Researchers have uncovered another of Easter Island’s famous moai statues, local officials announced on Tuesday. Community leaders welcomed the news and believe it could be a key to further archaeological findings. “What we’ve seen today is very important, because this is part of the history of the Rapa Nui people,” said Salvador Atan Hito, a leader of the Ma’u Henua Indigenous community that oversees the site.
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Moai found in dry lagoon
A team of volunteer scientists from three Chilean universities uncovered the moai statue on February 21 during a project to rehabilitate marshland inside the Rano Raraku volcanic crater after a fire swept through the area last year and damaged several of the statues.
The 1.6-meter (5.2-foot) statue was found lying on its side in a dried-up lagoon with its face towards the sky.
“The interesting thing is that, for at least the last 200 or 300 years, the lagoon was three meters deep, meaning no human being could have left the moai there in that time,” another Ma’u Henua Indigenous leader Ninoska Avareipua Huki Cuadros said.
Some Indigenous leaders said the newly uncovered moai had been known to oral tradition and was last spotted around 70 years ago.
What are the moai of Easter Island?
Moai are distinctive monolithic carved stone figures with elongated faces and no legs.
They are a major tourist drawcard for the remote Pacific island that was annexed by Chile in 1888.
The statues were carved by the Polynesian Rapa Nui people between 1250 and 1500, and more than 900 of them have been identified in modern times.
“I think more are going to keep showing up,” archeologist Miguel Ramirez said.