Easter Island’s gargantuan stone statues walked. That is the controversial claim from archaeologists who have demonstrated the feat with a 4.4-tonne model of one of the baffling busts. They describe their work in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Nearly 1,000 statues litter Easter Island’s 163 square kilometres, with the largest weighing 74 tonnes and standing 10 metres tall. Much about the megaliths is mystery, but few of the enigmas are more perplexing than how the statues were shuttled kilometres from the rock quarries where they were carved.
Archaeologists have proposed that the Polynesians who settled Easter Island 800 years ago or more laid the statues (called moai) prone and rolled them along on logs. That idea supports the theory that the settlers, known as Rapa Nui, became so obsessed with statue-building that they denuded the island of its forests. But the archaeological evidence doesn’t really support it,” says Carl Lipo, an archaeologist at California State University, Long Beach, whose team instead proposes that the Rapa Nui ‘walked’ the moai by rocking them from side to side, as one might move a refrigerator.
Made to walk
Some statues are found on stone pedestals; others are in incomplete forms along roads or in a quarry. The incomplete statues — which Lipo says would have been modified once they reached their pedestals — lean noticeably forward, in a posture that doesn’t lend itself to horizontal transport, says Lipo. Broken moai along roads, which were presumably abandoned, also point to vertical transport. On roads that slope upwards away from the quarry, the statues lie on their backs, whereas downwards-sloping roads tend to be littered with face-planted moai, Lipo notes. Read full article here
Researchers have used a replica moai to show how the giant statues may have been “walked” to where they are displayed.