The most famous of the world's mysterious statues can be found on Easter Island (often referred to by its indigenous name, Rapa Nui). The huge-headed statues, known as moai, were carved and erected by the island’s inhabitants between the 13th and 16th centuries. Little is known about how these heavy statues were carved and then moved to various points around the island without the aid of modern equipment. The heaviest of the moai weighs about 82 tons.
Because the statues resemble those found in other parts of Polynesia, it is believed that they represented the faces of the islanders' clan ancestors. Rapa Nui's own story adds to the sense of mystery created by the massive-headed icons. The island is completely deforested and early European sailors who landed there found a civilization in disarray and the few natives left sick or starving. These early encounters showed little evidence of a society that was advanced enough to crave and transport the moai.