A Historical Ethnography by Sebastiaan Roeling
A new view on the history of Easter Island
Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is famous for the megalithic statues called moai. It is assumed that deforestation of the island by the Rapa Nui led to a cultural collapse. A brief period of prosperity was followed by a long period of chaos due to the misuse of natural resources to transport the spectacular moai.
When the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen visited the island in 1722, the Rapa Nui would have been hungry thieves, prostitutes and cannibals. Easter Island became an example to environmentalists as a warning for the entire planet. However, recent research suggested that the introduction of the Polynesian rat was the reason for deforestation.
The Dutch anthropologist Sebastiaan Roeling shows that the current image of Easter Island is completely false. He demonstrates that the use of firewood is the true reason of deforestation. And while describing all aspects of Rapa Nui culture, religion and history, he also shows that deforestation did not led to famine, war and cannibalism. The loving and caring Rapa Nui developed innovative changes in agriculture and a new birdmancult to restore the order on the island. Their resilience is an example for the entire world rather than a warning.