Most people have heard or seen pictures of the moai — the 1250 to 1500-year-old statues with giant heads on Easter Island built by the Rapanui people — and have at least a sense of the mystery surrounding them.
The moai are made from enormous slabs of rock weighing up to up to 82 tons (one unfinished statue was found that, completed, would have weighed about 270 tons) and nobody has been able provide a decent theory as to how the Rapanui may have transported them…until now.
An article in July’s National Geographic examines the issue.
There are several theories about how the Rapanui — with no means except for trees and rope – transported the enormous statues. In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond suggested that the statues were basically pulled across logs on ropes by a lot of really hard working guys. Not the kind of creative analysis one would hope for from a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo have a more interesting theory. Local oral histories mention people summoning divine power to make the statues walk. Hunt and Lipo argue that the statues could be stood upright and ‘walked’ by three teams of people with ropes, and that this method would require far less effort than the methods proposed by others.
The bottoms of the moai are D-shaped, causing them to naturally fall forwards. So, two teams stationed on either side of a statue could pull ropes tied high on the head of a moai to rock it back and forth as it naturally falls forward, thus making it walk, while one team holds it upright from behind.
Here is a video of a demonstration using a replica. Amazing.
Lead photo by iko