New Polynesian moai statue unearthed in dry volcanic lake bed on Chile’s Easter Island

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Chile’s Easter Island has added a new head after a buried moai statue was unearthed from a volcanic lake bed.

The head-shaped megaliths called moai were carved centuries ago by the indigenous Polynesian Rapa Nui people. The island is also called Rapa Nui by the natives.

The single-piece statue, standing just under 5-foot-3, was found by a team of researchers on Feb. 21 inside a dried-out crater lake on the island’s Rano Raraku volcano inside the island’s Rapa Nui National Park. The park is administered by the Ma’u Henua indigenous community.

The team was working on marshland restoration for the Chilean nonprofit National Forest Corp. when the statue was noticed.

“We were seeing cracks and rock stability inside the crater and touring the area when we observed a yellowish rock in the distance that looked like tuff; this caught my attention. It had a certain shape or curvature, which is why I decided to go to evaluate it, and it was clearly noticeable that it represented a moai,” geologist Matias Silva said, according to a computer translation of an Instagram post from the island’s government.

Tuff is a light, porous rock formed by volcanic ash. The Rano Raraku volcano served as a rock quarry for most of the island’s moai statues.

The Ma’u Henua indigenous community is conducting further research into the provenance of the statue, given its uncertain origins.

The moai became accessible due to the gradual drying of the lake bed since 2018. 

“The interesting thing is that, for at least the last 200 or 300 years, the laguna was [over 9 feet] deep, meaning no human being could have left the moai there in that time,” Ninoska Avareipua Huki Cuadros, head of the Ma’u Henua community, told the French wire new agency Agence France-Presse.

The moai “is in good condition, it has wear from time, erosion, water, but its shapes and features are still very noticeable,” Ma’u Henua Vice President Salvador Hito told The Associated Press.

There are no plans to move the statue, which was found lying down looking upward and was the first statue on the island to be found in a lagoon.

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