New moai statue found amid on-going drought on historic Easter Island

Easter Island is a small territory in the southern Pacific Ocean that belongs to Chile. Hundreds of statues were built by natives from the 1400s to the 1600s. A several year drought, likely enhanced by La Niña

An archeologist on Easter Island, a territory known for its historic monolithic sculptures, has uncovered a new stone statue that experts believe would have remained buried if it wasn’t for extreme drought plaguing islands in the Pacific.

Hundreds of statues are known to exist on the remote island, where inhabitants are thought to have started settling around 300 AD.

The most recent uncovered statue is not large compared to other figures on the island and only is estimated to be around 5 feet long.

Dr. Jo Anne Van Tilburg, an archeologist and the director of the Easter Island Statue Project, has been studying the island for more than 40 years and said she is not surprised that another has been found.

"It’s a very small statue, and we don’t know everything about it yet, but it is in the place where statues were carved but in a very unusual situation. You would not expect to find it where it is now," said Van Tilburg.


The world-renowned archeologist estimated the site to once be under 3 feet of water, but years of drought and a significant grass fire led to the freshwater lake drying up, exposing the historic find.

"Right now, the issue is for them to put a conservation team together so that they can stabilize the statue because its exposure can become problematic for it," said Van Tilburg.

The statue remains on the dry lakebed as a local conservation group is determining how to protect the figure from additional weathering.

Due to the drought and potential future excavations on the island, which sits more than 2,300 miles off the Chilean coast, experts believe the stature won’t be the last discovery.

"We finished a lot of mapping and documentation of the quarry between 2018 and 2019, and what we found was that there was a lot more evidence of more quarrying on the outside than we had originally thought," Van Tilburg stated. "One hundred percent they’ll be more discoveries like this."


A rare triple-dip La Niña that has dominated global weather patterns for three years has caused hardships on several Pacific islands due to a lack of rainfall needed in the region known as Polynesia.

The Republic of Kiribati, about 4,000 miles away from Easter Island, declared an emergency in 2022 due to low water levels and was helped out by the U.S. Coast Guard with deliveries of fresh drinking water to the island.

The FOX Forecast Center said a transition out of La Niña in 2023 to a neutral or El Niño state could mean a significant weather pattern shift for islands across the Pacific, but it is too soon to tell who could benefit and those that will experience climate extremes.