Researchers have recently developed a new theory as to why the people of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, built massive Moai statues. This new theory has to do with the difficulty in finding water reservoirs on the remote island where water was scarce for the people living on it.
Easter Island Statues May Have Symbolized Markers for Water
A recent study focused on Carl Lipo, a Professor of Anthropology at Binghamton University in New York. In the report, Lipo explained the problems the people of Easter Island had in ancient times. With zero rivers and two tiny lakes located in significantly isolated areas, it could be reasonably assumed that the first inhabitants of Easter Island would build ponds or cisterns in order to provide water for their society. However, Lipo explains that such ponds or cisterns were not found in a way that represented sustainability for the ancient society of Easter Island.
“Knowing the details of the island’s hydrology and understanding that fresh water was a key ingredient in monument location now allows us to start generating hypotheses about the role that statues/monuments played in the community … This may well help unravel the secret to why this island boasts so many massive statues.”
Lipo also explained that the inhabitants of Easter Island were able to survive on brackish water. The inhabitants also had a volcano that was sloped to run water downhill into the coastal areas. Lipo and his research team were able to find where this water was collected and also found statues around the reservoirs.
Lipo and his team have concluded that the many massive statues on Easter Island were markers that allowed the inhabitants to locate the reservoirs that contained water since every reservoir contained huge statues around it.
“What they did was an incredible feat—but one that has been misinterpreted by outsiders who make European assumptions about what the island ‘should look like.’”
Despite the logical connection between the statues and the water reservoirs, Lipo and his team are not certain if the statues were carried there as water markers or for some other reason. What is certain is that the water reservoirs and statues represent how a large population of thousands not only survived but thrived for many centuries by working together in order to provide food and water for their society. These statues seem to be a representation of their success.