They’re one of the most recognisable ancient relics on our planet – but one of the major mysteries of Easter Island’s huge statues might finally have been solved.
The ancient Easter Island people carved and transported the island’s 900-plus large statues by hand – and fitted stone ‘hats’ weighing several tonnes on each one.
One of the enduring mysteries is how the Polynesian Rapa Nui society transported the so-called ‘pukao’, stones six feet in diameter and weighing 12 tonnes.
The Rapa Nui society mysteriously collapsed before Western missionaries arrived in the 18th Century.
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Researchers led by Carl Lipo from Binghamton University believe that the huge stones were rolled from quarries and moved into place with the help of ramps.
Lipo said that the islanders may have used a technique called ‘parbuckling’ to place the stones on the statues (which were themselves inched into place by rocking them along a pre-prepared path).
Lipo said, ‘In parbuckling, a line would have been wrapped around the pukao cylinder, and then people would have pulled the rope from the top of the platform.
‘This approach minimises the effort needed to roll it up the ramp. Like the way in which the statues were transported, parbuckling was a simple and elegant solution that required minimum resources and effort.’
Lipo also said that this use of resources shows how efficiently the people of Easter Island used their resources, which contrasts with what was previously thought.
‘Easter Island is often treated as a place where prehistoric people acted irrationally, and that this behavior led to a catastrophic ecological collapse,’ said Lipo.
‘The archaeological evidence, however, shows us that this picture is deeply flawed and badly misrepresents what people did on the island, and how they were able to succeed on a tiny and remote place for over 500 years.’