Skip to comments.Did humans devastate Easter Island on arrival?
Posted on 03/10/2006 4:17:24 AM PST by S0122017
Did humans devastate Easter Island on arrival? 19:00 09 March 2006 Bob Holmes
Early settlers to the remote Easter Island stripped the islands natural resources to erect towering stone statues (Image: Terry L Hunt)Related Articles What caused the collapse of Easter Island civilisation? 25 September 2004 Last of the great migrations 24 April 2004 Histories: Carteret's South Sea trouble 11 February 2006
The first humans may have arrived on Easter Island several centuries later than previously supposed, suggests a new study. If so, these Polynesian settlers must have begun destroying the island's forests almost immediately after their arrival.
Easter Island has often been cited as the classic example of a human-induced ecological catastrophe. The island one of the most remote places on Earth was once richly forested, but settlers cut the forests, partly to use the wood in construction of the massive stone statues and temples for which the island is famous. When Dutch sailors arrived in 1722, they found a starving population on a barren island.
Archaeologists had thought that humans first arrived at the island around 800 AD, based on radiocarbon dating of kitchen scraps and cooking fires. Since the first signs of severe deforestation do not appear until the 13th century, this suggests the Easter Islanders lived several centuries without serious impact on their environment.
Not so, says Terry Hunt, an archaeologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Hunt and Carl Lipo of California State University at Long Beach, US, radiocarbon-dated charcoal from the earliest human traces in a new excavation on the island. The site, Anakena, is Easter Island's only sandy beach and has long been regarded as the likeliest spot for first colonists to settle. To their surprise, the wood dated no earlier than 1200 AD several hundred years more recent than they had expected.
Chop chop "I got those results back and I was sceptical," says Hunt. "I thought, something's wrong with these." When repeated samples yielded the same date, he and Lipo re-examined the existing evidence. After throwing out any studies that lacked replicate samples or had other methodological problems, the 11 studies that remained all pointed to the same date roughly 1200 AD.
Such a late arrival date means that the new inhabitants of Easter Island must have begun hacking down trees almost immediately, building the gigantic monuments and stone heads that make the island so distinctive, says Hunt.
And the new civilisation's ecological footprint must have been heavy from the start. "There isn't a period of ecological stability. There was almost immediate impact," says Hunt. "It isn't a two-part story any more. There's really just one chapter."
Broader context Not everyone is convinced, however. A first arrival on Easter Island around 900 AD would fit well with Polynesians' first arrival on the nearest neighbouring islands of Mangareva, Henderson and Pitcairn, says Patrick Kirch, an archaeologist at the University of California at Berkeley, US.
Kirch thinks Hunt and Lipo may have been too free in discarding studies for minor methodological problems, thus rejecting valid dates in this range. "For me, they don't make a convincing argument that we can eliminate the earlier dates, especially in light of the broader regional context," he says.
And their new excavation may have simply sampled a relatively young settlement while missing nearby, older sites. To resolve the issue, researchers will need to date charcoal from many more excavations to see what pattern emerges. "Then we may be able to say we have the answer," says Kirch.
Journal reference: Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1121879)
They put up a few statues and went on their way. Nothing there...end of story.
Of course I've had scant response on my views.
If only they'd all driven Priuses.
I wish I had all the money that has been spent studying Easter Island and the paper used in printing these Thesies on what happened could re-forestate the place.
Do most normal humans really care?
Bush knew, Dude!
I think those Easter Islanders worshipped Zippy the Pinhead as their god.
Actually the original statues looked quite different.
First of all, they had hats of reddis vulcanic stone.
Secondly, they had eyes of i thought, white coral.
The eyes also had a sideways finish, like the eye of Horus.
And maybe the statue was painted im not sure.
Shaped a little like Iwo Jima... another rotten roadhouse on the Pacific Highway.
Not quite One pedant can make a difference
I keep posting articles too late. Way too late.
I'll just lay of the posting for now.
"Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it."
FReepmail me to be added or removed to the ECO-PING list!
I know its a repeat but I missed it yesterday. I always thought the concept of an ecological footprint was somewhat amusing. At what point do humans get removed from the ecosystem? What is a sustainable footprint? What size footprints do other species have?
"I always thought the concept of an ecological footprint was somewhat amusing. At what point do humans get removed from the ecosystem? What is a sustainable footprint? What size footprints do other species have?"
Figure Your Ecological Footprint:
(My) choice means the following:
"You believe that every person should be able to live a satisfying life within an average of 3.64 acres. Worldwide, the biologically productive space available per person is 2.2 hectares, or 5.4 acres. Hence, it requires 4.4 Earths to support each member of the present human population at your standard of living."
Well, I guess I'll go back and change a few answers so I can give everyone the full 5.4 acres they deserve, LOL!
Actually, I consume 37% LESS than others do, according to this (bogus) quiz. I can live with myself. ;)
Hence, it requires 4.87 Earths to support each member of the present human population at your standard of living.
I did even worse than you. That is probably due to the fact I currently live in a large city. Now I'm going to go back and take the quiz answer it with all the proper answers...wonder if its possible to be sustainable?
well the results are in...according to this website its impossible to live sustainably.
"Your choice means the following:
You believe that every person should be able to live a satisfying life within an average of 1.47 hectares.
Worldwide, the biologically productive space available per person is 2.2 hectares, or 5.4 acres.
Hence, it requires 1.44 Earths to support each member of the present human population at your standard of living."
I'm not surprised...are you? LOL!
Now, spend the rest of your day flogging yourself for being such a bad, evil "Crunch Conservative." It's the very LEAST you can do to pay for your unforgiveable sin of living and breathing on this planet.
P.S. You can also ease your guilt by writing a big, fat check to The Sierra Club. ;)
It would appear to a logical observer that the deforestation was deliberate, to make their 'gods' appear more powerful.
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