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Secrets of Easter Island
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Questions and Responses
Posted May 19,1998

Is the stone that the Moai are made from native to Easter Island?

Name withheld by request

Could it be possible that the primitives transported a block of stone & carved it in place, then cleaned up the debris?

Name withheld by request
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
The Rapanui people transported the statues fully carved from the quarry Rano Raraku to the ceremonial sites where they were erected. 397 statues remain in the quarry.

J. Van Tilburg.

Do you really have proof the the statues were finished prior to moving? Perhaps they were left in a shape to better facilitate moving them and then finished on site.

Mel Mezzo
Columbus, OH
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
Dear Cassandra,
Mel, the archaeological evidence of the quarry and the transport roads illustrates without a doubt that the statues were finished prior to moving.

Dear Jo Anne:
You may recall that Hui Lama from Kamehameha Schools will be travelling to Rapa Nui from June 1st thru June 14th. Is there anything that our 20 students might do to assist you on the project while we are there? Our current plan involves reforestation and some archeology. We also want to e-mail photos back to our Web site at the Bishop Museum. Is e-mail available to you through existing technology or is it only through your NOVA facilities. Could you help us? We will bring powerbooks and digital cameras to assist us. We aren't sure about the capabilities to e-mail from Rapa Nui. Thanks,

Chuck Burrows
Science Teacher
Kamehameha School
Honolulu, Hawaii
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
Dear Chuck, thanks so much for the message. There are many ways you can help, as we are developing an educational program centered on the replica moai we have created. Love to have your help. Can you call Ted Ralston, now back in LA, for more details? You can reach him through Ka'Ala Pang or Gordon Pi'ianaia. More later. Much Aloha, Jo Anne.

I seem to remember a theory I once heard about how the moai were actually a type of concrete, and that there was a residual chemical mixture on the stone. Is it possible that the statues were poured into molds and then finished?

Perhaps some method of dissolving the stone after it was quarried? Has there been any crystalline structure analysis of the stones to see if this has any merit?

Ryan Remencus
St. Marys, GA
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
Ryan, the moai are carved of compressed volcanic ash from quarries on the island at a place called Rano Raraku.

J. Van Tilburg.

To the Nova Team on Easter Island:
I found the 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," very interesting. Was it not harder to move them carved? Could we please have more information on the record that the statues were all finished prior to moving them. Do you know why they had to be carved first?

Name withheld by request
Response from Jo Anne Van Tilburg
Thanks for your message. There are 397 statues still in the quarry, in various stages of carving. All of the statues "in transport" to the ceremonial sites where they were erected, in contrast, are fully carved, down to the very smallest detail. It may have been easier to move them uncarved, but our experiment showed very nicely that fully-carved statues can be moved with no damage to them at all. Our moai got safely to his ahu without breaking, thanks in part to the design of the transport frame on which he was lying. I don't know why they were carved before moving, but I imagine there were many reasons. On Rapa Nui, there are no simple answers to all questions, but we try to look within the island's culture for clues. Thanks.

J. Van Tilburg.

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