Terry Hunt and the 10-foot, 5-ton replica of a Rapa Nui statue used to demonstrate how such statues could “walk.”
National Geographic Magazine photo

Ever since Dutch explores “discovered” the island of Rapa Nui on Easter Sunday, 1722, and renamed it Easter Island, people have wondered how the island’s multi-ton stone giants were transported from quarries to their intended resting places.

Terry L. Hunt, an internationally renowned anthropologist, archaeologist and educator, will outline the evidence that led him and his research partner to understand and then experiment with a new theory of statue transport.

Hunt will describe his findings in a 3:30 p.m. lecture on Wednesday (May 30) in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room.

“Most previous speculation pointed to statues moved on wooden sleds and rollers in a horizontal position.” Hunt said. “Our research shows, based on the first detailed examination of the statues themselves, that such transport was not the case.”

Hunt is reluctant to discuss details of his lecture because, he said, “elements of the talk come as a surprise.” But the title of his award-winning book offers a tantalizing hint: The Statues that Walked: Unraveling the mystery of Easter Island (Free Press, New York, 2011, co-authored with Carl Lipo).

Terry Hunt

One of the world’s foremost experts on the human and environmental histories of the Pacific Islands, Hunt has been working on Rapa Nui since 2000 and takes students there every summer to do research.

He taught anthropology at the University of Hawaii from 1988-2013 and at the University of Oregon from 2013 to 2017, when he joined the UA as a professor and dean of the school’s Honors College.

His and Lipo’s book won the Society for American Archaeology’s book of the year award in 2011. Their research was the focus of a National Geographic Magazine cover story (July, 2012) and a full-length Nova-National Geographic TV documentary, The Mystery of Easter Island, which aired on PBS in 2012.

Written by Mike Maharry, Academy Village Volunteer

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May 30: Could The Easter Island Statues ‘Walk’?