Kelley has great interest in ancient cultures throughout the world and has read many books and magazine articles about archaeology.
A Tiny Land About Which Science and Speculation Abound
Nearly everyone has seen the Easter Island moai, those mysterious megalithic statues—hundreds of them, which resemble haughty, inscrutable men, gazing down upon everybody and everything. Who would build such curious likenesses? Why couldn’t they have erected pyramids like everyone else?
Keep in mind, Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited places on earth, about 2,000 miles from the nearest populated area. Yet, living in isolation for more than a thousand years, the island’s ancient inhabitants created a culture about which many bizarre notions have been theorized.
But what do we really know for certain about the ancient people of Easter Island and their enigmatic statues? Keep reading and you'll find out!
Polynesians May Have Been the First to Inhabit Easter Island
Most scientific evidence seems to indicate that seafaring Polynesians came to Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, about A.D. 400 and began the civilization that produced those marvelous enigmatic statues weighing an average of 14 tons each. However, nobody knows what the statues are supposed to be. Perhaps they represent ancestors, powerful kings or priests, God or gods. We may never know for certain.
But many people have proposed alternative theories for the existence of the people of Easter Island and their strange statues.
Alternative Theories About This Mysterious Island
In books such as Gods from Outer Space, author Eric Von Daniken theorizes that extraterrestrials, marooned on Easter Island, used lasers or whatever to build the statues, presumably to amuse themselves or perhaps to show the native inhabitants how to impress future generations such as ourselves. Then a space ship shows up and takes the ETs back to Alpha Centauri (or wherever). Feeling confident, the native inhabitants try to produce the statues on their own, without lasers or whatever, but can’t repeat the performance, leaving many statues uncompleted. This theory seems plausible in a way, because many statues were started but never completed and erected, including the largest one, which weighs 270 tons!
Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame posited that an advanced Caucasian race from Chile, originating from somewhere in the Middle East (one of the Lost Tribes of Israel?), ventured to Easter Island thousands of years ago and built the statues. They lived off the agricultural bounty of the fertile volcanic soil, enjoyed the shade of the ample palm forest and gathered the teeming sea life in the surrounding ocean. To many, the island probably seemed an idyllic place. Incidentally, Heyerdahl thought the cultures of the South Pacific were founded by peoples from South America, not the other way around, as most scientists now believe.
Researchers such as Graham Hancock, author of the impressive tome, Fingerprints of the Gods, hypothesize that Easter Island is the top of a much larger island that became, toward the end of the glacial period some 10,000 years ago, a kind of geodetic beacon to other “world navels.” In fact, Hancock thinks a mythical lost ancient race built or helped build virtually all of the world’s impressive monuments of antiquity. (What, the Egyptians don’t get credit for building the Pyramids?) Others think that Easter Island is a remnant of the Lost Continent of Mu, most of which sank in some long-ago cataclysm.
Anybody can have a theory, right?
But scientific research and investigation shows that Polynesians built the island's statues by carving them in the local volcanic rock. Carving them was one thing, but discovering how they were moved into place has also been a perplexing question. An article entitled “Engineers of Easter Island," published in the November/December 1999 issue of Archaeology, shows that the statues could have been transported and put in place using techniques the Polynesians perfected when constructing and moving boats while venturing from island to island for thousands of years, perhaps a long ago as 5500 B.C.E. (The Polynesians are also credited with building Nan Madol on the island of Pohnpei in Micronesia, another megalithic site perhaps as mind-boggling as Easter Island.)
Then what happened on Easter Island becomes a rather muddy affair, because the inhabitants suddenly—or so it appears—stopped building the statues in the late 1600s or so. Also, at some point, the island’s forests disappeared and its population greatly declined.
What Could Have Happened to the Inhabitants of Easter Island?
In the book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, author Jared Diamond postulates that about 1400 the island’s civilization experienced a rapid decline because of an ecological imbalance brought about by deforestation, soil erosion and overpopulation. Diamond also thinks there was a civil war about 1680, which may have led to the toppling of many of the moai and perhaps even calamities such as cannibalism.
Diamond thinks these catastrophes led to a drop of perhaps one-tenth of Easter Island’s largest population. The culture essentially self-destructed, he asserts. Diamond coined the term “ecocide” to describe this condition, which has happened to many civilizations throughout history, particularly that of the Maya, who abandoned many of their cities because they had simply taken too much from the land. Of course, the smaller the land area, the easier it would be to cause an ecological imbalance or collapse. Easter Island covers only about 64 square miles.
But many researchers believe the decline of civilization on Easter Island didn’t occur until after the Europeans arrived in 1722. Eventually slavers and whalers came and took away many of the island’s inhabitants. Newly introduced diseases such as smallpox took their toll on the inhabitants as well. Regarding the state of deforestation that existed at the time, there is some controversy. Some arrivals reported that there were trees still standing, while others claimed there were few if any.
However, there is no proof that the island’s ecosystem collapsed before or after European contact. When Christian missionaries came to the island in the middle 1800s, the remaining inhabitants were queried about the island’s history, but their responses were inconclusive. Hopefully further excavations and research will yield the answer.
How Rats Wreaked Havoc on the Island
Nevertheless, there’s little doubt what caused some of the island’s woes: rats. On an installment of the Discovery Channel’s program Wild Pacific, it was pointed out that a plague of rats, perhaps the most potentially invasive of all animal species, ate the seeds of the island’s palm trees, essentially causing their eventual extinction, and the rats also consumed the eggs of the island’s once numerous seabird population. The show didn’t claim when the rats arrived, but they could have come with either the Polynesians or the Europeans. It seems rats will always be with us!
Astonishingly, the South Pacific’s only original written text was found on Easter Island. Basically a language of Eastern Polynesia, this rongorongo as it is called, a kind of pictographic writing similar in a fashion to Egyptian hieroglyphics (don’t you dare make the suggestion!), has been partially deciphered. Written on wooden tablets, this verbiage describes genealogical and cosmological connections, suggesting that these very portable tablets may have been used for ritualistic purposes, perhaps during chants. Maybe in the future more information from these tablets will be derived, enlightening us all.
So, for the foreseeable future at least, Easter Island will remain a hotspot for many pet theories regarding the origin and spread of civilization on earth. Scientists and crackpots alike will continue to make claims, spreading the gospel as they see it, and it will be left for us to decide what is fact or fiction.
Go ahead then, declare that aliens built the statues on Easter Island! As a title, it certainly catches the eye, but the facts will speak for themselves, as they always do.
As for what those curious statues represent, they somewhat resemble Rush Limbaugh, who, in a former life, must have put up those darn things!
© 2009 Kelley Marks
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 27, 2019:
Thanks for the comment, Finnegan Williams! I think the civilization on Easter Island is much too recent to have anything to do with Pangea or other drifting continents.
Fin from Barstow on November 25, 2019:
I think perhaps some of this might be traced back to pangea which is why you see so much similarity in archeological structures such as pyramids, statues (Easter Island, the Sphynx etc.) and other structures (Stonehenge). There must have been a technology then that has either been depleted, rendered useless after time or somehow lost that was unique to those eras.
One day the gasoline engine and electricity will disappear too.
RAY on December 25, 2017:
HUMANBEINGS ARE SELF DISTRUCTING AND THEY DONT EVEN KNOW IT. HOW THEN CAN WE BE EXPECTED TO FIGURE OUT WHAT HIGHER INTELLIGENT BEINGS DO OR HAVE DONE ON PLANET EARTH.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on October 29, 2012:
Thanks for the comment, ChipDouglas9001. I'll have to look into your Egyptian connection. Later!
ChipDouglas9001 from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2012:
Have you noticed that Egyptian Pharaoh Mentuhotep II's statue bust perculary resembles one of the type of Moai with red pukao on Easter Island!!?? :O
Andrew Maggard on September 22, 2012:
Perhaps a cursory review of Michael Cremo's Forbidden Aracheology might contribute to the unease of those who have the origins of civilization down so pat.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on June 21, 2012:
Thanks for the comment, joanveronica. I hope you had fun dropping by. Later!
Joan Veronica Robertson from Concepcion, Chile on June 21, 2012:
Hi, great read! Voted up and interesting!
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 26, 2012:
Thanks for the comment, cablemanagements. The statues at Easter Island definitely are works of genius. Later!
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 08, 2012:
Thanks for the comment, Hui. Even though my title suggests otherwise, the native people of Easter Island almost certainly built those statues. Later!
Hui (蕙) on April 08, 2012:
Normally, people, who believe aliens real, believe that aliens have much more advanced development than terrestrial civilization, and so do I. Then, why did they creat those statues, which were also likely to be created by primitive tools, for ritulistic purpose? So, the much more developed foreign intelligence also believes in, prays on and fear Gods!?
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on December 17, 2011:
Thanks for the comment, Davidwork. We seem to agree on just about everything regarding the artifacts on Easter Island and the chance for intelligent life in the universe beyond the earth. All of this stuff is lots of fun to ponder. Later!
Davidwork on December 16, 2011:
Excellent Hub. You have very cleverly kept to the known facts, whilst introducing the 'Aliens' theories others have postulated.
I personally think it is insulting to ancient indigenous peoples that some writers like Erik Von Daniken, and explorers like the late Thor Heyerdahl, have suggested that they were not capable of building these monuments themselves, and that aliens had to come to Earth to construct them.
I also find it extraordinary that the 'aliens' theorists overlook the simple fact that alien beings who came to construct these things would have been more likely to build modern looking high tech structures than these basic ones.
By the way, I firmly believe that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe, but I personally don't believe in UFO's or alien visits. The stars are other suns, and many of those other suns may have life bearing planets. Around 700 planets have actually been discovered beyond the Solar System; I just don't think we've ever been visited by alien beings yet.
victoria123 on November 21, 2011:
very strange rocks to be left on this island
Joe Poniatowskis from Mid-Michigan on July 16, 2011:
Interesting and humorous treatment of this enigma.
David Ortiz on May 19, 2011:
I thing the aliens are real because i personally saw the aliens build the tiki
Alexander Pease from Maine on April 16, 2011:
An intriguing hub. Very interesting!
kafsoa on April 15, 2011:
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on February 16, 2011:
Yeah, I've watched all those "Ancient Astronaut" shows on the History Channel. Later!
optimus grimlock on February 16, 2011:
Great article, i bet your a fan of ancient aliens on history channel! I love the show really makes you think.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on February 15, 2011:
Many scientists would like to know exactly how those marvelous statues were erected. Simply put, the builders got to be experts after lots and lots of practice. Later!
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on February 15, 2011:
Very enjoyable read on a fascinating subject. It would be interesting to know what technology was required to place these huge statues where they are.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on February 14, 2011:
Umuekempi, thanks for the comment and the extreme long shot of earth, truly a cosmic sight if there ever was one. Later!
umuekempi on February 14, 2011:
Great contributions . How about this NASA APOLLO 17 MISSION PHOTOGRAPH VIEW OF PLANET EARTH IMAGE OF AFRICA - cosmic micro wave radiation background of Atlantic ocean current motion complex building heart center temple house body of Alien creature atmospheric beast Cosmo - glorious spiritual head being of ancient landmark of Africa in air form central core fluid intelligent system atmosphere seal symbol image of Melchizedek in one body order compliant host framework ?.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 06, 2010:
Wow...I never seen about this before. Thanks for share with us. I hope I can see this in person. Vote up.
wayne on October 29, 2010:
It always cracks me up when someone finds say, a cup.The first thing said about it by the "experts" is that it was used in ritual or pagan god worship!
Sometimes a cup is just a cup.
carmen on October 01, 2010:
where is the proof aliens built these things, because aliens are NOT REAL!
Carl S. Miller from Pacific Northwest on September 22, 2010:
Ancient Astronauts on August 16, 2010:
Easter Island is one of the many mysterious, peculiar places on Earth. I find it very hard to believe that this planet has never been visited by aliens from another planet. Now, whether it was for experimentation, assistance, observation, curiosity, or all of those things, one cannot be certain.
At any rate, thanks for the interesting article along with the spectacular images. Cheers!
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on July 29, 2010:
Thanks very much for the comment and compliment, tracykar199. I'm sure my enjoyment of the subject matter is evident. Ya gotta dig archaeology. Later!
Tracy from San Francisco on July 29, 2010:
I really enjoyed this ~ It was well-written and very educational! Thanks ~
deancortez044 from Las Vegas on May 27, 2010:
I like those pictures really nice...
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 20, 2010:
Thanks for the tip, dude. Need a job as an editor? Later!
sir joshua on April 20, 2010:
Hey just a comment about the title of the book by Jared Diamond. The title of the book is Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, not Fail or Survive. Good book by the way :)
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on March 29, 2010:
Thanks for the kudos, Earnestshub. Archaeology - and the possibility of ancient astronauts - are definitely some of my favorite subjects. Later!
earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on March 29, 2010:
I enjoyed this hub, even though I wondered about the provocative title. A well written enjoyable hub. I like this sort of information about strange places and events. Well done and thumbs up. I don't know how I have missed you here on hubpages. I am now a happy follower.
culinarycaveman from Dem Woods, Sussex, England on January 04, 2010:
I was so relieved you didn't try to state they actually were sculpted by aliens as you are obviously very cerebral. Great hub. Easter Island stirs strong in my soul.
HubCrafter from Arizona on December 18, 2009:
I love this Hub!
What a journey...
(I saw the movie)
...to Thor Heyerdahl
(I read Kontiki)
(who the heck is Graham Hancock?)
"author of the impressive tome, Fingerprints of the Gods, hypothesize that Easter Island is the top of a much larger island that became, toward the end of the glacial period some 10,000 years ago, a kind of geodetic beacon to other “world navels.”(end quote)
LOL. My wife complains about that stuff all the time!
Just last night, she told me to, "get that geodetic beacon out of this bed and..."
well...we might have to get counselling.
Thanks. Enjoyed the Hub immensely.
Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 17, 2009:
The face on Mars is nothing but an interesting landform. Now that we have probes circling Mars on a regular basis, that mystery is over. (The so-called Pyramids of Mars are in that area too.) But, of course, there are many other mysteries on the red planet. Stay tuned. Later!
joannabanana on November 17, 2009:
good hub. i'd like to know what you think about the face on mars!
Chloe Comfort from Long Island on July 30, 2009:
Very interesting subject & theory. Have read Von Daniken and he really does open your mind to some exceptional possibilities (as do so many other authors). I wonder if we will ever know their true origin.
gusripper on July 20, 2009:
I don't know and i don't care about aliens,but if these things carried there from people its indeed a miracle,i should look better about how the stones took this form