A huge Moai statue, one of the iconic stone monuments from Easter Island, begins a repatriation trip from the National Museum of Natural History in Santiago, Chile where it has been housed since 1870.
The 715kg sculpture, known as Moai Tau, will be transported by truck to the Chilean port of Valparaΐso and continue the five-day voyage by naval ship to Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island. This is the outcome of a campaign of many years for the return of the statue to Easter Island, a province of Chile.
“For the first time a Moai statue will be returning to the island from the mainland,” said Consuelo Valdes, Chile’s Minister of Culture. “This is part of a project we started as a ministry years ago with the return of various collections to their homeland.”
Rapa Nui, more than 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile, has more than 1,000 stone statues; giant heads carved centuries ago by the islanders representing the spirits of their ancestors and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“For the people of Rapa Nui, their ancestors, burial objects and ritual materials may have been just as alive as the members of the communities themselves,” said the museum in a press release.