Easter Island is one of the most isolated places in the world. Its closest inhabited neighbor is Pitcairn Island, 1,289 miles (2,075 km) to the west while the nearest continental point lies more than 2,000 miles (3,500km) to the east in central Chile.
The island is famous for its monolithic stone statues, called moai. The statues were carved by the Polynesian colonizers of the island, mostly between circa 1250 AD and 1500 AD. In addition to representing deceased ancestors, the moai were also regarded as the embodiment of powerful living or former chiefs. The tallest moai erected, called Paro, was almost 33 feet (10 meters) high and weighed 75 tons.
The name “Easter Island” was given by the island’s first European visitor, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who encountered it on Easter Sunday 1722. By that time the civilization of Easter Island was already in a drastic decline, as a result of overpopulation, deforestation and exploitation of an extremely isolated island with limited natural resources. The statues were still standing when Roggeveen visited the island but by James Cook’s visit in 1774 many were reported toppled. Most would be cast down during later conflicts between clans. Today about 50 moai have been re-erected