Tukuturi Moai, the kneeling moai statue of Easter Island

The Tukuturi moai with Ahu Tongariki in the background

At the southern end of the Rano Raraku quarry, where the main path forms a curve to continue the visit, it is possible to enjoy a spectacular view of the Poike volcano with the 15 figures of the Ahu Tongariki silhouetted against the ocean. Right in this place is the Tukuturi moai, one of the most controversial and enigmatic images of Easter Island.

Read more about the moai statues of Easter Island


Its name, which is usually translated as kneeling moai, actually means “squatting moai”, being Tuturi the correct term for the word “kneeling”. This statue was discovered, once again, by the expedition of Thor Heyerdahl in 1956 and from the beginning it caused a great astonishment, especially among the own people of Easter Island, since they had never seen anything similar.

The statue is unlike any other on the island, since its appearance is much more natural and realistic. The head is rounded, with carved eyes that stare and his chin has a goatee like the kava kava moai. But what sets it apart from the rest, whose carving is interrupted at the waist, is that Tukuturi has the whole body.

It is shown in a kneeling position with his legs bent back and his buttocks resting on his heels. The hands appear placed on the thighs instead of meeting on the belly, in a posture very used in Polynesia to show reverence and that can still be seen in the ancient songs of riu that are preserved on the island.


Tukuturi, a controversial origin

Side view of Tukuturi moai where his bent legs are observed
Side view of Tukuturi moai where his bent legs are observed

Tukuturi, which measures 3.70 meters in height, weighs about 10 tons and presents a rather rough finish, it is also the only image that looks towards the Rano Raraku, since all the others turn their backs on it.

Read more about Rano Raraku

Some scholars suggest that it is an “early” type of moai, which may date back to the 10th century. Heyerdahl related it, due to its great resemblance, to the kneeling statues of Tiahuanaco, a pre-Columbian culture that emerged on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. However, other experts maintain that it is a late figure who could refer to the cult of the Tangata Manu or bird-man that took place in the ceremonial village of Orongo.

Finally, there is no shortage of even more controversial and original hypotheses, such as what believes that Tukuturi could have been a work by the inhabitants of Tahiti that were brought to Easter Island to work at the end of the 19th century. In fact the figure of Tukuturi looks like more a tiki, a type of totem typical of Polynesia, than a moai.

As an anecdote, it should be noted that a moai similar to this one, known as “Little Tukuturi“, was found inside the crater. It barely reaches 2 meters in height and is quite eroded, but although it shares the rounded and naturalistic shapes of the largest one, it lacks legs.

Location map of Tukuturi Moai