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The Statues that Walked: Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  404 Ratings  ·  91 Reviews

The monumental statues of Easter Island, both so magisterial and so forlorn, gazing out in their imposing rows over the island’s barren landscape, have been the source of great mystery ever since the island was first discovered by Europeans on Easter Sunday 1722. How could the ancient people who inhabited this tiny speck of land, the most remote in the vast expanse of the

Audiobook, Unabridged, 7 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Audible, Inc. (first published June 21st 2011)
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Jean Poulos
I became interested in Easter Island and the South Pacific many years ago after reading Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. In fact, it is a book I pull out and read every five years or so since about 1950. Easter Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1500 miles from any neighbor. The Island is called Rapa Nui by its inhabitants. It is famous for its 900+ enormous stone statues called Moai which dot the landscape.

The authors are two archaeologist, Terry Hunt from the University of
Jul 26, 2012 Grumpus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, audiobook
Easter Island was always a mysterious place I've wanted to see. Now that I'm getting older, it is officially a bucket list item. While still an exotic destination, this book has taken all the mystery away. Everything (the statues, the people, the deforestation) solved. Great to read about and glad to finally have answers but while all very interesting it lessens the appeal of one of my favorite places. A little mystery is good.

I don't have too much to say on this one without spoiling it, so I wi
Yi-hsin Lin
Jul 24, 2012 Yi-hsin Lin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
In this book, Hunt and Lipo make the claim that contrary to Jared Diamond's account of Easter Islanders committing "ecocide", they were actually very good caretakers of their environment and that in the end it was all the fault of the Europeans who came in and messed everything up.

I am not sure how much my reaction to this book was informed by having recently read Flenley and Bahn's more recent book on Easter Island. In particular, because it meant I knew more about the investigations about East
Aug 08, 2011 Marya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
The old story is that the crazy cannibal inhabitants of Easter Island cut down all their trees in order to make and move those giant statues, and then went about killing each other as their newly barren island could not support their population. The authors respectfully disagree. They argue that the Polynesian rat deforested the island (by eating the seeds of those palm trees that take 60 years to bear fruit), it only took a few individuals to move the statues refrigerator-style (rocking side to ...more
Oct 01, 2014 Ulysses rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is subtitled "Unraveling the Mystery of Easter Island", but that title misrepresents its scope: "Unraveling the Mysteries of Easter Island" would be more accurate. The authors avoid the temptation to consider EI as a single "Big Mystery"; rather, they deconstruct it into a series of interrelated "sub-mysteries", each of which they tackle as an individual chapter, in the interests of correcting the common (mis)understanding of the EI historical and cultural record. These sub-mysteries, ...more
Dee Bitner
Oct 10, 2015 Dee Bitner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I try not to use superlatives in reviews as a rule, so that reduces me to one word to describe this book: Wow. Everything I thought I knew about Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, is pretty much wrong. A lot of it has nothing to do with the statues, which of course everyone wants to hear about. A lot of it has to do with the assumptions people made, sometimes even despite primary sources, about the people of the island itself.

The received wisdom for the last several decades has been that the
Margaret Sankey
Excellent piece of revisionist archaeology refuting both the Thor Heyerdahl "light skinned" Ancient Americans vs. Polynesian war and Jered Diamond's Eco-anvil about human fecklessness. When actual data is examined, it seems that the people who arrived around 1200 (a later date than first assumed) did innovative and workable things to make their old volcanic island produce for them, including rock mulching and leeching for their crops. The famous moai statues, far from being the forced focus of t ...more
Jul 03, 2011 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I went through a swing of reading the Graham Hancocks and Sitchins of the world years ago, so it was nice to return to a crumb of that subject matter, albeit from a more sober and credible angle.

The authors dig around and make the case for tweaking the narrative of the pre-European history of the island. The presentation is methodical and understated, but never grinds to a halt.

Based on the premise of the book I was fearing that a bunch of Noble Savage-ish sentiment would be shoved down the re
Friends, I freakin love history. Especially ancient, INTERESTING history. Now, my excitement cues up a notch when said history is the subject of a non-fiction audiobook. YOU GUYS! I was beyond pumped up for my purchase of The Statues That Walked: Unraveling The Mystery Of Easter Island by Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo on audible during one of those super cheap sales. Unfortunately, the book was much cooler in concept than it was in execution and I ended up with a major case of eye glaze. You guys eve ...more
This was a fascinating look at some of the most recent research into the past of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Some of the conclusions the authors and their research team came to overturn a lot of what was thought to be common knowledge about the islanders, especially what led to the collapse of their civilization. I read and enjoyed Jared Diamond's Collapse years ago, which has a chapter devoted to Rapa Nui, but the authors are pretty hard on his conclusions, namely the idea that the people reckles ...more
Jan 27, 2013 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two scholars who have done years of fieldwork on Easter Island have co-written this engaging and mostly satisfying study of the history of Easter Island and its magnificent statues. Plenty of maps and pictures keep the text lively and keep you focused on the island's central mystery: how the hell did people on that tiny, godforsaken island create and move all those hundreds of giant statues centuries ago?

Hunt and Lipo have done a lot of research and a lot of digging, and they have created a comp
Oct 01, 2013 Leila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm going to Easter Island next month, in large part because of the description of the history in Jared Diamond's book Collapse. This book just told me that Jared Diamond was, in large measure, wrong. The story of the islanders, the destruction of their forest and the carving and erecting of the Moia told in this book makes the island that much more of a draw for me. It is amazing the detective work that was done to try to recreate the history of Easter Island. A must-read for anyone interested ...more
Oct 21, 2011 secondwomn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. This is archaeology at its absolute best - deeply exploring a culture and history in a systematic and integrated fashion. The prose is reader friendly and the authors' willingness to question and test assumptions is refreshing. All of the theories expounded here may not hold up in the longrun, but if they are debunked with as much class and erudition than that will be a very good thing. So glad I finished this on my flight to Rapa Nui and can't wait to ...more
Jan 24, 2017 Sohvi rated it it was amazing
I have mostly read old and bad research about Rapa Nui. I was half expecting this to be the same, but this is actually an excellent popularization of what seems to be sound scientific research. I'm sure there are some even more recent studies done, but things have come far since the things that were told about Rapa Nui when I was a kid.

Reasons this book is good:
- The author recognizes the colonialist past and the racist and colonialist interpretations of the archaeological material done by sev
Lynn  Davidson
Feb 17, 2017 Lynn Davidson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
If you were ever curious about the huge rock statues on Easter Island you will find this explanation to be satisfying. This is a very interesting book, in my opinion.
Feb 21, 2017 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting and well presented.
Joey Sudmeier
Interesting read for a complete Easter Island novice, as I am.

The history (and mystery) of Easter Island is absolutely fascinating but with the "mystery" comes the fallacy of interpretation and assumption.

While I appreciate archeologists and their work I can't say that I envy them. It seems like a major pain in the ass to dig and dig and pray you get a bone or tool or weapon just to send it off for someone else to analyze and then imagine what one of thousands of uses this must have had for th
Wes Cobb
Alternating between fascinating and mind-numbingly boring, Hunt’s position is fundamentally a contrarian one to the “ecocide” theory (espoused most famously by Jared Diamond) of Easter Island’s collapse. Hunt argues that the Rapa Nui people did not arrive on the island c. 500 AD and live in harmony with the island’s environment for 500+ years before cutting down all of the trees to use as rollers for the moai. Instead, he believes, based on some fairly compelling archaeological evidence, that th ...more
Ray Campbell
Oct 20, 2012 Ray Campbell rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2012
Who doesn't think Easter Island is cool? OK, I have a BA and MA in history and am just fascinated by this stuff. The mystery of physical artifacts such as the giant statues on Easter Island are a soft spot for me. So, I picked this up and enjoyed it.

The book is ultimately a fairly dry account of the findings of Terry Hunt and a team of graduate students who did some archeology on the Island a few years back. In addition, Hunt does some synthesis of older works including that of Thor Heyerdahl.
Jun 27, 2012 Aggie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A great book for anyone who is interested in Rapa Nui, and the story of the moai. The writers seem very credible offering their new research as well as taking into a count the work of many others before them. They combine all of this information together and present theories on- what happened to these people and their environment from first colonization to now. The book talks about how they lived, farmed, why it was so important to build these huge statues, how they moved them, and what life was ...more
Ishmael Seaward
Oct 30, 2011 Ishmael Seaward rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. I have read a number of books and articles over the years that have attempted to explain Easter Island. This is by far the most complete and thorough explanation, based on solid science, that I have come across.
The author taps into prior work by other investigators, and identifies where there is conflicting conclusions or supporting data. The author also gives these prior investigators credit where credit is due.
The description of how the statues were "walked" to their location is s
Jan 13, 2016 Claire rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The focus on the strengths of the Rapa Nui people was refreshing. I appreciated how the authors challenged the commonly held narrative of ecocide, and using a mostly Western empirical perspective was likely useful to persuade others from a similar background. However, at the same time, I found myself frustrated in the authors’ low utilization of native sources of knowledge. It took nearly one hundred pages for the authors to mention how an elderly local man explained “neke-neke," the indigenous ...more
Nov 21, 2012 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Visiting Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is on my short list of things to do. I enjoyed this account of what may have happened on Easter Island. Obviously there is no way to definitively know the island's complete history, but there is good archeological evidence that it was not a mere ecocide as depicted in Jared Diamond's "Collapse". The first half of the book deals primarily with facts and comparisons to other similar cultures. Later chapters have much more conjecture as they grapple with the cultur ...more
Philip Wulven
Oct 01, 2011 Philip Wulven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a sober fact-based appraisal of current research into the history and archaeology of Easter Island.
Careful and methodical research has shown the high level of development in the islanders' agricultural methods. They achieved yields of food crops from infertile soil under constant battering by wind and salt spray, and sustained a high population from very little arable land.
At the same time, the authors show that people were not directly responsible for the deforestation of the isla
Trish Remley
Again would give this a 3.50. Very intriguing. How research was done to put the story straight was very good. The theories put forth on human behavior, human communities and how this explained the way of life intertwined with the accounts of explorers through time was very good. I can't get over the theme I keep reading in books of how when explorers interfer with the native people's disaster follows. So interesting the Rapa Nui penchant for all things foreign and how their building of Ahu (plat ...more
Suzanne Skelly
Dec 31, 2014 Suzanne Skelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written by an anthropologist and archaeologist this book was filled with fascinating facts about this truly unique island.

The monumental statues of Easter Island, so magisterial and so forlorn, gazing out in their imposing rows over the islands barren landscape, have been the source of great mystery ever since first discovered by Europeans on Easter Sunday 1727. How could the ancient people who inhabited this tiny speck of land, the most remote in the vast Pacific Islands, have built such monume
Anne Broyles
It’s been several years since I visited Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Reading this book made me want to return. Hunt and Lipo share new research findings not only about how the monumental statues were transported around the island, but also, about what Rapa Nui’s culture and history tells us. I was particularly fascinated with how, because they lived on a small island without wood to build ships to get away, the Rap Nuian people needed to find ways to get along. They had more pressing reasons (survi ...more
John Marr
Sep 18, 2011 John Marr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding book on Easter Island. The authors, serious professional archelogists who have put in more than their fair share of fieldwork on Easter Island, make a strong and compelling case that:

1) Easter Island was not deforested by a statue-mad culture cut down every tree on the island in their quest to carve more moai, but by the rats the original settlers brought with them.

2) A small group of people with ropes can "walk" a huge statue just like you can walk your refrigerator across your k
brian dean
Mar 16, 2012 brian dean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have long been interested in Easter Island and the book that sparked that interest was Heyerdahl's Ahu-ahu, describing his archaeological work on the island. Turns out, he was mostly wrong in his conclusions.

Although there is no complete explanation for why the statues were made and transported in the first place, all the hows are worked out. Incredible as it seems, they were 'walked' or shifted in the same way we might move a refrigerator in our own homes.

There was likely no huge battle betwe
Jan 08, 2014 Sally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
Well the statues did walk (think refrigerator moving), but the authors were never really able to answer the question "Why". But they did explain why we will never know why the islanders created those giant statues and set them up the way they did. After the island was colonized, it reached a stable, self-sustaining (marginally)population. When Europeans visited the island for the first and subsequent visits, disease and different artifacts were introduced. It was mostly the decimation of the pop ...more
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