A team of archeology and anthropology researchers in Rapa Nui (more commonly known as Easter Island) have uncovered an ancient and unique cream compound applied to the human figure stone carvings known as moai or mo'ai.
The substance discovered is believed to have been made from ground-up rice husks, coral, and local mosses and was used as an early form of sunscreen.
The indigenous Rapa Nui people are Polynesian by origin. Their skin’s natural melanin would have offered some protection from the sun. However, it is understood that the Rapa Nui went to great lengths to avoid skin damage from the sun’s harmful UV rays by creating an early form of organic mineral sunscreen for application to the face and upper body.
Studies now show that this simple concoction was also applied in equal measure to the overly large heads of the moai who were worshipped and revered by the Rapa Nui as clan deities.
The moai were carved from volcanic rock between 1250 and 1500 CE. Most can be found at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, set on stone platforms called ahu or around the island's perimeter. The moai represent the faces of god-like ancestors and deities, positioned to watch over tribal lands. Most were still upright when Europeans first visited the island in 1722, but all of them had fallen by the latter part of the 19th century.
The surrounding seas were treasured as the main food source on the island and provider of essential items to the Rapa Nui and moai. Coral was not just used by the Rapa Nui as an ingredient in their sunscreen. In 1979, Sergio Rapu Haoa and a team of archaeologists discovered that the deep elliptical eye sockets of moai were designed to hold eyes made from coral.
Dafydd Humerus, Senior Researcher and Anthropologist at Cardiff University, said “We know that the Rapa Nui took skin care very seriously - most likely as a feature of the Polynesian ritual of superbly crafted face and body tattoos. It would appear that this sensible precautionary practice was extended to include their reverence of the moai.”
The Rapa Nui would not be the first ancient peoples to develop a rudimentary sunscreen. The Egyptians were known to use ingredients such as rice bran, jasmine, and lupine to block the tanning effects of the sun on the skin. It has only recently been discovered that rice bran absorbs ultraviolet light. This simple plant ingredient derived from rice husks can now be found in several modern broad spectrum skin protection formulas including, for instance, Coral Sure Sunscreen.
Less successfully, it is known that the Greeks, and other ancient civilizations, used olive oil. Later civilizations would adopt lead or mercury-based powders to keep their skin fair (doing untold damage to their health in the process).
Following this startling discovery, the Easter Island research team hope to reverse engineer and reformulate the ancient sunscreen under laboratory conditions. After successful testing for broad spectrum and SPF protection it is hoped that "Rapa Nui Sunscreen" may one day become commercially available, potentially offering a much-needed financial boost to the island.
EPO9 was formed four years ago by a collection of surfers, scuba divers, snorkelers, swimmers and outdoor enthusiasts who worship the sun but really care about, and want to protect, the oceans and marine environment which brings us so much joy. Eponine Labs, LLC was incorporated in June 2022. Its mission is to manufacture a sunscreen that is truly non-toxic to the marine eco-system and will afford the user the highest standard of skin protection from the sun's harmful UV rays.
People chose Coral Sure Sunscreen for its broad spectrum protection and non-toxic, moisturizing properties. Learn more at www.epo9coralsure.com