Rapa Nui, or Easter Island is one of the most isolated islands on Earth. Early settlers called the island “Te Pito O Te Henua” (Navel of The World). Officially a territory of Chile, it lies far off in the Pacific Ocean, roughly halfway to Tahiti. Known as one of the world’s sacred sites, it is most famous for its enigmatic giant stone busts, known as ‘moai’, built centuries ago, which reflect the history of the dramatic rise and fall of the most isolated Polynesian culture.
The original inhabitants of Easter Island are of Polynesian descent and most probably came from the Marquesas or Society islands, and they arrived as early as 318 AD. It is estimated that the original colonists, who may have been lost at sea, arrived in only a few canoes and numbered fewer than 100. At the time of their arrival, much of the island was forested, was teeming with land birds, and was perhaps the most productive breeding site for seabirds in the Polynesia region. Because of the plentiful bird, fish and plant food sources, the human population grew and gave rise to a rich religious and artistic culture.