Papa Vaka, the sea petroglyphs
The marine figures of Papa Vaka
Papa Vaka is an archaeological complex located on the northern road of the island, between Ahu Te Pito Kura and Pu o Hiro. It is characterized by the large number of petroglyphs (incisions in rock) that extend by large slabs of basaltic origin that emerge from the level of the ground.
The marine figures of Papa Vaka exemplify the rock art typical of the north coast of Rapa Nui, which shows the concern of the inhabitants of these territories for the dominion of the sea. All the bas-reliefs are related to the immense ocean that surrounds the island. Diverse marine creatures are observed, besides vaka (canoes) and mangai (fish hooks), fundamental tools in the antiquity for the control of the marine resources.
To see them clearly it is important to visit the place in the early morning or at dusk, when the light allows a better appreciation of the figures. There are several platforms elevated near each rock that facilitate the visitor to observe the figures from a more appropriate perspective and explanatory signs that help to identify some of the drawings.
Papa Mangai, the rock of hooks
In this rock you can see the highest concentration of mangai figures (stone fish hook) on the island. These instruments were used mainly in the fishing of the precious kahi (tuna), by what came to be known as mangai kahi.
One of the most striking petroglyphs is one that could represent a heke (octopus or squid) or a pikea (crab), or perhaps another kind of unknown sea creature. It astonishes the skill of the carver to represent such a dynamic design on the stone.
Papa Vaka, the stone of the great canoe
The term papa means “stone” in Rapanui language and vaka “canoe”, so the name of the place refers to the largest petroglyph that has been found throughout Easter Island
Although a large variety of canoes, turtles, fish hooks, and a large number of holes whose meaning is ignored are distinguished in this large stone, the main figure is the large double canoe, that is to say, with two hulls measuring 12 meters long . It is not known if this great petroglyph represents a very special canoe, or it may want to remember the great boat in which came the ancient ancestors that populated Rapa Nui.
How to get to Papa Vaka
From Hanga Roa you can get there by two routes. The fastest is to take the road that crosses the island in the direction of Anakena. Just before reaching the beach, turn right at the junction in the direction of Poike. Just over a kilometer after passing the Ahu Te Pito Kura you will reach the petroglyphs of Papa Vaka, which are located to the right of the road.
The other option is to take the road that borders the south coast in the direction of Tongariki. Continue leaving the Poike hillside to the right and take the curve to the left to advance along the north coast road. Papa Vaka is to the left of the road, a couple of kilometers from this curve, after passing through the site of Pu o Hiro.