Disastrously large numbers of people have never lived on Easter Island

Disastrously large numbers of people have never lived on Easter Island

In the past, a maximum of three thousand people lived on Easter Island, which is not close 15,000 to 20,000 In the well-known novel about a collapsed civilization. And that collapse never happened, Write American researchers this week Advancement of science.

Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen was the first European, while searching for the legendary Southland, to stumble upon a small volcanic island, about 3,700 kilometers west of Chile. It was Easter Sunday 1722. To his surprise, he found people there. They ate fish, bananas, chickens, eggs, and rats, but they also grew root vegetables in small rock gardens.

The Dutch pointed out that hardly any trees grow on the island. But even more astonishing are the remains of the colossal stone statues, or moai, each of which must have weighed thousands of kilograms. How did these people get his place? These interesting facts fueled increasingly wild stories. Famous writers have written books about it, including Thor Heyerdahl in 1957.

Cut and move

The story goes that to carve those statues and move them, at least ten thousand people must have lived there. They are said to have moved the statues on rolling logs. But when the trees ran out, civilization had collapsed. It would lead to hunger, war and cannibalism. This makes Easter Island a prime example of catastrophic resource depletion.

But this is all wrong, the Americans are now writing. They analyzed satellite images taken with infrared cameras. This allows you to observe material and moisture differences in the soil. The researchers specifically looked for traces of rock gardens, which remain the only viable form of agriculture on the island. Residents use stone dust as a soil amendment. This provides additional minerals, improves soil structure and retains moisture. And: It is still visible centuries later.

The Americans trained software to recognize and measure these patterns. It turns out that the entire Easter Island has only 0.76 square kilometers of rock gardens, five times less previously estimated. This is because the new method distinguishes between rock gardens and, for example, lava flows and roads. The article concludes that the old population estimate should also be reduced by a factor of five.

“It’s a nice new study, but the result is not new at all,” answers Jan Boersema, professor of foundations of environmental sciences at Leiden. He wrote the book Easter Island pictures (2011) and various scientific articles about this subject. I already expressed serious doubts about this collapse in 2002. I checked Roggeveen’s records: they did not mention starving and quarreling people at all, but healthy, cheerful and Very productive island.”

The carrying capacity of the island

Boersma calculated different scenarios for population growth, with plausible numbers of Polynesians arriving and a specific year of arrival, around AD 1100. This year has been confirmed by various studies – including from These same Americans. “Pre-industrial societies show growth of a maximum of 0.5 percent per year,” says Boersema. “My conclusion is that more than 3,500 people could not have lived there before 1722.”

Boersema said subsequent studies on the island’s carrying capacity confirmed these numbers. “The forest disappeared not only because of logging, but also because the Polynesian rats that came with the first inhabitants ate almost all the seedlings. As a result, there was little regeneration of the forest.” He wrote that Americans already in 2012. But even without trees, Easter Island residents managed to move their statues, advertiser Americans in 2013 experimentally: by standing upright and letting them step forward. “Although this is still controversial. This often goes wrong in such rough terrain.”

In short, the new research only confirms what others and the Americans themselves have previously reported, concludes Professor Leiden. “It’s remarkable that they’re offering this now with all this fanfare.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top