Six kilometers of caves discovered in Easter Island

By | July 16, 2009

Six kilometers of caves discovered in Easter Island

A team of experts has discovered a six-kilometer-long lava cave system on Easter Island thought to have been used as a refuge by the islands inhabitants during the 16th century.

According to a report in The Santiago Times, the team confirmed that it is the largest cave on the island and the 11th-largest in the world in terms of area.

The expedition, which began in 2005 and focused on the Roiho sector in the east of the island, uncovered 45 caves with a host of archaeological finds, including arrowheads, spears, axes, utensils, petroglyphs (rock engravings), and some 30 human skeletons.

Cave experts, or speleologists, confirmed the caves were used by inhabitants of the island as refuge from tribal wars at a time when society was on the verge of collapse as a result of infighting, severe environmental degradation caused by deforestation, droughts, and famine.

The most common use was in periods of tribal warfare, when the caves would turn into secret chambers where islanders would protect themselves, explained Claudio Cristino, an archaeologist from the Universidad de Chile, who took part in the expedition.

They also would have been used as a site to collect water, he added.

Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is a Polynesian island located some 3,500 kilometers off the west coast of Chile. It was annexed by Chile in 1888, with its inhabitants given Chilean citizenship in 1966. …

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