Many on Easter Island Prefer to Leave Stones Unturned

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As remnants of a vanished culture and a lure to tourists, the mysterious giant statues that stand as mute sentinels along the rocky coast here are the greatest treasure of this remote place.

For local people, though, they also present a problem: what should be done about the hundreds of other stone icons scattered around the island, many of them damaged or still embedded in the ground?

Commercial and political interests, as well as some archaeologists, would like nothing better than to restore more — or perhaps eventually all — of the moai, as the statues are known. But many residents of Rapa Nui, the Polynesian name for Easter Island that is favored here, regard that possibility with a mixture of suspicion and dread.

“We don’t want to become an archaeological theme park, a Disney World of moai,” Pedro Edmunds Paoa, the mayor of Hanga Roa, the island’s largest settlement, said in an interview. “If we are going to keep on restoring moai there has to be a good reason to do so.”

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