Archivo:Kneeled moai Easter Island.jpg

The Hanau epe or Long-ears were a group of semi-legendary people who are said to have arrived at Easter Island. According to some theories (particularly the one popularised by Thor Heyerdahl), they were a South American indigenous people[1]; but most evidence suggests that the original Easter Islanders were Polynesian in origin[2].

Sebastian Englert states that "Long-Ear" is a misinterpretation of Hanau ‘E‘epe "stout race".[3]

The LegendEditar

There are two legends about how the Hanau epe reached Easter Island. The first is that they arrived sometime after the local Polynesians and tried to enslave them. However, some earlier accounts place the Hanau epe as the original inhabitants[4] and the Polynesians as later immigrants from Oparo or Rapa Iti. According to this story, after the arrival of both groups, mutual suspicions led to a violent clash, and the Hanau epe were exterminated, except for one[5]. In 1772, a description of the islands demographics by Jacob Roggeveen claimed that there were two distinctive ethnic groups: Polynesians and 'White' people, whose earlobes were lengthened a great amount[6]. This suggests that the Hanau epe were not exterminated, but still lived peacefully alongside the Polynesians.

South American/Easter Island linksEditar

Main gallery: Pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact#Polynesians.

The question of whether or not Easter Island had a direct pre-Columbian link with South America (and whether this link was predominantly from America to Polynesia, or vice versa) remains a source of great debate. Although there are undoubtedly many cultural (and other) parallels, it is difficult to say for certain whether these parallels are the result of contact, or of evolution-convergence, given the antiquity of the evidence[7].

The fact that many of the staple vegetables of the Rapanui diet are of South American origin[8], suggests there must have been some contact between Easter Island and the South American continent. Possibly the Polynesians sailed to South America and back, or South American balsa rafts drifted to Easter Island, and were then unable to return due to their inferior naval skills[9] - or both. The small island of Sala y Gomez, east of Easter Island bears the Polynesian name Manu Motu Motiro Hiva ("Bird's islet on the way to a far away land"), suggests that Polynesians may have known of South America. Also, the word for "far away land" (Hiva) is the word for the islanders legendary home country.

There is also evidence that the Mapuche peoples in Chile have Polynesian connections dating back to prehispanic times[10].

In June 2007, a group of Chilean and New Zealand archaeologists analysed a single chicken bone recovered from the archaeological site of El Arenal-1, on the Arauco Peninsula, Chile. From radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis, they provide firm evidence for the pre-Columbian (and probably Polynesian) introduction of chickens to the Americas[11].


  1. Heyderdahl, Thor. Easter Island - The Mystery Solved. Random House New York 1989.
  2. Jared Diamond,Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, Penguin, London (2005), pp 86-90
  3. The entry for hanau includes 'race, ethnic group. Hanau eepe, the thick-set race; hanau momoko, the slender race (these terms were mistranslated as "long-ears" and "short-ears").' Englert, Sebastian, 1993. La tierra de Hotu Matu‘a — Historia y Etnología de la Isla de Pascua, Gramática y Diccionario del antiguo idioma de la isla. Sexta edición aumentada. (The Land of Hotu Matu‘a — History and Ethnology of Easter Island, Grammar and Dictionary of the Old Language of the Island. Sixth expanded edition.) Santiago de Chile: Editorial Universitaria.
  4. This version was recorded by Doctor J.L. Palmer in 1868. See Heyerdahl. It must be noted, however, that the legends may be influenced by the situation of the 1860s: fierce fighting ensued on the island when the remaining population and returning immigrants fought for the land and resources.
  5. The "Hanau Eepe", their Immigration and Extermination.
  6. There is no doubt that the Polynesian elite practised ear-lengthening on Easter Island until the late 19th century, but its possible origin from South America has been noted.
  7. José Miguel Ramirez, Mapuche Indians and Polynesian connections (1991)
  8. Douglas Yen, "The Sweet Potato and Oceania: An Essay in Ethnobotany" (1974). Yen shows that the sweet potato arrived first in the Marquesas Islands, before reaching Easter Island
  9. Compare this with South American traditions recorded in the 16th century, in which the Inca Emperor Tupac Inca Yupanqui is credited to have undertaken an almost year-long Pacific exploration around 1480, encountering "black people" and finding islands Nina and Hahua chumpi. The same legend claims that occasional travels oversees were done already earlier.
  10. ibid..
  11. Radiocarbon and DNA evidence for a pre-Columbian introduction of Polynesian chickens to Chile

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