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Picture of the Day

Hats on for Easter Island statues

How do you put a 13-ton hat on a giant statue? That's what a team of researchers is trying to figure out with their study of Easter Island statues and the red hats that sit atop some of them. Rapa Nui -- Easter Island, Chile -- sits in the Southern Pacific Ocean more than 2,000 miles from Chile in South America. The island is about 15 miles long and 7.6 miles wide at its widest with an area of about 63 square miles. According to the researchers, the island was first inhabited in the 13th century by Polynesian travelers. The statues, carved from volcanic tuff, came from one quarry on the island, while the hats, made of red scoria, came from a different quarry 7.5 miles away on the other side of the island. Previous research determined that the statues, which can be up to 33 feet tall and weigh 81 tons, were moved into place along well-prepared roads using a walking/rocking motion, similar to the way a refrigerator is moved. Not all statues made it to their final locations and the fallen and/or broken ones showed that, to move them, the statues were carved so they leaned forward and were later leveled off for final placement. The hats, with diameters up to 6.5 feet and weighing 13 tons, might have been rolled across the island, but once they arrived at their intended statues, they still needed to be lifted onto the statues' heads. The islanders probably carved the hats cylindrically and rolled them to the statues before further carving the hats to attain the final shapes, which vary from cylindrical to conical and which usually have a smaller cylindrical projection on the top. Chips of red scoria are found in the platform of some of the statue/hat combinations.

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