Sunday, January 26, 2014

Easter Island collapse theory questioned

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 ?