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Easter Island collapse theory questioned

Posted on Friday, 24 January, 2014 | Comment icon 52 comments

Easter Island Moai overlooking the Pacific ocean. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Gallardoval
Academics have cast doubt on the idea that the inhabitants used up all the island's natural resources.
The enigmatic Pacific island has long held the attention of archaeologists who have struggled to understand exactly what it was that wiped out the people famous for building hundreds of giant stone head statues.

The prevailing theory is that the islanders, known as the Rapa Nui, wiped themselves out over time by using up all of the island's resources in their statue-building endeavors, earning them the accolade of being the best known example of a society that destroyed itself through over-exploitation.

In recent years however this idea has been called in to question, mainly on the basis that the Rapa Nui, far from exhibiting such recklessness, seemed to be masters of agricultural engineering and were more than capable of fertilizing the soil sufficiently to grow the crops needed to feed themselves.

Scientific evidence also seems to suggest that the islanders didn't waste all of their resources, with radiocarbon data indicating that the island was utilized well past the point at which European travelers arrived. There is also evidence to suggest that the removal of the trees happened very gradually over the course of several hundred years.

So if over-exploitation wasn't responsible for the islanders' disappearance, then what was ?

Source: Cosmos Magazine | Comments (52)

Tags: Easter Island

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #43 Posted by Noteverythingisaconspiracy on 28 January, 2014, 16:32
Yes that seems so much more likely than the other possibilities PS. I might have use a little bit of sarcasm above
Comment icon #44 Posted by taniwha on 28 January, 2014, 17:25
I meant North West to New Zealand. ( been having a bit of trouble lately with edit feature sorry ) but im pushed for time right now.
Comment icon #45 Posted by Artaxerxes on 28 January, 2014, 18:22
Perhaps it has something to do with the human reproductive capacity? Over breeding. Too many people and limited arable land? A female human is capable of giving birth to 15 or so offspring in her lifetime. If half those offspring are female in their lifetime they could have 7.5 X 15 = 112 offspring and then in the next generation it would be 56 X 15 = 840, and so on. With no disease or predators in just a few generations they could easily outstrip the resources of the island and literally "eat the island." At first it would have been paradise but soon it would turn into a trap. Too m... [More]
Comment icon #46 Posted by Myles on 28 January, 2014, 18:33
No problem. They certainly came from a population of sea dwellers. You have to wonder if their skills deplinished through the years.
Comment icon #47 Posted by spacecowboy342 on 28 January, 2014, 19:00
Sounds like a lesson to learn for what is happening world wide now
Comment icon #48 Posted by taniwha on 28 January, 2014, 19:21
Yes just like the Moai the ancient skills have eroded.
Comment icon #49 Posted by taniwha on 28 January, 2014, 22:45
Just to add Megalithic heads are not found in NZ. Bird motifs are. The close links that are known is the polynesian language of Rapa nui found its way here or maybe there. Also from what I understand the Antartic realm was known by the South Islands Rapu wai peoples, recounted in genealogical record or myth. There is no reason not to believe the same negative impacts of colonisation on Maori population in NZ also mirror that which was experienced on Rapa nui. Introduced disease and slavery. though doesnt account for deforestation.
Comment icon #50 Posted by aquatus1 on 29 January, 2014, 0:20
Thought about it. Still sounds like a really bad idea.
Comment icon #51 Posted by jeem on 30 January, 2014, 5:20
I was not serious either

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