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originally posted by: Parthin
Contrary to the usual speculation about Easter Island, this study, published by the National Academy of Science, contends that the native population did not collapse as a result of environmental damage followed by starvation. Instead, it suggests that European diseases were largely responsible for the decline.
Here is the text of the article from International Business Times:
"The demise of the inhabitants of Easter Island was not a result of warfare that descended into widespread cannibalism, a study has found.
Instead, they died off following the arrival of Europeans, who brought with them syphilis, smallpox and slavery.
Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, authors were looking to evaluate the "long-standing debate" about the downfall of the prehistoric population of Rapa Nui.
"Many researchers believe that prehistoric Rapa Nui society collapsed because of centuries of unchecked population growth within a fragile environment," they wrote. "Recently, the notion of societal collapse has been questioned with the suggestion that extreme societal and demographic change occurred only after European contact in AD 1722."
It had been believed that the civilisation of Rapa Nui collapsed before the arrival of Europeans. Studies had suggested extreme deforestation led to the destruction of the fertile soil. This coupled with a rapidly expanding population resulted in warfare, widespread famine and eventually cannibalism.
However, researchers now say there is a lack of evidence to support this theory and there is no precise chronological framework showing the civilisation's demise.
The authors looked at land use on Easter Island and found activity before the arrival of Europeans, with decline in some near-coastal and upland areas. In post-contact Easter Island, the decline increased."