LONDON – British scientists have cleared up part of the mystery of the red hats crowning the statues on Easter Island.
Drs. Sue Hamilton of University College, London, and Colin Richards of the University of Manchester said that the hats are made of volcanic rock from an ancient volcano in the area and that they were moved by the island’s Polynesian settlers between the years 1250 and 1500.
What remains unknown, according to a press release from the University of Manchester, is how they they managed to raise these rocks weighing several tons and place them on top of the monumental moai statues.
Hamilton and Richards led the first British team to visit the island since 1914 and were the first archaeologists allowed to make excavations in the Puna Pau quarry.
“We now know that the hats were rolled along the road made from a cement of compressed red scoria dust with a raised pavement along one side,” Richards said. “It is likely that they were moved by hand, but tree logs could also have been used.”
Hamilton said that Puna Pau is inside the crater of an extinct volcano and that “a third of the crater has been quarried away by hat production.”
“So far we have located more than 70 hats at the ceremonial platforms and in transit. Many more may have been broken up and incorporated into the platforms,” she said.
Also discovered was an obsidian ax with about a 17-centimeter (6 2/3-inch) blade, possibly owned by one of the workers who helped move the hats and who might have left it at the roadside as an offering to the gods.
The discovery of the ax and the way in which the broken hats are lined up along one side of the roadway suggest, according to the British researchers, that the road was a ceremonial thoroughfare leading to the quarry itself.
Richards said that the early settlers of the planet’s most remote inhabited place – 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) from the coast of Chile, which annexed the island in 1888 – built the moais with different kinds of local stone, and it wasn’t until around 1200 that they stopped making statues and began to make the hats.
The research, which will go on for five more years, has also uncovered details about life 500 years ago on Easter Island, whose inhabitants, Hamilton said, “lived in a successful and well-organized society – the Easter Island of 500 years ago was a managed living environment.” EFE