On October 10th, Rano Raraku, the volcano on Easter Island off the coast of Chile erupted, burning more than 1 square kilometer of the island and causing irreparable damage to the stone statues known as “moai”. The Chilean National Monuments Council is currently evaluating damages. The volcano and its surrounding area were the most damaged, as the area contains over 300 moai. The statues, built between the years of 1100 AD and 1600 AD, were meant to represent the ancestral chiefs of the Polynesian tribe. Contrary to belief, the statues have full bodies underneath the ground, and excavation of the lower portions of the statues began in 2010.
Official documentation of the number of moai are in the 800s, but scientists estimate that over 1000 exist on the island, either buried, or undocumented. The largest moai, although uncompleted, is 72 ft long, but was abandoned after it was only partially carved out of the mountain. The fire likely added to the degradation of the statues, causing the stone to crack. “As the stone cracks, with a heavy rain or with time, it loosens, falls and ceases to be stone, and becomes sand,” said Pedro Edmunds Paoa, Easter Island’s mayor.