Has the mystery about the Easter Island giants finally been solved?

Credits: SW Hixon et al.

Why are there giant heads on Easter Island? A study has now suggested that former islanders could have chosen to place these heads to identify areas where freshwater was available. Details of this study are reported in the Hydrogeology Journal.

There are no wells on the island and there are no rivers and it almost never rains. This observation led the anthropologist Carl Lip to ask the question, how could islanders have managed to access drinking water and survive for at least 5,000 years? Recent hydrological field analysis taken of the area suggest that this ancient civilisation used underground brackish water from the coastline.  The water emitted from underground is salted but relatively drinkable.

Two field surveys indicate abundant locations of brackish but potable water along the coastline… Although coastal groundwater sources are of poor quality, they were apparently sufficient to support the population and allow them to build the magnificent statues for which Easter Island is famous,” the report states.  Therefore there must have been water available that was clean enough to be drunk by the islanders. That this is not all, it also seems that sources of drinkable correspond with the Moai, the giant, emblematic statues of the island.

While some see these giant stone statues are religious or political symbols, could they have been positioned like this to show locals where to find available water resources? “Now that we know more about the location of freshwater, however, the location of these monuments and other features makes tremendous sense: they are positioned where freshwater is immediately available,” explain the researchers.  “It was a real surprise.”

“They were ingenious in their ability to transform this remote and isolated place—one that was plagued by remarkably constrained natural resources—into a place that could support the islands communities over at least five centuries,” noted Carlos Lipo to Newsweek. “What they have done is an incredible feat.”

These results need to be confirmed but it could potentially answer one of the most intriguing archaeological mysteries in the world. Researchers now think they are close to assembling all the pieces of the Easter Island puzzle.

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