The Statues That Walked

  • by Terry Hunt, Carl Lipo
  • Narrated by Joe Barrett
  • 6 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 Pacific islands, have built such monumental works?
No such astonishing numbers of massive statues are found anywhere else in the Pacific. How could the islanders possibly have moved so many multi-ton monoliths from the quarry inland, where they were carved, to their posts along the coastline? And most intriguing and vexing of all, if the island once boasted a culture developed and sophisticated enough to have produced such marvelous edifices, what happened to that culture? Why was the island the Europeans encountered a sparsely populated wasteland?
The prevailing accounts of the island’s history tell a story of self-inflicted devastation: a glaring case of eco-suicide. The island was dominated by a powerful chiefdom that promulgated a cult of statue making, exercising a ruthless hold on the island’s people and rapaciously destroying the environment, cutting down a lush palm forest that once blanketed the island in order to construct contraptions for moving more and more statues, which grew larger and larger. As the population swelled in order to sustain the statue cult, growing well beyond the island’s agricultural capacity, a vicious cycle of warfare broke out between opposing groups, and the culture ultimately suffered a dramatic collapse.
When Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo began carrying out archaeological studies on the island in 2001, they fully expected to find evidence supporting these accounts. Instead, revelation after revelation uncovered a very different truth.


What the Critics Say

"Hunt and Lipo make a major contribution to global history. They decipher the tangled skeins of Easter Island’s history with cutting edge scholarship and vivid writing. Their meticulous research tells a tale not of ecological armageddon, as so commonly believed, but of brilliant human achievement under difficult, isolated circumstances. This important book revolutionizes our understanding of ancient Polynesia and is a must-buy for anyone visiting this extraordinary place." (Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara)
"Finally, a fair and balanced account of the deeper human and environmental histories of Easter Island by people who not only know the records intimately but also helped produce them. In the midst of an ocean of sensationalist accounts of these histories, The Statues that Walked rights many wrongs." (Donald K. Grayson, Professor, Department of Anthropology and Quaternary Research Center, University of Washington)
"A great read and a genuinely exciting account of how the science of archaeology is done at its best." (John Edward Terrell, Professor and Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology, Field Museum of Natural History)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The "Mystery of Easter Island" remains raveled

This book summarizes recent archeological and anthropological research, some of it quite surprising, into the history of Easter Island or Rapa Nui. The large majority of the book is dedicated to explaining on how the Polynesians who settled Rapa Nui managed to survive in a very precarious ecosystem; a major emphasis is given to persuasively discrediting Jared Diamond's assertion that the behavior of the Rapa Nui is emblematic of the willful self-destructive patterns of a population whose behavior causes its own economic and cultural collapse.

Only a few chapters are dedicated to the statues themselves, relating mostly to how the statues could have been carved and moved by the islanders, and these are quite interesting. However, explanations as to WHY the islanders carved such an abundance of the statues, what they were supposed to represent, why they were placed where they were, etc., were unsatisfying, to put it mildly.

The authors' discussion on the reason for the statues almost exclusively revolves around a theory relating to status accumulation and population control in a limited environment, seeming to suggest, as far as I understand it, that the men were kept busy building and moving statues in order to limit their opportunities to father children and keep them from fighting with each other (not consciously, mind you, but as a function of population dynamics). I can't help but find this argument patronizing in the extreme and totally inadequate in explaining the astonishing creativity and energy of these island people.
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- Diane

Love Those Mysterious Islands!

Before listening to this quite enjoyable book, I knew nothing about Easter Island (except there are big statues there), so I cannot really comment on this as opposed to other scholarly approaches to the history and archeology of the area. I can say that I found this to be very informative and well-narrated.

The authors take on not only the mysteries of the island, but also the preconceptions about the inhabitants and the ecology that other scientists have brought to the study. It makes perfect sense to me that a society may not have to develop in the same way Europeans did to be considered "enlightened" cultures.

Glad I bought this during a recent sale!

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- C. Telfair

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-18-2011
  • Publisher: Audible Studios