Archaeologists have long pondered the origins of Easter Island’s iconic moai, and the ancient stone quarry of Puna Pau provides an important piece of the puzzle. Carved into the sides of a volcanic crater, Puna Pau is the spot from which the red volcanic rock, or scoria, was mined and used to sculpt the “pukao"—the distinctive topknot that caps the heads of some moai.
Dozens of pukao have been found around the island, all of which were made at Puna Pau, from where they were transported to the most important ahu (ceremonial sites)—no easy feat, as they measure between two and three meters in height and width and weigh up to 11 tons, and archaeologists are still unsure how this task was achieved. Today, around 30 of the pukao rocks can still be seen in and around Puna Pau, many of them adorned with petroglyphs.
Puna Pau is located by Cerro Tuutapu Mountain about three miles (5 km) inland from Hanga Roa. The entrance fee to the Rapa Nui National Park is $60 for all non-Chileans (payable on arrival to the island) and includes entrance to Puna Pau.