Science Discovers the People Behind the "Moai"
If distance and isolation are a measure of mystery, then Easter Island is the most mysterious place on this planet. 2,400 miles from its nearest neighbour, Easter Island is the most remote inhabited location in the world. Long the subject of conjecture and fascination, recent new scientific and archaeological discoveries have shed light on the people who once inhabited this remote location.
A group of hardy seafaring Polynesians first reached the island in about 400 AD. They found a lush tropical island. A paradise of tall palms, clean water and abundant fish. With such gifts from nature a complex civilization soon flourished. The people called themselves and their Island, Rapa Nui. From the original settlers of a few hundred, Rapa Nui culture and population exploded. By the 1500's over 10,000 people inhabited the tiny island. Powerful clans ruled, and they expressed themselves in sculpture, art and by creating a written language. For the Rapa Nui, the future seemed assured.
Rapa Nui life revolved around the canopy of giant palms the original settlers discovered. The palms were a source for canoes, food, clothing, tools and they provided the rollers necessary to move the large carved heads from the quarry to the seaside. But by 1700's, the palms were all but cut down, the rains had washed most of the topsoil into the sea and the civilization was threatened.
Without canoes to fish or soil to grow, the Rapa Nui faced imminent starvation. The ruling families waged war for what little food remained. Rival groups toppled each other's "Moai." With nowhere to turn for aid, the Rapa Nui social system fell into chaos: cults formed, warriors took what they wanted and cannibalism was rampant. On Easter Island, civilization came to a crashing end. Today but a few hundred of the descendants of the original Polynesian setters remain.