Did Aliens Build the Statues on Easter Island?

Updated on June 30, 2020
Kosmo profile image

Kelley has great interest in ancient cultures throughout the world and has read many books and magazine articles about archaeology.

Moai of Easter Island (facing the Pacific Ocean)
Moai of Easter Island (facing the Pacific Ocean)

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.

Easter Island wooden tablet showing the rongorongo script
Easter Island wooden tablet showing the rongorongo script
Easter Island in the present day
Easter Island in the present day

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!

Modern map of Easter Island
Modern map of Easter Island
Tomb entrance at Nan Madol
Tomb entrance at Nan Madol

© 2009 Kelley Marks


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    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      9 months ago from Sacramento, California

      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.

    • wpcooper profile image


      9 months ago from Barstow

      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.

    • profile image


      2 years ago


    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment, ChipDouglas9001. I'll have to look into your Egyptian connection. Later!

    • ChipDouglas9001 profile image


      7 years ago from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania

      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

    • profile image

      Andrew Maggard 

      7 years ago

      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.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment, joanveronica. I hope you had fun dropping by. Later!

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      8 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi, great read! Voted up and interesting!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the comment, cablemanagements. The statues at Easter Island definitely are works of genius. Later!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      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) profile image

      Hui (蕙) 

      8 years ago

      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!?

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      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!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      very strange rocks to be left on this island

    • jponiato profile image

      Joe Poniatowskis 

      9 years ago from Mid-Michigan

      Interesting and humorous treatment of this enigma.

    • profile image

      David Ortiz 

      9 years ago

      I thing the aliens are real because i personally saw the aliens build the tiki

    • Alexander Pease profile image

      Alexander Pease 

      9 years ago from Maine

      An intriguing hub. Very interesting!

    • kafsoa profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice topic!!!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Yeah, I've watched all those "Ancient Astronaut" shows on the History Channel. Later!

    • optimus grimlock profile image

      optimus grimlock 

      9 years ago

      Great article, i bet your a fan of ancient aliens on history channel! I love the show really makes you think.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      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!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      9 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      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.

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      9 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Umuekempi, thanks for the comment and the extreme long shot of earth, truly a cosmic sight if there ever was one. Later!

    • umuekempi profile image


      9 years ago

      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 profile image


      9 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow...I never seen about this before. Thanks for share with us. I hope I can see this in person. Vote up.


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      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.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      where is the proof aliens built these things, because aliens are NOT REAL!

    • Carl S. Miller profile image

      Carl S. Miller 

      10 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Very interesting!

    • profile image

      Ancient Astronauts 

      10 years ago

      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!

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      10 years ago from Sacramento, California

      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!

    • tracykarl99 profile image


      10 years ago from San Francisco

      I really enjoyed this ~ It was well-written and very educational! Thanks ~

    • deancortez044 profile image


      10 years ago from Las Vegas

      I like those pictures really nice...

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      10 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the tip, dude. Need a job as an editor? Later!

    • profile image

      sir joshua 

      10 years ago

      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 :)

    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      10 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks for the kudos, Earnestshub. Archaeology - and the possibility of ancient astronauts - are definitely some of my favorite subjects. Later!

    • earnestshub profile image


      10 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      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 profile image


      10 years ago from Dem Woods, Sussex, England

      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 profile image


      10 years ago from Arizona

      I love this Hub!

      What a journey...

      ...from E.T.

      (I saw the movie)

      ...to Thor Heyerdahl

      (I read Kontiki)


      Graham Hancock...

      (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.


    • Kosmo profile imageAUTHOR

      Kelley Marks 

      10 years ago from Sacramento, California

      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!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      good hub. i'd like to know what you think about the face on mars!

    • Chloe Comfort profile image

      Chloe Comfort 

      11 years ago from Long Island

      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 profile image


      11 years ago

      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


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