SANTIAGO, Chile – A 7-foot-tall head carved from compressed volcanic ash embarked on its final trip home to Easter Island on Friday, ending a 77-year odyssey that included stops in a Chilean dictator’s home and a backyard garden in Argentina.
After a few hours on display in front of Chile’s presidential palace, the head, one of hundreds of huge Easter Island statues known as Moais, was placed in a wooden crate and trucked from Santiago to Valparaiso. A navy ship was to take it on the 2,500-mile trip home across the Pacific Ocean.
The head was taken from Easter Island in 1929 to Santiago, where it remained for 40 years. At one point it belonged to former Chilean dictator Carlos Ibanez.
Rosa Velasco, a Chilean artist, said she bought the head at auction in 1983 and kept it “at the garden of the house of a friend of mine in Buenos Aires.”
The Moais are huge statues crafted from volcanic rock by the Rapanui natives of Easter Island, which Chile annexed in the 19th century. The Rapanui worshipped the statues, which they believed embodied the spirits of their ancestors.
While some of the heads are more than 70 feet tall, most average 20 feet tall and weigh about 20 tons.