Posts Tagged With: Remote Sensing

How did the Easter Island Statues Get There? They Might Have Walked!

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While doing research for my Remote Sensing project I happily stumbled across an entry in the book, Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology by Sarah H. Parcak, that I just had to look up. Once I got into it, I knew I had to share, since more than a few have asked about this very topic. Specifically,  how the Easter Island Statues were moved. Well researchers Dr. Carl Lipo and Dr. Terry Hunt might have an answer, using Remote Sensing!

Moai set in the hillside at Rano Raraku

First, What are the Easter Island Statues? Officially called the Moai, they are stone monoliths depicting giant human figures with extremely large heads. The stone they are carved from is called  Tuff, which is an easily carved,  compressed volcanic ash [Radford 2012]. The tuff quarries are located in an extinct volcano called Rano Raraku on the northeastern part of the island [Radford 2012]. Experts, and locals, attribute them to depictions of ancestors and great leaders. Others, attribute them to, yes, Aliens and the like.

Before we get into what they found let’s look over some of the alternative theories out there.

The site called The Hidden Records is kinda typical of the kind of ideas Ancient Alien Theorists get. I like this one, mainly because it’s written by a guy named Wayne, who likes to refer to himself in the first person. This amused the Archy, so the Archy decided to peruse the Wayne’s entry on the Moai.

I’m not going to lie, I skimmed this site. It took a while for Wayne to get to the point, which was that the Moai are somehow connected to an ancient global cult who worshiped bird-headed spacemen, as shown by the dubious claim that the statues are aligned with the “Sol-Star”. Also, carved onto the bodies are both the symbol ‘O’ and ‘M’ which, other than being two of the most simplest symbols to form, also connect the statues to the global Space-BirdMan cult.

Wayne did throw a few questions out there, and a couple really caught my attention, mainly because they were so easily answered. Not that this will impress the Wayne, he’s sure to point out, he’s never heard a satisfactory explanation for the correlations he sees, but that’s a true believer for you. These questions are pretty common among any conspiracy/true believer I’ve encountered.

“How strange is that just for starters? The first expedition unearthed them and documented the breaking discovery pictographic[sic] evidence, didn’t make it public in a big way at all, then for unknown reasons, buried them again! This is insane! What could have been so shocking for them to have been completely covered up again?”

This comment comes after a ramble about the excavation of a few of the Moai statues. They were indeed excavated, and they do possess detailed bodies beneath the ground, but this comment shows Wayne’s lack of understanding of how archaeology works. It also makes several assumptions that are not validated.

Firstly, Wayne assumes the statues were originally buried. What Wayne doesn’t seem to understand is that really heavy objects sink over time, especial when they are sat on bare ground. We see this a lot with headstones in cemeteries. The weight of the stone forces itself to sink into the ground over the years, especially in regions where there is rainy weather that softens the ground seasonally.

Secondly, it’s not so shocking that the archaeologists would have reburied the statue, it’s actually a very common practice that helps to preserve a site or object. Nearly everyone does it, especially when we’re looking at things that we are not intending to remove or if a dig takes more than one season. For some reason Wayne thinks that all archaeologists do is dig things up, rip them from the ground, and then scamper off to a museum. Lots of things get left in-situ for prosperity and because the point was to examine them, not abscond with another culture’s artifacts.

Third, Wayne assumes, as many alternative theorists do, that there is some great academic conspiracy that every “mainstream” researcher is in on. Therefore the researchers who worked on the Moai dig kept their findings quiet and then tried to hide the evidence because it’s so shocking. The reality is that there is a lot of academic research on the Moai and it’s very accessible to the public. Including the site the Easter Island Statue Project which is a great resource for those with questions about the Island and it’s ancient culture. They have links to their expeditions,  excavations, and artifact logs. Dr. Hunt also makes his research accessible to the public via his personal  page.

Moai facing inland at Ahu Tongariki, restored by Chilean archaeologist Claudio Cristino in the 1990s

But Wayne goes on. This time about how he can’t possibly figure out how two civilizations develop independently of each other.

“By chance having two individual civilisations[sic] on opposite sides of the planet, one located in the middle of an ocean, having the same obsession with massive stone carvings and showing the same symbols, story, style and entity appearance is absolutely mind blowing!”

This is actually called Convergent evolution and applies easily to cultures as well as species. What I don’t understand is why people don’t get that we are all humans and each of us just as capable as the other. So why is it so hard to grasp that two different cultures can come up with the same idea? Especially when they live on the same planet, encounter the same natural forces, look up at the same sky, and share the same biological needs? Wayne seems to be amazed that multiple cultures could look up at the starry sky at night and come up with constellations completely independent of one another. That idea confuses him, but a global Space-Bird Cult is completely reasonable.

It’s also a very sad statement how intellectually poor Wayne, and most that think along these lines, think our ancestors were. Apparently, our ancestors were so intellectually deficient that they couldn’t possibly figure out how to carve stone, make symbols into words, and have their own cultures without Spaceman helping them out. It’s terrifically insulting to ancient cultures, and vaguely racist. As usual, these claimants are very white, and well, the Rapa Nui (who are the descendants of the Moai culture) are kinda brown-ish. It’s more of a micro-aggression then full-blown racism, but it’s a common thread in these “ancient people were visited by aliens” theories, and people need to be aware of it.

Anyway, I could spend all day breaking down the Wayne’s arguments, but I think we all get the idea. There are people out there who think the Moai were either built by aliens or for aliens.

So how did these huge Stone statues get from their quarries to where they are now? Well, they walked. According to the History Channel’s excellent mockery of a documentary called Ancient Aliens, when the Spacemen came down and had the statures carved to fit their egos, then they animated the statues so that they would walk to locations they would be found at.

The “Walking” Moai, via NBCNews.com

But the History Channel may not be as wrong as they usually are. This time there is a bit of meat to this idea. Hunt and Lipo reproduced the “walking” of the statues by having three teams maneuver the statue using ropes [Boyle 2010]. It’s more fun if you watch this video:

[Boyle 2012]

But honestly, that’s not the coolest part for me. The coolest part is that Hunt and Lipo also have used infrared-satellight images to identify the very roads that the statures were probably walked down. These roads have been set upon by the natural processes that occur over time, but that’s whats so damn cool about using remote sensing, you can see the scars left behind by ancient peoples on the landscape!

“Figure 1. A panchromatic 70cm resolution QuickBird satellite image showing an ancient road section leading west-south-west from the Rano Raraku statue quarry (A). Statues that surround the quarry are easily visible in this image (B) as is the modern parking lot (C). The ancient road (D) is visible primarily as a horse trail and as a line of vegetation that runs from the north-east to the south-west corner of the image. This feature likely reflects sediment compaction with greater water retention and subsequent vegetation growth. Multiple large statues (moai) line this road near the quarry (E). The satellite image was provided by RADARSAT, Inc and DigitalGlobe, Inc.” [Lipo and Hunt 2005]

That’s pretty darn cool to me. You should be able to click through the image to get to the full paper. The picture is much nicer in the pdf version.

I was really excited when I saw this little tidbit, and I really wanted to share it with you. The more I learn about remote sensing the more I am stoked about learning to use it to aid in archaeology. Especially since I know this paper was used to help Lipo and Hunt from their “Walking Statue”  hypothesis  which led to the testing of it, which aids in the debunking of sites like The Wayne’s.

Dr.s Lipo and Hunt [Boyle 2012]

I want to leave you with one last quote from the Cosmic Log article because this really drives home the damage that racism of the Ancient Alien theorists cause:

“So did the statues rock, or roll? The debate over the two scenarios surrounding Easter Island’s past could well continue for generations. But it’s clear which scenario is preferred by the islanders themselves.

“The young people … they’re celebrating. I don’t think there’s any other word for it,” Hunt said. “One came up to me and said, ‘It’s so important for my generation to know we’re not failures.’ That brought tears to my eyes.” [Boyle 2012]

Resources:

Boyle, Alan

2012  How Easter Island’s Statues Walked. Cosmic Log, NBCNews.COM. http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/06/19/12302614-how-easter-islands-statues-walked?lite. Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Lipo, Carl P. and Terry L. Hunt

2005   Mapping prehistoric statue roads on Easter Island. Antiquity vol 79: 158-168. http://www.anthropology.hawaii.edu/people/faculty/Hunt/pdfs/lipo&hunt%202005.pdf. Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Radford, Ben

2012   Did Aliens Visit Eater Island? Discovery News. http://news.discovery.com/history/tv-show-aliens-visited-easter-island-120915.html. Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

Van Tilburg, Jo Anne and Cristián Arévalo Pakarati

2012  The Easter Island Statue Project. http://www.eisp.org.  Retrieved Nov. 8 2012

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Categories: Ancient Astronauts, GIS and Remote Sensing, Weird Archaeology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Long Pause…

So, a few of you might be wondering where I’ve been since Gen Con. Two words, Grad School.

Gen Con was a last hurrah of a sorts for me, last hurrah of free time. I’m only taking two classes this semester and so far they are both kicking my ass, though I will admit that I just got a handle on my Remote Sensing class. Just FYI, if you ever thought, “Gee, I want a class that will combine Computer Programming, Physics, Analytics, and pretty colors,” Remote Sensing is for you. For those of us who fail hard at math, this is a challenge. I mean, the formulas they give me in the book don’t even have numbers…just strange symbols that might be alien in origin. Sadly, that excuse didn’t fly with my RS instructor, so I’m back to rote memorization…

BTW, anyone know how to use ERDAS Imagine 2011? Hit me up, I may need a tutor.

My GIS class is a lot better, it’s mostly learning where to get data and then how to covert said data into pretty maps. I dig maps, maps be cool.

On the up side, I am trying to figure out how to use both of these classes in my debunking. It would be fun and keep my skills sharp, which is why I debunk in the first place. So look forward to some awesome maps and maybe some pretty colors soon.

When I’m not nose deep in a book or in class I am working full-time for the DHPA here. So not a lot of free time during the day either. Which is why I haven’t made the last few vids for my YouTube series on the 10 Most Not-So-Puzzling Ancient Artifacts. I need to find a way to carve out some time where I can do my blogging and my Vid making, course if I was any kind of planner I would have foreseen this issue, made a crap ton of back posts and vids, and then released them over time. obviously, I am not a planner.

However, I wanted to assure everyone that I haven’t gone anywhere and I am still working hard on both this blog and my Channel. Thanks for hanging in there with me. I promise to get the last bit of the 10 Most done this month so we can all move on to Who Discovered America (Now with Maps!), which I know some people are looking forward too.

Also, two other side projects that are in the works, and people can way in on them.

1) My partner and I are thinking about starting a Science Channel on YouTube. Well do fun experiments, teach classes, interview cool people, and other such things. We’ll have our topics broken up into “Shows” so like we’ll have a Mr. Wizard type experiment show, and maybe a Bill Nye kinds science explanation show, with episodes you know? What do you think?

2) I am scratching my creative nerve by putting together some ArchyFantaises merchandise. I have no clue where I will host it or what all I am going to offer, definitely T-shirts, but maybe also some custom cards, mugs. You know, fun, cheep stuff with witty sayings or cool pictures on them. Again, Thoughts?

Anyway, thanks again and I’ll post soon with real info.

Categories: Rants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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