Students attempt to recreate the movement of the massive 'moai' statues over long distances

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa presents an excerpt preview of Mystery of Easter Islands on Thursday, November 1 in Moore 319 as part of the Pacific Film Series.

For centuries, scientists have tried to solve the mystery of how the colossal stone statues of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) moved. Now there’s a new theory, by Professor Terry Hunt of UH Mānoa and Carl Lipo of California State University Long Beach. The preview event and Q&A with Hunt, Lipo and the filmmakers will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Art Building auditorium and will be followed by a book signing.

Hunt and Lipo have worked closely with Rapanui archaeologist Sergio Rapu to develop their idea. They’ve observed that the statue’s fat bellies allowed it to be tilted forward easily, and heavy, D-shaped bases could have allowed handlers to roll and rock the moai side to side.

To test the the hypothesis, several UH Mānoa students participated in experiments conducted at Kualoa Ranch on Oʻahu in June and November 2011, moving a five-ton statue more than 100 yards in just 40 minutes.

Hunt and Lipo’s research was featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine’s July 2012 issue. It was also the subject of a forthcoming NOVA-National Geographic television special, Mystery of Easter Island, which features the walking statue experiment. The full program Mystery of Easter Island will air on November 7 at 9 p.m. on PBS Hawaiʻi.

The event is free and open to the public. The Pacific Film Series is sponsored by the Center for Pacific Islands Studies. For more information and disability access, please contact Katherine Higgins by phone (808) 956-2658 or email.

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