What happened to Rapa Nui on Easter Island?
Mystery solved? Researchers claim that a new analysis of Easter Island, conducted recently by geographers and archaeologists, indicates that the collapse of the Rapa Nui culture began before their contact with Europeans in the early 1700’s. What really happened on Easter Island and its population has been a long standing debate.
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Easter Island is located more than 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile and as mentioned it has been a mystery to scientists and the scientific community at large as to what was the catalyst that brought about the decline of the Rapa Nui society.
Previously, some scientists believed that the decline of the society of Easter Island was due to environmental collapse that leads a civilization to leave or die out. The other side of the debate was and still is, that the changes in the society will mirror the arrival of the Europeans on Easter Island. The assumption is that the Europeans brought diseases and an epidemic broke out, which resulted in the collapse of the society in Easter Island.
New information about Easter Island has been found through an analysis of the region and the land, by a UCSB geographer and archaeologists. The initial conclusion drawn may not have been completely accurate. Through hydrated obsidian artifacts, researchers have been able to determine the usage of land over time and rainfall variation and the richness of soil quality of Easter Island.
The belief now is that the society of Easter Island’s collapse began before the Europeans made contact with them in the 1700’s. The research team chose three study sites to draw their analysis from.
The first study site had low rainfall and had high nutrient levels in the soil, the second study site was high in rainfall, but low in soil nutrients, and the third study site had average rainfall and was relatively high in soil nutrients.
The analysis of the land varied, the very dry area and wet area were abandoned before the contact of the Europeans. The area that had an average rainfall and high nutrients indicates that there was a very large population living there even after the Europeans made contact.
The research findings lead scientists and archaeologists to believe that the collapse of the population of Easter Island was due to regional variations and environmentally related. Due to overpopulation the land was unable to sustain the people. The areas on Easter Island, where the land was rich was where the Rapa Nui thrived even with the new disease threat brought by the Europeans.
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Has the Easter Island mystery been solved? Researchers believe it has. They now have a better picture of what took place and what resulted in the collapse of the society. The new analysis indicates that it was the land’s inability to sustain life, rather than a violent insurgence from the Europeans that resulted in the collapse of Easter Island society.