Famous ‘Moai’ Statues Destroyed in Easter Island Fire

Here's the history behind the famous 500-year-old ‘moai' - and how they were scorched beyond recognition.

The more than 500-year-old stone sculptures, known as ‘moai,’ are one of the most recognizable and iconic statues in the world. Now, they’re scorched beyond recognition.

A forest fire tore through Rapa Nui National Park on Oct. 7. The fire destroyed more than 100 hectares of the land and burned hundreds of statues to irreparable damage. An ancient Polynesian tribe built the famous ‘Moai’ statues, located on Rapa Nui Island (Easter Island) in Chili. The statues were built to honor those who had passed away, carving different faces to represent the deceased and their characteristics.

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The national park has around 1,000 moai, with several hundred statues estimated to be in the damaged area. Park officials said the severity of the damage was due in part to a lack of volunteers and a low response time to the scene. While the fire occurred around the Rano Raraku volcano, the source of the fire still remains up for debate. 

Rapa Nui Mayor Pedro Edmund Paoa alleged the fire was no accident.

“All the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings… The damage caused by the fire can’t be undone,” he said.

Easter Island has had difficulties in the past preserving the island and the statues from damage and tourists’ reckless behavior. These fires caps off a series of devastating and heartbreaking disrespect toward the island.

“The cracking of an original and emblematic stone cannot be recovered, no matter how many millions or euros or dollars are put into it,” Mayor Paoa said.

Sadly, the loss of such amazing architecture is heartbreaking to the world and the local community. Luckily, these beautiful statues can still be remembered and honored in all their glory through images, videos, films, and history books.

Image via Smithsonian Magazine
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