Petrified Lava with Petroglyphs

Ancient lava flows created many Papa, or flat rock surfaces, which tempted the artists of Rapa Nui to use them in another form of expression.  Around 4,000 petroglyphs have been discovered and documented by the American scientist Georgia Lee, although surely there are many others still hidden under the earth. The two most well-known sites are the great slabs of Papa Tataku Poki in the Tongariki sector and Papa Vaka in front of Ahu Ra´ai near La Perouse cove.

These low-relief petroglyphs are also found in quantity on great lumps of stone such as the Pu o Hiro, in small grottos and caves, on rocks and blocks of smooth stone, on the Pukao (headdresses) of volcanic tuff and even on the Moai (statues) themselves. Although there has been some rock painting, as in the cave of Ana Kai Tangata, most of the rock art was carved and made its appearance with the decline of the importance of the Moai and the rise of the cult of Tangata Manu (Bird-Man) in the 18th century.