New Study Reveals Why Easter Island's Statues Are Positioned Along the Coast

iStock.com/AlbertoLoyo
iStock.com/AlbertoLoyo

From the fate of its once vibrant population to the origins of its moai statues, Easter Island is rife with mystery. As Ars Technica reports, a team of scientists may have answered one question related to the famous heads located on the island off the coast of Chile: Why were they placed in some spots on the island and not others?

According to their study in the journal PLOS One, ancient islanders positioned the moai around precious sources of fresh water. This theory may seem confusing if you're familiar with the island's layout: Almost all of the stone artifacts are located along the coast.

But the study authors write that the statues are markers for hidden water sources. On Easter Island, and other volcanic islands, volcanic tubes carry fresh water from underground into the ocean, creating patches of drinkable water surrounded by the salty sea. Fresh water is a limited resource on the island, and its inhabitants likely depended on these water pockets to survive.

When researchers pinpointed these off-shore water sources, they found either moai statues or the platforms that were used to hold them next to each site. And this wasn't a result of islanders placing moai randomly along the coast: Further analysis revealed that the presence of a freshwater patch was the strongest indicator of where an Easter Island head would be.

Easter Island's scant natural resources are part of the mystery that surrounds its ancient people. At its peak, the Easter Island may have sustained a population of 17,500, and the complex social structure of its inhabitants enabled them to achieve great things, such as carving and transporting 81-ton statues around the island. Though we now have an idea of why the moai ended up where they did, the question of how they got there is still up for debate.

[h/t Ars Technica]

26 Fascinating Facts About Fossils

Mental Floss via YouTube
Mental Floss via YouTube

If you’ve never visited the Big Bone Room, you’re in luck. Check out our visit to New York City's American Museum of Natural History for a rundown on fossils, which provide invaluable insight into our understanding of history and its once-living occupants.

In this edition of "The List Show," editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy explains the ins and outs of excavation, fossil follies (extinct giants were a big miss), and the terrorizing prospect of a 3-foot-tall parrot.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here!

2000-Year-Old Roman Tweezers and Metal Ear Swab Discovered in UK

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The ancient Romans took hygiene seriously. They pioneered indoor plumbing, deodorant, and the practice of bathing daily. A recent discovery made at a bridge construction site in the UK reinforces just how committed to cleanliness the Roman civilization was. As Geek.com reports, workers unearthed an ear cleaner and a pair of tweezers thought to date back 2000 years to the Roman Empire.

The artifacts were dug up by the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation at the location of the new Springhead Bridge in Ebbsfleet Garden City, a development in Kent. One small tool appears to be designed for pinching and plucking small items just like modern-day tweezers. The other object is thought to have been built for cleaning ears—but instead of cotton, the "swab" is made entirely of metal. They're thought to date back thousands of years, but scientific analysis will need to be done to determine the exact age.

Grooming items weren't the only artifacts uncovered at the site. Workers also found a piece of timber believed to have been meant for an ancient structure. The Ebbsfleet River, where the new bridge is being built, was once a shipping hub and a Roman settlement called Vagniacis. Historical finds are so common in the area that the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation employs full-time archaeologists.

The personal hygiene tools have been removed from the archaeological site by experts who will study them to learn more about their origins. The fate of the artifacts is unclear, but the construction company behind the discovery hopes they can remain in the same city where they were found.

[h/t Geek.com]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER