War may not have destroyed Easter Island civilization

War may not have destroyed Easter Island civilization

The question about what led to the collapse of Easter Island, broadly thought of as the world's most isolated inhabited place, hundreds of years back is a topic of hot debate.

Conventional wisdom said that environmental destruction and internecine warfare resulted into societal and economic collapse on the small tiny island present at a distance of some 2,150 miles off the Chile coast.

The demise of the island has been presented as a warning tale for our own brutal and environmentally destructive times, for years.


However, in the last 10 years or so, the general understanding of the collapse of Easter Island has been challenged by archaeologists whose efforts and long study on the island, also called Rapa Nui, point towards a distinct story, wherein Europeans-introduced disease and slavery are the culprits and not ecocide and self-destruction.

On Tuesday, a study appeared in the journal Antiquity added further evidence to the line of thinking.

The island has thousands of tiny, sharp objects carved from obsidian, a rock composed of volcanic glass. For centuries, it's been supposed that these implements, nearly triangular and called mata'a in the indigenous Rapanui language, were spear points. European explorers referred to them as spears, and they started reaching the island in 1722.

However, after studying 423 mata'a, a group of scientists has reached a conclusion that they weren’t mainly designed for interpersonal violence but were tools used for general purposes they might have been used in peaceful tasks, like ritual scarification, tattooing and agriculture.

The Washington Post said, “They found that the pieces of glass would have made very poor weapons and bore little resemblance to other types of spears from similar civilizations”.

While speaking to the BBC, the lead author of the study, Carl Lipo, an anthropologist and director of Binghamton University's environmental studies program said that it’s assumed that these were the WMDs that resulted into the collapse of people.


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