<figcaption>The stone statues of Easter Island Credit: Courtesy of Terry Hunt</figcaption>
The stone statues of Easter Island Credit: Courtesy of Terry Hunt


Slideshow: Solving the Easter Island mysteries

On one side of a quarry roughly two-thirds the size of a football field is "El Gigante," a half-finished stone statue seven stories tall, and weighing almost 300 tons. Prehistoric tools lie scattered nearby. Whoever made these head-and-torso statues, known as moai, seemed to have decided one day to drop their tools and disappear into history, leaving behind a harsh, barren landscape. It's one of the mysteries of Easter Island, which budding scientists have flown halfway across the world to solve.

During an excavation project last summer, Jeffrey Boutain, who graduated from the University of Michigan, Dearborn, in May, routinely woke up at 7:00 a.m. and rode a jeep 10 miles to reach an excavation site at Anakena beach. The team was digging for signs of the prehistoric civilization, such as animal...

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