How Easter Island's statues "walked"

The researchers found that the statue’s fat belly produced a forward-falling center of gravity that facilitated vertical transport. A crew of as few as 18 people could use ropes to rock the statue back and forth, and forward. (In comparison, Van Tilburg’s team used 60 pullers.) The vertical-transport trick worked with four rope-pullers on each side, plus 10 people to pull on the statue from behind, as if they were holding back a dog that was straining forward on a walk.

“It’s really unnerving and beautiful, all at the same time,” Hunt said.

Of course, a 90-ton statue is bigger than a 5-ton statue, but Hunt found that the technique was scalable. “With the physics of the taller statue, you have greater leverage,” he told me. “It almost gets to the point where you would have to do it that way.”