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How the Easter Island Statues Were Moved

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How the Easter Island Statues Were Moved


For years, archaeologists have been stumped about how, exactly, Polynesian natives moved the famed Easter Island statues.

Starting at around the year 1250, the Rapa Nui, as the island’s inhabitants are known, moved the huge stones several miles from a quarry to the coast. These things are behemoths, weighing in at an average of 15 tons each. Yep, you read that right — the typical Easter Island statue, known as Moai, weighs about as much as 7 cars. The largest weighs in at a whopping 82 tons.

Archaeologists from Cal State-Long Beach and the University of Hawaii think they know how this amazing feat of engineering was done, and it’s an astonishingly simple method. Yep, there’s highly convincing evidence that the Rapa Nui “walked” the stones “with ropes by tilting them back and forth on their bases.” The research team even demonstrated how, successfully moving a 5 ton stone with the efforts of 18 people. (You can see video of the successful experiment on the next page.)

Previously, the most prevailing theory held that the Rapa Nui built wooden sleds for the stones and guided them on wooden rails. The logistics of that method, though, were a little off — think of all the manpower and valuable wood that would have required!

Rapa Nui myths tell the story of how the moai, which represent the living faces of deified ancestors, “walked” across the island, adding more credence to this theory.

Next Page: Video of Researchers Moving Statue

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Katie Waldeck

Katie is a freelance writer focused on pets, food and women’s issues. A Chicago native and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest, Katie now lives in Oakland, California.


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9:32AM PST on Feb 24, 2013


1:58AM PST on Feb 17, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

12:45AM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

There you go - we don't need aliens or advanced technology to do amazing things. Just like Wally Wallington, who discovered how they build Stonehange.

3:32PM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

very interesting for sure

8:24AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Fascinating and intriguing but ancient man built the pyramids so this was likely simple enough at the time...the ancients got many things done without modern machinery.
Or...they could have borrowed Scotty's transporter when the Enterprise went back in time during many of its journeys.

5:20AM PDT on Jun 30, 2012

I'm wondering if this is how the stones at Stonehenge were moved. I never would have thought of this myself, but now that someone has demonstrated it I wonder about all the great stone monuments that haven't been figured out--as to how the stones were moved into place. The pyramids in Egypt and S. America....

4:37PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012


7:31AM PDT on Jun 26, 2012


11:44AM PDT on Jun 25, 2012

Interesting. I always find it fascinating to consider how these really impressive monuments were put up by ancient peoples without access to modern technology. It's truly a testament to human ingenuity... and even better when we can figure it out later.

11:03AM PDT on Jun 25, 2012

thanks, can't wait to watch it!

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