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Easter Island Mystery Solved? Research Suggests Cause of Demise

By    |   Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 07:13 PM

New research is shedding light on the Easter Island mystery concerning what caused the downfall of the natives of the island, called Rapa Nui.

The research, conducted by an international team including UC Santa Barbara, suggests that the demise of the Polynesia group began before Europeans arrived in 1722.

The study also suggests that regional variations and natural environmental barriers to growing crops played a factor rather than the inhabitants' actions degrading the environment.

The 63-square-mile island was settled around 1200 AD, and the population is thought to have reached as high as about 15,000. By 1722, the Easter Island population had declined to about 2,000, says ScienceAlert, and it was nearly gone by the 1860s.

"When we evaluate the length of time that the land was used based on the age distribution of each site's obsidian flakes, which we used as an index of human habitation, we find that the very dry area and the very wet area were abandoned before European contact," researcher Oliver Chadwick said in a news release. "The area that had relatively high nutrients and intermediate rainfall maintained a robust population well after European contact."

The Easter Island study, published in the journal PNAS, concludes that environmental constraints were the primary factor for the inhabitants' mystery disappearance, rather than European disease or violence.

"The pullback from the marginal areas suggests that the Rapa Nui couldn't continue to maintain the food resources necessary to keep the statue builders in business," Chadwick said in the statement. "So we see the story as one of pushing against constraints and having to pull back rather than one of violent collapse."

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New research is shedding light on the Easter Island mystery concerning what caused the downfall of the natives of the island, called Rapa Nui.
easter island, mystery, solved, demise, research
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2015-13-28
Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 07:13 PM
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