HANGA ROA, EASTER ISLAND — The human bones lay baking in the sun. It wasn’t the first time Hetereki Huke had stumbled upon an open grave like this one.
For years, the swelling waves had broken open platform after platform containing ancient remains. Inside the tombs were old obsidian spearheads, pieces of cremated bone and, sometimes, parts of the haunting statues that have made this island famous.
But this time was different for Mr. Huke. The crumbling site was where generations of his own ancestors had been buried.
“Those bones were related to my family,” said Mr. Huke, an architect, recalling that day last year.
Centuries ago, Easter Island’s civilization collapsed, but the statues left behind here are a reminder of how powerful it must have been. And now, many of the remains of that civilization may be erased, the United Nations warns, by the rising sea levels rapidly eroding Easter Island’s coasts.