A moai statue has been discovered on Easter Island at the bottom of a recently dried up crater lake. The statue is the first of the island’s famous giant-headed figures to be found in the lake.
Easter Island, located more than 3,500 kilometers from the South American mainland, is dotted with more than 900 iconic statues, carved into volcanic rock more than 500 years ago by the Rapa Nui people.
Most of the statues were carved from rock quarried from the Rano Raraku volcano. Some were left at the volcano, which is now a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hundreds more were transported to other parts of the island.
“We think we know all the moai, but a new one is popping up,” University of Arizona’s Terry Hunt told the TV show. Hello America, what first reported the discovery on February 25.
The new statue stands 1.6 meters tall and is “bodied with recognizable features but no clear definition”, according to a statement from Ma’u Henua, the Rapa Nui organization that manages the park. He was found lying face down among tall reeds.
“In the dry conditions we have right now, we could find more,” Hunt said.
Monolithic statues have long inspired awe and speculation about their role in a apparent collapse of the island’s population in the 17th century. For the Rapa Nui natives, Hunt said the statues represent deified ancestors.
“For the Rapa Nui people, it is [a] very, very important discovery,” Salvador Atan Hito, vice president of Ma’u Henua, told the TV show.
Rano Raraku crater is normally filled with water, but the lake has been shrinking since 2018, Ninoska Avareipua Huki Cuadros, director of Ma’u Henua, said France Media Agency.
Easter Island experienced a decade of drought, due in part to climate change as well as the pattern of below-average temperatures in the tropical Pacific known as La Niña. The current La Niña is the third in a rare “triple dip” event, which may itself be linked to human-induced climate change.