Archaeology

How to move a 4-tonne statue

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    The Polynesian settlers of Easter Island may have transported their gigantic statues by slowly rocking them from side to side to make them 'walk'.

    Nearly 1,000 statues litter the island, with the largest weighing about 74 tonnes and standing more than 10 metres tall. Some archaeologists propose that the statues, or moai, were transported from the quarry in a horizontal position on top of logs. However, Carl Lipo at California State University, Long Beach, and his team say that evidence points instead to an upright mode of transportation. Broken moai that were found along roads sloping upwards mostly lay on their backs, whereas those discovered on downwards sloping roads tended to be lying face down.

    Credit: T. L. HUNT

    The researchers built a 3-metre-high concrete scale model, which they say has the same physical properties as a moai. Using three hemp ropes, a team of 18 people was able to move the statue 100 metres in 40 minutes (pictured). However, others are sceptical of the findings, saying that the shape of the model is inaccurate.

    J. Archaeol. Sci. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2012.09.029 (2012)

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    How to move a 4-tonne statue. Nature 490, 448 (2012) doi:10.1038/490448a

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