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Easter Island Continues To Baffle The Heck Out Of Archaeologists

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For 50 years, archaeologists assumed that the 800-year-old road network on Easter Island was used to transport the mysterious moai. But new fieldwork from UK researchers shows that the roads were mostly ceremonial. How did those blockheads get there?

In 1958, Thor Heyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame posited that the roads on Easter Island were used for transportation, and that knocked-over statues next to the road were abandoned by their ancient Polynesian builders. Researchers from University College London and The University of Manchester have however discovered stone platforms that correspond with the fallen statues. According to Dr. Colin Richards of the University of Manchester:

The truth of the matter is, we will never know how the statues were moved [...] Ever since Heyerdahl, archeologists have come up with all manner of theories – based on an underlying assumption that the roads were used for transportation of the moai, from the quarry at the volcanic cone Rano Raraku [...] What we do now know is that the roads had a ceremonial function to underline their religious and cultural importance [...] They lead – from different parts of the island – to the Rano Raraku volcano where the Moai were quarried.


This evidence confirms Katherine Routledge's mostly ignored 1914 theory that the roads were primarily ceremonial. Says UCL's Dr Sue Hamilton:

It all makes sense: the moai face the people walking towards the volcano [...] What is shocking is that Heyerdahl actually found some evidence to suggest there were indeed platforms [...] But like many other archaeologists, he was so swayed by his cast iron belief that the roads were for transportation – he completely ignored them.


As for how the statues got there, c'mon archaeologists! Jack Kirby answered this decades ago.


[Via University of Manchester. Photo via Kahokusan's Flickr]