Moai Ready to be Raised
by Liesl Clark
May 1, 1998
For a moment, it felt as though the 20,000-pound moai could have been
pulled over a great distance. With the force of a team of 50 Rapa Nui
people holding onto two ropes, pulling power was the easiest part of
today's puzzle. They gripped the ropes and pulled as one team, and once the
moai started to move it slid almost effortlessly along lateral logs up a
stone ramp to the base of the pedestal where the moai will be raised.
A crane was used this morning to move the moai up a slope, and the cement
statue was positioned face down and base first for the raising sequence.
Diesel smoke and engine noise filled the air as the various crane maneuvers
occupied the team's attention until mid day. The transit rig, or sledge,
which is an A-frame of logs fit together and lashed by expert canoeists
Darus Ane and Ted Ralston, seems to be the most stable part of the
whole transport operation. Eucalyptus logs lubricated with banana stumps
proved to be a slick surface for the moai and transit rig as they were
pulled over watered-down logs.
The moai sits on a base, or pedestal, 4.3 feet (1.3 meters) above ground
level. Here the transit rig extends beyond the base of the moai, and the
team will have to cut the wood that lies beyond the base so it can be
lifted with the transit rig attached. How will they cut this wood? Will
they use a chain saw or an ancient obsidian axe? Will this jeopardize the
stability of the transit rig that has provided support for the 9.5-ton
concrete moai? And, more importantly, is there any archaeological evidence to
prove that this is how the early Easter Islanders would have done it?
The raising of the moai will begin tomorrow under the direction of Chilean
archaeologist Claudio Cristino.