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Easter Island

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Author Topic: Easter Island  (Read 556 times)
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« on: February 13, 2007, 01:46:19 am »

First settlers

Early European visitors to Easter Island recorded the local oral traditions of the original settlers. In these traditions, Easter Islanders claimed that a chief Hotu Matu'a arrived on the island in one or two large canoes with his wife and extended family. They are believed to have been Polynesian. There is considerable uncertainty about the accuracy of this legend as well as the date of settlement. Published literature suggests the island was settled around AD 300-400, or at about the time of the arrival of the earliest settlers in Hawaii. Some scientists say that Easter Island was not inhabited until AD 700-800. This date range is based on glottochronological calculations and on three radiocarbon dates from charcoal that appears to have been produced during forest clearance activities.[1] On the other hand, a recent study, including radiocarbon dates from what is thought to be very early material, indicates that the island was settled as recently as AD 1200, the time of the deforestation of the island.[2].

The Austronesian Polynesians, who arguably settled the island, are likely to have arrived from the Marquesas Islands from the west. These settlers brought bananas, taro, sweet potato, sugarcane, and paper mulberry, as well as chickens and rats. The island at one time supported a relatively advanced and complex civilization.

Thor Heyerdahl pointed out many cultural similarities between Easter Island and South American Indian cultures which he suggested might have resulted from some settlers arriving also from the continent.[3] However, the current archeological consensus is that there was not any non-Polynesian influence on the island's prehistory, although the discussion has become very political around the subject. DNA analyses of Easter Island's current inhabitants offers strong evidence as to their Polynesian origins, a tool not available in Heyerdahl's time. However, as the number of islanders that survived the 19th century deportations was very small, perhaps just 1-2% of the peak population, this mainly confirms that the remaining population was of Polynesian origin.

The fact that sweet potatoes, a staple of the Polynesian diet, are of South American origin indicates that there must have been some contact between the two cultures. However, given the far greater navigational skills of Polynesians, it is more likely that they reached South America (returning with the sweet potato and possibly some cultural influences) than that South Americans travelled to Easter Island but no further. Some "Polynesian-like" cultural traits, including words like toki, have been described among the Mapuche people from southern Chile.[citation needed]

« Last Edit: February 13, 2007, 01:55:16 am by Tempest » Report Spam   Logged

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