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No such astonishing numbers of massive statues are found anywhere else in the Pacific. How could the islanders possibly have moved so many multi-ton monoliths from the quarry inland, where they were carved, to their posts along the coastline? And most intriguing and vexing of all, if the island once boasted a culture developed and sophisticated enough to have produced such marvelous edifices, what happened to that culture? Why was the island the Europeans encountered a sparsely populated wasteland?
The prevailing accounts of the island’s history tell a story of self-inflicted devastation: a glaring case of eco-suicide. The island was dominated by a powerful chiefdom that promulgated a cult of statue making, exercising a ruthless hold on the island’s people and rapaciously destroying the environment, cutting down a lush palm forest that once blanketed the island in order to construct contraptions for moving more and more statues, which grew larger and larger. As the population swelled in order to sustain the statue cult, growing well beyond the island’s agricultural capacity, a vicious cycle of warfare broke out between opposing groups, and the culture ultimately suffered a dramatic collapse.
When Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo began carrying out archaeological studies on the island in 2001, they fully expected to find evidence supporting these accounts. Instead, revelation after revelation uncovered a very different truth.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Diane on 09-14-12
The "Mystery of Easter Island" remains raveled
This book summarizes recent archeological and anthropological research, some of it quite surprising, into the history of Easter Island or Rapa Nui. The large majority of the book is dedicated to explaining on how the Polynesians who settled Rapa Nui managed to survive in a very precarious ecosystem; a major emphasis is given to persuasively discrediting Jared Diamond's assertion that the behavior of the Rapa Nui is emblematic of the willful self-destructive patterns of a population whose behavior causes its own economic and cultural collapse.
Only a few chapters are dedicated to the statues themselves, relating mostly to how the statues could have been carved and moved by the islanders, and these are quite interesting. However, explanations as to WHY the islanders carved such an abundance of the statues, what they were supposed to represent, why they were placed where they were, etc., were unsatisfying, to put it mildly.
The authors' discussion on the reason for the statues almost exclusively revolves around a theory relating to status accumulation and population control in a limited environment, seeming to suggest, as far as I understand it, that the men were kept busy building and moving statues in order to limit their opportunities to father children and keep them from fighting with each other (not consciously, mind you, but as a function of population dynamics). I can't help but find this argument patronizing in the extreme and totally inadequate in explaining the astonishing creativity and energy of these island people.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
By Carole T. on 06-30-12
Love Those Mysterious Islands!
Before listening to this quite enjoyable book, I knew nothing about Easter Island (except there are big statues there), so I cannot really comment on this as opposed to other scholarly approaches to the history and archeology of the area. I can say that I found this to be very informative and well-narrated.
The authors take on not only the mysteries of the island, but also the preconceptions about the inhabitants and the ecology that other scientists have brought to the study. It makes perfect sense to me that a society may not have to develop in the same way Europeans did to be considered "enlightened" cultures.
Glad I bought this during a recent sale!
11 of 11 people found this review helpful