How Easter Islandís statues walked
2012-06-20 0:00

By Alan Boyle | Cosmic Log




Did Easter Islandís famous statues rock, or roll? After doing a little rocking out themselves, researchers say theyíre sure the natives raised the monumental figures upright, and then rocked them back and forth to "walk" them to their positions.

Their findings mesh with a scenario that casts the Polynesian islandís natives in the roles of resourceful engineers working with the little that they had on hand, rather than the victims of a self-inflicted environmental catastrophe.

"A lot of what people think they know about the island turns out to be not true," Carl Lipo, an archaeologist at California State University at Long Beach, told me today.

Lipo and University of Hawaii anthropologist Terry Hunt lay out their case in a book titled "The Statues That Walked" as well as Julyís issue of National Geographic magazine. Their story serves as a counterpoint to a darker Easter Island saga, detailed in "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," a better-known book by UCLA scientist-author Jared Diamond.


Three teams, one on each side and one in the back, maneuver an Easter Island statue replica down a road in Hawaii, hinting that prehistoric farmers who didnít have the wheel may have transported these statues in this manner. The experiment was led by archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo and is reported in the July issue of National Geographic magazine. Photo by Sheela Sharma




Two scenarios

In Diamondís scenario, Easter Islandís society is portrayed as one that chose to fail through overpopulation, conflict and deforestation. Polynesians colonized the island as far back as 1,600 years ago, and cut down forests of palm trees as part of a slash-and-burn strategy that led to intensive farming, soil degradation, conflict, cannibalism and massive depopulation. By the time the Europeans arrived in the 18th century, Easter Islandís society was on the ropes.

The islandís statues, known as moai, play a significant part in this scenario. Diamond relies on the findings of other researchers who say the monoliths, weighing as much as 90 tons, were dragged into place by hundreds of islanders, using downed trees as sleds, rollers and levers. Rival chieftains recruited whole tribes to erect monuments to their glory. The broken statues found along the islandís path were a testament to the stone-carving societyís final failure.

Hunt and Lipo take a different view: The way they see it, Easter Island was never that great a place to live. "It was never verdant, and there were never very many people on the island," Lipo said.


Archaeologists Carl Lipo and Terry Hunt stand in front of a full-scale replica of a stone statue from Easter Island.
Photo by Sheela Sharma
In this scenario, the Polynesians settled on the island about 800 years ago ó and brought rats along with them. The settlers ate the rats, but because the rodents were an invasive species with no other natural predators, they took over the island and feasted on palm nuts, hastening the pace of deforestation. The population remained relatively stable for centuries, but when the Europeans arrived, the islanders who were there fell victim to diseases that their immune systems couldnít fight.

Hunt acknowledged that, "from a biodiversity standpoint, it was a catastrophe." But he said the farming methods used by the ancient islanders were designed to make the best of a bad situation. Rocks were piled up to create circular garden plots known as "manavai," and crops were planted within the circles. Nutrients would quickly leach out of the soil, but fresh rock was pulverized and added to the soil as a mulch.

"They were able to engineer their lives in a way that was really stable and sustainable," Lipo said.

The statues play a different role in the two scientistsí alternate scenario. They said it wouldnít take all that many people to move the statues if they were raised up vertically and then rocked down the road. Taking on the task would have helped blow off steam, and might have served as a kind of social glue, Hunt said.

"Youíre actually putting a lot of your effort into the process of moving a statue rather than fighting," he told me. "Moving the moai was a little bit like playing a football game."






Trial by transport

After "The Statues That Walked" came out, Diamond sharply disputed the conclusions reached by Hunt and Lipo, declaring on climate expert Mark Lynasí blog that they were "considered transparently wrong by essentially all other archaeologists with active programs on Easter Island." Diamond addressed the debate in detail, including the idea that the statues could have been moved vertically.

"This seems an implausible recipe for disaster," Diamond wrote. "Imagine it yourself: If you were told to transport a 90-ton statue 33 feet high over a dirt road, why would you risk tipping and breaking it by transporting it vertically with all its weight concentrated on its small base, rather than avoiding the risk of tipping by laying it flat and distributing its weight over its entire length?"

[...]

Read the full article at: msnbc.msn.com







Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy







Also tune into:

David Hatcher Childress - Easter Island Mystery

David Hatcher Childress - The Crystal Skulls

Hugh Newman - The Olmecs & Megalithic Cultures

Joseph Farrell - The Grid of the Gods Continued

Patrick Heron - The Nephilim and the Pyramid of the Apocalypse














Related Articles
How Deforestation Caused Easter Islandís Society to Collapse
Easter Island archaeology project digs up islandís bodies
Easter Island Heads: Body excavation continues
Easter Island Statue Project Conservation Initiative Preliminary Report
The mystery of Easter Island endures amid debate
Easter Islandís population doubles for solar eclipse


Latest News from our Front Page

Galaxy Poll: 86 per cent of Australians want childhood vaccination to be compulsory?
2015-04-17 23:33
Australians want Prime Minister Tony Abbott to make childhood vaccination compulsory and close loopholes that allow vaccine refusers to put all children at risk. An exclusive national Galaxy poll commissioned by The Sunday Telegraph has revealed overwhelming support to ensure every child is vaccinated. The highest support for compulsory jabs is in South Australia, where 90 per cent support the call. The poll ...
Eye in the sky: Local police now using drones to spy on citizens
2015-04-17 22:09
The Harris County Precinct 1 Constable's Office is doing something that no other agency in Harris County is believed to have done yet: Use drones to help fight crime. It's an eye in the sky for law enforcement, without giving up the element of surprise. "It could absolutely save lives," says Constable Alan Rosen. Rosen says the agency's two new $1,200 drones, which ...
New Zealander of the Year: refuse vaccines, lose money
2015-04-17 22:47
Following in the footsteps of Australia, 2014 New Zealander of the Year, Dr. Lance O’Sullivan, wants to punish people who don’t get vaccinated. The New Zealand Herald (4/15) reports: “A leading New Zealand doctor has called on the Government to follow Australia’s example to cut child welfare payments to families who do not vaccinate their children, saying the policy would help protect ...
Iris Scanner Identifies a Person 40 Feet Away
2015-04-17 22:20
Police traffic stops are in the news again, tragically, sparking a new round of discussion on whether and how to outfit police with cameras and other technology. For several years now, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab Biometrics Center have been testing an iris recognition system that can be used to identify subjects at a range of up to 40 feet. Like ...
Yes, You Can Catch Insanity
2015-04-17 22:29
One day in March 2010, Isak McCune started clearing his throat with a forceful, violent sound. The New Hampshire toddler was 3, with a Beatles mop of blonde hair and a cuddly, loving personality. His parents had no idea where the guttural tic came from. They figured it was springtime allergies. Soon after, Isak began to scream as if in pain ...
More News »