The mystery around the moai statues
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The famous moai monoliths were literally pulled out of the cliff at the Rano Raraku quarry. If you go there you will see how a statue is carved out of the side of the volcano crater before it is separated from it. Like they were from cheese, the moai were practically melted out of the cliffs. At the Rano Raraku quarry you can see almost 400 moai around the rim of the crater.
The largest moai ever carved is "El Gigante", which is still part of the cliff, has not been cut off from it. If it were finished and erected, it would be the largest statue today, measuring over 21 meters, the weight estimation varies between 160-180 tons, some even put it at 270 tons.
Some moai have carvings on them, which are often considered sort of "graffiti". Specialists have determined that these signs appeared long after the construction of the statues. Interestingly the carving on a statue represents a sailing ship, which means it might have been carved in the very late 1700s, after the Europeans first reached Rapa Nui.
Carving the moai from hard basalt, strong lava and other hard volcanic material must have been a difficult task. Even with modern tools it would be hard to shape a monolith like this. Few moai were built from softer red scoria rock, some were said to have been made of wood, but have disappeared (probably used up for fire wood and other needs).
It is not likely that the locals had metallic objects to carve the rock. The hardest materials they could find were probably the same materials they constructed the statues of.
The transportation and placement of the moai
Another difficult task, perhaps the most difficult one was to transport the moai tens of kilometers from the quarry and put them in place.
Most moai are at the quarry, while the other half distributed unevenly along the coastline.
Many statues had to travel 20-30 kilometers to the place where they were set up. The main quarry was at Rano Raraku, therefore this place is considered to have been the "birthplace" for the large majority of the moai.
The wood & rope theory
It was scientifically proven that there were wide areas of palm forests and even unique indigenous trees which were erased by the population. Many believe that the wood wasn't strong enough for such operations and if they cut them down and placed them under the monoliths in order to roll them to the final destination, then too many trees would have been needed, as they would have been shredded to pieces by the gigantic hard rocks.
There are actually multiple wood & rope-related theories, they either refer to tilting the stones out of their equilibrium or lifting them & rolling them, etc.
But, if they did not use would to transport the statues, what could they have used?
Usage of rocks
A less plausible theory because the monoliths could have gotten damaged by the pebbles and boulders under them. There are enough stones for this purpose, though. But there is no sign that there were roads made for their transportation or rocks left over.
Other possibilities for transportation
Some people like German writer Erich Von Däniken affirm that extraterrestrials came from outer space and helped the locals create these monstrous, yet beautiful works of art... Coconuts! There must be a rational explanation for the transportation.
There must be a rational explanation to how they moved the moai.
There is a theory that says fruits, vegetables could have been used to create a "soft pavement" on which the monoliths could slide. Even so, in some cases they had to go uphill and how could they have moved them?
Perhaps potatoes or similar vegetable could have been thrown in front of each statue so that they slid better.
But how did they go uphill? Once in the "paste", the moai became very slippy and the locals must have used some other technique to pull him up.