Archaeologists unveil secrets of Easter Island
Until now, it was thought that the causes of the decline of the Easter Island people were overexploitation of natural resources and fratricidal fighting. However, new research suggests that the history of the civilization that left behind the giant Moai statues looked very different.
Easter Island is one of the most isolated places on Earth – the nearest inhabited island in Polynesia is approx. 2000 kilometerów, and to the mainland – South America – ok. 3600 kilometerów. This Pacific island has an area similar to Katowice, Poland. It was discovered by a EuropeanóAs late as 1722. on Easter Sunday, which is the source of theódłem of its present-day name.
It was settled by ancient Polynesiansóin the island has long been perceived as a place full of riddles and mysteries.
The authors of the new publication, whoóra appeared in „Journal of Pacific Archaeology” point to a more complex history of the island and its inhabitantsów. Analyzing the chemical composition of the tools used to create large stone statuesów, archaeologists have found evidence of a sophisticated society in which theówhere people shared information and supportedó³collaborated with each other.
– For a long time, people have wondered about the culture behind these huge statues. Our research shows how theób these people interacted with each other, which helps correct theories about the island’s history – said Laure Dussubieux of the Field Museum, one of the authors of the study.
– The idea of rivalry, whichóra led to the demise of the inhabitantsóin Easter Island may be exaggerated. To me, the fact that there was something like a sculpture industry is solid evidence that there was a coóhe cooperation between families and groups of craftsmenów – awarded to the headówny study author Dale Simpson, an archaeologist at the University of Queensland.
Scientists believe that the first people arrived on Easter Island (called Rapa Nui in the local language) about 900 years ago. The founding group, according to oral tradition, arrived on the island in twoóch boats led by the community’s first chief, Hotu Matu'a. Over the years, this population grew to several thousand, creating a complex society thatóre best known for their statuesóin Moai proudly standing tall on the island to this day.
Statues, whichóre now partially buried, they represent the most important personalities among theód ancestorsóin the people of Rapa Nui. There are nearly a thousand Moai on the island alone, and the largest of them is over 20 meters tallóin the height of.
According to Simpson, the size and number of Moai indicate a complex society. – The ancient inhabitants of Rapa Nui had a chieflyów, priestów and guilds of workersów, któwho fished, farmed and produced Moai. There was a certain level of socio-political organization, whichóra was needed to carve almost a thousand statues of theów – Simpson pointed out.
Recent excavations centered aroundół four statuesów in the inner region of Rano Raraku, a quarry, with któhe raw material for the statues was drawn from, conducted by Jo Anne Van Tilburg of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology with her research team. To better understand this society, Simpson, Dussubieux and Van Tilburg looked at a detailedócrowbar 21 of about 1,600 stone tools made of basalt, called „toki”, które were found during the Van Tilburg excavations.
For Van Tilburg, the goal of the project was to better understand how theób twóricians of the tools and carvers may have interacted, giving them insight into the wayób the functioning of the entire statue industry.
There are at least three ródifferent sourcesódła on Easter Island, with któhe inhabitants drew the raw material to create the Moai. The quarries cover an area of 12,000 metreóin square – is surface dwóch football fields. These quarries, tools, które of them shed light on the prehistoric society of Rapa Nui.
– Basalt is a grayish stone, whichóry did notósings of nothing in particularólnym, but when you look at the chemical composition of próbek basalt with róThe different sources ofóde³, you may notice very subtle róThe differences in the concentrations of róthat elementalów – explained Dussubieux. – A rock from each sourceódła is different – added.
Dussubieux conducted chemical analysis of stone tools. Archaeologists used a laser to cut off pieces of theóin the since „toki”, and then used an instrument called a mass spectrometer to analyze the amounts of róof the elementalóin chemicals present in the próbkach.
– Most of the toki came from a single quarry complexów. When people found the quarry, który corresponded to them, they stayed with it,” said Simpson. – So that every móhead use one type of stone, they had to wspóhe researchers worked together, which is why they were successful – added.
Such a level of wspóThe large-scale work contradicts the popular narrative, according to which theórej the inhabitants of Easter Island lacked the resourcesóin, which became the cause of clan warfare and ultimately the collapse of the entire culture. While the public was póLater decimated by colonistów and slave tradersów, the Rapa Nui culture survived. – Thousands of ancestorsóin the inhabitantsóin Rapa Nui is still alive. This society has not collapsed,” Simpson pointed out.
Van Tilburg, however, recommends caution when interpreting the resultóin research. – The almost exclusive use of a single quarry to produce these tools supports a view of craft specialization based on information exchange, but we cannot say at this stage whether these interactions were fruitful. Perhaps in a sense it was also a compulsion. Human behavior is complex. This study encourages further stone mapping and sourcing, and our excavations continue to shed new light on Moai carving – emphasized Van Tilburg.
– What we learn about the interactions of people in the past is very important to us, because what shapes our world is how weób how we interact – added Dussubieux.
Sourceóbackground: Field Museum, photo. CC-BY-SA-2.5/ Ian Sewell/ Wikimedia Commons