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"Easter Island Stone Head in the British Museum" British Museum Tip by easyoar

British Museum, London: 318 reviews and 592 photos

  Easter Island Stone Head in the British Museum
by easyoar

If you have read my Easter Island pages, you will already know I am a big fan of the Island and the stone heads (Moai) that you can find there.

This statue, 'Hoa-haka-nanaiai' (no, I'm not going to pronounce it!) was discovered at Orongo. It had been buried under rising soil levels. In 1868, the British Mar of War H.M.S. Topaz (His/Her Majesties Ship) stopped at Easter Island and removed two Moai. These apparently are both currently in the British Museum although only this one is on display.

This statue was taken for two reasons. One being that it is relatively small (i.e. much easier to carry), the other being that it has very ornate carvings on the back.

Two hundred people were needed to help move this Moai from Orongo (the ceremonial village) onto the ship. Unfortunately, During the voyage to England, the red and white paint on the Moai was washed off by the water spray from the voyage. Once it arrived in the UK it was given to Queen Victoria, who later gave it to the British Museum.

This statue is supposed to have been made around 1000 AD and is extremely well preserved. It is likely that this moai was carved during the dark ages of Easter Island. This was when the naives had cut down all the trees and were effectively stranded on the island. At this point in time, they stopped building Moai, as they no longer had the ability to move them without wood, and started the Birdman-cult. This theory is specified as there is a birdman carved on the back of the Moai. It is possible however that this was carved on to it later.

I have to admit that whilst the statue is in extremely good condition (preservation wise) which is nice to see as the statues you see on Easter Island are more worn by the high winds they get there. It is a bit of a shame to see one standing so out of context inside the British Museum. I was greatly looking forward to seeing it, but felt little satisfaction once I had.

Address: Great Russell Street, WC1
Directions: Holborn tube
Phone: 0 20 7323 8299

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Feb 16, 2005
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