A new moai statue has been found buried in a dry lake bed on Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island. The team who discovered the stone head believes that there could be even more in the lake bed waiting to be revealed after climate change led to it drying up.
The statue was found earlier this week, according to Ma'u Henua, the group that oversees Rapa Nui's national park.
"For the Rapa Nui people, it's [a] very, very important discovery," vice president of Ma'u Henua, Salvador Atan Hito, told Good Morning America. "Because it's here in the lake and nobody knows this exists – even the ancestors, our grandparents don't know [about] that one."
The sculpture – made of solidified volcanic ash – is smaller than many of the nearly 1,000 statues found across the island. The figures were transported across the island from their building site by unconfirmed means. There are accounts by islanders that the statues "walked" or were “endowed with power to walk about in the darkness". While this sounds absurd, there is a pleasing theory posed in a 2013 paper that the statues were indeed walked across the island and into position.
It's unknown why this particular moai was placed within the lake bed, but the discovery could mean that it may not be the last statue found.
"Under the dry conditions that we have now, we may find more," professor of archaeology at the University of Arizona, Dr Terry Hunt, told Good Morning America. "They've been hidden by the tall reeds that grow in the lake bed and prospecting with something that can detect what's under the ground surface may tell us that there are in fact more moai in the lakebed sediments.
"When there's one moai in the lake, there's probably more."