, the gentle sea breeze was blowing quietly all around. I prefer to believe that the gods on the island still live here.
Botanists once discovered a reed growing in Lake Titicaca in Peru. Easter Island is far away from Peru. What’s the matter? In 1862, Peruvian pirates seized more than a thousand residents on the island as slaves and shipped them to Peru to sell to local slave owners. 90% of the arrested people were overwhelmed and died within 2 years. Peru sent the remaining 100 people back to the island under the pressure of international public opinion. Smallpox broke out on the way home, and only 15 people returned to the island alive! The pirates not only brought the smallpox to the island, but also brought the seeds of the Peruvian plants, which are still swaying in the lake today, conveying the tragic past on the island.
The tall stone statues on Easter Island are an important part of the island’s traditional beliefs. The indigenous people on the island are called Rapa Nui people. They dig stone in the mountains, sculpt stone statues according to their ancestors, and put “eyes” and “hats” on the statues. Call them “Moai”. Hope These stone statues can protect themselves. However, in order to transport the stone statues, a large number of trees were cut down, causing ecological imbalances. The tribes fought for food. The sign of victory in the war was to overthrow the stone statues of the other tribes and dig out the eyes of the stone statues. But even so, the problem of no food can’t be solved. Natural disasters and man-made disasters, no trees can make boats out of the sea, desperate islanders looking at the sea, began to realize that these stone statues can not protect themselves, and gradually abolished the respect for Moai, more stone statues were pushed down and abandoned. This is the tragedy of Moai and the sad story of the islanders.
However, the Rapa Nui people’s respect for the gods did not stop, but turned their spiritual sustenance to free birds. Perhaps this is to express the desire to leave this isolated island. In the later period of the island, he turned to the “birdman culture” and imagined a species where the birdhead would fly. They hold the “Birdman Competition” every year, and the winner is called “Birdman”, which is the king of the island this year. Participants must jump into the sea from the cliff, swim through a sea where sharks are infested, swim to the small island Motu Nui not far west and wait there, and the first black tern’s egg of the year will be considered a victory. Everyone on the island will listen to him in the coming year.
Sounds like this game is a bit like “triathlon”. The picture below is the logo of the bird worship
The place where the bird worship is concentrated is in Orongo village, about 5 kilometers from the town of Hanga Roa. As Easter Island was discovered by Europeans during the Great Navigation era, the colonists not only broke the peaceful lives of the islanders, but also changed their beliefs. Since 1860, the islanders have converted to Christianity, and the Bird Village has been gradually abandoned, but it is one of the most important relics on Easter Island and the most historically important place, because it fully demonstrates the process of the islanders’ faith conversion. Although there are no stone statues here today, the Easter Island Pass can only be used once, and there is a strict ticket inspection process at the door.
By the way, the Easter Island Pass allows unlimited access to most attractions on the island, and there are no ticket gates in many places. It is either a lonely small house or no gatekeeper. Only in Niaoren Village and “quarry (Moai mining area)” can only be entered once with a pass, and Niaoren Village has guide maps, display areas and other complete elements that meet a mature scenic area.
The guide map uses a ring road to mark the ten sights of Birdman Village, introduces the history and competition process of Birdman, and is a good reference material for understanding the beliefs of the middle and late islands.
After walking out of the exhibition hall and climbing along the trail leading to the top of the mountain, the tranquil sea surface unfolded at the foot, and the mood of first arriving at Easter Island was refreshed by this scene. Here you can get closer to the aforementioned volcanic lake.
Birdman Village used to be a settlement of islanders. Nowadays, the former half-underground stone houses are scattered on the hillside. Now, 53 houses have been cleaned and protected. The islanders dig a stone chamber on the volcanic body, and the exit is outward. Experts speculate that this structure is to cope with the changing climate on the island and can shield the wind and rain. Between 1974 and 1976, archaeologists repaired many stone houses and discovered more remains of sacrifices.
In the old days, the contestants were waiting for the arrival of seabirds in the stone house. They jumped off the cliff and swam to Motu Nui Island to get the first bird egg, and they had to climb to the middle island to win. Motu Nui is currently the most western land in Chile.
A closer look at the stone inscriptions in these stone houses also conveys the islanders’ desire to leave the island. In fact, everyone knows today, how could the birdman take them away? Instead, today brought a group of tourists who are full of expectations for Easter Island like me.
In fact, there was once a tall Moai stone statue in Niaoren Village. There is a sign in front of the largest sacrificial platform, which is the location of the once stone statue. In 1868, the British fleet came to Easter Island to dig out the stone statues and smuggled them away. Today it is displayed in the British Museum in London.
I found this stone statue in the museum when I was traveling in London. This stone statue is called “Hoa Hakananai’a”, and it can be seen more clearly in the museum with “hands” on the abdomen and a pattern on the back.
The Chilean government and the Governor of Easter Island have repeatedly negotiated with the British, asking them to return the statue to their hometown. After all, Moai also represents the ancestors of the islanders. However, as the result of negotiations with Britain in Greece, Egypt and other countries, Britain refused politely on the grounds that stone statues were more valuable in the British Museum for people around the world to appreciate. Therefore, this stone statue is still the most popular collection in the South Pacific Exhibition Hall of the British Museum.
In fact, the cultural relics of the British Museum have been endlessly debated, many people scolded that these cultural relics were looted. In all fairness, no matter which country’s cultural relics are precious wealth of human civilization. Indeed, many countries do not have sufficient financial resources and capabilities to protect these cultural relics, and even some areas are still in war. These cultural relics were collected in the British Museum one hundred or two hundred years ago, and they are still well preserved, indicating that they admire scientific civilization and art and are contributing to the entire human race. Today we can still appreciate them, it is enough, there is really no need to defame them.
Too far away, or back to Easter Island. Birdman Village is closer to the volcanic lake, and the lake mouth can be viewed from another angle on the observation platform. The plants and algae in the volcanic lake swayed a strange harmony. Reminiscent of the exhibition introduction about the worship of birdmen just seen, it made people wonder the mysterious legends on the island.
In fact, the whole island exudes a mysterious atmosphere, those stone statues facing away from the sea and facing the land; those stone statues that were pushed down and shattered, the “hats” scattered on the ground; the island is sometimes stormy and the sun is shining, changing. The meteorological weather; the bright and full of vitality in the huge volcanic lake… all brought unspeakable charm to this small island.
Those who lived for generations and wanted to leave but could not leave, chose to worship at the highest point of the volcano and pray to the gods hiding in the heavens and the earth. This contains the purest faith of the indigenous people of Easter Island.