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Easter (continued)
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Traditions     Art     Places

At least three locations in the world have their names connected with Easter;  Easter Island in the Pacific, Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, and Corpus Christi, Texas (USA). Easter Island is of considerable archaeological importance. It is the richest site of the megaliths of the Pacific island groups and the only source of evidence of a form of writing in Polynesia. Easter Island was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995, and in 1998 UNESCO issued a stamp depicting the megaliths. 

Easter Island
also known as Rapa Nui [Spanish: Isla de Pascua], is a triangular-shaped island belonging to Chile, located in the South Pacific Ocean, 3,700 km (2,300 mi) west of the Chilean coast. The island was named by the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who landed here on Easter Day in 1722. The Chilean government annexed the island in 1888. An area on the western coast is reserved by the government for the indigenous population; the remainder is used as grazing land for sheep and cattle.
  • France 1998.  Service-stamp issued by UNESCO. 

  • Chile 1992. Se-tenant set showing clearly the island's triangular shape. 

Very little is known about the people who made the megaliths. The original inhabitants of Easter Island were Polynesians who migrated to the island beginning around ad 400. Descendants of these Polynesian settlers erected the statues between 800 and 1600. 

  • Chile 2001. Se-tenant set from Easter Island, with the megaliths on the left stamp, and the indigenous population greeting a flight coming in on the right stamp. 

More than 880 statues remain on the island; they vary in height from 3 to 12 m (10 to 40 ft). Carved from tuff, a soft volcanic rock, they consist of huge heads with elongated ears and noses. Material for the statues was quarried from the crater called Rano Raraku, where modern explorers found an immense unfinished statue 21 m (68 ft) long. Many of the statues on the burial platforms bore cylindrical, brimmed crowns of red tuff; the largest crown weighs 27 metric tons.

Excavations have also disclosed hidden caves containing decayed remains of tablets and wooden images, and numerous small wooden sculptures. The tablets are covered with finely carved and stylized figures, which seem to be a form of picture writing. 

Ascension Island
Another place related to the Easter Theme is Ascension Island (7.95°S, 14.37°W) in the South Atlantic, a dependency of St. Helena, which lies some 800 miles to the southeast.

Ascension was first discovered in 1501 by Juan da Nova Castella, but the discovery apparently went unrecorded, and the island was re-discovered on Ascension Day 1503 by Alfonso d'Albuquerque. Subsequently Ascension was little visited; it was too dry and barren to be of any use to the East Indies fleets. Ascension became strategically significant with the exile of Napoleon to St. Helena; the British were concerned that it could be used in any attempt to rescue Napoleon.  Here are scans of the only Ascension-items I have in my collections.  

Thus a small British naval garrison was established on the island in October 1815. By Napoleon's death in 1821 Ascension had become a sanitarium for ships engaged in suppression of the slave trade from the West African coast. In 1823 the garrison was taken over by the Royal Marines and the island remained a naval possession until 1922 when Ascension became a dependency of St. Helena. Huge numbers of sea turtles and sooty terns breed on the island.  Georgetown is the main settlement.
  • Ascension Island 1938.  Green Mountain, overlooked by King George VI.  

  • Ascension Island 1988.  Sooty Terns.  Strip of five se-tenant stamps in a composite design. 

Ascension came to brief international notice during the Falklands war when it served as a staging post for the British forces en route to and from the Falklands.

Corpus Christi in Texas took its name, it is said, from Corpus Christi Bay. John P. Kelsey, who had a store in the early days on Water Street where most of the business houses were located, always claimed the credit for naming the town, saying he was the first to date his letters Corpus Christi.  The Government established a post office here shortly after, on May 30, 1848, with W. P. Aubry as Postmaster. 

As to the naming of the bay, little is known, but credit has long been given to the Spaniards, who explored this country. One of their vessels entering the bay back in sixteenth century, it is claimed, on Corpus Christi day – a festival day meaning the Body of Christ, caused the Spaniards to name the bay Corpus Christi. This is in keeping with names given other places by the Spaniards, who are given to naming places after saints and church days. The Spaniards under Governor Menendez landed on the east coast of Florida on August 28, 1665, which being St. Augustine’s day, gave the town of St. Augustine its name, Florida history tells us.

Any visitor to this site is invited to email me with the names of such locations and -- if possible -- include a scan of an appropriate stamp or postcard, or pictorial postmark, as illustration. 

Traditions     Art     Places

Sources and links: 

The original version of these pages (dealing uniquely with Easter Eggs) was particularly recommended as an interesting new topic in Linn's Stamp News, 2nd April 2001. 


Revised 02 nov 2006 
Copyright © by Ann Mette Heindorff
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