Scientists—including Associate Professor Sarah Sherwood—believe they’ve uncovered the meaning of some of the Moai stone monoliths found on Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island.
Scientists—including Associate Professor Sarah Sherwood—believe they’ve uncovered the meaning of some of the Moai stone monoliths found on Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island. The ancient Rapa Nui civilization may have created the Easter Island statues because they believed these monoliths made the soil more fertile, improving crop production.
Analysis of statues located within an Easter Island quarry, the source of the stone for about 95 percent of the island's statues, shows this soil was particularly fertile, and that the civilization appears to have used it to grow banana, sweet potato and taro. “In the quarry, with its constant new influx of small fragments of the bedrock generated by the quarrying process, there is a perfect feedback system of water, natural fertilizer, and nutrients," Sherwood says.
Sherwood, the University archaeologist and co-chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Systems, is a geoarchaeologist and soils specialist who worked with a team from UCLA to find scientific evidence of the long-hypothesized theory about the Moai statues. Their research shows that ancient carvers produced nearly 1,000 Moai because the community believed the statues were capable of producing agricultural fertility and thereby critical food supplies.
Moai photo by Livia Enomoto on Unsplash