Return to NHNE Miscellaneous Archive

A NHNE Special Article:

Easter Island

Friday, August 25, 1995
(From News Brief 9)
By David Sunfellow

Copyright 1995 By NewHeavenNewEarth
Published By NewHeavenNewEarth /

Please feel free to pass this NHNE Special Article on to as many people as you like. If you do share this NHNE Special Article with others, we ask that you reproduce it in its entirety (including all credits, copyright notices and addresses), not alter its contents in any way, and pass it on to others free of charge.

Easter Island
By David Sunfellow

Humanity has been both blessed and cursed with ancient civilizations that created stunning cultures and then vanished. The blessing has come from being able to count these great civilizations as part of planet Earth's legacy. And the curse has come from being unable to adequately explain where some of these great cultures came from and, often times, what happened to them.

Easter Island used to be one of these mysteries. But no more. And the lessons being learned from Easter Island are both chilling -- and sobering.

In a recent article that appeared in the August, 1995 issue of DISCOVER MAGAZINE, Jared Diamond painted a dramatic picture of what happened on Easter Island, including just how those giant monolithic heads came to be and what purpose they served.

Easter Island, which consists of a scant 64 miles of land, is the most isolated habitable land on the planet. It lies in the Pacific Ocean more than 2,000 miles west of the nearest continent (South America), and 1,400 miles away from even the nearest habitable island (Pitcairm). Given its mild climate, volcanic origins and fertile soil, Easter Island should be a miniature paradise. Instead, it is a virtual wasteland.

When seafaring Europeans first encountered Easter Island they found a population of about 2,000 people scraping out a living on the barren island. Although the natives appeared to be from Polynesian ancestry, the natives that these first Europeans contacted not only had no idea that other human beings existed elsewhere on the planet, but their crude, leaky canoes could not possibly have made the journey to the island from elsewhere. Nor did they possess the skill, manpower, social structure or tools necessary to create the 200 giant heads that once stood upright on the island, let alone the 700 others that were abandoned in various stages of completion -- some in quarries, others laying abandoned on ancient roads.

So where did these people come from? Who created the large monumental heads? What happened on this tiny piece of volcanic sand out in the middle of nowhere?

Erich von Daniken, author of CHARIOTS OF THE GODS, and other misinformed mystics, psychics and pseudo-researchers, boldly proclaimed that extraterrestrials were the ones that created the giant heads on Easter Island. More solid scientific investigation, conducted by archeologists, paleontologists, and pollen analysis experts, reveals a more down-to-earth story:
  • First of all, the Easter Islanders were not the descendants of extraterrestrials. Their DNA, their language, even their tools clearly are of Polynesian origin. Radiocarbon dates, combined with linguistic analysis, indicate that the first Polynesians arrived on the island around 400 to 700 A.D.

  • The period of statue construction peaked around 1200 to 1500 A.D., with few statues created thereafter. Current research indicates that the statues could have been made by as few as 20 people using only stone chisels within a year. With the help of a few hundred people, the statues could have been hauled into place. A complicated method of pollen analysis helped current researchers determine that the now barren island was once covered with a subtropical forest, complete with woody bushes, shrubs, herbs, ferns and grasses. In short, everything needed for constructing ropes, platforms and other hauling devices were abundant during the heyday of head building.

  • A large population, between 7,000 and 20,000 people, once populated the island. One of their favorite sources of food was porpoises, which required solid, seaworthy vessels which could have been easily made from the plentiful resources of the island. These early natives also feasted on seabirds, land birds and rats which they cooked in ovens fired by wood from now non-existent forests.

  • And then disaster struck: Pollen grains and bone records reveal that a few centuries after human population, the island's forests began to disappear. Then palm trees. Then the hauhau tree, which early Polynesians used to make ropes. Then the animals and birds became extinct, and the bones of porpoises no longer show up in ancient digs (because the natives could no longer build boats to go fish for them). As physical survival became increasingly tenuous, the social customs and structures of the island broke down. Canabalism became the norm and a new violent warrior class replaced the once centralized government. In the end, what few people survived the carnage, ended up living in caves while rival clans set out toppling one another's statues (statues which many experts believe were originally built to display the power and wealth of various clans).
  • How could a horrible disaster like this reduce a once civilized people to such groveling and barbaric standards? Research suggests that it didn't happen overnight. It happened by thoughtlessly destroying their environment one tree, bush, plant, animal, bird, at a time -- until it was too late to turn the tide.

    What can we learn from the Easter Island story: First, we are now facing on a global scale what the Easter Islanders faced on a tiny island (we are thoughtlessly destroying eco-systems all over the planet with little awareness of what horrible chains of events such wanton destruction might unleash on us); second, we have the advantage of learning from mistakes made by cultures like the Easter Island culture (and hopefully not repeating them); third, the tendency to ascribe the building of ancient, unexplained civilizations to aliens or super-advanced ancient civilizations, is a tendency that is embarrassingly common -- and increasingly suspect.

    (Source: Discover Magazine, August, 1995)


    Return to NHNE Miscellaneous Archive