New Study Reveals the Secrets of Easter Island

A new study of the stone monuments on Easter Island reveals the mysteries of the ancient people who made them.


Easter Island is one of the most mysterious places on Earth, largely due to the strange art left behind by its ancient inhabitants. This remote Chilean island in southeastern Pacific Ocean is home to 887 monumental stone statues or Moai, created by the Polynesian Rapa Nui people who used to live there. 

The questions about the statues have always abounded - why do they all look like giant heads, what do they mean, and what happened to the people who made them.  

Another mystery - how were the monoliths moved up to 11 miles from the quarry where they were carved, seemingly without using wheels or larger animals.

Over the years, scientists have proposed some explanatinos for the unknowns. 

The statues, carved from volcanic rock between 1000 and 1680 AD, seem to be honoring Rapa Nui ancestors, watching over their activities as they are turned away from the sea and towards the villages. 

Interestingly, while they are popularly identified as gigantic heads, the statues actually have bodies. Most of their torsos end up at the top of the thighs, while some are complete kneeling figures.

A native man, with his face painted as the old Polynesian Matamua warriors, throws a spear during the traditional Tapati festival of the Rapanu folklore, Easter Island, Chile, 3 February 2005. (Photo credit: MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

As far as how the statues were moved, it was possibly accomplished by utilizing special sledge devices or attaching ropes and walking them to their destinations by rocking and pulling. 

Now a new study contributes a twist to our understanding of the Rapa Nui - the people who left us these immense reminders of their time on Earth. They were commonly viewed as having a warrior culture, but an analysis of the large cylindrical stone hats, known as pukao, which top some of the statues, showed that the Rapa Nui had instead a supportive and inclusive community.

Professor Carl Lipo from Binghamton University and a team of researchers looked at 70 multi-ton hats strewn around the island. They used photography and 3D computer models to discover that the hats had many more drawings or "petroglyphs" than previously observed.  

"The diversity of the petroglyphs challenges that these were symbols of warfare between groups," said Lipo to Newsweek. In fact, the findings exhibit "quite a bit of diversity in the petroglyphs of the pukao—more so than have been traditionally noted given that we documented all the pukao surfaces."

Pukao are large, cylindrical stones made from a volcanic rock known as 'red scoria.' Credit: Carl Lipo.

What the drawings also reveal is that there was clearly a sense of cooperation and community that was fostered among the Rapa Nui, according to Lipo.

"These monuments represent the result of communities working together and clearly had tremendous positive value," Lipo explained. "As we've learned more about the nature of the resources on the island that are needed for community survival, we see that sharing and cooperation was a key factor ... The pukao data are another piece of the broader puzzle that we are assembling for the island."

Check out the new study in journal the Advances in Archaeological Practice.

Tesla introduces new Model 3 at $45,000

The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.

Tesla Model 3 (Photo: Tesla)
Technology & Innovation
  • Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 260 miles on one charge.
  • The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
  • Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
Keep reading Show less
Mind & Brain
  • When it comes to educating, says Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, a brave failure is preferable to timid success.
  • Fostering an environment where one isn't afraid to fail is tantamount to learning.
  • Human beings are complicated and flawed. Working with those complications and flaws leads to true knowledge.
Keep reading Show less

Denmark has the flattest work hierarchy in the world

"It's about having employees that are empowered."

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
popular

Denmark may be the birthplace of the Lego tower, but its workplace hierarchy is the flattest in the world.

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2018, the nation tops an index measuring "willingness to delegate authority" at work, beating 139 other countries.

Keep reading Show less

The surprising psychology of sex with your ex

We all know sleeping with your ex is a bad idea, or is it?

Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • In the first study of its kind, researchers have found sex with an ex didn't prevent people from getting over their relationship.
  • Instead of feeling worse about their breakup after a hookup, the new singles who attempted sexual contact with their ex reported feeling better afterwards.
  • The findings suggest that not every piece of relationship advice is to be taken at face value.
Keep reading Show less

Yes, Mega Millions just passed $1 billion. What does that look like?

It's hard to imagine such a number. But these images will help you try.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Megamillions_tickets.jpg
News/Social

The Mega Millions lottery just passed $1 billion for tonight's drawing.

What does that even look like, when represented by various currencies?

It takes just 6 numbers to win. You can only, however, purchase tickets up until 10:45 ET tonight.

Keep reading Show less

Relationship hack: Why class clowns make better partners

Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
  • Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
  • Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
Keep reading Show less

Single algae cells can help deliver targeted medicine

Tiny and efficient, these biodegradable single cells show promise as a way to target hard-to-reach cancers.

Credit: O. Yasa et al./Adv. Mater.
Surprising Science
  • Scientists in Germany have found a potential improvement on the idea of bacteria delivering medicine.
  • This kind of microtargeting could be useful in cancer treatments.
  • The microswimmers are biodegradable and easy to produce.

Metin Sitti and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently demonstrated that tiny drugs could be attached to individual algae cells and that those algae cells could then be directed through body-like fluid by a magnetic field.

The results were recently published in Advanced Materials, and the paper as a whole offers up a striking portrait of precision and usefulness, perhaps loosely comparable in overall quality to recent work done by The Yale Quantum Institute. It begins by noting that medicine has been attached to bacteria cells before, but bacteria can multiply and end up causing more harm than good.

A potential solution to the problem seems to have been found in an algal cell: the intended object of delivery is given a different electrical charge than the algal cell, which helps attach the object to the cell. The movement of the algae was then tested in 2D and 3D. (The study calls this cell a 'microswimmer.') It would later be found that "3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers increased more than twofold compared to their 2D mean swimming speed." The study continues —

More interestingly, 3D mean swimming speed of the algal microswimmers in the presence of a uniform magnetic field in the x-direction was approximately threefolds higher than their 2D mean swimming speed.

After the 2D and 3D speed of the algal was examined, it was then tested in something made to approximate human fluid, including what they call 'human tubal fluid' (think of the fallopian tubes), plasma, and blood. They then moved to test the compatibility of the microswimmer with cervical cancer cells, ovarian cancer cells, and healthy cells. They found that the microswimmer didn't follow the path of bacteria cells and create something toxic.

The next logical steps from the study include testing this inside a living organism in order to assess the safety of the procedure. Potential future research could include examining how effective this method of drug delivery could be in targeting "diseases in deep body locations," as in, the reproductive and gastrointestinal tracts.

Gary Shteyngart: reality catches up to dystopian fiction

Our modern-day Kafka on his new novel Lake Success and the dark comedy that in 2018 pretty much writes itself

Technology & Innovation
  • riding the Greyhounds of hell, from New York to El Paso
  • the alternate reality of hedge fund traders
Keep reading Show less