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Easter Island statues walked, not rolled, into place


A new study found that Easter Island's famous heads may have been walked into place.


Martin Bernetti

Easter Island's giant heads have remained one of the world's greatest mysteries for centuries.

A new theory, posited in this month's National Geographic, is that Polynesian natives used a system of ropes and manpower to walk the huge heads into their final resting places.

Many theories as to how the native islanders got the heads into place (and what they did with all the trees on the island) have arisen over the years.

According to Yahoo News, the most popular theory is that they used sleds made from the trees to carry the statues.

The latter theory was popularized by UCLA anthropologist, Jared Diamond's book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed."

The book used the deforestation scenario as an example of needless environmental degradation and consequent destruction.

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Now researchers at the California State University at Long Beach and the University of Hawaii say that the island was never particularly verdant and that, instead of dying from environmental disaster and starvation, the islanders died after the first contact with Europeans, said Yahoo News.

The trees never grew back, they claim, as rats brought by the original settlers had brought over had eaten the palm nuts that would have naturally regrown the trees, said the Los Angeles Times.

As for transporting the statues, MSNBC reported that the researchers claim that natives used ropes to sway the statues back and forth to create the walking effect.

Last year, the researchers tested their theory by building 5-ton replicas of the statues - though the originals weigh up to 90-tons - and had volunteers use ropes to walk them around.

The system worked, said the researchers, and it even corresponds to the inhabitants' mythology that the statues walked the island before settling.

The new theory is posited in the book "The Statues That Walked" by Carl Lipo and Terry Hunt and is outlined in next month's National Geographic.