Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has long held the interests of scientists, travelers, and a curious public. Among the persistent “mysteries” is the question of how hundreds of multi-ton megalithic statues (moai) were transported to every part of the island. Researchers have proposed methods using sleds and rollers of various configurations to move moai in a horizontal position. Others have proposed various means of transport in a vertical position. Over several years of field and analytic research, we have documented important variations in details of moai form relating to their successful transport. Using 3-D modeling and experimentation, we show how moai form converges with the physics of movement. Our results explain much of the archaeological record previously unrecognized, resolving this longstanding “mystery.” Our results also align with Rapa Nui oral traditions.
Dr. Terry L. Hunt, Dean, Honors College, is an internationally renowned anthropologist, archaeologist, and educator. Dr. Hunt is one of the world’s foremost experts on the human and environmental histories of the Pacific Islands, where he has conducted field research for more than four decades. Dr. Hunt has led study-abroad courses for the past 18 years to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), where he involves students in his field research. Dr. Hunt previously served as dean of the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. He is the author of “The Statues That Walked: Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island,” co-authored with Carl Lipo, details Rapa Nui’s ancient history. The book won the Society for American Archaeology’s Book of the Year award in the public audience category in 2011. Dr. Hunt’s research was the focus of a National Geographic magazine cover story in July 2012 and a Nova-National Geographic TV documentary that first aired on PBS in November 2012. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Hawaii in 1976, his master’s degree at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, in 1980, and his Ph.D. in 1989 from the University of Washington.