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 EPIC EASTER ISLAND: As seen in Montreal

Arnie Greenberg

Nobody will argue that this is a unique place to know about or to see. Off in the far reaches of the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds of miles west of Conception Chile, this rugged island, now known as Rapa Nui has a unique history and living quality. The huge statues date back to the 12th century. But there are countless other relics to discover if you can take the epic journey to this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Very few people have lived there or even visited it’s forbidding rocky coast. But now, if you are lucky to be in Montreal this summer you can get as close to Easter Island as you can without the long trip into the distant Pacific.

At Montreal’s Pointe-A-Calliere known for its archeology and history displays, Easter Island, an Epic Voyage awaits you.

Located facing the Montreal Harbor, this modern museum offers the special Epic Voyage exhibit but it also boasts an underground set of streets rebuild from the original site of the first settlers in a truly historic city.

But the special exhibition built above the city ruins will open your eyes to a place most people know about but

Here’s your chance.

Of course, everyone knows about the gigantic stone  statues but this exhibit includes wood carvings rarely seen in North America. They show remarkable artistry especially considering their age and lack of tools.

The island was originally settled by Polynesians who brought some animals and food plants when they arrived. They had some understanding of horticultural techniques but they were on a particularly difficult volcanic island.  They made stone tools, wooden fish hooks containers from banana leaves or gourds cloth made from bark, and feather headdresses. Their ancestral beliefs drew them to carve the 890 large statues, many of which can still be seen.

But weather and location were not good to the islanders. The forests that once covered the island began to disappear. This could have been due to climate changes or a powerful El Nino that warmed the waters. Even their personal beliefs changed with time as they they attributed the island’s power to what was referred as the ‘Birdman”.(Makemake) Headgear and personal ornaments signified this god-like man.

Writing was also developed which can be seen today in the inscriptions with rongorongo signs. These were the only Polynesians to develop a primitive form of writing.

There were visitors from distant lands and an influx of Peruvian slaves. Major research missions from France, Spain, Holland and England. Today, about 40,000 visitors arrive each year and they bring with them certain environmental threats.

It is important to visitors and organizations like UNESCO to work in cooperation with the natives. The best way is to become familiar with problems facing the island.

I saw a copy of one of the heads but it was a far cry from the original 9 foot high, 10,000 pound original.

The displayed objects were worth the visit. The natives take great pride in their stone and wooden carvings. There are tablets with rongorongo symbols, single and two-headed carvings of men, carved bidrs, animals and masks. There are Paoa whose handle has two faces. It looks like a club but probably just an item of prestige. Their wooden neck ornaments (reimiro) are crescent-shaped with suspension holes. They are sacred and worn during special ceremonies by powerful family members.

I say stone carved carving tools, arrows and sacred eggs. There were rock paintings and other primitive figures. But it was the busts and heads that particularly drew me. They are more intricate and varied than the mysterious heads we have come to connect to this distant and mysterious island.

 If you can’t get to the island, the Museum  Pointe-a-Calliere in Montreal offers you the next best thing

The exhibition continues until Nov. 14th at 350, place Royal, the birthplace of Montreal.

For more information contact Catherine Roberge,

Communications Co-Ordinator


You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at


Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to: or contact him directly at

(More about the writer.)


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Last Revised: Friday, May 15, 2015 06:38:58 AM
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