Easter Island’s Famous Moai Statues: Unearthing Myth and Reality with Greece’s Extraordinary Half-Human, Half-Horse Skeleton Discovery in 1876

Did you know that the famous “The Centaur of Volos” statue, first exhibited in 1980 at the Madison Art Center in Wisconsin, is not exactly what it seems? The plaque on the statue mentions it as one of three centaur burials discovered by the Archaeological Society of Argos Orestiko in Greece, but there’s more to the story.

According to researcher and forensic-science writer Dolly Stolze at the Strange Remains forensic anthropology website, the “The Centaur of Volos” was actually created by an artist and biology professor named Bill Willers. Willers constructed the skeletal remains of the centaur using real human bones and the bones of a Shetland pony. The human bones he used were from an anatomical specimen, a human skeleton from India, in the biology department at his university. To make them look authentic, both human and pony bones were stained to give them a uniform color.

The statue toured several colleges in the 1980s before being purchased by the University of Tennessee-Knoxville in 1994, where it is now permanently displayed. In 2008, Willers was commissioned by Skulls Unlimited—a company that sells real bones, both human and other—to create another centaur skeleton, this time posed differently.

“The Centaur of Tymfi” was exhibited at Arizona’s International Wildlife Museum in 2012 as part of a “Mythological Wildlife” exhibit before being purchased by The Barnum Museum in Connecticut. Interestingly, “The Centaur of Tymfi” uses zebra, not horse, bones.

But why was “The Centaur of Volos” ever created and exhibited in the first place? According to Stolze, the exhibit was designed to encourage students to rely on their critical thinking skills and not accept everything as fact, no matter how believable it looks or sounds, even from a reliable source like a university exhibit. Roadside America adds that Willers “had conceived of the centaur as a way to test the public’s willingness to believe the unbelievable, just as P.T. Barnum did.”

In today’s age, it’s quite possible to post photos of “The Centaur of Volos” on Facebook and have at least five people believe it and circulate it. It goes to show the power of storytelling and the importance of critical thinking even in the face of convincing visual evidence.