A previously undiscovered Moai statue was found on Easter Island

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  • Published on March 1, 2023
  • Last Updated May 15, 2023
  • In Culture

The ancient artifacts were carved over 500 years ago from volcanic rock.

An exciting new discovery has been made on Easter Island. Good Morning America reports that in late February, a new moai statue was found in Rapa Nui National Park in Chile. The sacred statue was found buried in a dry lake bed and is smaller than most of the others on the island. Typically, the area isn’t accessible to humans. However, due to climate-related changes that caused the lake bed to dry up, archaeologists were able to unearth the artifact.

“For the Rapa Nui people, it’s [a] very, very important discovery,” said Salvador Atan Hito, vice president of Ma’u Henua, the Indigenous organization that oversees Rapa Nui National Park. “Because it’s here in the lake and nobody knows this exists – even the ancestors, our grandparents don’t know [about] that one.”

There are around 1,000 moai statues on Easter Island. All figures are monolithic human faces that were carved out of volcanic rock approximately 500 years ago by the Polynesian tribe, Rapa Nui. They are said to house ancestral spirits and were originally placed in a ring around the island, facing inward.

“The moai are important because they really represent the history of the Rapa Nui people. They were the islander’s deified ancestors,” said Hunt. “They’re iconic worldwide and they really represent the fantastic archeological heritage of this island.”

Because of the discovery, archaeologists are determined to see if they can discover anything else on the island, whether that be more moai or tools that could have been used to make them.

“We think we know all the moai, but then a new one turns up,” said Terry Hunt, professor of archaeology at the University of Arizona. Hunt specializes in Rapa Nui. “There have been no moai found in the dry bed or in what was previously a lake, so this is a first.”

Because of the unique conditions, more moai might be in the dried lake bed where the new discovery was found.

“Under the dry conditions that we have now, we may find more. They’ve been hidden by the tall reeds that grow in the lake bed and prospecting with something that can detect what’s under the ground surface may tell us that there are in fact more moai in the lakebed sediments,” Hunt said. “When there’s one moai in the lake, there’s probably more.”