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NOVA: Mystery Of Easter Island

Ahu Tongariki with Poike in the background.
Courtesy of Ben Krueger/National Geographic Television
Ahu Tongariki with Poike in the background.

Airs Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 9 p.m. & Sunday, April 14 at 2 p.m. on KPBS TV + April 14 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2

A remote, bleak speck of rock in the middle of the Pacific, Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, has mystified the world ever since the first Europeans arrived in 1722.

How and why did the ancient islanders build and move nearly 900 giant statues, or moai, weighing up to 86 tons? And how did they transform a presumed paradise into a treeless wasteland, bringing ruin upon their island and themselves?

In "Mystery Of Easter Island," NOVA explores controversial recent claims that challenge decades of previous thinking about the islanders, who have been accused of everything from ecocide to cannibalism.

Among the radical new theories is that the islanders used ropes to “walk” the statues upright, like moving a fridge.

With the help of an accurate 15-ton replica statue, a NOVA team sets out to test this high-risk, seemingly unlikely theory — serving up plenty of action and surprises in this fresh investigation of one of the ancient world’s most intriguing enigmas.

Moai re-creation held up by strap. The NOVA team tests the theory that the islanders used ropes to “walk” the statues upright, like moving a fridge.
Courtesy of Ben Krueger/National Geographic Television
Moai re-creation held up by strap. The NOVA team tests the theory that the islanders used ropes to “walk” the statues upright, like moving a fridge.

Polynesia's Genius Navigators

How did the ancient sailors of the South Pacific find their way to Easter Island and other distant specks of land?

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Explore the science behind the headlines in PBS’ premier science series. With compelling stories and spectacular visuals, NOVA programs demystify science and technology for viewers of all ages and spotlight people involved in scientific pursuits.