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Who Found Easter Island

QUESTION: Who found Easter Island?


Who found Easter Island? Between AD 400 and 600, settlers from the Marquesas Islands (or Mangareva) found Easter Island. They proceeded to inhabit the land, using its rich resources to build homes, start agriculture, and build their famous statues. The islanders dubbed this spot in the South Pacific Ocean as the center of the world, or Te Pito o Te Henua.

As the generations consumed the island’s trees in order to transport the statues, the materials used for building new canoes gradually were depleted. Eventually this led to a generation of inhabitants who were unable to travel from the island. They were essentially landlocked.

On Easter day in 1722, a Dutch explorer by the name of Jacob Roggeveen happened upon the island as he sailed through the Pacific. He thus renamed the island Easter Island and sailed away.

The next recorded visitor -- Spanish Captain Don Felipe Gonzales -- arrived in 1770. Then came the famous Captain James Cook in 1774. The French landed in 1786 with Captain le Comte de La Pérouse.

When the islanders saw a ship for the first time, they were so astounded that they made several visits to the ship to measure its length and breadth with string! Imagine what they may have done had they any lumber for themselves.

The country of Peru made the most impact on the people of the island. The Peruvians kidnapped a third of Easter Island’s population in order to sell these people as slaves in their own country. As they arrived back in Peru, the world grew alarmed at the government’s actions, spurring Peru to pass a law banning slave importation. The slaves were then loaded back on a leaking ship along with the smallpox virus. Of the 1400 kidnapped natives, only 15 returned to the island. They were diseased and infected the rest of the islanders.

The lineage of the early settlers could not be entirely wiped out. Festivals of the past are still celebrated today on the island, preserving the little bit of heritage that remains.

Learn More About Easter Island!

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