The huge stone figures on Easter Island have committed explorers, scientists and the wider world for centuries, but now experts…
The huge stone figures on Easter Island have committed explorers, scientists and the wider world for centuries, but now experts say they have cracked one of the greatest mysteries: why the statues are where they are.
Experts from Binghamton University in New York say they have analyzed the sites of the megalithic platforms, or on which many of the statues called moai sit, and review places of the island. resources, and have discovered that the structures are typically located near sources of fresh water.
They say that the discovery reflects the idea that aspects of the construction of platforms and statues, such as their size, may be bound to abundance and quality
“What is important about it is that it shows that the status placements themselves are not strange ritual place ̵
1; [the ahu and moai] represents ritual in the sense that there is symbolic meaning for them, but they are integrated into the life of society, “says Prof Carl Lipo, co-author of the research.
Moais in Rapa Nui National Park. Photography: Tankbmb / Getty Images / iStockphoto
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, has more than 300 megalithic platforms, each of which may have been made by a separate community. The first of these is believed to have been built in the 13th century, and many are found around the coast.
It is believed that the monuments represent ancestors and were linked to ritual activity that forms a focus for societies, but the cause of their placement was previously a mystery. While studies have suggested that sites may have been selected because of a link to key resources, the team says recent research is the first attempt to review such claims.
The team focused on eastern island, where various resources have been mapped well and looked at the distribution of 93 megalithic platforms that were built before European sailors that appeared in the 18th century.
After finding a link to the vicinity of stones used for tools or for the monuments, they looked at whether ahu was found near other important resources: gardens scattered with stones in which crops such as sweet potatoes were grown, places linked to fishing and freshwater sources.
moai stone statue at the Hanga Roa quarry. Photo: Joe Carter / British Defense Ministry / Handout / EPA
Lipo said he was interested in the latter after he and his colleagues began digging in where the residents of Rapa Nui got their drinking water from. The island has no permanent currents, and there is little evidence that the residents trusted the island’s lakes.
Fresh water passes through the ground to aquifers and seeps into caves and pops up around the coast. “It is amazing at low tide when the water goes down, suddenly there are currents that go off in different places right on the coast that are just pure fresh water,” says Lipo. “We actually noticed when we did a survey on the island, that we would see horses drinking from the sea.” Historical data show that the islands drank this pretty good water, while studies indicate that they also did wells to catch drinking water.
The result of the new research, published in the journal Plos One, reveals the proximity to freshwater sites is the best explanation for ahu sites – and explains why they are harvesting both in the country and on the coast.
“The exception to the rule of being on the coast where water comes out is actually fulfilled by the fact that there is also water there – it is through the caves’ sites,” Lipo says. There were explanations for adding historic wells ahu sites apparently without fresh water.
Lipo said the results chimed in with the team’s experience on the ground. “Every time we saw massive amounts of fresh water, we saw giant statues,” he said. “It was ridiculously predictable,” he added.
The result, Lipo said, was sensible, as drinking water is crucial for communities and it is impractical to get miles for a quick fraud. “You should do things near the fine water,” he said.
Moai statues at Ahu Tongariki, on Easter Island. Photo: Joe Carter / British Defense Ministry / Handout / EPA
But he says the study also places emphasis on the idea that societies competed and interacted through monument building, in contrast to the idea that the islands engaged in fatal violence over scarce natural resources – something Lipo says there is little evidence for. In fact, the team is now examining whether different aspects of the statues, such as their size or other functions, may be linked to the quality of water resources, which possibly offers a way in which a society can demonstrate a competitive advantage for other groups of islanders.
And community and cooperation, emphasizing Lipo, was crucial to the construction of the monuments. “Everything that brings you together will make you stronger and let you survive,” he said. “I think it’s the secret of Easter.”