This small triangle of volcanic rock, just 7.5 miles at its widest point, is considered by many to be the world’s most remote inhabited island. Known as Rapa Nui to its native Polynesian inhabitants it is 2,236 miles west from the nearest point on the American continent – the coast of Chile – and the nearest habitation is on Pitcairn Island, 1,243 miles to the south west.
It is not clear exactly when Rapa Nui’s first human inhabitants arrived from Polynesia, possibly from around 800 AD. They developed a distinct culture which was at its peak between the 10th and 16th centuries when the Rapa Nui carved and erected 900 moais (stone statues) across the Island. These stone blocks carved into heads and torsos averaged 4 metres tall and 14 tonnes. No-one knows exactly why the Rapa Nui undertook such a monumental task, though the consensus from scholars is that the moai were created to honour their ancestors and important members of society.
Human pressure on the land led to environmental degradation and by the time the first European settlers reached the Island in 1722, and named it Isla de Pascua or Easter Island, the island was largely barren and sparsely populated.