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Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean is famous as the site of enormous statues of people that were carved hundreds of years ago The island lies about 2300 miles 3700 kilometers west of Chile Easter Island has been governed by Chile since 1888 Easter Island covers 64 square miles 166 square kilometers Its soil is stony The only fresh water comes from wells tanks pools and crater lakes in the islands three extinct volcanoes About 4000 people live on the island Most of the people are Polynesians The rest are Chileans Spanishthe language of Chileis the official language But both Spanish and a Polynesian language called Rapanui RAH puh NOO ee are spoken Easter Islands Spanish name is Isla de Pascua Its Polynesian name is Rapanui Tourism and the production of wool for export are the main industries Scientists believe that Easter Island was settled between about AD900 and 1200 The settlers were Polynesians who sailed to the remote island from islands to the west The early islanders created the famous statues which are called moai The statues were possibly intended to honor ancestors Today more than 600 statues are scattered on the island Most are from 11 to 20 feet 34 to 6 meters tall Some rise as high as 40 feet 12 meters and weigh as much as 90 tons 82 metric tons The islanders used stone hand picks to carve the statues from the rock of an extinct volcano They set up the statues on raised temple platforms called ahu Huge red stone cylinders were balanced on the heads of some of the statues like hats Even today erecting such large statues and balancing the cylinders on top of them would be a difficult featA bloody war between two groups of Easter Islanders broke out about 1680 During the following period of about 150 years the victors in the war and their descendants toppled the moai from their platforms in most
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