This post first appeared last year. I’ve brought it back, with date appropriate updates, due to its uncommon concentration of useful historic facts.
Two years ago I noted with surprise that Easter and my birthday have coincided only twice in my lifetime. But it has happened several times outside of my lifetime and that includes 1722 when Dutch sailor Jacob Roggeveen came upon a tiny South Pacific island which the residents may have called Rapa. Whether they did or didn’t mattered not a bit to Roggeveen who decided to call the island Paaseiland. Dutch Paaseiland translates to the English Easter Island. The island is now part of Spanish speaking Chili where it is known as Isla de Pascua. Its modern Polynesian name is Rapa Nui.
The opening image is the Isla de Pascua flag. The red figure represents a reimiro, an ornament worn by the native islanders. At left is an image more commonly associated with Easter Island. The island contains nearly 900 statues similar to the one in the picture. I’ve never been to Easter Island and have no pictures of my own although there are plenty to be found around the internet. This photo is one I took of an imitation at the Hill County Arts Foundation near Ingram, Texas.
The true significance of the statues, called moai, is not known but we do know that they once outnumbered inhabitants by roughly 8 to 1. The island is believed to have once held about 15,000 people. A number of factors reduced that to maybe 3,000 by the time Roggeveen came along. Contributing causes were deforestation, erosion, and the extinction of several bird species. The population probably remained around 3,000 until 1862 when Peruvian slavers began a series of raids that resulted in about half of that population being hauled away. The raiders were somehow forced to return many or perhaps most of those they had captured but they brought smallpox to the island when they did. Tuberculosis arrived just a few years later and disease, violent confrontations, and a major evacuation reduced the human population to just 111 by the late 1870s. There are currently 887 moai on the island. In the past there may have been more.
Today is the 296th Easter Sunday that Easter Island has been known by that name. The population has grown considerably and is now around 6000 which must make for a much happier island than when barely a hundred hung on. Of course the actual calendar date of the naming (and my birthday) passed more than a week ago. I hope everyone remembered to wish their friends and family a Happy Easter Island Anniversary.