May 22, 2024
Several iconic Easter Island head statues suffered "irreparable" damage in a fire that may have been the result of arson, according to local officials.

Several iconic Easter Island head statues suffered “irreparable” damage in a fire that may have been the result of arson, according to local officials.

The fire engulfed the remote island’s national park, according to the island’s official Facebook page, which contains 386 of the nearly 1,000 giant basalt statues that have fascinated observers for years. Local officials announced that they suspect arson is behind the fires and criticized the Chilean government, which manages the island from over 2,000 miles away, of not doing enough to help with fire prevention.

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Charred Easter Island Head
Damage from a recent fire can be visibly seen on several of the iconic Easter Island heads.
(Municipalidad de Rapa Nui / Facebook)

“More than 100 hectares were affected in the Rano Raraku sector, which includes the wetland and moai sector. The shortage of volunteers at the national level makes it more and more complex … to control the fires that have been generated in recent days and which yesterday ended up affecting one of the major archaeological sites,” read a statement on the official Facebook page of the island, called Rapa Nui by locals.

“Fires have no origin. They only have an end. And that is created by human beings, it is not an accident. […] All the fires on Rapa Nui are caused by human beings,” Mayor Pedro Edmunds Paoa said in an interview with Radio PAUTA, openly speculating that arson was the cause of the fire.

The fires cracked the stone on several of the statues, which will allow rain and weathering to make their way into them, soon reducing them to sand, he said. He added that the fire is now contained, but the number of statues damaged remains to be seen.

“There are several, but one is enough,” he said.

Charred Easter Island Heads
Local authorities suspect arson was behind the fire that resulted in the “irreparable” damage of several Easter Island head statues.
(Municipalidad de Rapa Nui / Facebook)

He also pleaded for more resources to protect the statues, saying the statues should have permanent guards.

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The giant basalt heads on the island, which range from 6 to 65 feet tall, were erected by Polynesian settlers from 1100 to 1600, according to Forbes. Carved out of hardened volcanic ash, the monoliths have long fascinated explorers, archaeologists, and tourists alike, with mysteries surrounding their purpose and the logistics of how the island people were able to move the colossal sculptures, which include a massive subterranean torso, without the use of technology.

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