On the afternoon of the 21st, we headed for Anakena, on the far side of the island, for sunset. Anakena is a white sand beach, the only one on the island and is popular for swimming in the summer.
This is Ahu Nau Nau through the coconut palms at Anakena. The coconut palms are not original Easter Island trees. Though attempts were made to introduce coconut palms as early as 1877, these trees were mainly or entirely introduced from Tahiti in 1960.
Ahu Nau Nau, the ahu at Anakena with seven moai, was restored in 1978 and it was here that they found the lone surviving moai eye. Replica eyes were then added to four of the moai, but later removed after protests from archaeologists. After subsequent protests from the public, replica eyes were restored but only to the moai at Ahu Ko Te Riku in the Tahai Complex.
These moai clearly have much finer features than those at the Tahai Complex and many other ahu, probably because when they were felled it was onto sand.
Just behind Ahu Nau Nau (poking out from behind a coconut palm in the first image) is Ahu Ature Huki (seen here complete with a bird sitting on the moai). This was the first moai re-erected in the “modern era”, by Thor Heyerdahl in 1956. It is 6 metres high, 3 metres wide, weighs 25 tonnes and took 12 people 18 days to re-erect it from its fallen position 12 feet away.
Ahu Ature Huki again, a little later.
According to legend, Anakena Beach is where Hotu Matu’a first landed on the island. It is not known with any precision when that was, perhaps 700AD, probably between 300AD and 800AD. The main period for construction of ahu and moai was about 1100AD to 1500AD. Then from 1500 to 1722, when the first European arrived, it all unravelled. Wood became very scarce, civil war became intense especially around 1650 and food production was also disrupted. By 1722, it seemed to have settled down to a stable society, now with the birdman cult and worshipping Make Make rather than the ancestors.
European visitors including whalers then brought chaos with the introduction of syphilis and other incursions. In 1862 1,400 people, a third of the population, were kidnapped by Peruvian slavers. After some time the Peruvian Government decided to repatriate the remaining 470 but only 15 made it back alive … and they brought smallpox with them, so that the current Rapanui population are the descendants of only 110 people.
Easter Island became a Chilean colony in 1888 and things got so bad the Rapanui revolted in 1914. There were over 70,000 sheep on the island then while the Rapanui were confined to the village of Hanga Roa. Yet they survive. A few years ago, the Rapanui population (ie the Polynesians) regained the levels of 1860. The current population of Easter Island is around 5,000, of whom about 60% are Rapanui.