According to Lipo, the reason the Rapanui chose to walk over the statues rather than dragging them or rolling them over logs came down to practicalities. The weight of the carvings would have crushed the logs, while dragging such enormous moai would have required enormous labor. On a remote, arid island with few resources, stepping on the statues would have been an effective method. “You see the engineering that made it possible to make and move the moai cheaply. The Rapanui people did it within the confines of the island, basically through cooperation and ingenuity,” he said.
My walk from Rano Raraku crater to Ahu Tongariki was only 800m away, but I wasn’t trying to guide an 88 ton moai with a few ropes. Other statues I visited stood up to 18km from the quarry, making my bike ride a breeze compared to the feats of ancient Rapanui civilizations.
Creating walking statues would have been a process of trial and error. About 400 statues remain in and around the Rano Raraku quarry in various stages of completion, indicating that stone carvers used the valley as an artistic laboratory to experiment with different prototypes before finding one that could be moved. effectively, Lipo said. “It really documents the history of craftsmanship, experiments, attempts and failures,” he added.
Once a statue was ready, it was led out of the valley and guided to its ahu. The ancient roads leading from Rano Raraku were concave, which aided and supported the lateral swinging movements of the moai. However, not all moai reached their ahus – some lost their balance along the way and fell off the roads. Visitors to the quarry will see the ruins of dozens of abandoned statues littering the outer slopes and roadsides; it is the best place on the island to get an idea of the immense number of moai created. Lipo’s study found that these fallen moai have breaks consistent with falls from an upright standing position, supporting the theory that they were walking.