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There can hardly be a place on Earth thats been extensively studied as Easter Island.  Archaeologists have sketched, measured and mapped more than 19,000 sites.  But theyve had to jostle for space with anthropologists, agriculturalists, historians, seismologists, and plane loads of other experts, not to mention TV crews.  But no-one can hope to answer the central riddle of this mysterious island: no written history from the age of giants has ever been found, so well never know the purpose of these extraordinary sculptures.  Arthur C Clarkes Mysterious Universe

 

 

The islanders live with their past.  Two thousand people share their island with one thousand monolithic stone statues.  Horizon: Easter Island – The Secrets, BBC 1988

 

The most isolated inhabited land on Earth.  ibid.

 

Easter Island is the enigma of the Pacific.  ibid.

 

How did the statues get here?  When were they made?  How were they carved?  Who made them?  Where did they come from?  ibid.

 

Easter Island is a favourite topic for the Phd.  ibid.

 

There was so much palm pollen [in mud samples] there must have been a forest.  ibid.

 

 

1,500 years ago a weary group of men, women and children reached the goal of a gruelling journey in open canoes across the Pacific Ocean.  Their safe arrival at a tiny island marked the beginnings of an unparalleled stone culture.  Two thousand souls live an isolated existence on Easter Island today.  The missionaries arrived in the last century, and the society is basic but western.  Horizon: Easter Island – The Story, BBC 1988

 

The island is overshadowed by its past.  The statues that draw tourists and scientists to Easter Island are the remnants of a religion which once dominated a busy Stone-Age society.    

 

A remarkable English lady  Katherine Scoresby-Routledge in the best intrepid Edwardian tradition spent a year on Easter Island in 1914.  She excavated, surveyed, measured, sketched and photographed her way across the island.  She charted the statues, the archaeological remains of houses and of rock carvings ... Her clan map was to prove invaluable to later researchers.  ibid.  

 

Slave raiders took thousands of Easter Islanders.  Even the King and his priests worked the guano.  ibid.

 

By 1877 the island was one desolate sheep ranch.  ibid.

 

There is one set of memories that has survived on Easter Island to the present day – legends.  The details keep changing but the basic stories are the same ... One legend is a war between two tribes – the short ears and the long ears.  ibid.

 

A forest once covered the island.  ibid.

 

In many parts of the island the stones have strange carvings upon them.  ibid.

 

And what of the endless birdman petroglyphs? ... Why a cult devoted to birds?  ibid. 

 

What happened on Easter Island? ... This is the story of Easter Island.  A new homeland.  Fertile.  Green.  Here was a chance for the future ... The statues were ancestors ... Slash and burn increased, denuding more soil ... The islanders couldn’t stop ... As the palms went, the soil was exposed to the ocean rain and wind.  Driving storms eroded the Earth.  And as the trees were consumed, the wood for canoes disappeared ... Competition for food became fierce ... A vicious spiral of decline had begun ...  But the statues could not respond ... Bigger statues demanded more trees ... Someone cut down the last palm trees.  ibid.    

 

Famine and competition for food were the new rule.  ibid.

 

A new order was created.  A kind of stability.  The bird man cult.  ibid.

 

Brave young men competed to find the first egg of the season.  ibid.

 

The [Easter] Islanders even destroyed their gods.  ibid.

 

Easter Island is a story of survival against the impossible and the improbable.  ibid.

 

 

To the people who lived there it is Rapa Nui.  To the rest of us it is Easter Island.  One of the strangest and most haunting places on Earth.  Hundreds of giant stone statues are a lasting testament to one of the most extraordinary civilisations the world has ever seen.  Horizon: The Mystery of Easter Island, BBC 2003

 

On April 5th 1722 in the middle of the Pacific Ocean two worlds collided: a people who had been cut off from the rest of the world for more than a millennium came face to face with the most advanced society of the age.  It was Easter Day.  And so the visitors who were Dutch explorers named their new discovery Easter Island.  But when the Dutch came ashore they got a shock ... Hundreds of giant stone statues.  ibid.

 

Easter Island is the most remote inhabited island in the world.  ibid.

 

It was genetics that held the mystery ... a genetic marker called the Polynesian motif ... Carbon dating suggests the Polynesians reached Easter Island about 700 A.D.  ibid.

 

They’ve discovered the islanders were soon thriving.  There were the ruins of hundreds of houses.  Farming flourished and so did fishing.  The population may have reached 12,000, three times more than the island supports today.  ibid.

 

The quarries where the statues were carved: there are more than 300 statues still there in every stage of construction.  And there are huge coffin shape holes high up in the cliffs where stone statues have been removed ... First, they had to be lowered from the top of the quarry ... Distances of up to ten miles.  Some weighed more than eighty tons, twice as big as the biggest stones at Stonehenge.  ibid.

 

Gone was the dead look.  The eyes made the statues come alive.  Scientists now believe the statues were part of the Polynesian tradition of ancestor worship.  ibid.

 

But then something went very wrong.  The statues were pulled down ... Then they discovered a new kind of stone implement: spear-tips.  These suddenly appeared in the 1600s, the same time the quarry was apparently abandoned.  For some reason the Easter Islanders were making weapons ... What had driven the islanders into civil war?  ibid.

 

To begin with there were thousands of bird bones.  It seems that when the Easter Islanders first arrived their new home was the biggest bird colony in the world.  And that meant the islanders had an abundant source of food.  But it didn’t stay that way.  By the 1600s when the statue quarry was abandoned all those birds had disappeared.  It was the same story with fish.  ibid.

 

The consequences seem to have been terrible.  These carvings show emaciated figures, their ribs exposed.  It seems starvation swept across Easter Island.  And starvation may have led to something even worse.  ibid.

  

But then they found evidence that there had been something else.  Something so devastating it would change Easter Island for ever, trapping the population in a terrible cycle of starvation and warfare.  When westerners first arrived on Easter Island they noticed there were no trees.  ibid.

 

Again a clue was in the timing: the trees had disappeared at the very time statues had been abandoned and warfare had begun ... The cause of this great disaster had been the statues themselves ... Over the years the statues became more elaborate and also bigger and bigger ... It was as if statue-building had become a competitive obsession ... Obsession became mania.  A craving that required more and more trees to satisfy it.  But by now nothing could stop the frenzy of destruction.  ibid.

 

If Easter Island had completely self-destructed, the Dutch should have encountered islanders who were desperate and starving.  But they weren’t.  They were fit and healthy with food to spare ... Something must have pulled Easter Island society back from disaster.  ibid.

 

The aggression that had once led to fighting had been turned into a harmless competition that led to an orderly parcelling out of food.  ibid.

 

The rise and fall of one of the most amazing civilisations on Earth is a story of epic human achievement intermixed with terrible folly.  It is in other words the story of the whole of human history.  ibid.       

 

 

Easter Island is the world’s most remote inhabited island.  Destination Truth s3e15, Skyfy 2010

 

The Mo’ai are said to be inhabited by the spirits of the dead island chiefs they represent.  ibid.

 

 

A relentless wind blows across ancient volcanic rock sucking moisture and topsoil from the land ... The haunting beauty of this bleak and lonely landscape.  Easter Island: Mysteries of a Lost World, Dr Jago Cooper, BBC 2014

 

One theory became dominant: eco-cide.  ibid.

 

We need some sense of how long it took their culture to develop.  ibid.

 

Not so clear what their function was.  ibid.

 

Was there some kind of calamitous collapse?  ibid.

 

A people at one with their landscape.  ibid.

 

Some deforestation did occur ... Slash and burn clearance for agriculture.  ibid.

 

Diseases that destroyed the basis of their society.  ibid.

 

They resorted to kidnap – taking the islanders by force.  ibid.

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