The Easter Island Moai
Episode #1 of the course “Mysterious World Landmarks”
There are nearly 900 mysterious stone giants on Easter Island. Carved from volcanic ash, shaped like men, and averaging 13 feet tall and over 14 tons, the Easter Island Moai are estimated to be 400-600 years old. No one knows exactly how they got where they are, but nearly 300 of them were each carved in the quarries at the island’s now-extinct volcano Rano Raraku and somehow transported to stand at the rock cliffs that overlook the sea, particularly at the island’s southeastern side. The others lie in the quarries or along the roads, abandoned. No one knows why.
The Moai range in stages of completion, which visitors to the quarry can still see today. They are anywhere from 3 feet to nearly 72 feet tall, although the tallest one to stand was 33 feet. The locations where they stand are thought to be ceremonial sites, where rituals took place that connected the local islanders to their gods. They may be the effigies of gods, great heroes, tribal leaders, or other figures, but no one can be sure.
Since the 18th century, archaeologists and historians from around the world have attempted to understand how the stone giants were produced and came to be where they are. Local legend has said that these gods walked into place. A recent study led by researchers at California State University and the University of Hawaii created a duplicate statue of roughly the average size and shape from the island’s quarries and used a team of people with ropes to stand the statue upright and rock it back and forth, so it “walked” to its final destination. The demonstration has caused controversy about the traditional theory that the Moai were rolled into place using logs.
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