Easter Island collapse disputed by anthropologist in new theory

A new theory suggests that the Easter Island inhabitants didn’t actually fail, instead they succeeded.

By Salome Phelamei | Updated: Dec 12, 2013, 19:09 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei

Washington: A new theory suggests that the Easter Island inhabitants didn’t actually fail, instead they succeeded.

Dr Mara Mulrooney, assistant anthropologist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, wants to debunk Jared Diamond’s famous assertion that people of Rapa Nui or Easter Island committed environmental suicide.

Dr Mulrooney has spent six years collecting and analyzing radiocarbon dates from around the island in an effort to ascertain how the Easter Islanders sustained themselves before and after the time of the first European discovery in 1722, reported the Huffington Post.

She said that the data paints a picture of “sustainability and continuity” and not of resource decimation.

Mulrooney argues the inhabitants did not destroy the Island’s abundant forests. She says deforestation was done in order to make agricultural fields and plant much more useful crops, like sweet potato and taro.

Earlier in 2012, Archaeologist Terry Hunt and anthropologist Carl P Lipo presented a different view in their book ‘The Statues That Walked’ from Diamond’s that the Rapanui were sustainable farming innovators.

Mulrooney’s use of radiocarbon dating proves that innovative agriculture was taking place on the interior of the island well after European arrival.

“It wasn’t until well after European contact that we have real evidence of depopulation and major changes on the island,” Mulrooney says.

Polynesian settlers reached Easter Island roughly 1,000 years ago via canoe.

The people of Easter Island were a perfect example of a society whose lack of forethought and resource-greed led to its demise, argued Jared Diamond in his bestselling book ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed’.

Easter Island is only 63 square miles in area and sits over 2,000 miles from the nearest country of Chile. The Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called Moai, created by the early Rapa Nui people. In 1995, UNESCO named Easter Island a World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park.