Under the pier at 97 Commercial Street are a couple of small moai figures, two to three feet tall, seemingly doing double duty as pilings. I had believed until 6 September 2018 that their presence in Provincetown upended a prevailing theory about Oceanian history: that the easternmost extent of Polynesian civilization was Easter Island. The statues seemed to indicate that the peoples of Rapa Nui ventured much farther east and north than is commonly believed — in fact, more than 11,000 miles farther. Admittedly, there were problems with my hypothesis. For one thing, the heads are about one-seventh the size of the classic Middle Period moai. For another, they are facing the sea, rather than facing inland, as the moai did. And the statues of Easter Island were meant to support topknots, or pukao; not wooden pier beams.
Then, on 6 September, the contractor Deborah Paine filled me in with the true story:
The moai were installed in 2009 as part of the reconstruction of the deck/wharf at 97 Commercial Street. We asked the owner if she would mind having a little fun with the concrete footings and she happily agreed. They are fun aren’t they? I lived in Alice Foley’s unit for eight years before moving two years ago. The mold came from David Rowell in Wellfleet. Hope this clears up the mystery!
In any case, for those walking along the beach at low tide, they are a delightful Easter egg to discover. Even if they have nothing to do with Easter Island.
¶ Last updated on 6 September 2018.
Provincetown’s moai, photographed in 2016 and 2018 by David W. Dunlap.