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Secrets of Easter Island
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Questions and Responses
Posted April 29,1998


Question
Team: Attach blocks to ends of statues, i.e. head and feet. These blocks would have rounded outsides, where they touch the ground, thus turning the statues into cylinders of a sort, and roll them along roads or wooden rails to the site. Near the site build a ramp of sand and roll statue up it, then dig out in order to place, like Egyptians did with obelisks.

(name withheld by request)
Response from Ted Ralston
The technical capabilities of the ancient Polynesians were quite incredible and certainly encompassed the use of rollers, which are cylinders. However, no one has yet evaluated the encasing concept from the point of view of materials or technique. There is no evidence of any type of encasing material in the record of the land, however.

Question
I would like to know if it is possible the moai statues could have been loaded on to some sort of boat and then sailed or rowed to the other side of the island? Would there be resources on the island for them to build a boat & are the waters calm enough to carry a statue that big safely around the island?

(name withheld by request)
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
The waters are often very rough. Coastal loading areas in the vicinity of the statue quarry are not known. However, "canoe ramps" exist in some areas, that may have been used for loading rafts. No clear evidence is available, but the concept is feasible.

Question
One method which has not been fully explored is the possibility that the moai were transported to their respective ahu (platforms) via rafts. Since Rano Raraku (the quarry), is relatively near the water, and since the vast majority of ahu are situated on the coastline - it would not be unreasonable to posit the use of rafts to transport the moai around the perimeter of the island.

This seems to me at least as feasible as the prevailing theories of dragging the statues over remarkably rocky and hilly terrain.

David Brookman
Philadelphia, PA
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
The use of rafts as you describe is not an unreasonable hypothesis; although there is no archaeological evidence of a coastal loading site, canoe ramps exist and could have been used to load statues on ramps. However, overland transport is clear and unquestionable for 97 statues. Thanks for the interest.

Question
The various theories of moving the statues by pivoting, tilting, rocking, etcetera seem to consider the terrain as it exists today. It seems that the first requirement to move an object from point

A to point B is that there must exist a relatively smooth or navigable route between the two points. This may have been a natural or artificial path of earth and/or sand or other material since eroded away. Once you have established the relatively smooth path the task of movement without damage is much easier. Then methods of mechanical advantage such as levers, inclined planes, pulleys, etc. of various arrangements could do the job. It is interesting to think of the possibilities if they had ice available, or the means of making ice. At any rate I'm suggesting that the neoliths had to be transported over a relatively smooth path.

Robert Homan
Las Vegas, NV
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
In fact, the known transport roads are relatively accommodating but only very perfunctory and often smooth. The terrain is quite hilly. No ice is available, then or now. Thanks for the interest.

Question
Why isn't it possible that the island was settled from both east and west? From both Polynesia and Peru?

terryglss
Response from Ted Ralston
The evidence from language, culture, technology, and artifacts clearly supports west to east propagation. Recent experimental voyaging with Polynesian double canoes has provided the final missing ingredient, i.e. a validation of upwind sailing and non-instrumental navigation.

Question
One theory that probably has not been considered is the use of water on land to move the megaliths. I don't mean floating them on a barge down a river, but actually constructing a large portable trough or tank that is filled with water. The megalith is tied to a raft-like structure and the tank is built around the megalith. The tank is filled with water and the megalith is slid or floated forward in the tank. The tank is then deconstructed and shifted forward to allow for the next shift of the megalith. Have you seen how a canal or a ditch is reinforced on the sides when under construction? As the digging progresses, the sides are shifted forward and relocated. Water is obviously a plentiful resource for the island, and the fact that many of these giant stones were moved makes it seem slightly plausible that water could be used on land as part of the plan.

Corrine Terebas
Buffalo, New York
Response from Ted Ralston No theory can ever be discounted - some have more support than others do. The present evidence does indicate that a relatively fixed amount of material (rocks) was used in the "work train" that accompanied a moai in motion. Whatever ramps, platforms, or fillers were required were constructed with this loose material, then deconstructed as that step was accomplished - very similar to the modern use of scaffolding, wall forms, blocking, etc. However, the concept of water tanks has not been considered.

Question
Could the statues have been created "on sight" out of chunks of lava left from ancient eruptions of volcanoes rather than moved after carving?

(name withheld by request)
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
The archaeological record is very clear: the statues were all finished prior to moving them to their ahu sites. The pukao were shaped on site and the surface of the statues smoothed before being lifted into place.

Question
As a lay person, I'd say they used log-rollers to transport the statue. To erect the statue I'd guess that they used a wooden backdrop and log-rollers and used ropes to pull it up the wooden backdrop with the help of the same log-rollers. Sorta like the Egyptians used to erect obelisks.

Charles Ertel
Schenectady NY
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
Log rollers are reasonable to assume and we have tested palmwood rollers. They function perfectly when fresh.

Question
Wouldn't be possible with their mortar technology to mix and form these stones in place, and shape these forms in the exact spots they now rest?

(name withheld by request)
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
The carving process, from beginning to final stages, is clearly evident in the quarry, where all but about 30 statues were carved. These 30 came from other, smaller quarries and were transported, finished, to their final sites. Thanks for your interest.


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