Why are there giant heads on Easter Island?

Asked by Sean Stamp

The giant stone heads on Easter Island were probably built by Polynesians, who arrived on the island from the Marquesas Islands between 300 and 1200CE.

The heads are not actually heads at all, but heads and torsos, with many of them simply buried by shifting sands and soil. The statues are called ‘moai’ and were carved by the populous between 1250 and 1500. They represent the living faces of deified ancestors, their purpose being to watch over the island and its people. There are currently 886 statues surviving on the island today, which has been made a World Heritage Site due to cultural significance to an extinct culture.

The statues’ building and transportation around the island is considered by historians to be a remarkable feat, with some of the larger statues weight up to 86 tons.