National Geographic : 2012 Jul
• replica a few hundred yards. In real life, walking miles with much larger moai would have been a tense business. Dozens of fallen statues line the roads leading away from the quarry. But many more made it to their platforms intact. No one knows for sure when the last statue was carved. e moai cannot be dated directly. Many were still standing when the Dutch arrived in 1722, and Rapanui civilization was peaceful and thriving then, Hunt and Lipo argue. But the explorers introduced deadly diseases to which islanders had no immunity, along with artifacts that replaced the moai as status symbols. Snatch- ing Europeans' hats---Hunt and Lipo cite many reports of this---became more appealing than hoisting a multiton red pukao onto a moai. In the 19th century slave traders decimated the popu- lation, which shriveled to 111 people by 1877. As Hunt and Lipo tell it, Easter Island's story is a parable of genocide and culturecide, not eco- cide. eir friend Sergio Rapu buys some but not all of it. "Don't tell me those obsidian tools were just for agriculture," he says, laughing. "I'd love to hear that my people never ate each other. But I'm afraid they did." confront a fresh challenge: exploiting their cultural legacy without wreck- ing it. A growing population and thousands of tourists are straining a limited water supply. e island lacks a sewer system and a place to put the swelling volume of trash; between 2009 and mid-2011 it shipped 230 tons to the mainland. "So what do we do?" asks Zasso Paoa, the mayor. "Limit migration? Limit tourism? at's where we are now." e island recently started asking tourists to take their trash home with them in their suitcases. Tourists are forbidden to touch moai, but horses happily rub against them, wearing away the porous tu . ough cars are now the pre- ferred mode of transport, more than 6,000 horses and cattle---"more than people," grumbles tour guide Atán---still run free, trampling ground once trodden by Scottish-owned sheep and relieving themselves on once sacred plat- forms. But the islanders' own desire to develop Isolated no more, seductive but not easy, Rapa Nui holds its people. José Tuki (at left, with girlfriend, Joyce) moved to Chile, but only for four years. "If you go away," he says, "the island will call you back."