For many people, the idea of the Easter Island statues – otherwise known as Moai – is something akin to a manmade phenomenon. Like many other items that we find scattered across the Earth, the origins and the format of these amazing monolithic figurines is something of great debate. Whilst they were carved and created by the Rapa Nui people between 1250-1500 CE, many other elements of their history are certainly not definitive. Almost every Moai out there comes with the massive heads, and most of the time they are about as large as the body of the statue itself – the stones were not only left on the island, but were transported to outer parts of the island and left with large stone platforms allowing them to stand untouched.
The statues themselves are supposed to be recreations of the old ancestors who would have been deified in the past, giving them a certain culture significance as well as being a fine example of the quality of art that we can find on this planet. The statues, 887 in total, have been transported around and put in other locations and naturally it’s a question of how that’s being asked.
Many people are unsure of how something so incredible could be moved, with almost every Moai statue being far too big to have been moved back in the day. We could move them today using construction equipment, sure, but the Polynesian people never had this in pervious eras. Given that the tallest is 33ft high, they would have been nearly impossible to move or carry once erected and therefore it becomes very hard to see how this would have happened.
So, is there anything else to the Easter Island statues? As always, conspiracy experts and theorists out there think so. Whilst many of them are open-ended, we’ve listed some of the most popular themes that have existed.
The most commonly heard theme has been that of the Moai actually having the capacity to “walk” into place – as we discussed above, moving such an incredible feature would have been a subject of near impossibility. The tallest statue was 33ft in height, sure, but it also weighed an incredible 82 tons. Imagine moving and placing something of that size and volume using only manpower? It sounds almost impossible, does it not?
In the early 1980s, a large group of researchers decided to look into this with more detail than before. They attempted to carry out a recreation of the statues and moving them by using only tools that would have actually be available to those who were living here back in the day, when the stones were made. Using historical data they managed to find out the kind of tools they have to work with, and began the process.
As you might imagine, this was more or less impossible – there was nothing sustainable or reasonably possible that would have allowed such a feat to occur.
In 1987 the American archaeologist Charles Love started to work on moving a 10 ton replica. He had to use a vehicle with two sledges on it, and then he and a group of 25 men proceeded to move the statue 150 ft in distance in just two minutes!
An experiment a decade later carried out by Pavel Pavel and Thor Heyerdahl proved that it could actually be moved, and that a statue of around 20 tons could be moved as much as 330ft in a day.
The idea, then, is that the people tied these massive objects to ropes and “walked” them into place – if you seek into Rapa Nui folklore, they even discuss them walking into place “by magic” – what do you think?
Another popular theory that does not really stack up is that of the Rat Work theory – this is a rather simplistic theory that the people of the islands were killed off by rats eating all of their plants and their goods. Although they were believed to have eaten the rats to stay alive to make up for the lack of crops, it’s naturally not the best of diets for an entire civilization to be living on when building giant equipment like this.
The ratwork element of the conspiracies about the origins of Easter Island and indeed the massive statues being put in place believes that the people were wiped out by the rats, eventually leaving the stones just standing on their own with no real civilization left to protect them.
Given the ideas of the people here wiping themselves out by removing the trees too quickly and wiping out their ecosystem, could it be possible that this has some actual merit? According to UCLA geographer Jared Diamond, it’s a key example across the human race of a civilization getting ahead of themselves and wiping out an entire civilization along the way.
However, many other speculations point to the fact that populations dropping in this part of the world only became a thing when European nations started to visit the area and “claimed it for themselves”. Naturally, this causes the population to plummet and could be a better explanation for what happened to the people here.
This theory, though, does not really give any kind of explanation as to why the stones were more or less left alone, as they were – is it possible people were wiped out before anything significant could be managed with the stones?
A Grand Cover-Up
One of the most popular theories comes from the recent discovery of a new mystery underneath the heads themselves. Archaeologists found that the massive heads stuck in the ground on Easter Island are more than just big faces; they are full-blown sculptures with full bodies and designs otherwise. This was discovered in 2015, and crucially it was also discovered that each of the bodies which had been covered for so long were actually covered in petroglyphs – old symbols that we can no longer read, inscribed in an ancient, unknown language.
Given that around 150 of the bodies are buried deep into the slopes of the volcano here on Easter Island, most people just believed that the heads were just that, heads. Other statues stand proudly and totally unearthed, but it’s a common (mis)conception that the heads were just large heads standing on their own. Indeed, they are actually full sculptures like the rest of the products which stand on the island. As you might imagine, this done a pretty good job of throwing the cat in amongst the pigeons and ruined a lot of typical academic research into the islands.
It’s a discovery that might not shock those who already knew that many statues have bodies, but it’s more the writing that sends such a powerful message across the board. Thanks to the hard work carried out on the bodies, stunning scriptures in their own right, the massive inscriptions on the bodies have some kind of significant meaning – they must!
This is something that will be discovered and updated as time goes on but, at the time of writing, this makes for one of the most fascinating discoveries when it comes to looking at the massive change in public perception.
Moved by “Friends”
One of the most common conspiracies that you hear, though, comes from the idea that the stones were lifted not by their creators, but by aliens. Alien conspiracies are all the rage and make a great way of explaining away something we have no answer for – but is it more likely to be true in this case?
The idea is that the statues were created for, or at least heavily influenced, by another species who came down to visit us. Then, they were moved into the right position by these extra-terrestrial beings – does it sound likely?
For many people, it does. According to Erich von Daniken, a popular author, he wrote a book known as Chariots of the Gods: Unsolved Mysteries of the Past. In this book, one of the angles that Daniken takes is that the Egyptians could never have been capable of building the pyramids. They simply lacked the strength, resources or the intelligence to pull off such a marvellous design and style.
Many theories are also used to talk about things like Mayan pyramids and the Nazca line drawings; they are also a commonly used theory to try and support the moving of these stones.
The stone which is used to build these stones, though, hails from the islands themselves – it’s taken from an old, dead volcano on the north-east side of the island. The only mystery about how the statues were built is how they managed it – it’s a feat of true artisan workmanship. Then, we need to work out why they were built – and how they were able to be moved from their point of creation to the location that they all rest at today.
Naturally, the easiest explanation is that “we” never done it – our friends from other solar systems did.
Periods of Time
According to various sources, the very timeline of the Easter Island may be wrong. Indeed, some claim that the island was inhabited by North American bloodlines at one stage before it was “discovered” making it easy to see where the reference and ideology for the statue comes from. It’s a popular trait amongst various different populations to have these kinds of stones built in some form of homage to the leadership or royalty of that specific era. These islands look to have been no different, but the times we think of the islands in may be wrong.
It’s estimated that the statues were built over a period of three or four centuries. However, the vastly different styles and phases of design throughout the various statues points to it potentially having taken place over a far longer period of history than we are led to believe in common opinion. Since they are far more Pacific in their design and their element – and they bear no resemblance whatsoever to the Polynesian people who once claimed these lands, who actually built the statues – many believe they come from this kind of culture, instead.
Many heads lie half-finished in quarries and other areas, almost as if they were left behind and never finished, abandoned in a hurry by those who created them. Is it possible that the timeline for their creation and their end has been miscalculated?
With so many half-finished heads (especially given we know now that they all had bodies) makes it appear as if the “last age” of Moai statues being created was abruptly stopped. The main problem that many people have with this is the fact that so many were complete – surely, given their range and the number left behind, indicates it would have taken longer than we are led to believe?
Moved via Roads
One popular theory which has stood for many years was that the roads on Easter Island were used to drag the stones along and to take them to their spots. This was given weight by the fact that many finished old stones were found discarded at the side of many of these roads, making it seem plausible that they would have been dragged along in this fashion. However, this was eventually disputed by archaeological experts in 2010 who discovered that the roads were actually built for ceremonial purposes. This was first suggested in 1914 by Katherine Routledge, and was “debunked” by Thor Heyerdahl in the 1950s.
However, it turns out that Ms. Routledge was mostly right after all. The roads were built in a concave manner, meaning that move heavy statues along such a resource would have been immensely challenging at best, nearly impossible at worst. The response, then, is that the statues actually just fell down as time passed and they eventually were weakened, simply falling over thanks to the passing of time and the weakening of their structure at the bottom.
The roads also all point to the large extinct volcano, Rano Raraku. This is most likely seen as the symbolic point of the island, and the roads pointed here instead of the other way around.
The ear designs is something that is a big talking point for those who want to try and disprove the normal accepted wisdom about the creatures. In the recent past, revered author Rupert Murrill suggested that the skulls on the island were long, and narrow – they also found exceptionally long ears. Ear elongation is a big part of culture in many parts of the world around about this era, and many elongated ear tools have been found when looking for artefacts on Easter Island which were used for cultural purposes by the people.
Indeed, Thor Heyerdahl even mentions that there was once a major war between two tribes; one with long-ears, the other with short-ears. Sound ridiculous yet?
The story goes that in 1675 the long-earned tribe inhabited the land as their own. They then created a massive ditch, and filled it with bushwoods. The plan was that the long-haired people would fill the ditch with the short-eared people and burn them. A particularly vocal long-eared husband told his short-eared wife this, and she told others with short ears about the coming attacks.
A massive fight broke out and eventually it was those with long-ears who were driven to the ditch. They were then slaughtered and burnt alive, with only two escaping to a cave. One was captured and killed, the last left to survive on their own.
However, this story – as exciting as it may sound – falls down when things like facts get brought to the table. Captain James Cook, who visited Easter Island in the 1770s, said that he found huge numbers of people with long ears. The chances are, then, that the statues were built with the idea of capturing this look and feel of person.
Should any big war have broken out on the island, it must have occurred after Cook arrived and after the symbolic statues were built.
After all, why built statues of your enemies?
The Seven Creators
One of the last theories we want to explore about these massive stones and their origins comes from the Seven Stone Giants. Seven 16 feet, 18 ton statues stand alone at Ahu Akivi, each of which are supposed to symbolize seven explorers sent by King Hoto Matu from Polynesia. However, some believe that they were actually built as a monument to Polynesian Gods, not chiefs or the highest ranked members of society at the time. This gains weight just by looking at many other cultures; they idea of seven creators is not exclusive to this island alone.
From the Egyptians to ancient British Druids, seven plays a key role within the development of creation, change and construction all across cultures throughout history.
This is one of the main reasons that this theory stands up – the relation to many other parts of the world and cultures across time. This theory is one that takes a bit of pre-reading and learning to get used to, though, so we recommend you check out this link to see what one of the more long-term beliefs about this kind of theory is.
We’re not so sure ourselves, but it certainly has merit.
What we will probably never know is how this all came about or how the structures managed to certain their strength and style over so many years. From being buried naturally and eventually being re-discovered by our archaeologists to being the placement of aliens, the theories and ideas about Easter Island will likely never go away.
One thing is for sure, though; they are one of the most interesting sets of natural objects you are ever likely to see on this planet. They completely alter the way that the world can look and feel to most people, adding another junction in which it seems like the culture and the world we know actually is nothing like what was suggested.
The trouble with something like these massive Moai statues, though, is the fact that they are so incredible like natural constructions beyond the timeline they were built – it’s hard to believe that any culture, regardless of their advancement of the time, could be so precise and then so mobile.