The Moai statues in Easter Island, Chile, built by native Polynesian people 500 years ago, have been irreparably damaged by a volcanic eruption.
According to reports, the Rano Raraku volcano began erupting on Monday. The discharge from the volcano reached the iconic statues and caused ”irreparable” damages, as per Ariki Tepano (Director, Ma’u Henua community that manages the Rapa Nui National Park). Tepano also added that the damages caused by the eruption have consequences that “go beyond what the eye can see”. In addition to the statues, the eruption also razed the 247 square miles of land on Easter Island.
Carolina Pérez Dattari (Undersecrateray of Cultural Heritage, Chile) informed that members from the National Monuments Council of Chile have already reached the grounds and are assessing the damages caused to the stone statues. While the council has not yet released an official report, the members told the press that exposure to high temperatures (akin to those during a volcanic eruption) could actually change the composition of the stone statues. It could result in large fractures that can compromise the integrity of the Moai statues.
The Moai stone statues, a UNESCO World Heritage site, are located on Rapa Nui island – the most remote island in the world. The statues, which number 386, are carved from solid basalt. The statues have resurged in popularity in recent years as the Moai statues captured the popular imagination. The Rapa Nui was first inhabited by Polynesian seafarers some nine centuries ago. It is now believed that the discovery of a freshwater spring on the island led Polynesian tribes to populate it. The statues are considered sacred and said to protect the locals.