Posted by: austronesia | March 27, 2008

Tourist Steals Ear of Mo’ai

Tourist held for stealing ear of ancient statue

By Sarah Knapton
The Guardian, March 27, 2008

A Finnish tourist has been arrested for ripping the earlobe off one of Easter Island’s ancient statues. Marko Kulju, 26, allegedly snapped off the giant lobe, which smashed into dozens of pieces. He then pocketed a chunk of the sacred Moai head in front of a horrified local woman.

He now faces seven years in a Chilean jail and a £10,000 fine if convicted of stealing part of the 4 metre high head.

Patricia Loflund, the consul at the Finnish embassy in Chile, said: “It was a sudden, impulsive crazy idea. He is sorry and surprised that it has caused such a stir. He really regrets his actions.”

The 400 statues were carved out of volcanic rock between 400 and 1,000 years ago to honour deceased ancestors. Some are more than 20 metres tall, but most are about 6 metres and weigh about 20 tonnes. They face the south Pacific, about 2,300 miles west of Chile. Damaging the statues is punishable under a law protecting national monuments. The authorities are inspecting the statue to see if it can be repaired.

A local woman saw Kulju stealing the artefact at Anakena beach and later identified him through tattoos on his body. He used his hands to tear off the earlobe, which fell to the ground and broke into pieces measuring eight to 12 inches each, said the police chief, Cristian Gonzalez.

An Easter Island government official, Liliana Castro, said: “There are sites of great archaeological value everywhere and the park guards cannot prevent all such incidents.”

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