29th June 2001 at 01:00
Of all the symbols of oppression, long ears seem among the least likely. Yet archaeologists think that the famous stone Moai of Easter Island were erected for long-eared masters by short-eared slaves, who later rose in revolt and flung down every statue.

Polynesians settled Easter Island around 400AD. Highly creative, they made rock and wood carvings and barkcloth crafts as well as the Moai. Their Rongorongo script was the only written language in Oceania.

But once the lush palm forests were exhausted, over-population forced a bloody civil war. All the Moai were torn down. Those standing on the island today were re-erected by Western archaeologists.

Two thousand miles from Chile to the east and Polynesia to the west, Te Pito O Te Henua "the navel of the world" as it wasknown to its early inhabitants, was christened by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeven on Easter Sunday 1722.

Having long forgone war, ear-related or not, islanders now enjoy a healthy income from tourists.

Victoria Neumark

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