The Different Theories of Easter Island’s Collapse
Easter Island, or as some would call it “Rapa Nui,” was one of the most isolated islands in the world that was inhabited by humans. The island does not have a lot of wood and other resources and yet, when the first travelers discovered the island, it was full of huge carved stones statues. Around the twentieth century they discovered that when the first settlers came to the island, it was rich with resources and bountiful land. The first settlers also had a complex society with a hierarchy and sophisticated religious rituals. According to Barzin Pakandam, from the London School of Economics, The inhabitants of Rapa Nui are the descendants of a group of Polynesian settler colonists. It was estimated that at first there were only twenty to thirty settlers that arrived on the island. They arrived on large conjoined sea-faring canoes built for long distance travel. The settlers brought many traditional Polynesian staple foods with them including chickens, rats (considered a delicacy), taro, yam, sweet potato, bananas, gourds, paper mulberry, turmeric, and arrowroot. Archaeologists and historians assume that the origins of the Islanders are the archipelago chain of the Mangareva’s (Pakandam, 2009, p. 9). First, researchers were interested in how these settlers carved the statue and transported them all over the island, but they changed their focus to the theories of how the islanders was driven to collapse. The researchers came up with different theories as to why the islanders were driven to collapse and they are still debating which theory is the right one.
One of the first theories as to why the islanders were driven to collapse was that the islanders overexploited the natural resources on the island and gradually used all of it. If we compare the evidence of how rich the resources were when the islanders first arrived to what remained of it when the first European travelers came, there can be no dispute that the islanders overexploited the resources. The resource they use for most construction was the same resource that they use for food, so it is not surprising that they depleted it. According to Pakandam (2009) , as they cut down trees, the forest floor became more exposed and eliminated some of the birds (Pakandam, 2009, p.20). With the forest floor more exposed, the islanders can hunt more and predators also had an easier time hunting. Pakandam (2009) also mentioned that there was evidence that the forest was burned to clear land for agriculture and fertilize the soil with the ash (Pakandam, 2009, p.20). There are a lot of evidence that supports the theory that the islanders overexploited the islands resource, according to Pakandam (2009):
Orliac and Orliac have identified over 30,000 fragments of wood burned to charcoal used for daily fuel sources.60 Regeneration was inhibited by rats gnawing at seeds and by eating at shoots. The consequences of reduced tree cover were nutrient leaching...