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Hanga Roa is the capital city of this small Island and this site is the closest Ahu to the capital city. I say capital city but really this is a small very simple town of only one main street.
You can easily walk to this site from Hanga Roa. I found this one fascinating as it had more than just the Ahu and its Moai. Just to explain, the Ahu is the platform that the heads or Moai stand on, if they have a topknot or hat then this is called a pukao.
This archaeological site has three Ahu, but it also has the remains of a Rapa Nui village which includes a rather unusual chicken coop, an underground hideaway and a boat ramp.
TheTahai site was restored in 1974 by an American archaeologist, Dr. William Mulloy, an American archaeologist. This gentleman is buried in the Easter Island cemetery next to this site.
There are three Ahu on this site, the first is Ko Te Riku which is rather special as he is the only one with fully restored eyes. The other two are the Tahai Ahu and the Vai Ure Ahu.
His was not the first site we visited so we had already seen a number of the Moai which meant that in fact I was somewhat more interested in the rest of the site. The canoe ramp leading down to the ocean is constructed of rounded beach stones and looks in perfect condition and was restored at the same time as the Moai here.
I thought the chicken house which looked like a mound of earth was really interesting and like nothing I had ever seen before. On one side was a hole which was covered when needed by a large stone . At night the chickens were put in this hollowed our mound in order to keep them safe from theft as there were no animals to eat them. Chickens were considered very precious as they not only provided food but their feathers were used in ceremonies too.
There was another mound used by the humans to hide in times of attack and this was larger that the chicken coop but otherwise pretty similar. The women and children would apparently hide away under ground while the men took care of the attackers. Visitors couldn't go into this and from outside it just looked like a large mound of earth.
This was the only site on the island to have a Moai fully restored with its eyes too and Ko Te Riku looks very impressive with his white coral eyes and obsidian pupils. The coral on most of the Moai have long since weathered away as coral is not as hard as the volcanic rock that the Moai are carved from.
No one is really certain why the islanders began to build the Moai but it began when the resources on the island began to become scarce. The statues are sometimes thought to be representing gods or deceased chiefs. It is thought that when a chief died they carved and erected the Moai and once it was erected the eyes were carved and the coral put in. Once the eyes were in place the Rapa Nui people believed that power and prosperity was sent through the moai's eyes to the villagersstill living there.
The main Ahu has five Moai in various stages of disrepair, some have no head at all and one has an angular break on the top so it looks like it has a point. One is almost not there at all.
Another special thing to see at Tahai are the remains of boat-shaped houses built by the Rapa Nui people. Many visitors like to visit this site at sunset as you can watch the sun setting across the Pacific Ocean with the beautiful Moai as a backdrop sillhouetted against the red sky.
I liked this site as it showed a lot more of how the Rapa Nui people lived and I learned a lot more about their way of life and the strange things like the chicken house. There is no way I would have guessed what it was from just looking at it.
I liked this site because it had more than just the Ahu and moai but also because we had a very interesting guide. Guides are pretty essential so when you get a good one you learn so much more. The guide books say very little and often what they do say is inaccurate according to our guide who had a degree in history and archaeology of Rapa Nui.
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