Archaeologists have disproved the fifty-year-old theory underpinning our understanding of how the famous stone statues were moved around Easter Island.Fieldwork led by researchers at University College London and The University of Manchester, has shown the remote Pacific island’s ancient road system was primarily ceremonial and not solely built for transportation of the figures.
A complex network of roads up to 800-years-old crisscross the Island between the hat and statue quarries and the coastal areas.
Laying alongside the roads are dozens of the statues- or moai.
The find will create controversy among the many archaeologists who have dedicated years to finding out exactly how the moai were moved, ever since Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl first published his theory in 1958.
Heyerdahl and subsequent researchers believed that statues he found lying on their backs and faces near the roads were abandoned during transportation by the ancient Polynesians.
But his theory has been completely rejected by the team led by Manchester’s Dr Colin Richards and UCL’s Dr Sue Hamilton.
Instead, their discovery of stone platforms associated with each fallen moai – using specialist ‘geophysical survey’ equipment – finally confirms a little known 1914 theory of British archaeologist Katherine Routledge that the routes were primarily ceremonial avenues.
The statues, say the Manchester and UCL team just back from the island, merely toppled from the platforms with the passage of time.
I’ve been interested in Easter Island for a long time. Here is a report I did back in 2002 which has some awesome pictures.