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Scientists Say They Discovered A 300-Year-Old Mystery About The Hats On The Easter Island Statues

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New research suggests that the hats on the Easter Island statues were likely rolled up a ramp and then tipped on top of them. Photogrammetry and high-tech 3D imaging were used to determine this.  ( Yerson Retamal | Pixabay )

After centuries of studying the statues on Easter Island, scientists believe that they finally know how the mysterious hats got on top of them.

History Of The Statues On Easter Island

Easter Island is located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America. The first settlers arrived there over a thousand years ago.

Europeans first discovered Easter Island when Jacob Roggeveen stepped foot on the island on Easter Day in 1722. The Europeans were perplexed about the famous monumental stone statues on the island that were up to 33 feet tall. They were also curious as to how 13-ton hats were placed on the heads at the top of the statues.

The statues are made from volcanic material from one quarry on the island and the hats were made out of red scoria from a different quarry on the island.

Previous Theories About How The Hats Got On The Statues

While scientists previously determined that the statues were moved to the locations with a walking and rocking motion, they weren't certain about how the hats got there.

One theory was that the hats were moved and placed on the statues in a sliding motion. Scientists from Pennsylvania State University searched for indentations on the hats that would fit the top of the statues. However, remnants of broken statues suggest that this was not the case at all.

Researchers Find The Real Method For Moving The Hats

Using photogrammetry and high-tech 3D imaging, the researchers determined that the hats were rolled to the top of the statues using a parbuckling method on a ramp.

The findings were published in a study on May 31 in the Journal Of Archaeological Science

"This is the first time anyone has systematically explored the evidence for how the giant hats were placed on the top of the heads of the massive statues of Easter Island," said study co-author Carl Lipo. "Our work combines cutting-edge 3-D modeling with artifact analysis and models drawn from physics to arrive at the best answer."

The researchers hypothesize that 15 or fewer workers could roll the hats up to the ramp. They also said that the hats were tipped on top of the statue, and not pushed, because of the ridges located at the hat base indentation. If the hats were pushed up, the soft-stone groves would have likely been destroyed.

The workers used ropes to help roll the hats up to the ramp. Afterward, the workers disassembled the ramps and turned them into the wings surrounding the statues.

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