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Secrets of Easter Island
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Questions and Responses
Posted April 26,1998


Question
I was on Easter Island for a week last November. It was my honeymoon (what a strange place to go, isn't it?) I'm not an expert, but as I'm reading your daily dispatches I want to send you my comments when they arise to my brain, since I think that Easter Island is a really fascinating place, and any kind of expedition like yours is really needed: we're not very knowledgeable about the Island secrets indeed.

Three questions:

1. The pukao your local artist is going to build must be transported to Tongariki also. How're you going to do that? A new theory on transportation, or by modern methods?
2. How is Rapu going to build the pukao: old obsidian tools or modern ones?
3. Why did you select this season (Autumn) of the year and not Easter Island summer—probably with less rain than now? I'll get very disappointed if your expedition has to end without success due to stories like: "the extremely rainy weather didn't let us build correctly our concrete moai, and bla, bla, bla..."

My sincere wishes of success, Sirs.

Marcelino Cortina
Oviedo, Spain
Response
1) Due to time constraints, we will be using modern methods (a crane and a flat bed truck) to transport the pukao from the quarry to Tongariki. It is an interesting question, however, as to how the pukao were transported from the quarry to the ahu sites.
2) The pukao will be made using modern tools for the most part. However, for the film and the Web site, sculptor Raphael Rapu has demonstrated the traditional methods of carving, using an original ancient tool called a Toki, made of basalt. (see Moai Mold Ready for Concrete.)
3) We chose to do our experiments here at this time of year because it is during the off-peak tourist season. This is better for our filming needs and for the tourists, who might be disappointed to see a film crew working at the ancient sites.

Question
Margee Ralston is an old friend, who spent many a nights at our house while canoe paddling. And perhaps Darus Ane—did his father go to Punahou? If his name is Charlie, then he and I are classmates. Wow! I am surprised at how close some of the names are to Hawaiian. Like Hawaiian land divisions are called Ahupuaa. I will watch your progress! Good luck.

Bob Cooper
Hilo, Hawaii

Question
I am the daughter of Carlyle S. Smith, an archaeologist who went on the Aku-Aku expedition to Easter Island in '55-56. I think that either Heyerdahl or Mulloy are closest to understanding how the statues were moved. I missed your special on TV. When will it be on again and can I obtain a tape of it?

Pamela Smith Creed
Response
You haven't missed the NOVA special. It is scheduled to be broadcast in the year 2000. Check our TV Schedule closer to the time for an exact broadcast date.

Comment
Please send more info on the mamari tablet on the lunar calendar.

P.S.—Thanks for the wonderful Web site.

(name withheld by request)

Comment
They used a system of pulleys and rope.

Jonathan Blenkush
Browerville MN

Question
Has anyone ever considered the possibility that the last ice age exposed a chain of islands across the South Pacific, enabling the travel and settlement of not only the islands, but of South America?

David Harper
McAllen, TX

Question
Is it reasonable to presume that the statues were built on their site rather than having to have been moved to it?

Elsewhere on this Web site it is stated that they are constructed of volcanic ash. Perhaps this ash was mined and transported to the site as a powder. It may have been used to construct the statues using methods such as building a sandcastle or a snowman.

The ash, of course, would have been much more transportable than the fully assembled statue. It is also interesting to note the masonry skills of the Polynesian ancestors which is described also on these pages.

(name withheld by request)
Response
The tuff, or hardened volcanic ash (rock) that the moai are made of came only from quarries around the island; the rock was not present at the ahu sites.

Question
Dear NOVA:

As the author of the foremost book on redheads, The Redhead Encyclopedia, I was thrilled to see NOVA researching the moai of Easter Island. In the preface of my book, I talk briefly about Admiral Roggeveeen's awe of the Easter Island moai, and his description of the people there. He described a portion of the population to have reddish or cinnamon-tinged hair. I found that interesting, of course. I have been searching for an ancient redhead culture where we redheads came from many thousands of years ago. This was one area in which to consider—but it isn't likely.

One disappointment of your information on the moai is the lack of reference to the "red caps" some of the moai had on their heads. We redheads like to think that the caps signify their worship of redheaded people (highly unscientific conclusion, but a pleasant one for us!).

I would love to see, along with the 15 million redheads in the country, a serious study on where redheads came from. We liked the story of the Taka Maklan mummies with red hair, in the middle of China, no less! [Editor's note: See The Mysterious Mummies of China.] So, we here at Redheads International would love to hear more about where the heck our flame-haired ancestors came from. Can you do it?

Keep up the great work!

Stephen Douglas
Newport Beach, CA
Response
The story of where your flame-haired ancestors arose would be the subject of a different Web site, and we can't do it now. However, we have referred to the "red caps" or "pukao" elsewhere on this Web site. See The Plan, The Team Arrives, and Moai Mold Ready for Concrete.

Comment
The legend of "walking" statues is interesting but probably of little technical help. The word may have had a broader meaning in the original language than it does in English; that is, it may have meant "moving" in general rather than "moving with one foot on the ground."

Donald Webb
Guelph, Ontario

Comment
Sounds like everyone assumes that the statues were carved on the site of the quarry, and then moved to their final resting places. If it was my responsibility to move these huge stones, what I would do is first shape the giant stones into cylindrical shapes right out of the quarry, then roll them to where their final resting spot is, erect the cylindrical stones and then carve them to their present form.

Robert Procell
Gilroy CA

Comment
To whom it may concern,

Maybe the stones existed there on the shores and the people of Easter Island carved them into great statues.

(name withheld by request)

Question
The rolling terrain could work as bridge piers, with logs as rails to slide the statues from the quarry to the placement. Or, the rocks were carved in place, only the rocks transported to the final site. Or, the rocks were in place to start with—they could have been excavated? Does the island have enough wood for any of the methods?

Charles Wolff
Great Falls, Montana
Response
The stone source for the moai came from the quarries and was not present at the ahu sites. Today there is no available palm wood, specifically Jubea chilensis, which was used by the ancient Easter Islanders on the island. We will be using eucalyptus wood, which was introduced later to the island, but should be strong enough for our experiments.


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