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By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 2, 2003, 19:34
Easter Island (Polynesian Rapa Nui, Spanish Isla de Pascua) lies in the south Pacific Ocean, west and slightly north of Santiago, Chile and is part of the territory of Chile (Valparaíso Region). The island is approximately triangular, with the southwest tip located at 27°10' S, 109°25' W, and is 2,075 kilometers (1,290 miles) from the nearest inhabited island (Pitcairn), and 3,515 kilometers (2,185 miles) from the coast of Chile. The island has an area of 163.6 km² (63 sq. miles), and the population is 3,791 (2002 census). The island is famous for its numerous 400-years-old stone statues located along the coastlines.
The small surviving population of Easter Island eventually developed new traditions to allot the few remaining resources. In the cult of the birdman, a competition was established in which every year a representative of each tribe, chosen by the leaders, would dive into the sea and swim across to Motu Nui, a nearby islet, to search for the egg of the Sooty Tern. The first to return with one would secure control of the island's resources for his tribe for the rest of the year. This tradition was still in existence at the time of first contact by Europeans.
There are tablets found on the island bearing a mysterious script. The script, known as Rongorongo, has never been deciphered despite the work of generations of linguists. A Hungarian scholar, Wilhelm or Guillaume de Hevesy, in 1932 called attention to the apparent similarities between some of the rongorongo characters of Easter Island and those of the prehistoric script of the Indus Valley in India, correlating dozens (at least 40) of the former with corresponding signs on seals from Mohenjo-daro. This correlation has been re-published in later books, for example by Z.A. Simon (1984: 95). The rongorongo may mean peace-peace, and their texts may record peace treaty documents, possibly between the long ears and the conquering short ears. Such explanations have, however, been strongly disputed.
Population at the 2002 census was 3,791 inhabitants. The figure is up from 1,936 inhabitants in 1982. This tremendous increase in population is due mainly to the arrival of people of European descent from the mainland of Chile. Consequently, the island is losing its native Polynesian identity. In 1982 around 70% of the population were Rapanui (the native Polynesian inhabitants). At the 2002 census however, Rapanui were only 60% of the population of Easter Island. Chileans of European descent were 39% of the population, and the remaining 1% were native Indians from mainland Chile. Nearly all of the population live in the town of Hanga Roa.
Rapanui have also migrated out of the island. At the 2002 census there were 2,269 Rapanui living in Easter Island, while 2,378 Rapanui lived in the mainland of Chile (half of them in the metropolitan area of Santiago).
Population density on Easter Island is only 23 inhabitants per km² (60 inh. per sq. miles), much lower than in the heyday of statues' building (17th century) when there were between 10,000 and 15,000 native Rapanui on the island. Population had already declined to only 2,000-3,000 inhabitants before the arrival of Europeans. In the 19th century, disease due to contacts with Europeans, as well as deportation of 2,000 Rapanui to work as slaves in Peru, and the forced departure of the remaining Rapanui to Chile, carried the population of Easter Island to the all time low of 111 inhabitants in 1877. Out of these 111 Rapanui, only 36 had descendants, and they are the ancestors of all the 2,269 Rapanui currently living on the island.
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