June 21, 2012 11:31 am
How were those gigantic Easter Island statues—the moai—moved from the quarry to their final stations? One going theory, popularized by Guns, Germs and Steel author Jared Diamond, has it that they were put on wooden sledges and pulled over a system of log rails. But here’s another theory: the statues, ranging from four to 33 feet, weighing as much as 80 tons, walked to their places, as islanders like to say.
Looking at the many moai abandoned there in various stages of completion, [archaeologist Sergio] Rapu explained how they were engineered to walk: Fat bellies tilted them forward, and a D-shaped base allowed handlers to roll and rock them side to side. Last year, in experiments funded by National Geographic’s Expeditions Council, [Terry] Hunt and [Carl] Lipo showed that as few as 18 people could, with three strong ropes and a bit of practice, easily maneuver a 10-foot, 5-ton moai replica a few hundred yards. In real life, walking miles with much larger moai would have been a tense business. Dozens of fallen statues line the roads leading away from the quarry. But many more made it to their platforms intact.
Modern-day people may be familiar with this technique from trying to move a heavy bookshelf: you scoot one corner forward, then the other. Here’s a video of Hunt, Lipo, and others testing the “statues walking” theory.
The statue does look like it’s lumbering along, doesn’t it?
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