Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Native peoples > Rapa Nui

Social organization

At its height, Rapa Nui society was organized into territorial clans, each with its own lineage that included several extended families. The clans were governed by a powerful religious aristocracy. The arikiof each clan was believed to have descended directly from the gods and had supernatural power—called maná. He presided over initiation rites, harvest festivals and food redistribution ceremonies held at the island’s large ceremonial centers, accompanied by priests and wise men versed in the sacred writings of KohauRongoRongo, which contained the songs, ritual prayers and genealogical history of the people.