The find will create controversy among the many archaeologists who have dedicated years to finding out exactly how the moai were moved, ever since Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl first published his theory in 1958.
Heyerdahl and subsequent researchers believed that statues he found lying on their backs and faces near the roads were abandoned during transportation by the ancient Polynesians.
But his theory has been completely rejected by the team led by Manchester’s Dr Colin Richards and UCL’s Dr Sue Hamilton.
Instead, their discovery of stone platforms associated with each fallen moai – using specialist ‘geophysical survey’ equipment – finally confirms a little known 1914 theory of British archaeologist Katherine Routledge that the routes were primarily ceremonial avenues.
The statues, say the Manchester and UCL team just back from the island, merely toppled from the platforms with the passage of time.
“The truth of the matter is, we will never know how the statues were moved,” said Dr Richards.