An Examination of the Relationship Between Rapa Nui Ahu and Topography Using Structure from Motion GIS
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Recent studies about Rapa Nui (Easter Island) have shed a new light upon the movement of the island's giant statues ( moai) and platforms ( ahu) showing that they were purposeful projects created by small communities around the island. What remains unclear, however, is the full meaning and purpose of the giant structures created by the ancient Rapanui. A current working theory is that the structures were costly signals to other clans on the island as a way to mark rare fresh water resources. For this study, imagery was collected of the south coast of the island and then used in conjunction with Structure from Motion to create topographic data for the area. Various GIS analyses were then run on different aspects of the landscape around the different types of ahu (those with moai and those without). None of the statistics run on the data acquired from running these analyses indicate any significant difference between the topographic placement of the two types of ahu. This lack of significance shows that topography does was not an influential factor in the placement of these features and whatever factors were involved, they did not have a topographical relationship. This means that other relationships like water sources were perhaps more important for ahu placement.