Easter Island (Rapa Nui)—Rano Raraku

Completed Project
World Monuments Watch


Easter Island, one of the world’s most remote inhabited places, some 3,700 kilometers off the coast of South America, is home to an extraordinary archaeological heritage that spans over a thousand years. The archaeological sites of Easter Island are protected within Rapa Nui National Park, an open-air museum that has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995.

One important site is Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater located in the southeastern coast of Easter Island. Between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries, Rano Raraku was the main quarry for the massive monolithic sculptures, known as moai, created by the Rapa Nui people. The moai, measuring up to 10 meters (33 feet) high, were carved directly into the volcanic stone, then detached and transported to be erected along the coastline. Close to 900 moai were carved in Rano Raraku; 396 still remain at the site in various stages of work.

How We Helped

From 2004 to 2006 WMF partnered with Corporación Nacional Forestal de Chile (CONAF) to redevelop the visitor circulation system within the Rano Raraku quarry site in order to better serve the visiting public while protecting the fragile archaeological resources. The initial work consisted of reviewing a redevelopment proposal prepared by CONAF and the community. This was followed by the construction of a new interpretive trail that included improvements to existing trail sections and the implementation of landscape rehabilitation and visitor safety measures. After a test period, additional protective measures and the refinement of technical and logistical strategies were carried out. The completed trail system provides better pedestrian circulation, and for most of its length, it is wheelchair accessible. In addition, it allows for a more effective interpretation, and protection of the cultural landscape.

Planning, design, and construction supervision were carried out by specialized landscape architects from Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC). Construction was undertaken by members of the Rapa Nui community.

Why It Matters

Rano Raraku is one of the most important sites on Easter Island. The hundreds of iconic moai scattered throughout the site are remnants of an ancient culture that collapsed by the end of the seventeenth century though a succession of catastrophes. After years of archaeological studies in the island, the extraordinary monolithic statues remain an alluring enigma to visitors. The rapid and progressive increase in tourism in this once remote island has prompted the need for better tourism management and protective measures that will ensure the safekeeping of its archaeological marvels.

Last updated: October 2015.

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