25 Jun 2012

Researchers build on local legend to prove how Rapa Nui moai moved

3:19 pm on 25 June 2012

Researchers say they took a clue from Rapa Nui legend to work out how Easter Island's ancient moai statues were transported long distances.

A team from the University of Hawaii has spent two years working out how the giant statues were moved and has just released a video showing how minimal people power, ropes and natural physics can be used to rock the moai along.

One of the team, anthropology professor Terry Hunt, says they used the law of physics, 3D computer modelling and a replica statue to build on local Rapa Nui belief that the moai walked up to 18 kilometres to their final location.

"It couldn't be the only clue. We had to really find out how that would work and what the physics of that would be and in fact to apply the word walking is a very good description of the physics of movement. It's a controlled fall forward as the centre of gravity shifts from side to side. It's precisely what we do when we walk."

Professor Hunt says earlier experiments to prove the theory were not successful because they didn't use the right form or application of force.

He says archaeologists show the experiment could throw light on other mysterious formations like that of Stonehenge in England.