A Finnish tourist was detained after allegedly stealing a piece of volcanic rock from one of the massive Moai statues on Easter Island. Marko Kulju, 26, faces seven...
SANTIAGO, Chile — A Finnish tourist was detained after allegedly stealing a piece of volcanic rock from one of the massive Moai statues on Easter Island.
Marko Kulju, 26, faces seven years in prison and a fine of $19,100 if convicted of stealing a piece of the right earlobe from a Moai, one of numerous statues carved out of volcanic rock between 400 and 1,000 years ago to represent deceased ancestors.
A native Rapanui woman told authorities she witnessed the theft Sunday at Anakena beach and saw Kulju fleeing with a piece of the statue in his hand. Police later identified him by the tattoos the woman saw on his body.
Kulju used his hands to tear off the earlobe, which fell to the ground and broke into pieces measuring 8 to 12 inches each, Easter Island Police Chief Cristian Gonzalez told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Kulju ran away with at least one of the pieces from the 13-foot-tall Moai, he said.
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“Fortunately, this type of thing does not happen every day, but it does happen, and it is almost impossible to control because on Easter Island there are sites of great archaeological value everywhere and the park guards cannot prevent all such incidents,” Easter Island government official Liliana Castro told the AP.
Authorities are inspecting the statue to see if it can be repaired, Castro said. Damaging Moais is punishable under a law protecting national monuments.
While some of the island’s 400 Moais are more than 70 feet tall, most have an average height of 20 feet and weigh about 20 metric tons.
The statues gaze out on the South Pacific more than 2,300 miles west of Chile, which annexed Easter Island in the 19th century.
The Moais were nominated, but not chosen, as one of the new seven wonders of the world, selected by average citizens in a global poll conducted by a nonprofit organization last year. Among the monuments edging them out of the competition were India’s Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and Rome’s Colosseum.
About 3,800 people, most of them ethnic Rapanui, live on 70-square-mile Easter Island.