By Tim Binnall
An intriguing new theory suggests that the legendary statues found on Easter Island, known as 'moai,' may have had a less mystical purpose than previously imagined. As part of his decades-long study of the original inhabitants of the tiny island, anthropologist Carl Lipo believes that he may have inadvertently solved the longstanding mystery. This occurred as a result of the researcher's curiosity about how the Rapa Nui people were able to survive in light of the scarcity of freshwater on the island.
According to a newly published paper by Lipo, field studies on the island found that there were "abundant locations of brackish but potable water along the coastline." The anthropologist concluded that this was likely where the Rapa Nui civilization got much of its drinking water. While the solution to that particular mystery may sound a bit mundane to some, it very well may have resulted in a rather remarkable breakthrough when it comes to questions surrounding the iconic moai on the island.
That's because, much to Lipo's surprise, when he looked at where the freshwater sources were found on the island, they just so happened to line up with locations that also feature the moai. "The more we looked, the more consistently we saw this pattern," he told Newsweek, noting that areas where there were no statues also had no nearby sources of freshwater. He also argued that this theory seems to explain why the moai were placed in areas on the island which appear to be incongruous to the idea that they were monuments of some kind.
On the contrary, Lipo posits, the massive statues served the utilitarian purpose of pointing out freshwater sources. Why, exactly, the Rapa Nui people would choose to erect enormous statues in such locations rather than devising a different method for marking where one could find drinkable water is, of course, still a mystery.