Fascinating article today from our good friend Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log on the legends regarding the “walking” statues of Easter Island, and how they may have had some basis in truth. Boyle discusses a recent National Geographic feature in which researchers attempted to move a 5-ton Moai replica vertically, rather than by sliding it horizontally along the ground:
The researchers found that the statue’s fat belly produced a forward-falling center of gravity that facilitated vertical transport. A crew of as few as 18 people could use ropes to rock the statue back and forth, and forward… The vertical-transport trick worked with four rope-pullers on each side, plus 10 people to pull on the statue from behind, as if they were holding back a dog that was straining forward on a walk.
“It’s really unnerving and beautiful, all at the same time,” Hunt said.
…The statue-walking experiment alone doesn’t prove that the entire scenario put forward by Hunt and Lipo is true, but it’s consistent with the claims in the islanders’ oral tradition that the statues “walked” down the road in ancient times. It also provides an alternate explanation for the ruined statues that littered the roads: When you lose control of the ropes, that’s what happens, and you don’t have any good way to move the broken pieces.