Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Thor Heyerdahl’s Aku-aku: The Secret of Easter Island offers a vicarious adventure for young adult readers. The most striking human accomplishment on Easter Island is the construction of what appeared to be colossal heads that turned out to be statues with the torso mostly buried. The adventure begins with a mystery: How did the ancient people of Easter Island make and move these huge, numerous stone figures? Early in the book, it seems that no living soul knows how these colossal stone heads were carved out of rock or how they were lifted to an upright position. The ancient people who lived there buried their dead at the foot of the giant heads, until silence came to the island: There were no more people, no more sculpting, and no more signs of life. Such mysteries prompted Heyerdahl’s voyage, which required a year of planning.

The exploring team soon located the place where the sculpting work took place. Heyerdahl explains how the topography assisted in the sculpting of the gigantic heads. The ancient remains of volcanoes had become like small mountains with carved out tops that held water in natural pools. One of these water-filled volcanoes is called Rano Raraku, and it is here that the ancient sculptors seemed to have been most busily at work. The whole mountain was reshaped as hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of rock were cut out and tens of thousands of tons of stone were carried away. In the midst of the mountain’s gaping top lie more than a hundred and fifty gigantic stone men in all stages of completion, from those just begun to those just finished. At the foot of the mountain stand finished stone men, side by side like an army.

Heyerdahl describes the team’s examination of the site and its findings....

(The entire section is 718 words.)