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 September 30, 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 September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

2,000 Year Old Pre-Inca Cloak on Display in Lima

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) A 2,000 year-old Pre-Inca cloak that is believed to represent an agricultural calendar of the Paracas culture is on display in Lima. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

Original Mozart Sonata Manuscript Found in Budapest

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Considered lost for over two centuries, the original manuscript of one of the most famous works of Mozart's Sonata in A major has been uncovered in a library in Budapest. Duration: 01:04 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Underground Art Reveals WW1 Soldiers' Hopes and Fears

Underground Art Reveals WW1 Soldiers' Hopes and Fears

AFP (Sep. 25, 2014) American doctor and photographer Jeff Gusky reveals the underground quarries used by the soldiers of World War One, and the artwork they left behind which illustrates their hopes and fears. Duration: 02:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A rare, well-preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth is going on sale at Summers Place Auctions hope the 11.5-foot tall, almost intact specimen will fetch between $245,000 to $409,000. (Sept. 23) 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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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