Previously unseen photos of the 2012 excavation on Easter Island have emerged. The new photos, taken during the moments archaeologists first uncovered the previously hidden stone bodies, reveal a fascinating detail; the monoliths are covered in detailed tattoos carvings.
The images show intricate markings on the bodies of the statues, such as crescents. Academics speculate these carvings represent the canoes of the local Polynesians, but little else is known about the markings at this time.
There are 887 enormous statues on the island, up to 10 metres tall, thought to be carved between AD 100 and 1800. Members of the Easter Island Statue Project have been excavating the statues for years, and provided the first photos of their torsos in 2012. This was an initial surprise for many, who presumed the statues were only heads and busts.
“The reason people think they are (only) heads is there are about 150 statues buried up to the shoulders on the slope of a volcano, and these are the most famous, most beautiful and most photographed of all the Easter Island statues,” says Jo Anne Van Tilburg from the Easter Island Statue Project.
“This suggested to people who had not seen photos of (other unearthed statues) that they are heads only.”
Archaeologists and historians are still learning more about the island that was first settled by Polynesian people who arrived by canoe during a great wave of Pacific colonisation.
Much mystery around the statues still remains; how were they made, and how were they moved around the island? What transformed a society that created such beauty to resort to cannibalism by the time Captain James Cook visited in the 18th century?