Easter Island SummaryThe Easter Island Summary
((A) Sketch of Easter Island showing the places mentioned in the text.
Lessons of Easter Island
The Easter Island is one of the most secluded and populated places on the planet. Situated in the Pacific Ocean, just 150 sq km, 2,000 leagues off the western seaboard of South America and 1250 leagues from the closest habitable country on the island of Pitcairn. There were only about 7,000 people at the top.
But despite its shallow meaninglessness, the story of Easter Island is a dark caution to the rest of the underworld. Dutch admiral Roggeveen on the arena was the first of the Europeans to come to the island on Easter Sunday in 1722. It found a basic social state with some 3,000 inhabitants who lived in shabby reeds or caverns, were in an almost eternal war and used cannibalism to replenish the poor supply of the island's nutrition.
On the next trip to Europe in 1770, the Spanish invaded the island, but it was so isolated, depopulated and resource-poor that no official British settlement took place. Later in the 18th c. there were several other short trips, one of them by Captain Cook in 1774.
A US vessel remained long enough to kidnap 22 residents and work as a slave on the island of Masafuera off the Chilean coastline. In 1877, the Peruvians moved away and slaved to 110 old men and women. Finally, the island was taken over by Chile and transformed into a huge 40,000 shepherds' farm run by a UK firm with the few residents left limited to a small town.
That which astonished and fascinated the first Europeans was the testimony of a once prosperous and progressive population. Spread across the island were over 6000 solid rock sculptures, on averages over 20ft high. At the beginning of the 20th cent. the humanists began to deal with the Easter Island's ancestry.
On their first visit to the island, savage and backward man could not be held accountable for such an innovative and technically complicated job as sculpting, transport and setting up the sculptures. Thus Easter Island became a'mystery' and a multitude of theory was developed to tell its story.
One of the more fantastical impulses concerned space travellers' trips or missing civilizations to Pacific shores that left Easter Island as a waste. In his 1950' Aku-Aku, the famous novel by the archeologist Thor Heyerdahl from Norway highlights the odd features of the island and the secrets that lie concealed in its past.
His argument was that the island was first populated from South America and that humans came to inherit a heritage of monuments of sculpture and stonework (similar to the great accomplishments of the Incas). In order to explain the demise, he adopted the notion that at a later date other Western colonists came and started a range of battles between the so-called "long ears" and the "short ears" that were destroying the island's rich population.
Easter Island's story is not a story of forgotten civilizations and eroticism. But the environmental requirements of the island were enormous due to this trend. As she could no longer resist the pressures, the company that had been sorely developed over the past thousand years collapsed with her.
Easter Island is the last stage of the protracted settlements around the world. From Southeast Asia, the Polynesians arrived on the island of Tonga and Samoa around 1000 BC. They then headed eastwards to the Marquesas Isles around 300 AD and then in the fifth millennium in two ways, southeast to Easter Island and northwards to Hawaii.
During the last stages of the move there were to the Society Islands around 600 and from there to New Zealand around 800. By the time this was completed, the Polynesians were the most widespread tribe on the planet, comprising a vast delta from Hawaii in the northern to New Zealand in the southwest and Easter Island in the southeast - an area twice the area of today's United States.
As the first humans found Easter Island, they found a little resource depleted area. It was of vulcanic origins, but its three volcanos had died out at least 400 years before the arrival of the Polynesians. The temperature and air moisture were both high and although the ground was sufficient, dewatering was very poor and there were no continuous brooks on the island; the only freshwater available was ponds in the dying volcanos.
Due to its seclusion, the island had few plant and animal life. There was very little fishing in the water around the island. Polynesians on their home island were dependent on a very small number of flora and fauna for their livelihood: their only indigenous fauna were hens, swine, dogs and Polynesians, and the major cultures were yams, taros, breadfruits, bananas, coconuts and yams.
Easter Island colonists carried only hens and rat and soon realized that the weather was too harsh for semi-tropical crops such as breadfruits and coconuts and too harsh for the common staple foods, tartar and sweet potatoes. With a slow growth of the populace, the well-known types of polynesian society were adopted.
The great accomplishments of Easter Islandism as well as its breakdown were brought about by this kind of organization and contest (and probably also conflict) between the classes. The villages were spread across the island in small groups of farmhouses cultivated in open countryside. The special thing about Easter Island was that the cultivation of the plants required very little work and the Clanchefs therefore had much free space, which they could bring into the ceremony work.
Easter Islanders were involved in complex ceremonies and the building of monuments. Solving the traffic problems of the Easter Islanders is the answer to the destiny of their entire population. Without draft beasts, they were dependent on man to pull the sculptures with logs as rolls across the island.
In the fifth c. the island's inhabitants increased constantly from the initial small group to about 7,000 at the top in 1550. Up to the 16th c. were built centuries of ash and with them over 600 of the gigantic rock sculptures. Then when the company was at its height, it fell apart and left behind more than half of the sculptures that were only partly finished around the Rano Raraku Quint.
Caused by the breakdown and the keys to understand the'mysteries' of Easter Island was the widespread destruction of the environment caused by the logging of the entire island. The first Europeans to visit the island in the 18th c., it was totally untouched except for a few insulated species at the foot of the lowest volcanic craters of Rano Kao.
Recent research that includes the study of species of pollen, however, has shown that Easter Island had a thick blanket of forest coverage at the moment of first use. With a slow growth of the local people, shrubs were felled to clear the ground for farming, heat ing/cooking water, building materials for housewares, masts and thatched roofs, and boats for fisheries.
One of the most challenging requirements of all was the need to bring the large number of extremely large sculptures to the island's solemnities. It would have taken a huge amount of wood, and increasingly so, as the clan competed more and more for the construction of statues: In the 1600s the island was almost entirely cleared and the construction of the sculpture stopped, so that many were beached in the stone mines.
The Easter Island community went under after 1600 and fell into ever more brutal circumstances. The island inhabitants were imprisoned in their secluded homeland without the help of forest and thus without canoeing, and could not avoid the effects of their self-inflicted, ecological breakdown. Incapacity to build more sculptures must have had disastrous effects on beliefs and societal organization and must have questioned the basis on which this diverse community was constructed.
Slaveism became the norm and when the amount of available proteins dropped, the people turned to the cannibalistic approach. They demolished the splendid figures of stones that were too solid to be destroyed. On their arrival in the 18th cent. the first Europeans found only a few, all of whom had been overthrown in the 1830s.
Asked by the visitor how the sculptures were removed from the stone pit, the savage island dwellers could not recall what their forefathers had accomplished and could only say that the giant sculptures had "walked" across the island.