Friday Fun Fact: Easter Island Statues + Hemp

Easter Island Hemp Rope theory
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Do you ever wonder how those giant stone statues in Polynesia’s Easter Island came to be? Many theories have circulated regarding how these impeccably heavy statues, known as moai, were moved to where they stand now. Was it from the help of extraterrestrials or with the use of log rollers? According to California State University Long Beach archaeologist Carl Lipo, all that was needed to move the statues was hemp rope and elbow grease.

Using Hemp, These Statues may Have ‘Walked’

In 2012, Lipo and his team created reproductions of Easter Island’s statues, attempting to solve how ancient people may have moved the iconic 9,600-lb. (4.35 metric tons) heads from their quarry. “We constructed a precise three-dimensional 4.35 metric ton replica of an actual statue and demonstrated how positioning the center of mass allowed it to fall forward and rock from side to side causing it to ‘walk,'” Carl Lipo and his colleagues wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

They tested this at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. One rope was tied from behind near the top of the head at the eyes to keep the statue from falling on its face. The other two, tied to the same location at the eyes, were stretched on either side and pulled in alternating fashion to rock the statue. Chanting “heave-ho,” a team of 18 people managed to get the statue walking using three hemp ropes.

“Each roll caused the statue to take a step,” Lipo said. In under an hour, the statue traveled 100 meters.

Lipo's statue experiment
Using ropes made from hemp, Lipo and his team replicated his theory on how the ancients moved these statues.

Easter Island has nearly 1000 of these massive stone heads, with some propped up on platforms and others that seemed to be on their sides. Perhaps these statues were left and abandoned. Lipo explains that the statues on the roadsides are fell from an upright position, contradicting the theory that they were horizontally rolled on logs.

“The majority of statues are found facedown when the road slopes downhill, and often on their backs when going uphill,” he said.

But where did they get the hemp to make the ropes? Researchers argue that Easter Islanders would have had woody shrubs similar to marijuana plants to use in making rope.

“Multiple lines of evidence, including the ingenious engineering to ‘walk’ statues, point to Easter Island as a remarkable history of success in a most unlikely place,” they concluded.

Do you think hemp was used to move these magical monumental statues?

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