3D Scanning Used to Track Easter Island Moai Statue Damage

Picture credit: Wikipedia

Technology has come to the rescue yet again. Thanks to 3D scanning, scientists will now be able to track the damage that has been done by both nature and vandals to the Moai statues on Easier Island. Back in 2008, a tourist defaced one of the statues by removing an ear lobe from it. Thankfully, damage from people is minimal and rarely occurs. However, damage from natural events is quite common and poses a much greater threat to this world heritage site.

Beginning in 2007, a HafenCity University Hamburg team began cataloging all of the statues using 3D scanning tech. The project was slated to last for five years and would make it possible for scientists to keep track of damage and assess future threats by creating an accurate baseline analysis to compare to. This also makes it possible to keep track of damage caused by erosion.

Now, here comes the tricky part: it’s illegal to touch the statues. So, non-contact laser scanning was used to fully capture all of the required data without resorting to breaking any laws. During the five-year project, researchers scanned 11 sites and 46 individual Moai statues. All of the collected data was processed through the 3D Systems’ Geomagic Studio software. This produced highly detailed scans from which scientists can now make accurate assessments as to the condition of the statues.

Every year, the sites were scanned again to allow for comparison. The information allows scientists to see even the smallest changes on the statues that have happened over the previous year. It is anticipated that the changes caused by erosion and weather will only cause changes that measure in the millimeters over the course of ten years. However, it would be impossible to keep track of these changes without 3D scanning.

And it’s essential to have these records on hand in case anything catastrophic were to ever happen. Having detailed documentation of the Moai as they are now means scientists and scholars will always have them to study in the future. It will take quite a long time to measure and scan all 887 Moai, but thus far, 3D scanning has been the most affordable and efficient method for capturing data about them. The accumulation of 3D data will continue for the foreseeable future until all of the statues have been recorded. Even then, it is likely new scans will be made to monitor for damage.