Scientists point to a correlation between the location of Easter Island statues and water resources


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Saturday, January 12, 2019

A United States A team of scientists published Thursday findings about the large statues that dot the island of Rapa Nui, also called Easter Island. The study, published Thursday in PLOS One, quantitative employee spatial analysis to establish that the platforms, or ahu, built to support the statues of Easter Island, or moai, are usually located near sources of drinking water. This fuels the scholarly discussion about whether the purpose of the statues was exclusively ritualistic, practical or a combination of these.

Moai on Easter Island.
Picture: Sznegra.

The study examined 93 statues located in the west of the island, all built before contact with Europeans. They compared the sites of the statues to sites associated with specific resources: type of rock with which the statues are made, type of rock used for tools, fishing, growing vegetables and potatoes and sources of rock. water. Archaeologists claim that this study is the first attempt to formally test the idea that moai locations are correlated to locations of important resources for the people who built them, such as water. soft.

Easter Island has no streams without interruption, but it has a aquifer who produces seepage of freshwater of brackish but drinking water at low tide. Most of these water collection sites are located along the coast, but a few are inland, as are the ahu.

"What's important is that it shows that the locations of the statues are not a strange ritual place – [the ahu and moai] represent a ritual in the sense that they have a symbolic meaning, but they are integrated into the life of the community, "said Professor Carl Lipo, co-author of the study, Binghamton University. He then added: "The exceptions to the rule of the coast where the water flows are actually satisfied by the fact that there is also water there – we find it at "caves," referring to the caves filled with fresh water, and historical evidence suggests that there might have been wells dug near the ahu that are not close to caves.

The researchers plan to gather information on more freshwater resources to evaluate the statues sites on the rest of Easter Island.

Jo Anne Val Tilburg from University of California at Los Angeles did not agree with these findings: "The existence of freshwater infiltration near the ahu coasts is well known and certainly played an important role during contact with However, these infiltrations are today, and have probably always been, minor resources.It is highly unlikely, in my opinion, that these resources were of major importance in the localization of ahu during the prehistory. "

The first moai date back to the 13th century. Their size varies, but they are about four meters high and can weigh about fourteen tons. Researchers have long questioned the role they played for those who built them.

Easter Island is today a relatively barren place with scarce resources. Easter Island is located 3,700 km from the west coast of South America and 1,170 km from the nearest neighboring island. Today, the landscape is dominated by grasses, but it was once mainly covered with palm forests and was home to a large human population for a few hundred years. Scientists are wondering whether its degradation of the environment, in the form of the loss of its palm groves and its soil by erosion, was caused by human activity, natural climate change, or by rats and other introduced species that embarked on the settlers' boats. consensus that the environment of the island has changed significantly over time.

Statues on Easter Island. Image: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen.


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