Scientists from four respected institutions, led by experts from the University of Oregon (USA), have revised the timing of the so-called social collapse that occurred on Easter Island. Scientists believe that the collapse of the local civilization occurred 150 years later than previously thought.
The study was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science and briefly covered by Phys.org. Easter Island, which belongs to Chile and is also known as Rapa Nui, is located 3000 km from South America and 2000 km from the nearest inhabited island. It is famous for its huge stone statues - images in hats that have been installed on the coast by locals for centuries.
The generally accepted theory is that the installation of the monuments was stopped around 1600, that is, long before the arrival of the Europeans. According to one version, the island ran out of trees, the trunks of which were used by the locals to transport idols. However, new research refutes this theory.
“Until now, the general consensus was that the Europeans who arrived on the island found a social society that had already been destroyed,” says lead author Robert J. DiNapoli, an anthropologist at the University of Oregon. stone monuments were still an important part of the life of the islanders."
It is believed that Rapa Nui was settled in the 13th century by Polynesian sailors. Soon after, they began making stone idols, which were probably used for cultural and religious rituals, including burial and cremation.
DiNapoli's team was able to reconstruct the chronology of the construction of these statues. She compared the known dating of the sites by previous explorers and compared them with the written records of Dutch, Spanish and English sailors who began arriving on the island in 1722.
The integration of this data made it possible to establish that the inhabitants of Rapa Nui continued to build, maintain and use the idols for at least 150 years after 1600. That is, the social collapse in the life of the indigenous islanders occurred not before, but after the appearance of the Europeans.
"The stay of European sailors on the island was short, so the descriptions were short and laconic," says DiNapoli. "But these sources gave us useful information that helped us understand the timing of the construction and use of these structures."
In 1774, the British explorer James Cook arrived on Easter Island. Describing the life of the islanders, he noted that the local society was going through a social crisis, and some monuments had been overturned by that time.
Its description formed the basis of the theory of the pre-European collapse of the monumental construction at Rapa Nui. However, according to DiNapoli and his team, the results completely refute it.
"As soon as the Europeans arrived on the island, many documented tragic events began to take place there - due to illness, murder and various conflicts," says co-author Carl Lipo, an anthropologist at Binghamton University in New York. "These events were completely alien to the islanders and had undoubtedly devastating consequences. Nevertheless, the people of Rapa Nui, following the practice that provided them stability and success for hundreds of years, continued their cultural traditions, overcoming the enormous difficulties that arose."