A huge Moai statue, one of Easter Island’s iconic stone monuments, began its return journey on Monday, after being removed and taken to Santiago, where it has been housed since 1870.
The statue’s return comes after a years-long campaign to have it returned to Rapa Nui, as Easter Island is known locally.
The 715 kg sculpture will be transported by truck to the Chilean port city of Valparaíso, where it will embark on a military ship for a journey of approximately five days to reach Rapa Nui.
The initiative is part of a repatriation program aimed at returning ancestral remains, sacred and funerary objects to the island. Similar negotiations took place in an attempt to recover a specimen from the British Museum.
“For the first time, a Moai will return to the island from the mainland,” said Consuelo Valdes, Chile’s culture minister.
“It is undoubtedly part of a work that we started years ago as a ministry with the return of various collections and ancestors to their homeland.”
Rapa Nui, more than 3,219 km from the Chilean coast, has more than 1,000 stone statues – giant heads carved centuries ago by the inhabitants of the island, which have earned it its fame and status as Unesco world heritage site.
The Rapa Nui community held an act in honor of the icon at the National Museum of Natural History in the Chilean capital, which still preserves two smaller sculptures. The statue will be kept at the Padre Sebastián Englert Anthropological Museum on the island.