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Easter Islanders were not wiped out in a war


Posted on Monday, 22 August, 2016 | Comment icon 11 comments

Did the people of Easter Island really wipe themselves out ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.5 Honey Hooper
A new study has suggested that the inhabitants of Easter Island were not destroyed by warfare.
One of the most popular theories concerning the decline of the Easter Islanders suggests that, having exhausted the island's natural resources, the people fought amongst themselves over dwindling food supplies until the eventual collapse of their civilization.

Thousands of small obsidian spear points found scattered across the island were thought to point to this particular version of events, but now researchers led by Carl Lipo of Binghamton University have called in to question whether these objects were even weapons at all.

"We found that when you look at the shape of these things, they just don't look like weapons," he said. "When you can compare them to European weapons or weapons found anywhere around the world when there are actually objects used for warfare, they're very systematic in their shape."

Instead, he argues, these 'spear points' were more likely to be general purpose tools.

"What people traditionally think about the island is being this island of catastrophe and collapse just isn't true in a pre-historic sense," he said.

"Populations were successful and lived sustainably on the island up until European contact."

Source: Phys.org | Comments (11)

Tags: Easter Island

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #2 Posted by Jungleboogie on 23 August, 2016, 1:10
From the article: "People have long believed that the island civilization ran out of resources and, as a result, engaged in massive in-fighting, which led to its collapse." Let me correct that statement: "People Archaeologists have long believed that the island civilization ran out of resources and, as a result, engaged in massive in-fighting, which led to its collapse." What a silly statement in an otherwise good piece which I agree with wholeheartedly.
Comment icon #3 Posted by khol on 23 August, 2016, 2:17
I would imagine smallmpox with the arrival of Europeans. Same as the Haida nation from Haida Gwaii...sad
Comment icon #4 Posted by Hammerclaw on 23 August, 2016, 4:08
Their population was probably decimated by introduced diseases, the same way all pristine non African-Eurasian populations were. This would have resulted in the collapse of their social order with resultant chaos.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Ozfactor on 23 August, 2016, 9:43
The article didn't have photos of the obsidian spear points found on Easter Island, so I googled it . what makes an obsidian spear point and what makes an all purpose obsidian tool ? they all look like spear heads to me   
Comment icon #6 Posted by ccc on 23 August, 2016, 12:45
It's more likely than not that contact with Europeans and the pathogens and vermin that traveled with them were the direct cause of the decline, fall, and ultimate destruction of Easter Island's culture.
Comment icon #7 Posted by ccc on 23 August, 2016, 12:48
It's more likely than not that contact with Europeans and the pathogens and vermin that traveled with them were the direct cause of the decline, fall, and ultimate destruction of Easter Island's culture.
Comment icon #8 Posted by aquatus1 on 23 August, 2016, 14:29
I don't know what stories they tell up north, but in Chile, it has always been kind of a combination, that towards the end of the pre-discovery period, the tribes were indeed warring against each other, and eventually both were weakened to the point that they were ready to collapse.  That the tribes were fighting is a matter of tribal legend directly from them, so that did indeed happen, and the final blow was the arrival of the explorers. Not sure why some are so insistent that only one factor was the cause of the collapse of a civilization, and not a combination, as is more common in reality... [More]
Comment icon #9 Posted by Hammerclaw on 23 August, 2016, 15:23
That's the Thor Heyerdahl version I read in high school in the '60s in his book Aku, Aku. The long ears vs the short ears all dovetailing nicely with his since discredited and disproven theory of Native American ocean voyaging and expansion into the South Pacific. The social disorder and starvation caused by the population collapse precipitated by introduced disease may have resulted in some such scenario.   The trials and tribulations of the islanders, post contact, extended over several centuries. It's really quite miraculous any survived to tell their tale. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/His... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by paperdyer on 24 August, 2016, 19:15
OK - So there must have been people on Easter Island when the explorers arrived, correct?  If not, how would their germs and vermin wipe out a civilization? Were any European weapons found on the island?  You'd think that if the Europeans visited the island, there would be more than a here today gone tomorrow theory.  Almost sounds like Roanoke Island.
Comment icon #11 Posted by aquatus1 on 24 August, 2016, 19:24
Europeans?  Well, the Dutch discovered it in the early 1700's.  Spain was there in 1770, and Captain Cook was there in 1774, if memory serves.  Cook was the first one to report toppled statues.  Over the next 80-90, there was only one or two ships, and they all reported things were going downhill fast.  By the 1860's, it was being raided by slavers and colonized by the French. Also, the civilization wasn't wiped out in the sense that everyone died.  The Rapa Nui are still there.  It's just that their entire culture was completely destroyed, all the culture, memories, skills, pretty much everyt... [More]


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