The Moais of Easter Island

Article excerpt

"Welcome to Easter Island. It has taken you more than fifteen hours to fly here from Australia. This is one of the most remote and isolated places in the world. The Polynesians traveled in catamarans over thousands of ocean miles to get here from other islands more than 1500 years ago. When the Dutch landed on the island on Easter Sunday in 1722 it became known as Easter Island."

This was the way I introduced my sixth grade art class to a lesson about Easter Island. Throughout the year in art we had been globe trotting to discover ancient cultural expressions of art. Not only did I want to give my students a sense of the statues that are found on the island, I also wanted to share with them a sense of the place.

Mysteries of the Moai

"What the Dutch saw and what you now see in these slides is a volcanic island that has no trees. Did you see the three main volcano cones that are at each corner of this triangular island as you flew in? You probably noticed the enormous stone statues scattered all over the coast of the island. Sure they looked big from the air but on the ground they are HUGE! These statues are called moai (mow-eye) and can weigh up to eighty tons each. They were carved out of soft volcanic rock called tuff. Then they were dragged all over the island to where they can he seen today."

Throughout my introduction, I was showing pictures of the moat. The students were fascinated. We talked about what else might weigh over a ton, such as a car. We speculated as to how these statues had been moved from the quarry sites on the island. We also discussed the reasons they might have been carved. I then asked students to describe the way the human face and body had been distorted on each statue.

Piecing a Moai Together

The students divided into groups of three and four to create a moai worthy of their ancestors. …