Ahu Akivi, the seven explorers
Ahu Akivi is an archaeological site with singular characteristics, due to its unique location, its studied astronomical orientation and the restoration work carried out in it, which was a milestone in the recent history of Easter Island.
The most important inner platform
Ahu Akivi is located on the southwest flank of the Maunga Terevaka volcano, the highest point on the island, 2.6 km inland from the central west coast, where Ana Kakenga, the cave of the two windows, is located. This location is already significant, since most of the ceremonial platforms are on the coastal edge of the island.
Of the few ahu built in the interior of the island (about thirty), Ahu Akivi is the most important and elaborate platform of all of them. According to excavations and studies carried out, it is thought that the first phase of construction of the ahu began towards the end of the 15th century. First, a rectangular platform was erected on a level surface, from which a 25-meter ramp to the central plaza started. On the back a crematorium used in the cremation ceremonies was located.
During the second phase that took place at the end of the 16th century, improvements and modifications were made, a second crematorium was incorporated and seven moai statues were erected on the central platform.
Ahu Akivi is located in a territory associated with the powerful Miru clan, one of the highest-ranking tribes. It is thought that the moai were placed about 150 years before the first contact with European visitors, suggesting that at that time, considered a late date, there still reigned the political stability and economic abundance necessary to carry out a construction of this caliber.
The statues that look at the sea
The seven statues were transported from the quarry of the Rano Raraku volcano located 15 km away, through an irregular terrain and using an unknown method. These imposing figures represent the archetypal form of a moai and have almost the average height and weight (4.5 meters and 5 tons) of the statues found on the platforms.
Read more about moai, the giant statues
It is said that the moai of Ahu Akivi are the only statues that look at the sea of the whole island, since the rest turns their back on the ocean. And although, if they are looked with perspective, this is true, the truth is that they are oriented like the rest of the platforms, that is, their faces look towards the esplanade that extends before them, where formerly there was a nearby village. Therefore, the images of Akivi were placed, like the others, to watch over and protect the inhabitants of the village through the influence of their mana or mystical power.
An accurate astronomical observatory
Like other platforms on the island, including the lone moai of the Ahu Huri a Urenga, the Ahu Akivi was built following a precise astronomical orientation. In this way they controlled the change of seasons and the most appropriate times for agricultural tasks.
In Akivi the axis of the platform was oriented from north to south, getting the faces of the moai look exactly at the point where the sun sets during the equinox of the austral spring (September 21st) and their backs face the sun of the dawn during the autumn equinox (March 21st).
The legend of the seven explorers
In the recent literature on Akivi, the seven statues of the platform are related with the seven young people who were sent to explore the island before its first colonization by King Hotu Matu’a.
A legend says that Hau Maka, the priest of Hotu Matu’a had a dream in which his soul flew across the ocean when he sighted the island. Next, he sent seven explorers sailing through the sea to locate the island, study its conditions and the best area to disembark.
Although the idea that the legend was remembered in stone is attractive, it seems that it can not be true. The moai statues belong to a quite late sculptural period, after the year 1440 AD and historians consider the hypothesis that the first settlers arrived on the island towards the fifth century, so they rule out a possible relationship between both facts.
The restoration that boosted Rapa Nui
Ahu Akivi was the first ahu to be restored after a small group of islanders, at the request of Thor Heyerdahl, erected the statue of the Ahu Ature Huki on the beach of Anakena in 1956. As a member of that Norwegian expedition was the American anthropologist William Mulloy, who from then on would devote a large part of his life to studying the mysteries of Easter Island.
The reconstruction work in Ahu Akivi began in March 1960 and continued until October of that year. William Mulloy and his Chilean colleague Gonzalo Figueroa worked with an archeologic team of 25 Rapanui people in various phases of excavation and reconstruction. This was the first serious archaeological excavation and the first complete restoration of a ceremonial site in Rapa Nui.
The works were done with hardly any material means, they only used wooden poles, stones and a pair of oxen. But with perseverance, ingenuity and effort they achieved their goal. To raise and place the first moai, they used a stone ramp and two large wooden levers. This operation took a month. However, after perfecting the technique and with the experience gained, it took less than a week to raise the seventh statue.
When the work was finished, Father Sebastian Englert himself gave the blessing at a very emotional opening ceremony. After 150 years the islanders could observe again several moai standing on an ahu.
The restoration of Ahu Akivi is considered a turning point in Rapa Nui. From that moment, other works of restoration of more platforms began. The Ahu Akivi was followed by the ahu of Hanga Kio’e, Tahai, Anakena and Tongariki. The ancient platforms regained their former glory and the small and remote Easter Island attracted the attention of other researchers and travelers. And what is more important, it unleashed a true cultural renaissance, an economic development and a renewed sense of pride in being Rapanui.
Tips for visiting Ahu Akivi
The visit of the Ahu Akivi can be done by hiring some of the excursions offered by most of the island’s tourism agencies. This archaeological site is usually included in any of the half day tours in which other places of interest are also visited.
More information about Easter Island Tours
The other option is to do it on your own, but for this you will have to arrive by vehicle, since you are far enough from Hanga Roa to walk.
In any case, it is necessary to buy in advance the ticket to the Rapa Nui National Park to enter the site. The ticket is valid for 10 days to visit the different archaeological sites, which can be visited several times, with the exception of Orongo and the Rano Raraku volcano quarry that can only be done once.
More information about the Rapa Nui National Park
A few meters before entering the site there is a kiosk of the National Park, where it is necessary to present the ticket. Further on there is a parking area to leave the vehicles. Nearby there is a small establishment that sells handicrafts, souvenirs and where it is also possible to buy something to eat and drink. There are also public restrooms whose use costs 500 pesos.
The best time to visit and take pictures is at sunset, which is when the setting sun illuminates the seven statues and highlights their features.