Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Model Of Easter Island Collapse Might Reveal Message For Today
Physorg ^ | 2-11-2008 | Lisa Zyga

Posted on 02/11/2008 4:04:19 PM PST by blam

Model of Easter Island Collapse Might Reveal Message for Today

By Lisa Zyga

Graphs based on the researchers’ model, showing the population (top) and resources (bottom). The decline of resources coincides with a sharp population increase, followed by a sharp decrease. Image credit: M. Bologna and J. C. Flores.

When a thriving civilization suddenly collapses, it’s often a mystery – and an ominous one, at that. For Easter Island circa 1000-1400 AD, experts believe it was a case of humans overexploiting their natural resources – mostly, the palm tree. But exactly where did the culturally rich Rapanui society go too far?

Researchers Mauro Bologna and J. C. Flores from the University de Tarapacá in Arica, Chile, have recently developed a mathematical model that describes the evolution – the quick rise and fall – of Easter Island during its golden age. Their model considers the interaction between natural resources and population, and generates a close estimation of the civilization’s collapse time, which can be applied to other similar civilizations.

Easter Island, located about 2,230 miles (3,600 km) off the coast of Chile in the Pacific Ocean, was, and is, one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world. Unlike most individual societies of today or even in the past, it can be considered as a closed system.

The first settlers were thought to arrive around 400 AD from one of the other Polynesian islands to the west. Over the next 1,000 years, the Rapanui people developed a relatively advanced and complex culture. They farmed a variety of crops, built more than a thousand 30-foot-tall “moai” (stone statues), and saw their population increase to at least 7,000 (some archaeologists estimate 20,000) inhabitants.

But, as Bologna and Flores explain in their study, Easter Island’s rapid growth also meant that the society was reaching the “carrying capacity” of its ecosystem. In other words, the isolated island could no longer support its human inhabitants. The Rapanui continued to cut down the island’s palm trees – which once covered nearly the entire 160-km2-island – at a steady rate, heedless to the long-term effects.

Using their model, Bologna and Flores could determine the civilization’s equilibrium point, where humans can coexist with the available natural resources indefinitely. However, the researchers noted that a minimum number of individuals is required to maintain a population, meaning some species cannot exist at all if there are too few natural resources to support their minimum size. In the researchers’ model, this requirement is the collapse condition of an isolated civilization with a primitive level of technology.

The researchers estimate that Easter Island’s equilibrium population size would have been about 2,000 individuals – as it was around 1175. But by 1300 – just 125 years later – the population spiked to its peak of an estimated 7,000 individuals. As part of the collapse condition, each individual requires a certain amount of natural resources. For Easter Island, the minimum number of individuals required to sustain the species was higher than the maximum number of individuals the island could provide for.

From there, it didn’t take long for the civilization to collapse. By 1225, the island had only half as many palm trees as it once had, and by 1400, there were practically none left. Consequently, the population size quickly reversed its ascent, and fell back to less than 2,000 individuals by 1600. These numbers, from Bologna and Flores’ model, are also supported by archeological data.

“Probably the relative peaceful life on the island at the beginning favored the development of the society,” Bologna explained to PhysOrg.com. “In my opinion, in general, the combination of the increase of individuals and exploitation of resources can cause many difficulties, even to a technologically advanced society.”

Whether or not these difficulties could have been avoided is complex. Bologna says that the question of whether the collapse of Easter Island was inevitable is not easy to answer.

“Surely they exhausted the most important resource (trees),” he said. “At that point, they were forced to change their lifestyle, and apparently they did it fighting among themselves instead of collaborating. Perhaps a collaboration among the several tribes could have changed the final part of the evolution of the Eastern Island society. Hard to say with certitude.”

Whatever the specific causes of decline were, the researchers’ model accurately describes the populations change. Further, when they applied their model to the ninth-century Copan Mayan civilization, it predicted that the population fell from 20,000 to 5,000 individuals in a period of 60 to 180 years – closely matching with historical estimates of about 100 years. Perhaps even more interesting are the implications that the model could have for our world today.

“Professor Flores and I, we think that the model could be, with the opportune changes, applied to the planet,” Bologna said. “Of course there are many differences, but surely the planet can be considered an isolated system as Eastern Island was. Professor Flores and I hope to work on this topic in the near future.”

ore information: Bologna, M. and Flores, J. C. “A simple mathematical model of society collapse applied to Easter Island.” EPL, 81 (2008) 48006.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: collapse; easter; godsgravesglyphs; island; model

1 posted on 02/11/2008 4:04:27 PM PST by blam
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

GGG Ping.


2 posted on 02/11/2008 4:05:01 PM PST by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

Everyone knows that the mothership brought the statues and took all the people away to the home planet. Sheesh!!


3 posted on 02/11/2008 4:08:32 PM PST by AndrewB
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam
What - no mention of “the tragedy of the Commons”?
4 posted on 02/11/2008 4:40:31 PM PST by ASOC
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

“Professor Flores and I, we think that the model could be, with the opportune changes, applied to the planet,”

Uhh, no it can’t.

“Of course there are many differences, but surely the planet can be considered an isolated system as Eastern Island was.”

Uhh, no it can’t.


5 posted on 02/11/2008 4:41:48 PM PST by Bob J ("For every 1000 hacking at the branches of evil, one is striking at it's root.")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam
They cut down the last palm tree and they all died. Classic of drugstore paperback anthropology.
6 posted on 02/11/2008 4:50:55 PM PST by hinckley buzzard
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

What if the earth’s resources are running out?

I know! I know! Give the U.N. taxing power. More birth control. More abortion.

What if the earth is warming?

I know! I know! Give the U.N. taxing power. More birth control. More abortion.

What if the earth is cooling?

I know! I know! Give the U.N. taxing power. More birth control. More abortion.


7 posted on 02/11/2008 5:06:29 PM PST by Arthur McGowan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam
I saw the movie Rapanui 15 years ago. It pretty much outlined what this new study is saying.

One of the better lines was by the chief as the island elders saw that the community was failing. The chief stated, "I'm too busy right now, I have to consult some chicken entrails". (A line I've adopted when faced with such imponderables).

:)

8 posted on 02/11/2008 5:10:41 PM PST by Does so (...against all enemies, DOMESTIC and foreign...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam

Everyone knows that cutting down the palm trees caused global warming. This caused the ice caps to melt, and all the people drowned. Why would anyone tell any other scenario in this silly story?


9 posted on 02/11/2008 6:31:22 PM PST by norwaypinesavage (Planting trees to offset carbon emissions is like drinking water to offset rising ocean levels)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: blam
IIRC that theory was first bruited about by Jared Diamond, evolutionary biologist and enviro extraordinaire in his book Collapse.

We're all gonna die because we develop industrial societies and use up natural resources. (I quote from memory).

The best explanation I've read about how they lost their trees was in a bloody civil war, where one side tried to burn the other out, but in the end burned up most of the trees.
10 posted on 02/11/2008 8:13:25 PM PST by caveat emptor
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: caveat emptor
"IIRC that theory was first bruited about by Jared Diamond, evolutionary biologist and enviro extraordinaire in his book Collapse.

Yup. I have the book...it was to PC for me.

11 posted on 02/11/2008 8:39:11 PM PST by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: hinckley buzzard

Palms are extremely difficult to cut down. Wonder how they did it.


12 posted on 02/11/2008 8:46:51 PM PST by varina davis
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: blam; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1ofmanyfree; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; 49th; ...

· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic ·

 
Gods
Graves
Glyphs
Thanks Blam. The collapse came because the culture degenerated into a mania of building those statues, and denuded the island either through that action (or through its very arrival; the death of the original vegetation has also been attributed by some to rats introduced by the first colonists).

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are Blam, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

· Google · Archaeologica · ArchaeoBlog · Archaeology magazine · Biblical Archaeology Society ·
· Mirabilis · Texas AM Anthropology News · Yahoo Anthro & Archaeo ·
· History or Science & Nature Podcasts · Excerpt, or Link only? · cgk's list of ping lists ·


13 posted on 02/11/2008 11:36:25 PM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________Profile updated Sunday, February 10, 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

The message I get is ‘don’t plant big ugly stone heads in your lawn.’


14 posted on 02/11/2008 11:38:41 PM PST by Pelham (Press 1 for English)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: caveat emptor

“At that point, they were forced to change their lifestyle, and apparently they did it fighting among themselves instead of collaborating. Perhaps a collaboration among the several tribes could have changed the final part of the evolution of the Eastern Island society.”

Reminds me of what is going on in Zimbabwe and Chad, etc.


15 posted on 02/11/2008 11:43:19 PM PST by geopyg (Don't wish for peace, pray for Victory.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Pelham

Don’t let Moslems take over. They’ll turn a paradise into a desert in less than 1400 years.


16 posted on 02/11/2008 11:50:42 PM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________Profile updated Sunday, February 10, 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: blam; SunkenCiv

Easter Island stone circle.

17 posted on 02/12/2008 2:37:33 AM PST by Fred Nerks (FAIR DINKUM!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Fred Nerks

Maybe they liked to play cards. ;’) Thanks FN. Looks like a foundation. During the “Birdman” cult phase on the island, which was post-statue-building, the populace lived in clans and each clan had its secret cave where they kept their various cultural items. I don’t think the caves (from what little I’ve read about this) were in any way large enough to shelter the entire clan, so they probably lived in huts and whatnot. Since the trees vanished to make rollers for the statues and to cook stuff, building with small stones must have looked pretty easy. :’)


18 posted on 02/12/2008 9:37:03 AM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________Profile updated Sunday, February 10, 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: varina davis

I’ll bet it would be easier to cut a palm down than it would be to put a big stone head up.


19 posted on 02/12/2008 12:53:16 PM PST by Hegemony Cricket (IX-XI -- numquam didici)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

20 posted on 02/12/2008 12:55:51 PM PST by Hegemony Cricket (IX-XI -- numquam didici)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv; blam
CHAUVET Easter Island and Its Mysteries.LINK.

The village of Orongo consisted of about fifty stone dwellings, in two rows, facing the sea. Some of the dwellings were at the very edge of the cliff, separated by large rocks, some of which were carved (Figure 62). Since the site is exposed to strong winds, the houses were low and built of flat stones. The walls were generally six feet thick but the shapes and dimensions of the rooms were very variable. Some of them had rather odd shapes, as determined by the natural arrangement of the rocks.

The entry into these dwellings was a small opening that was only 60 centimeters high. The interior was never more than four to six feet high so it was barely possible to stand upright. The interior was, basically, eight feet long and four feet wide. Some rooms communicated via a door; others had a simple opening for passing food back and forth. In the ceiling, in the middle of the slabs that formed the roof, was an opening for ventilation 116. At some points in the walls, there were niches that were fifteen inches deep and one or two feet high that were used for storage 117.

http://www.spirasolaris.ca/easterisland1.html

"Houses, however, did exist, which were built in the form of a long upturned canoe; they were made of sticks, the tops of which were tied together, the whole being thatched successively with reeds, grass, and sugar-cane. In the best of these houses, the foundations, which are equivalent to the gunwale of the boat, are made of wrought stones let into the ground; they resemble the curbstones of a street pavement save that the length is greater. In the top of the stones were holes from which sprang the curved rods, which were equivalent to the ribs of a boat, and formed the walls and roof (figs. 84 and 85)The end stones of the house are carefully worked on the curve...

Two entirely different cultures...and who built the stone wharf?

Spherical Boulder, large and small...

21 posted on 02/12/2008 4:25:41 PM PST by Fred Nerks (FAIR DINKUM!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv
. I don’t think the caves (from what little I’ve read about this) were in any way large enough to shelter the entire clan...

the red-headed 'Mayor' of Easter Island in his secret cave - Thor Heyerdhal image.

22 posted on 02/12/2008 7:04:08 PM PST by Fred Nerks (FAIR DINKUM!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Fred Nerks

Wow, fascinating! I think you’re the best-ever finder of photos.


23 posted on 02/12/2008 11:41:14 PM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________Profile updated Sunday, February 10, 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Hegemony Cricket

:’D


24 posted on 02/12/2008 11:41:49 PM PST by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/____________________Profile updated Sunday, February 10, 2008)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: blam

A recent study reported in American Scientist suggests that there was a different reason for the decline on Easter Island. The proliferation of rats destroying the trees and food supply.
http://www.americanscientist.org/template/AssetDetail/assetid/53200?fulltext=true&print=yes


25 posted on 02/13/2008 8:49:46 PM PST by tefetu
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv; Fred Nerks
" I think you’re the best-ever finder of photos."

Ditto.

26 posted on 02/13/2008 9:07:20 PM PST by blam (Secure the border and enforce the law)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: blam

gee...(blush)thanks.


27 posted on 02/13/2008 9:30:33 PM PST by Fred Nerks (FAIR DINKUM!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: ForGod'sSake

FYI


28 posted on 02/14/2008 2:46:45 AM PST by Fred Nerks (FAIR DINKUM!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson