General view of Ahu Akahanga
Ahu Akahanga is a ceremonial platform located on the south coast of the island. This platform is 18 meters long, has not been restored, and allows you to see the state in which the island was found by the first European explorers.
The Akahanga ahu had at some point about a dozen moai of different sizes, from 5 to 7 meters. It’s also known as “the king’s platform”, because it’s said that the first king of the island, the Ariki Hotu Matu’a, could be buried here. Legend has it that the king left his home in Anakena after a fight with his wife, Vaka A Heva, and lived out his days in Akahanga, where his sons buried hi. So far, the archaeological excavations in the area have failed to find anything that may have been the tomb of the king, although little is known about the funerary practices of the ancient Rapa Nui.
Felled moai stautes at Ahu Akahanga
Due to the size and design of the statues, it’s been determined that the main platform on Akahanga was widened over time, from left to right, so the moai on the right are far larger and newer than the first five on the left .
Here, like in other ceremonial platforms of the island, the moai were toppled by their own creators. The most accepted theory is that they are toppled face down so that the face, specially the eyes, was buried in the earth. However, in Ahu Akahanga’s case, apparently there was a sort of domino effect, whereby the larger moais on the right fell backward. Thanks to that, there’s now an incomparable view from behind the platform.
Moai statues felled on their backs
In Akahanga, you can also distinguish the remains of several hare paenga, “Houseboats”, with their characteristic shape created by the stones used as a foundation.
To the right of the square there is a small cave, whose entrance was handmade and may have offered shelter to those who, due to their status, didn’t have access to the houseboats. You can enter the cave and see that it offers protection from the cold and the outside noises. Places like this abound on the island and, at the time, were relatively comfortable alternatives for sleep and shelter.
Cave and felled moai
On the path connecting the houseboats with the small cave, there are several ovens arranged in a row, forming part of this village’s cooking area. These ovens, or umu, were formed by slabs shaped into a rectangle or pentagon within which the fire was lit. When the volcanic rocks were almost red hot, the food was placed on top, wrapped in plantain or taro leaves to prevent it from burning, and covered with soil. The food was placed in different layers, depending on the degree of cooking required (for example, the meat below the vegetables) and after several hours the food was ready. This method of cooking is common in Polynesia, from the hangi in New Zealand, to the Hawaiian imu.
Until recently, the island’s road divided this archaeological site into two parts; but thanks to the improvements the Rapa Nui National Park has implemented, it has been moved behind the square. Entering from the new road to the right, before reaching the main platform, a small incomplete ahu can be seen with its moai off to the side. Because of the position in which it’s placed, it has been sheltered from inclement weather and therefore has well-defined facial features, and not yet hollowed out eye sockets. It is believed that the moai was moved here from the quarry but was never placed on the ahu, because its construction was never completed.
If you walk along the back of the main platform facing the sea, you will see a small moai about 2 meters tall, quite eroded, with a rather crude style of carving; so it is thought to belong to a very early sculptural era. This small moai were moved here with the intention of shipping it off the island in the early twentieth century, which fortunately was not achieved.
Behind the platform, there are also several crematoriums and a canoe platform.