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 prison and a fine of $19,000 if convicted of breaking off part of the ear of 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 from the scene with a piece of the broken earlobe in his hand. Police later identified him by the tattoos the woman saw on his body.
While some of the Moais are more than 70 feet tall, most average 20 feet in height and weigh about 20 metric tons. The statues gaze out on the south Pacific more than 2,300 miles off 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 a nonprofit organization conducted last year.
About 3,800 people live on the 70 sq.-mile island, most of them ethnic Rapanui.