Friday, April 23, 2021

"What we know—and still don’t know—about Easter Island"

For me the recent "scholarship" on Easter Island points up the risks of taking at face value the declarations of an "expert" with an agenda. More after the jump.

From Prospect Magazine, April 20:

The Polynesian island has intrigued generations of Western explorers and scholars. But much of what they had previously assumed is wrong

In 1722, in a remote expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen squinted out from the deck of his flagship at a triangle of land sitting on the horizon. Roggeveen had set sail nearly a year earlier to explore the uncharted seas west of South America. His aim: to find the mythic Terra Australis Incognita, the ‘unknown land of the south’, and map a western trade route to the lucrative spice markets of Southeast Asia.

Rounding Cape Horn, his three ships spent nearly a month on the Juan Fernández Islands, over 400 miles off the coast of Chile. It was here that Alexander Selkirk, the marooned Royal Navy officer who inspired the story of Robinson Crusoe, had been found a decade earlier. The isolation was profound. On 17 March they set off again, this time into the vast expanses of the Pacific. Nearly three weeks and over 1,500 miles later, they sighted an island on Easter Sunday and duly named it Paasch-Eyland, or Easter Island.

Roggeveen and his crew observed as few as 2,000 inhabitants occupying a tract of land notably empty of trees and studded with imposing moai, the monolithic head-andtorso statues carved from stone blocks erected to face inland, away from the sea. Roggeveen was astonished: These stone figures caused us to be filled with wonder, for we could not understand how it was possible that people who are destitute of heavy or thick timber, and also of stout cordage, out of which to construct gear, had been able to erect them; nevertheless some of these statues were a good 30 feet in height and broad in proportion.

Subsequent visitors recorded as many as 900 moai across the island, over half of which remained mysteriously unfinished in the quarry. By the 1870s, as Western missionaries arrived, they found a population that had fallen to just over 100, barely surviving on the island’s sixty-three square miles. How could this barren island have provided a home for such an extraordinary civilisation? What cataclysm had befallen the moai’s ingenious sculptors?....


August 18, 2018

It Wasn't 'Ecocide': What Happend On Easter Island
Jared Diamond has some explaining to do.*

From Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, August 13, 2018 via PhysOrg:

Easter Island's society might not have collapsed
You probably know Easter Island as "the place with the giant stone heads." This remote island 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile has long been seen as mysterious—a place where Polynesian seafarers set up camp, built giant statues, and then destroyed their own society through in-fighting and over-exploitation of natural resources. However, a new article in the Journal of Pacific Archaeology hints at a more complex story—by analyzing the chemical makeup of the tools used to create the big stone sculptures, archaeologists found evidence of a sophisticated society where the people shared information and collaborated....MUCH MORE
I personally prefer the carvings in fancy dress.
From December 2017's:
Apparently the Easter Island Giant Heads had Giant Hats.

...Pukao stones.
Like this:

Back to the latest research, this time at Inverse, Aug 13:

Easter Island: A Popular Theory About Its Ancient People Might Be Wrong
'Rapa Nui is not a story about collapse."
Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is a 63-square-mile spot of land in the Pacific Ocean. In 1995, science writer Jared Diamond popularized the “collapse theory” in Discover magazine story about why the Easter Island population was so small when European explorers arrived in 1772. He later published Collapse, a book hypothesizing that infighting and an overexploiting of resources led to a societal “ecocide.” However, a growing body of evidence contradicts this popular story of a warring, wasteful culture....MUCH MORE
*We've posted on Diamond a few time's going back to 2011's commentary:
"The Worst Mistake In The History Of The Human Race" – 1987 article by Jared Diamond
Diamond, at least since Guns, Germs and Steel, has struck me as lightweight, just coasting, trying to force observations into a prejudiced worldview. I know his impressive c.v. but it had gotten to the point where any time I read something of his I thought of Churchill's comment:

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

It turns out that he was like that a quarter century ago.
More spleen venting below....
I didn't remember getting so worked up but after a snip of the 1987 article the rant continues:
... This neo-Rousseau-ish babble makes me want to grab a mongongo nut and crack it on his head.

Painting the image of hunter-gatherer superiority he makes no mention of the agricultural peasants of the middle ages who worked between 180 and 260 days per year, the rest of the time being taken up with Sundays, feast days, holidays, fair days etc.

Denigrating the division of labor he makes no mention of the benefits that he has personally derived. I would estimate his Sasquatch-sized ecological footprint to be equivalent to 500-1000 Bushmen.

In many ways the best thing he could do, if he truly believed what he writes, is join the Voluntary Human Extiction Movement instead of jetting off to his next book-signing.

In the meantime we have 7 billion people to feed.

I really don't recall suggesting Professor Diamond kill himself. Here's a December 2017 piece without the rant: Do civilisations collapse? 

And an actual collapse:

"Lessons From The Last Time Civilization Collapsed"
“1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed.”  

And a different actual collapse, the demise of the Moche people in April 2008's
"Food Riot Watch: Haiti. Just Wait for the Moche Climate

Still a bit surprised at the vehemence in that 2011 post. 

... This neo-Rousseau-ish babble makes me want to grab a mongongo nut and crack it on his head. 

Must have been crabby that day.