Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Easter Island’s Controversial Collapse: More To The Story Than Deforestation?

Date:
February 18, 2009
Source:
Earthwatch Institute
Summary:
Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has gained recognition in recent years due in part to a book that used it as a model for societal collapse from bad environmental practices --- ringing alarm bells for those concerned about the health of the planet today. But that's not the whole story, according to an archaeologist who has studied the island --- famous for its massive stone statues --- with a Rapa Nui scientist for nearly 20 years.

The famous stone sculptures on Easter Island where Dr. Stevenson and Rapanui scientist Sonia Haoa have worked with Earthwatch volunteers for the last 20 years to uncover new twists in the story of Easter Island.
Credit: Charles H. Whitfield

Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has gained recognition in recent years due in part to a book that used it as a model for societal collapse from bad environmental practices—ringing alarm bells for those concerned about the health of the planet today. But that’s not the whole story, says Dr. Chris Stevenson, an archaeologist who has studied the island—famous for its massive stone statues—with a Rapa Nui scientist, Sonia Haoa, and Earthwatch volunteers for nearly 20 years.

The ancient Rapanui people did abuse their environment, but they were also developing sustainable practices—innovating, experimenting, trying to adapt to a risky environment—and they would still be here in traditional form if it weren’t for the diseases introduced by European settlers in the 1800s.

“Societies don’t just go into a tailspin and self-destruct,” says Stevenson, an archaeologist at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “They can and do adapt, and they emerge in new ways. The key is to put more back into the system than is taken out.”

While evidence suggests the Rapa Nui people cut down 6,000,000 trees in 300 years, for example, they were also developing new technological and agricultural practices along the way—such as fertilization techniques to restore the health of the soil and rock gardens to protect the plants. As a result, every rock on Easter Island has probably been moved three or four times, Stevenson said.

“The story that Chris’s research team is piecing together on Easter Island with the help of Earthwatch volunteers—rock by rock, sample by sample—is one that offers us hope in the human spirit of innovation, and the power of people to change. What a timely lesson,” said Ed Wilson, President and CEO of Earthwatch.

Other archaeological evidence indicates that the Rapanui people radically changed their societal structure from one dominated by chiefs to one that was much more egalitarian in nature, too, which effectively leveled out their consumption patterns.

“That was the big adjustment that gets the population back to being more or less sustainable,” Stevenson says. “It was like telling today’s corporate head that the company can’t afford the million-dollar remodel of his office,” Stevenson says. “But it didn’t matter because BANG, the Europeans arrive with their dirty diseases”: the final nail in the coffin, he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Earthwatch Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Earthwatch Institute. "Easter Island’s Controversial Collapse: More To The Story Than Deforestation?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090218095435.htm>.
Earthwatch Institute. (2009, February 18). Easter Island’s Controversial Collapse: More To The Story Than Deforestation?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090218095435.htm
Earthwatch Institute. "Easter Island’s Controversial Collapse: More To The Story Than Deforestation?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090218095435.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Did ISIS Destroy Jonah's Tomb?

Did ISIS Destroy Jonah's Tomb?

Newsy (July 25, 2014) Unverified footage posted to YouTube purportedly shows ISIS militants destroying a shrine widely believed to be the tomb of the prophet Jonah. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites

Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites

AP (July 25, 2014) Emory University's Center for Digital Scholarship has launched a self-guided mobile tour app to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's Battle of Atlanta. (July 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-Lift

Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-Lift

AP (July 24, 2014) The U.S. Mint has re-designed the John F. Kennedy half dollar coin to better match the former president's likeness. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins