The long-standing mystery behind why the Easter Island statues, or moai, were placed where they were has finally been solved. For a long time, scientists have pondered the many different reasons behind the placement of these statues, but now a new study has finally demonstrated that they were put in the location they were because of their close proximity to fresh water.
As CNN reports, scientists diligently studied the Easter Island statues from where they stand on pedestals, which are known as ahu, to learn more about these enigmatic figures who have been gazing out over the island for the past 900 years after they were erected by Polynesian seafarers.
Scientists involved in the new study researched why the ahu were distributed in the manner in which they were to try and better understand what their Polynesian creators had in mind when they sculpted their statues, which at one pointed totaled 1,000 in number.
As Binghamton University anthropology professor Carl Lipo noted, “That knowledge would tell us something about how the early people of Rapa Nui used the landscape and what they found important.”
After scientists from six American universities analyzed 93 different ahu on Easter Island, they began to look around these pedestals where rock mulch gardens had been grown and also discovered a plentiful supply of marine resources at their disposal nearby.
Researchers also created a map of the entirety of the island to try and discover where fresh water might be located, and discovered that fresh water was channeled along the coast underground in different areas, which scientists call groundwater discharge. As Lipo explained, “Fresh water would literally come out right between the coast and the ocean in a stream. We’d see horses drinking out of the ocean, and it turned out they knew exactly where the fresh water was coming out.”
Polynesian seafarers first arrived on Rapa Nui, 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile, approximately 900 years ago. https://t.co/ETg7IP7JoD
— KITV4 (@KITV4) January 11, 2019
With so many underground regions along the coast full of fresh water, scientists believe that this also explains why so many of Easter Island’s statues are in prominent positions along the coast. However, the moai that are inland would have been an excellent source of fresh water too, as many of these were found distributed close to caves.
Besides being a nod to their ancestors, who the statues were fashioned after, Lipo explained that these moai were also crucial when it came to the survival of the Polynesians who fashioned them.
“Building the statues wasn’t inexplicable behavior, but something that was not only culturally significant but central to their survival. It’s incredible how much energy went into them. The statues and the ahu themselves weren’t just a single event — they made the statues and these platforms to put them on, and then remade the platforms and additional statues to put on them.”
The new study which has determined that the Easter Island statues were placed close to fresh water sources has been published in PLOS One.