by Rock Art Network
29 November 2022
An article by Nathan Williams on the BBC - Easter Island: Sacred statues damaged by fire - reports on the blaze that has affected an unknown number of the carved statues on Rapa Nui.
A fire has damaged some of the carved statues on Easter Island - Rapa Nui - with some of the charring said to be irreparable, according to Chile's cultural heritage undersecretary. Easter Island has nearly 1,000 of the megaliths, known as moai. They generally stand about 4m high, and carved more than 500 years ago. The fire, which broke out on Monday, affected "nearly 60 hectares (148 acres)" stated the cultural heritage official Carolina Perez Dattari.
It is reported to have been started deliberately, and is centred around Easter Island's Rano Raraku volcano - which is an Unesco World Heritage Site. Easter Island lies 3,500km (2,174 miles) off the coast of Chile. It relies on tourism and reopened just three months ago following its closure during the Covid-19 pandemic. The site has now been closed again while a conservation team examines the extent of the damage.
The island's Mayor Pedro Edmunds told local media: "The damage caused by the fire can't be undone." The director of the Ma'u Henua community which looks after the national park described it as "irreparable and with consequences beyond what your eyes can see". "The moai are totally charred," Ariki Tepano said through the park's official social media pages.
The figures were carved by the indigenous Rapa Nui people sometime between the years of 1400 and 1650, and positioned to form a ring around the island, facing inland. They were figures of spiritual devotion for the Rapa Nui, embodying the spirit of a prominent ancestor. Each one was considered to be the person's living incarnation. One of the statues - known as the Hoa Hakananai'a - is housed in the British Museum, gifted by a British naval captain to Queen Victoria in the 1860s. The Chilean government and the island's authorities requested it be returned in 2018. But the island's mayor suggested he would prefer a financial commitment from the museum to ensure the upkeep of the remaining moai on the island. Comment