A new book challenges the previously accepted theory about how the giant stone statues on Easter Island, or “moai,” came to be. The inhabitants of the island when Dutch explorers visited in 1722 were thought to be too impoverished and meek to carve and move the moai. An advanced civilization supposedly constructed the statues but perished after succumbing to civil war and cannibalism centuries before the island was discovered. The Independent reports that archaeologists Carl Lipo of California State University and Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii have a simpler hypothesis: the “impoverished” inhabitants just rocked the statues back and forth like refrigerators to move them.
Or not, says rival archaeologist Paul Bahn. “They’re ignoring the oral tradition and just cherry-picking the data they like.” He insists that a society of about 15,000 is responsible for the moai, “with hundreds of men hauling them to the shore and whole industries devoted to making ropes, rollers and sledges while the rest struggled to feed the workers.”
Has the mystery of Easter Island finally been solved? [Independent]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 26, 2011