CREMATION IN RAPA NUI
by Cristian Moreno Pakarati – Historiador / Historian
It’s not really known up to what point cremation on Rapa Nui was a common method of dealing with cadavers or if, as William Ayres has suggested, the crematoria were structures for human sacrifice and offerings. In any case, the practice fell out of use when wood became scarce in the 16th Century. The largest number of crematoria are found along the coastline and associated with the megalithic ceremonial platforms, the ahu moai, the greatest monumental expressions within the landscape of Rapa Nui. In seven of these crematoria, scientific studies have made positive identification of human remains and ashes which came from cremation: at Ahu Tahiri, Ahu Vinapū, Ahu Akivi, Ahu Ature Huki, Ahu Ra’ai, O’rongo and Ahu Tautira, using radio-carbon dating that covers from 1082 to 1752. More recently, Sigourney Nina-Navarro has made some exhaustive studies on the crematorium of Hanga Hahave, although without C14 dating.
In the sand of Rapa Nui there are animals so small that they can hardly be seen with the bare eye. You need a microscope to see them. These animals live in the small spaces between sand grains.
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