Rapa Nui

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Country Profile

Easter Island lies between the west coast of South America and Pitcairn Island, its
nearest inhabited neighbour. It is situated in approximately 28 deg 10 min S latitude
and 109 deg 30 min W longitude.

Rapanui is triangular in shape, with its longest stretch being along the south coast of
22km and its widest point being 11km. At each corner of the island, there is an extinct
volcano, the highest of these being Maunga Terevaka at 506m in the NW.

The island has an area of 166 sq. km and the 1992 census shows a resident population of 2,770 persons.

According to an Easter Island legend, some 1,500 years ago a Polynesian chief named Hotu Matu'a
("The Great Parent") sailed here in a double canoe from an unknown Polynesian island with his
wife and extended family.

Core sampling from the island has revealed a slice of Rapa Nui history that speaks of
deforestation, soil depletion, and erosion. From this devastating ecological scenario
it is not hard to imagine the resulting overpopulation, food shortages, and ultimate
collapse of Rapa Nui society. Evidence of cannibalism at that time is present on the
island, though very scant. Van Tilburg cautiously asserts, "The archaeological evidence
for cannibalism is present on a few sites.

Reading Passage

Easter Island is a destination that seems to inhabit our subconscious. @The image
of those great stone moai with their backs to the vast Pacific strikes some chord within
us, recalls some ancient, creative urge.
This is the world's most isolated bit of
land, a tiny pinprick in the great pacific, a mound of consolidated lava and ash from
three submarine volcanoes. The natives call their island Rapa Nui or Te Pito o Te Henua,
'the navel of the earth.'

Linguistic and cultural comparisons indicate that the first humans on Easter Island arrived
from the west, most likely from the Marquesas islands or Mangareva, as part of a greater
migratory process which spread Polynesian culture throughout the south Pacific. However,
the twelve centuries which elapsed between the arrival of the first intrepid 'settlers'
near 500 AD and the 'discovery' of the island in 1722 by the Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen
are among the world's great mysteries.

AEuropean sailors visiting the island found that the natives could not explain the
construction and transport of the great moai megaliths, the largest of which exceeds
sixty feet in height.Nor could they decipher the rongo rongo tablets whose hieroglyphic
script appears to be a forgotten form of written language.
Somewhere in the past -
a past which seems to have seesawed from ancestor worship, monument building and population
growth,to deforestation and food shortages, feuding and in some cases even cannibalism -
the old knowledge had been lost. It is the mystery of these disappeared artisans,and the
awesome presence of their works, which continues to draw scientists and seekers from across
the globe.

BToday, Rapa Nui National Park protects most of the island's archaeological sites,
and the native todomiro forests that once graced the island are being replanted.

Opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding abound on the island,
while a rich marine ecosystem of corals and colorful tropical fish makes Easter
Island a prime destination for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Quoted by Tourism Promotion Corporation of Chile

Words and idioms

inhabit 住民
pinprick 針穴
intrepid 恐れを知らない、大胆不敵な
megaliths 巨石
decipher 解読する、判読する
hieroglyphic script 象形文字の、象形文字で書いた
cannibalism 共食い

by Hiroyuki Watanabe Aoyamagakuin College of Economics