The Story Behind the Mysterious Easter Statues on Easter Island

Published: 2021-08-02 02:25:08
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Category: Geography, Architecture

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Explaining the geographical and temporal patterns of the ancient monuments has always remained a challenge for the archaeologists and historians. Despite a plethora of researches on this subject, there are conjectures as to what and how exactly led to the formation of such monuments. This is because creating such huge structures in that era seems impossible. Thus the questions always remain. Recent studies on this subject provide key insights into the degree to which ecological constraints shape the location and function of monuments in earlier societies. It is believed that the monuments represent ancestors and were linked to their rituals, forming an attraction point for communities, but the reason for their locations was previously a mystery. Most studies have suggested that the sites might have been chosen because of a link to key resources. Further studies have been conducted to verify this claim.
One such structure is the giant stone figures of Easter Island which have captivated researchers, explorers and the wider world for centuries, but now studies reveal one of the biggest mysteries: Why the statues are where they are? What is the significance? Who had built them? Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island provides one of the most dramatic cases of prehistoric monument construction where, in a duration of about 500 years, from the 13th century AD to European contact in AD 1722 and into historic times, the islanders (Rapanui) constructed over 300 megalithic platforms (ahu) and nearly 1000 multi-ton anthropomorphic statues (moai).The accolades of the Rapanui are much more impressive when one considers the island’s ecological marginality, including low and unpredictable rainfall, nutrient-poor soils, lack of large coral reefs or abundant sources of surface freshwater. The island’s ecology greatly constrained the range of options available for subsistence to the island’s inhabitants, and many believe these environmental constraints to be an imperative factor in the emergence of monuments on Rapa Nui, such as their role as adaptive responses to environmental uncertainty or as territorial signals of control over limited resources.
Researchers claim that they have analyzed the locations of the megalithic platforms, or ahu, on which many of the statues known as Moai sit, as well as scrutinizing sites of the island’s resources, and have observed that the structures are typically found close to fresh water sources. They say that their discoveries back up the idea that aspects of the construction of the platforms and statues, such as their size, could be tied to the abundance and quality of such supplies. Some of the new researches confirm that proximity to freshwater sites is the best explanation for the ahu locations and explains why they crop up inland as well as on the coast. They further mentioned that every time they saw huge fresh water bodies, they could find giant statues nearby.
One important observation from the Easter Island Statues was that the head of the statues had buried bodies below them. It is believed that with the passage of time the statues were covered under rocks and sediments, hiding the torsos of the statues. Under the Easter island Statue Project, they were excavated from the earth.
According to a Professor Carl Lipo from Binghamton University in New York, who co-authored the research revealed that the statues themselves are not located at weird ritual places but represent the lives of the community (ahu and moai). Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, has more than 300 megalithic platforms, each of which might have been made by a separate community. Easter island heads are called Moai. The first of these are believed to have been constructed in the 13th century and most of them are found around the coast. The research team concentrated on the east of the island, where various resources have been meticulously mapped and looked at the distribution of 93 megalithic platforms constructed before European sailors turned up in the 18th century. After finding no connection to the proximity of rock used for tools or for the monuments, they focused at whether the ahu was found near other important resources such as gardens in which stones are spread where crops like sweet potatoes were grown, sites linked to fishing, and fresh water sources.
According to a research conducted by Public Library of Science (PLOS), ahu was preferentially built near freshwater sources to demarcate community access/control over these resources. This interpretation draws on the logic of costly signaling theory, whereby Rapa Nui’s monuments are hypothesized to serve as conspicuous displays of community access/control over the island’s limited subsistence resources. Recently, such a costly signaling model for ahu has been proposed, which assumes that, if Rapa Nui’s monuments did serve a costly signaling function, then there should be a link between them and the underlying quality they are potentially signaling, such as the limited and vitally important, freshwater resources. These predictions are quantitatively supported by our present results. Such an analysis is not unique, who conducted the first large-scale settlement pattern analysis on Rapa Nui, suggested that warfare in earlier times would have likely been over freshwater. It is interesting to note that McCoy also suggested a signaling function for ahu and argued that, collaboration of ahu would provide an estimate of success in competition between lineages based ultimately on the free time that could be allotted to such non-vital activities.” Several emerging and independent lines of evidence show that there is little empirical support for violent warfare, including little evidence for the production of lethal weapons, limited instances of lethal skeletal trauma, and a lack of fortifications. Given this lack of evidence for warfare, it is possible that inter-community competition took the form of territorial displays, or costly signals, through the construction of monumental architecture directly adjacent to the island’s limited freshwater locations. However, additional formal analyses to specifically test these ideas are needed to evaluate this scenario.
The contrast between Rapa Nui’s marginal environment and the degree of investment in monumental architecture has baffled researchers since ages. The age old orthodox stance believed that the island must have been inhabited by a larger and more complex society under more prosperous environmental conditions that then ‘collapsed’ due to passage of time. An important observation here is that the transportation and construction of the island’s moai needed neither large numbers of individuals nor trees. The implications of this are far-fetched, especially in that they question the common beliefs that monument construction necessarily involved heterogeneous social organization and labor management or that it necessarily led to environmental degradation (e.g., deforestation, erosion, etc.). Major unresolved issues, however, concern the labor invested and choices made in constructing ahu, in particular why ahu (and the moai and pukao upon them) were built where they were and how monument construction might relate to territorial signaling of control over subsistence resource availability. This study has presented a numerous formal models which indicate that if Rapa Nui’s monuments did serve a territorial display function, then their patterns are best explained by the availability of the island’s limited freshwater.
Stone Spheres of Costa Rica

One of the most baffling mysteries in archaeology was discovered in the Diquis Delta of Costa Rica. Since the 1930s, hundreds of stone balls have been found, ranging in size from a few centimeters to over two meters in diameter. Some even weigh 16 tons. Almost all of them are made of granodiorite, a hard igneous stone. Humans have created these monolithic sculptures. There is a rough count of 300 spheres.
In the modern era, they enhance the beauty of official buildings such as the Asamblea Legislativa, hospitals and schools. People find them in museums and also as ubiquitous status symbols adorning the homes and gardens of the prosperous and powerful. Some archaeologists believe that the stones may have come from the bed of the Térraba River, to where they were transported by natural processes from sources of parent material in the Talamanca mountains. Broken or unfinished spheres were never discovered. Similar to the monoliths of the Old World, the Costa Rican quarry was almost 50 miles away from the resting place of these mysteries.
The spherical structures were believed to be created by the ancestors of native communities who lived in those regions at the time of the Spanish conquest. Their modern descendants include the Boruca, Téribe, and Guaymí. These cultures lived in dispersed settlements, few of which were larger than about 2000 people. These people earned their livelihood from fishing and hunting, as well as agriculture. They cultivated pineapple, manioc, beans, avocado, squash, maize, pejibaye palm, papaya, chilli peppers and other fruits, root crops, and medicinal plants. They lived in huts that were typically round in shape, with foundations made of rounded river cobbles. There are common misconceptions about the size of the balls and their shapes. This has led to unnecessary speculations about their nature and origin. However, various archaeologists give different theories about their origin.

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