The 'walking' megalithic statues (moai) of Easter Island

Carl P. Lipo, Terry L. Hunt, Sergio Rapu Haoa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Explaining how the monumental statues (moai) of Easter Island were transported has remained open to debate and speculation, including their resource expenditures and role in deforestation. Archaeological evidence including analysis of moai variability, particularly those abandoned along ancient roads, indicates transport was achieved in a vertical position. To test this proposition we constructed a precise three-dimensional 4.35 metric ton replica of an actual statue and demonstrate how positioning the center of mass allowed it to fall forward and rock from side to side causing it to 'walk.' Our experiments reveal how the statue form was engineered for efficient transport by a small number of individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2859-2866
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Easter Island
  • Eastern Polynesia
  • Megaliths
  • Moai
  • Pacific prehistory
  • Rapa Nui

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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