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The Mysterious Moais

Where moais came from and how they were made and moved to their final resting ground is clear, but why still ranks as one of the world's great mysteries. The Rapa Nui carved moais from compressed volcanic ash found on the slopes of the Rano Raraku crater; today there are more than 850 moais spread around the island, either erected atop an ahu, left lying in transit to an ahu, or half-finished in the Rano quarry. Moais average 4m (13 ft.) in size and weigh an average of 12 tons; the largest moai, Te Tokanga, reached 21m (71 ft.), but was never finished and remains in the Rano quarry. It is generally believed that the statues were commemorative images of family or clan leaders, even though the moais are not portraits of individuals but instead abstract designs with angular faces and long bodies. Why they chose this design and what their obsession with the moais was are unclear, but what is known is that the transportation of the moais atop tree trunks is a principal factor in the widespread deforestation of the island that stressed the environment and the community and led to eventual war and the destruction and toppling over of the moais. The moais you see erected today are thanks to the restoration efforts of archaeologists.

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