top of page
Block Anomaly Logo Pinstripe Limo White Name only.png

Ceremonial Village of Orongo

Stout and stoic, Orongo huddles in a narrow ridge on Easter Island to preside over local rituals and the Pacific Ocean. The slab-laden dwellings root into the cliffside, shielding ceremonies from the harsh tempests of the sea.

Series of Orongo stone huts within vegetated landscape.
Three independent sets of 54 huts line the escarpment between the Pacific Ocean and the Rano Kau volcano. Photo courtesy of Dan Lundberg via Flickr

Isolated from the populated interior of Easter Island, Orongo was a ceremonial village for the Rapa Nui people, who were famed for carving the Moai monolith statues around the island. On a spite of land between the seacliff and the inner crater of the dormant Rano Kau volcano, Orongo’s secluded location evoked spiritual meaning for the Rapa Nui. The dry stone huts were inhabited seasonally by Chiefs and participants of the Tangata Manu or Birdman cult ritual, an annual race to retrieve an unbroken sooty tern egg from a nearby islet. At its height, Orongo had 54 huts in three independent sets lining the escarpment facing the sea. The village would later be abandoned as the Rapa Nui culture was diminished by European disease and Christianity. Orongo is now an archeological site with numerous petroglyphs depicting the mythology of the Tangata Manu ritual.

Detailed map of Orongo on Easter Island, Chile.
Orongo Map

The first laminar basalt slabs or keho were laid in Orongo during the Huri-Moai period. To counter the harsh ocean wind, the Rapa Nui people chose to build solid walls of basalt in contrast to the hare vaka/hare paenga, the traditional boat-house style buildings, which erected walls from vegetable fiber. Surrounding an oval floor between 6 to 12 meters in diameter, stone slabs were stacked into stout walls, some over 2 meters thick. Longer stones were used to vault the ceiling, with sod set on top of the stones to further protect the hut from the weather. A square entrance faced the sea and provided the only ventilation and light in the cellar-like interior. Some huts were connected by narrow corridors.

Series of Orongo stone huts within vegetated landscape.
Only seasonally occupied, the village would host the Tangata Manu or Birdman cult ritual, an annual race to retrieve an unbroken sooty tern egg from a nearby islet. Photo courtesy of tjabeljan via Flickr

After the village was abandoned, all of the huts were looted and destroyed during European expeditions. In 1974 preservation efforts investigated and rebuilt the first half of the village. Orongo now falls within the Rapa Nui National Park and has been granted UNESCO World Heritage protection. Sadly soil erosion poses an ongoing threat to these structures.

Detailed view of an Orongo stone hut.
Basalt slabs were stacked into stout walls, some over 2 meters thick. Longer stones were used to vault the ceiling. Photo courtesy of tjabeljan via Flickr

Commenti


bottom of page