the hundreds of moai of easter island are believed to represent the deified ancestors of the island’s inhabitants, with new statues having been built every three or four generations; just as the living forget their great great grandparents, so too it was believed that great great grandparents would forget the living. so new statues to guard the living would be built for the recently deceased, who would look after their descendants.
the moai were carved out of compressed volcanic ash, a process which took around two years, and are lined around the coast of the island, facing inward as protection from the outside. sadly, they could not protect the island’s inhabitants from slave traders, and most were captured and sold off in south america during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
this european contact all but destroyed the island’s culture, with most moai being toppled, and lost was the knowledge of how these massive statues – weighing up to eighty nine tons – were transported to the coast from the inland quarry.
though we don’t know for certain when people first arrived on easter island, it is known that prior to arrival the island was covered with palm trees, but was bare by the time of european contact, suggesting that the island’s population was already on the brink of collapse due to resource depletion, in part as a result of moai building, as the trees are believed to have been used to help transport the statues. (x, x, x, x, x, x, x, x, x)