Rano Raraku

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Easter Island, Chile

Rano Raraku Easter Island Reviews

Toonsarah Toonsarah
566 reviews
Moai quarry and workshop Nov 12, 2016
To call this a quarry, as people often do, is in some ways misleading as it was more than that, serving as both quarry and workshop. The moai were not only carved out of the rock here (a relatively soft volcanic tuft) but also most of the more detailed work done in situ. When the moai culture came to an end, all work ceased and nearly 400 in varying states of completeness were abandoned here. Today they litter the slopes, many partly buried in the surrounding soil, like a sort of Rapa Nui Marie Celeste.

This, the moai quarry, is one of two sites in the National Park (the other is Orongo) which you are only permitted to visit once with your park admission ticket. When you arrive here it will be stamped and if you should want to return you will have to buy another ticket. This is to control numbers and protect the very fragile environment and valuable archaeological record here. So it’s worth planning on spending some time here, which thankfully our tour did, although we nevertheless didn’t manage to see everything.

After having your ticket stamped the path leads you past a small shelter with information boards and on towards the volcano. After the first short climb it forks. The left-hand fork leads to the crater, which we didn’t visit, and the right-hand one to the quarry itself. Immediately you will find yourself walking among the moai. Some lie on the ground, others are half-buried, and all are haunting in their presence here.

A visit here is by far the best way to appreciate the scale of the undertaking by those earlier Rapanui in creating these monoliths. Further up the slopes we saw half-finished moai that show clearly the techniques used. First they would carve out the basic shape of the statue, horizontally in the rock, then sculpt the face. They then chiselled around and beneath until the statue could be separated from the rock, before levering it into a pit lined with wood and bark ((for protection) to enable them to reach and carve the back of the head. Finer details, such as the eye sockets, were completed once the moai were placed on their ahu, which could be many kilometres away – possibly because it was believed that it was only when the moai had eyes that their power was activated.

Once carved the moai had to be transported to the various ceremonial sites around the island. As with most aspects of this culture, various theories have been mooted as to how this was done. Early scientific thinking was that they were moved on giant tree trunk rollers (contributing to the deforestation) while lying on their backs. Most though now agree that it is more likely that they were transported in a vertical position, possibly on wooden sledges lying on rollers. Oral tradition describes them as “walking” to their final positions and while that sounds fanciful it may not be so far from the truth. In 2012 two US archaeologists and one from Rapa Nui developed a theory that they could have been “rocked” using ropes, and have demonstrated using a replica that this is indeed possible.

Some of the abandoned moai are huge – the largest around 21 metres in length (its head alone is seven metres long). This has led to speculation that one factor in the decline of this culture was that the people started to get over-ambitious and that the fighting between the clans was linked to rivalry in the creation of their moai, with each family wanting to show that their ancestors were the biggest and bravest.

We spent some considerable time here, alternating walking around taking photos with listening to the explanations of our very good guide. He pointed out a number of things I am sure we would otherwise have missed, like the European style ship carved on the back of one of the abandoned moai, perhaps by an islander who found these new visitors as mystical as his traditional beliefs. That is the plus side of taking a tour; the downside is that even on this fairly lengthy visit we didn’t have enough time here to see everything the site has to show, such as the kneeling moai and the volcano’s crater. But with only a couple of days on the island, and other memorable sights calling us, I think we got the balance pretty much right.

This is by the way by far the most developed tourist site on the island with a large covered market area selling crafts, a café and picnic places. There are also toilets available but at a price – the gift shop where they are located charges an exorbitant $1 or 500 pesos and can get away with it because they have a captive market! I paid up, and you will no doubt do so too.
Arriving at Rano Raraku
Moai at Rano Raraku
Moai and tourists at Rano Raraku
Two part-finished moai, Rano Raraku
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andrejav andrejav
751 reviews
Moai quarry Jan 20, 2012
Rano Raraku is a minor volcano on the island, but the major quarry for Moai statues. I am not sure how many Moai’s are laying around in different stages of production, but there is at least 100 of them. Figures range from small to the giant Moai of estimated 125 tons… Most of the people come to the sides of the Rano Raraku and follow the outside trail. There is even nicer area where figures are made, and that is in the crater. Path to go there is picturesque, and when you get over the edge of crater, fresh water lake bounces sunlight straight into your eyes… There is only one narrow passage to go to the crater, and major issue is with wild horses that go there to drink water. If you see them going through the passage, let them go and don’t try to disturb them because you can get trampled over…

Once over the edge of the crater you can see many heads showing up from the grass. It is beautiful sight, and you are free to roam around, but watch where you are stepping so you don’t step over the statues. On some places there are few layers of Moai’s over each other, so you can see kind of “industrialization” of production.

Climb on the highest point and get the incredible views anywhere you turn.
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