Legend says the island was given its present form when Uoke, a supernatural giant levered up the islands with a vast pole, and pitched them into the deep. But when he came to Te Pito o Te Henua the island at the centre of the world he found that one part of it was of a rock too hard for his pole. This triangular land formed by three volcanoes was left at the remotest eastern end of the Polynesian Islands, 1900 kilometres (1200 miles) beyond Pitcairn and 4000 kilometres (250() miles) from Peru.

Uoke is perhaps an expression of the destructive forces, typhoons, tidal waves and erupting volcanoes which beset the Polynesian people. The god who made the people themselves in the first place, known as Makemake in Easter Island, was a benevolent but surprisingly fallible deity.

Makemake is said to have created man because he was lonely. He saw his own reflection in water and thought how handsome he looked. A bird perched on his shoulder and Makemake was pleased by the combination, so kept his reflection and the bird together. Then he thought he would like to be able to talk to another creature similar to himself. First of all he fertilized a stone with his semen, but that was unproductive. Then he fertilized water, but the result was fishes. At last he fertilized the earth and was delighted when mankind was the progeny of this union.

Makemake is probably the Easter Island equivalent of a more widespread Polynesian god called Tane, though their characteristics are not exactly the same. This remoteness from the rest of Polynesian culture is typical of Easter Island, for it seems that the community was the result of one settlement by boats in the years between A.D. 400 and 500, and perhaps a second around 1200, with only very occasional hints of outside influence after that.

There is one theory about the origins of the Easter islanders. The holder of one was part Polynesian himself, from the largest of the scattered islands, New Zealand. In his Maori persona, named Te Rangi Hiroa, he was a dedicated scholar and advocate of Polynesian culture.

Sir Peter Buck his father was Irish he was a distinguished Member of Parliament and doctor of medicine. Later he gave up his career in New Zealand and devoted himself to Polynesian studies.

Buck's views about the origin of the Polynesians arc still generally accepted. He believed that they were a Caucasian people who moved through South East Asia into the Pacific islands at some remote time, though later than the broad faced people of Negroid type who inhabit Melanesia and much of Australia.

Modern archaeology suggests that the Polynesian migrations from the west into the central Pacific began around 2000 B.C. Later arrivals of Mongol colonists from Asia brought about the mixture which can be seen in the typical Polynesian face today.

The other important theory has been propagated by one of the most remarkable men of our time, Thor Heyerdahl a Norwegian scholar and explorer gifted with insight and a sweeping imagination. In 1936, soon after they were married, Heyerdahl and his wife lived for a year with the Polynesians in the Marquesas Islands, over 3200 kilometres (2000 miles) west of Easter Island. He was told the legend of how the first inhabitants had come from the east, from the direction of the American continent, with a king called Tiki. Later, in Peru, Heyerdahl heard of a pre Inca legend there about a prince called Kon Tiki who was expelled from his domain near Lake Titicaca and sailed westwards with his people across the Pacific on a great raft.


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