Are the mysteries around Easter Island resolved ?

Why are the enigmatic statues of Easter Island placed there along the coast? Researchers provide us with a clue: water. Surprising for an island where no river flows ...

In some ways, the statues of Easter Island are in Polynesia what the pyramids are to Egypt. Silent giants, from the distant past, making excellent postcards and raising deep questions about their edification. A veil of the veil rises in the light of a study published in Plos One. According to Robert DiNapoli, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon, and his colleagues, monoliths on Easter Island have been erected near water sources, especially valuable on this land without rivers.

“As strangers, we scratch our heads to explain how these people have achieved such architectural feats”, moreover, on an island so small and sparsely populated, say the researchers contacted by Futura. They compare “the idea of a mystery” to a “smokescreen” that prevents us from seeing why they have taken so much trouble carving, transporting and raising these statues. Archaeologists believe that these monuments, recognized as of great ritual importance, could, moreover, materialize the political domination of basic natural resources, marine or agricultural. In this study, researchers wanted to empirically verify this hypothesis.

A spatial analysis of monuments and resources

The Rapanuis, native of Easter Island, embarked on megalithic construction shortly after their arrival in the 13th century. They made a total of nearly 1,000 statues (moai), of which 400 still lie, as abandoned, in their original Rano Raraku quarry. Hundreds more have been moved and installed on rectangular stone terraces (ahu) spread over the island, usually near the coast. Between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, all the statues on ahu were overthrown, supposedly during clan wars. Since then, a small number of them have been re-profiled on their platform.

The researchers analyzed the spatial distribution of 93 of these ahu, on which statues were once arranged, according to three resources crucial for the population: the fishery resources, the gardens, which included the cultivation of sweet potatoes, and the ‘potable water. “Water is a particularly interesting resource on this island because there are no streams or rivers,” say the authors, the soil is too permeable. There are three small volcanic lakes, but they are far from the places of life. In contrast, groundwater rises to the surface along the coast. It’s “the only persistent and ubiquitous source of water” on the island, says Matthew Becker, hydrologist and co-author of the study.

Above, on the left, is the position of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in Polynesia. On the right, the red dots correspond to the ahu. Only 93 of them were included in this study. Downstairs, Ahu Tongariki, the largest ahu on the island, surmounted by 15 statues. © Robert DiNapoli et al., Plos One, 2019

The location of the statues explained by the water sources

“The results speak for themselves,” said Futura, Carl Lipo, an anthropologist specializing in Easter Island at Binghamton University in New York, and co-author of the study. The location of Ahu is explained by their proximity to drinking water sources, rather than fish and agri-food resources. This is certainly why the monuments of the island sit preferentially on the edge of the island, a trend that the experts could not justify until then. The rare ahu, placed deeper inland, are near caves where groundwater occasionally springs.

Water = life.

However, it should not be concluded that the statues “marked the position of the water points”, such as signs. “Obviously, the Rapanuis knew where to find it and did not need moai” to remember, says Carl Lipo. One possible interpretation of these results is that the statues symbolized political control over this resource. Be that as it may, this study indicates, in all modesty, that “the ordinary activities of the community, which included the construction of Ahu and Moai, were related to the spatial distribution of this essential resource. In other words, water = life. “

There are, in all, a little over 300 ahu. The 93 platforms studied by Robert DiNapoli, Carl Lipo and their colleagues are all in the east of the island, because this is where the spatial arrangement of the various resources was best documented. The researchers intend to extend their analysis to the whole island, to see if the relationship between monuments and water sources is confirmed on this scale.

In the local language, Easter Island is called Rapa Nui, which means Rapa, as opposed to Rapa Island in French Polynesia, also known as Rapa Iti or Rapa. Translation : Me – Source :https://www.futura-sciences.com/planete/actualites/monuments-mysteres-autour-statues-ile-paques-resolu-74807/

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