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Dr Karina Croucher from The University of Manchester says her research backs a growing body of opinion which casts new light on the people living on the island of Rapa Nui, named ‘Easter Island’ by its discoverers in 1722.
“Easter Islanders’ ancestors have been unfairly accused by Westerners of being primitive and warlike, for toppling statues - or moai - and for over-exploiting the island’s natural resources,” she said.
But the art which adorns Easter Island’s landscape, volcanoes and statues, body tattoos and carved wooden figurines, when examined together, show a different picture of what the islanders were like, according to Dr Croucher.
The Easter Island of ancient times supported a sub-tropical forest complete with the tall Easter Island Palm, a tree suitable for building homes, canoes, and latticing necessary for the construction of such statues. With the vegetation of the island, natives had fuelwood and the resources to make rope. With their sea-worthy canoes, Easter Islanders lived off a steady diet of porpoise. A complex social structure developed complete with a centralized government and religious priests.
Around 1400 the Easter Island palm became extinct due to overharvesting. Its capability to reproduce has become severely limited by the proliferation of rats, introduced by the islanders when they first arrived, which ate its seeds. In the years after the disappearance of the palm, ancient garbage piles reveal that porpoise bones declined sharply. The islanders, no longer with the palm wood needed for canoe building, could no longer make journeys out to sea. Consequently, the consumption of land birds, migratory birds, and mollusks increased.
Originally posted by BlackmarketeerCanoes were in use that were over a hundred years old, the sea was still providing nourishment, and they no longer were building or transporting Moai that took such a toll on the island's ecosystem. Perhaps the forest would have restored itself. Then the Westerner's arrived along with new diseases and pests which struck the final blow.
Its capability to reproduce has become severely limited by the proliferation of rats, introduced by the islanders when they first arrived, which ate its seeds.