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Easter Island

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Author Topic: Easter Island  (Read 711 times)
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« on: February 13, 2007, 01:47:52 am »

Moai carving culture
(10th century AD - 16th / 17th century AD)

Trees are sparse on modern Easter Island, rarely forming small groves. The island once possessed a forest of palms and it has generally been thought that native Easter Islanders deforested the island in the process of erecting their statues. Experimental archaeology has clearly demonstrated that some statues certainly could have been placed on wooden frames and then pulled to their final destinations on ceremonial sites. Rapanui traditions metaphorically refer to spiritual power (mana) as the means by which the moai were "walked" from the quarry. Also important was the introduction of the Polynesian Rat, which apparently ate the palm's seeds. However, given the island's southern latitude, the (as yet poorly documented) climatic effects of the Little Ice Age (about 1650 to 1850) may have contributed to deforestation and other changes. Jared Diamond disregards the influence of climate in the collapse of the ancient Easter Islanders in his book 'Collapse'. The disappearance of the island's trees seems to coincide with a decline of the Easter Island civilization around the 17th-18th century AD. Midden contents show a sudden drop in quantities of fish and bird bones as the islanders lost the means to construct fishing vessels and the birds lost their nesting sites. Soil erosion due to lack of trees is apparent in some places. Sediment samples document that up to half of the native plants had become extinct and that the vegetation of the island was drastically altered. Chickens and rats became leading items of diet and there are (not unequivocally accepted) hints at cannibalism occurring, based on human remains associated with cooking sites, especially in caves. Obsidian spear points and the toppling of many statues indicate a breakdown of the social structure, possibly even leading to civil strife, though almost certainly not on as massive a scale as is often assumed.

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