Canberra - The ancient people of Chile's Easter Island built their massive and mysterious statues in those locations because of access to nearby freshwater sources and other resources, scientists have found.
The huge moai monuments, which are up to 12 metres tall and 75 tons in weight, have dazzled visitors to the island also known as Rapa Nui for generations.
Their origin is still unknown and researchers have long wondered why specific sites around the island were selected for the monuments.
The new study by a team of researchers found the locations marked where the Rapa Nui inhabitants could drink fresh water to avoid getting thirsty.
The research was published in PLOS One journal on Thursday.
There are more than 800 moai statues and 300 ahu - the monumental platforms that support them - on Rapa Nui. They are believed to have been made by separate communities with the first constructed in the 13th century.
"When we started to examine the details of the hydrology, we began to notice that freshwater access and statue location were tightly linked together," said lead researcher Carl Lipo, an anthropologist at New York's Binghamton University.
He said the areas around ahu "were exactly tied to spots where the fresh groundwater emerges - largely as a diffuse layer that flows out at the water's edge."
He said places without ahu or moai showed no freshwater, while there was nearby sources of drinking water near the monuments even in the interior of the island, not just near the coast.
"The pattern was striking and surprising in how consistent it was," Lipo added.dpa