Hanga Roa Facts

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  • Hanga Roa History

    The original settlement of Rapa Nui/Easter Island is up to debate. For years it as thought to be in the 300-400 AD range, but newer estimates put it at 700 to 1100 AD, and later radiocarbon testing has it as closer to 1200 AD. The first settlers were likely Polynesian, and ther eis an 80% similarity in vocabulary between the Rapa Nui language and Mangareva, which is spoken by a small population on the French Polynesian Islands.

    In terms of more modern history, The first Europeans reached the island in 1722, and between that year and 1770, there are reports of the moai (giant statues) standing, but starting with British Explorer James Cook's arrival in 1774, there are reports of some of the statues having been knocked down and by 1825, when visited by a British ship, there were no standing statues. From this period through to 1860, few landings ocurred, as the Rapa Nui prevented landings when possible.  1864 marks the official arrival of Catholic missionaries, and 1878 the construction of the first Catholic church.

    A series of raids, forced relegation and introduced diseases decimated Easter Island's population until in 1877, there were only 111 Rapa Nui remaining, and the population has been growing to its present stages since then. Easter Island was annexed by Chile in 1888, and until the 60s, the Rapa Nui were restricted to Hanga Roa, the rest of ht eisland being rented to sheep interests. In 1966 the Rapa Nui were given Chilean citizenship, and in 1968 the first airstrip was built, and flights to Easter Island began.

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