People might have pulled cylinders up a ramp with ropes, then tipped the ‘hats’ onto statues
The story of how some of the massive stone statues on Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, ended up wearing stone hats involves ramps, ropes and remarkably few workers, a contested new analysis suggests.
No more than 15 people were needed to manipulate ropes that rolled stone cylinders, or pukao, up ramps to the top of forward-leaning statues, say archaeologist Sean Hixon of Penn State and his colleagues. The hatlike cylinders were then tipped over to rest atop statues, the researchers propose online May 31 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
After clearing the ramp away, workers then carved statues’ bases flat so that the figures assumed their iconic, upright positions.
Several possible ways in which Rapa Nui inhabitants put pukao on statues have previously been proposed, including sliding pukao up wooden ramps.
“Our group is the first to consider