Sebastian Englert Museum
Sebatians Englert Museum
The Anthropological Easter Island Museum (the only museum on the island), is named after the priest Sebastian Englert, a German priest who came to the island in 1935 and spent the last 34 years of his life studying and disseminating the language, traditions and archaeological heritage of Rapa Nui. It was this priest who conducted the first archaeological inventory of the island and the first restoration of the ceremonial village of Orongo. Among his major works are the Rapanui-Spanish Dictionary (1938), Easter Island Traditions (1939), The Land of Hotu Matu’a, his main work (1948), and The Legends of Easter Island (edited posthumously in 1980).
The Museum was established in 1973 using the artifacts collected by Sebastian Englert during the 30 years he lived on the island and donated to the Chilean State, to be exhibited, upon his death in 1969. This collection increased because at that time an intense scientific study and restoration began on the island, enabling the discovery of many more historically valuable pieces.
The Easter Island Museum’s current collection consists of about 15,000 objects, most of which are stone tools such as toki (hatchet) and hoe (knife), and other needle-bone artifacts, ornaments and mangai (hook), coral and timber. However, in the Permanent Exhibition Hall (built thanks to Japanese donations) you can only see a small sample of the collection.
Main pieces of the museum
In addition to the extensive and well-detailed information panels showing the history of Easter Island from its geological formation, the following are among the most outstanding pieces in the exhibition:
The moai eye
This eye was discovered during the restoration of Ahu Nau Nau on Anakena Beach in 1978. It’s made of white coral with a red scoria pupil. It’s a known fact that the eyes were placed in the moai when it was in its ahu, but it’s still debated whether they were placed permanently or only during special ceremonies.
Rongo Rongo tablets
These tablets contain the mysterious Rapa Nui writing system. There are only 27 original tablets worldwide, but none of them is on Easter Island. The ones displayed at the museum are replicas of those found in the Museum of Natural History in Santiago, Chile.
These tools are made mostly of basalt and obsidian, and were used to carve and sculpt all of the monuments found on Easter Island. The islanders didn’t know the existence of metal until the first Europeans arrived in the 18th century.
This clearly female moai, with features such as breasts or prominently carved vulva, is one of twelve female moai that have been discovered on Easter Island. The torso was discovered by Thor Heyerdahl in 1956 at Anakena, and it was in the Kon Tiki Museum in Oslo until the head was found in 1988, at which point it was returned, allowing for the complete sculpture to be exhibited.
Tuesday to Friday: 09:30 to 17:30
Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays: 09:30 to 12:30
Closed on the 25th of December, 1st of January, Good Friday and May 1st.
On September 17th and December 24th and 31st it’s only open in the morning.
General admission: Free
The informative texts are available free of charge in English, Japanese, French and German.
Tel: (56) (32) 2551021
How to get to the museum
The Easter Island Museum is only 300 meters from Tahai and you can easily walk there following the path along the coast and turning right. From Hanga Roa, the trip is a minute longer taking the paved road towards Tahai, then turning left at the fork in the road.
There are also many guided tours that include within their stops a visit to the Easter Island museum.