Easter Island Monuments – How did they get there?


Unsolved Mysteries: The secret of Easter Island. YouTube.

In the most isolated place on Earth a tiny society built world-class monuments. Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is 1,000 miles from the nearest Pacific island, 3,000 miles from the nearest continent. It is just six by ten miles in size, with no running streams, terrible soil, occasional droughts, and a relatively barren ocean. Yet there are 900 of the famous statues (moai), weighing up to 75 tons and 40 feet high. Four hundred of them were moved many miles from where they were quarried to massive platforms along the shores.

Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo began their archeological work on Easter Island in 2001 expecting to do no more than add details to the standard morality tale of the collapse of the island’s ecology and society—Polynesians discovered Rapa Nui around 400-800AD and soon overpopulated the place (30,000 people on an island the size of San Francisco); competing elites cut down the last trees to move hundreds of enormous statues; after excesses of “moai madness” the elites descend into warfare and cannibalism, and the ecology collapses; Europeans show up in 1722. The obvious lesson is that Easter Island, “the clearest example of a society that destroyed itself“ (Jared Diamond), is a warning of what could happen to Earth unless we learn to live with limits.

A completely different story emerged from Hunt and Lipo’s archaeology. Polynesians first arrived as late as 1200AD. There are no signs of violence—none of the fortifications common on other Pacific islands, no weapons, no traumatized skeletons. The palm trees that originally covered the island succumbed mainly to rats that arrived with the Polynesians and ate all the nuts. The natives burned what remained to enrich the poor soil and then engineered the whole island with small rocks (“lithic mulch”) to grow taro and sweet potatoes. The population stabilized around 4,000 and kept itself in balance with its resources for 500 years until it was totally destroyed in the 18th century by European diseases and enslavement. (It wasn’t Collapse; it was Guns, Germs, and Steel.)

The world-class monuments of Rapa Nui

What was up with the statues? How were they moved? Did they have a role in the sustainable balance the islanders achieved? Hunt and Lipo closely studied the statues found along the moai roads from the quarry. They had D-shaped beveled bottoms (unlike the flat bottoms of the platform statues) angled 14 ° forward. The ones on down slopes had fallen on their face; on up slopes they were on their back. The archeologists concluded they must have been moved upright—”walked,” just as Rapa Nuians long had said. No tree logs were required. Standard Polynesian skill with ropes would suffice.

Archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo attempt to solve the mystery in this documentary. Easter Island is also called Rapa Nui.

Read more here:

Easter island Reconsidered

 

24 thoughts on “Easter Island Monuments – How did they get there?”

  1. So interesting.The monuments are amazing and I much prefer the updated version of the island’s history. Such a tragic end to a thriving community following the arrival of Europeans in the 18th century.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Joycelin. I popped on this morning to do a bit of catching up. I was reading your posy about the stone money and followed the link to your Easter Island post. That’s as far as I got when I had to go (unexpectedly) out. I’ll try to have a look at a few other posts as soon as I can. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, thank you very much. I am slowly going through the reader also. My internet went off and I thought of yours. That’s why I did not post on Friday night. It was vert windy here. Talk soon. 🙂

        Like

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