For a while now, the politically correct rap on ancient Easter Island has been that its people committed environmental suicide. But in July 2017, a new paper published in The American Journal of Physical Anthropology virtually debunked what has become one of popular ‘science’s’ more cherished memes—the notion that, in an act of ‘ecocide,’ the islanders recklessly trashed their own habitat.
The presence of hundreds of enormous carved stone heads called ‘moai’ in such a remote location, with virtually no explanatory context, has, of course, intrigued millions for generations; but the inherent contradictions, some argue, have compelled academia to manufacture—with, or without, adequate evidence—the kind of narrative that would not contradict the standard preconceptions.
“The traditional story,” (re: Easter Island) says anthropology professor Carl Lipo of Binghamton State University in New York, “is that over time the people of Rapa Nui (a.k.a., Easter Island) used up their resources and started to run out of food. One of the resources that they supposedly used up was [the forestry] growing on the island. Those trees provided canoes and, as a result of the lack of canoes, they could no longer fish. So they started to rely more and more on land food. As they relied on land food, productivity went down because of soil erosion, which led to crop failures—Painting the picture of catastrophe.” That, says Lipo, is “the traditional narrative.”
In the new paper, Lipo and his team analyzed human, faunal, and botanical remains from archaeological sites at Anakena and Ahu Tepeu on Rapa Nui, dating from about AD 1400 to the historic period, and modern reference material. “Diet of the prehistoric population of Rapa Nui (Easter Island, Chile),” they wrote, “shows environmental adaptation and resilience.” The team “used bulk carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses and amino acid compound specific isotope analyses of collagen isolated from prehistoric human and faunal bone, to assess the use of marine versus terrestrial resources and to investigate the underlying baseline values.” These findings point to concerted efforts to manipulate agricultural soils, and they suggest the prehistoric Rapa Nui population had extensive knowledge of how to overcome poor soil fertility, improve environmental conditions, and create a sustainable food supply. These activities “demonstrate considerable adaptation and resilience to environmental challenges”—a finding that is not consistent with an ‘ecocide’ narrative.
Earlier in 2017, another paper by Lipo’s team had concluded that, contrary to popular opinion, the Easter Islanders were not warlike either. The main evidence behind the warrior theory had been a profusion of sharp, triangular, obsidian objects deemed by European explorers to be weapons of war. Lipo proved otherwise. After using the latest morphometric techniques to make a thorough analysis of the objects, known as mata’s, Lipo concluded that they would have been entirely unsuitable for war. They were not spear points. In contradicting the standard belief, the Easter Islanders, Lipo says, actually had an “amazing and successful society,” and the mata’s were probably used for ritual tasks like tattooing or plant processing. “Populations were successful and lived sustainably on the island up until European contact,” said Lipo.
In other words, it is clear that the Easter Islanders, going back for about six to nine hundred years, knew quite well how to feed themselves, live peacefully, and take care of their world, and that their demise must have been caused by something other than insensitivity to the environment, or fear of their fellow humans.
If the ‘ecocide’ and warrior theories were the only such dubious scenarios promulgated by academia, one could overlook them; but, as it turns out, for almost three centuries the greatest mysteries of Easter Island have been systematically explained away, often in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. In fact, since its discovery on Easter Sunday of 1722, by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, the remote island has posed a clear threat to the consistency of mainstream scholarship. Connecting the known facts to preconceived notions about the history of the world has been, at best, awkward.
On the other hand, for many years ‘alternative theorists’—from James Churchward to Arthur Poznansky; from Augustus LePlongeon to Percy Fawcett; have claimed that there once was an inconceivably ancient, now lost, Pacific-wide civilization. Such claims have been dismissed as, at best, lacking evidence; but, ironically, it now appears that a stronger case can be made for the lost-civilization hypotheses than orthodoxy has ever let on. Could the true age of whatever society created the Easter Island’s moai, be older, by millennia, than the relatively recent culture now defended by professor Lipo?
The Longevity of the Moai
The current conventional wisdom—stated as fact by Wikipedia and other mainstream sources—is that Rapa Nui was settled between 700 and 1100 CE (Common era). Moreover, declares the online encyclopedia, “ongoing archaeological studies suggest an even later date: ‘Radiocarbon dates for the earliest stratigraphic layers at Anakena, Easter Island, and analysis of previous radiocarbon dates imply that the island was colonized late, about 1200 CE. Significant ecological impacts and major cultural investments in monumental architecture and statuary thus began soon after initial settlement.’ ”
In his article, “The Astonishing Antiquity of Easter Island,” for Atlantis Rising (#102, November/December, 2013), researcher/explorer David Childress, counters that conventional Easter Island dating is based on radiocarbon content for wood, bone, and shell found buried in and around the statues and the quarry of Rano Raraku. We do not know, Childress points out, just how deeply these objects were buried. Indeed, the dated material might well have been placed there long after the statues had been carved. While native people may have been near these statues 500 years ago, leaving all sorts of datable material for later analysis, there is no evidence that these people created the statues. The moai, in fact, may have been standing there even then, just as enigmatically as they do today. “Perhaps a fragment of a coke bottle from 2013,” says Childress, “will be dug up by archaeologists in the future who will similarly misinterpret their find.”
Although the notion that the moai may be far older than generally believed, is still derided by academics, similar claims about advanced stonework found along the western side of South America are also sneered at. Might there be a forgotten link between these two widely separated ancient societies? Although the massive stonework of Sacsayhuamán, near Cuzco in Peru, is officially credited to the Incas of six centuries ago, temple complexes at Puma Punku and nearby Tiahuanaco boast sophisticated structures that may well pre-date the Incas by millennia.
The early twentieth century director of Bolivia’s National Museum, Arthur Poznansky, applied archeo-astronomical analysis to Tiahuanaco and claimed that a people unrelated to local Aymara Indians built it 17,000 years ago. Poznansky also noted architectural similarities between Puma Punku and Easter Island, thousands of miles off the coast of Chile, suggesting that both had been independently influenced by the same earlier high culture.
Poznansky’s observations are consistent with those of James Churchward, whose Lost Continent of Mu, and related books, described an advanced civilization called ‘Mu.’ which he said flourished in the central Pacific Ocean long before the rise of highly organized societies in Peru or on Easter Island. According to Churchward, before its destruction during a series of natural disasters about 12,000 years ago, Mu dispatched culture-bearing Nacaals, or “Serpent Priests,” throughout Polynesia and to South America, where they laid the foundations for such places as Easter Island and Tiahuanaco.
A partially destroyed wall at Vinapu on Easter Island makes the point. A work of megalithic construction, the wall—consisting of enormous slabs very skillfully laid—is unique to the island but not to the world. Childress was genuinely amazed at the construction, which, he believes, was not only similar but also almost identical to that at Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuamán and Ollantaytambo in the high Andes.
Like those constructions, the wall at Vinapu is fitted perfectly with irregularly shaped stones possessing rounded edges and small triangular stones filling in gaps. One could describe, says Childress, the Andes construction in the same way—polygonal blocks smoothed and rounded, perfectly cut and fitted together, with small keystones placed to help withstand earthquakes. Though practically undatable, the stonemasonry is, he claims, the most sophisticated in the world—essentially unmatched, even today.
Tiahuanaco seems clearly pre-Incan and thousands of years old, but the massive ruins in the vicinity of Cuzco, a still-living city, are usually said to have been built by the Incas just a few centuries ago. Yet, while the ruins at Vinapu on Easter Island are virtually identical in construction with many in Peru, no one is arguing that the Incas made it to Easter Island. A plausible argument can be made that the two sites must have been built by the same lost society, long before the Incas came to town and set up housekeeping in the available ancient structures awaiting them.
Aside from the carving of the moai, among the most perplexing mysteries of Easter Island is the question of just how primitive people could have moved them for miles from the quarries where they were made, up and down hills, and over many obstacles. The go-to explanation is that they could have been ‘walked’ like giant refrigerators by crews pulling ropes. National Geographic illustrated the theory on a 2012 cover. However, Childress asks, “why are primitive people even trying to move gigantic statues that weigh at least five tons and are more typically 20 to 40 tons?”
One moai that Thor Heyerdahl excavated in 1956 has a masted ship carved on its stomach. It was, Heyerdahl believed, an ancient sailing craft used by explorers from Peru. Others say the image is an early representation of a European ship. The problem with the latter explanation is that the carving was only discovered after Heyerdahl had dug away several feet of soil surrounding it.
Long before AD 1000—and no one can prove otherwise—the moai may well have been standing just as they are found today, largely buried under many centuries of accumulated dirt. Forty to fifty feet tall for the most part, the largest, still in the quarry, is taller than a seven-story building. The one with a ship on its belly is certainly much older than the surrounding debris.
Among the most dearly held precepts of conventional history is that civilization was born about five thousand years ago in concert with the inventions of the wheel and writing. Before that, came primitive farming, and before that, hunter/gatherer societies, incapable of any large-scale organized activity. Such was the aftermath of the last major ice age that concluded about 11,000 years ago with worldwide floods and chaos (aka, the ‘deluge’). Before that, as far as civilization is concerned, was only darkness. That is the story from mainstream archaeology, and they are sticking to it. The suggestion that civilization of any kind could have preceded the end of the Ice Age is scoffed at. Fresh discoveries on many fronts around the world, though, are challenging such assumptions as never before.
In Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, for example, a vast stone complex covered with sophisticated carvings is dated to 11,000 BP, many thousands of years before Stonehenge or, supposedly, even the Great Pyramid. In Gunung Padang in Indonesia, giant stone structures are dated to before the end of the last ice age. Off the coast of India in the Gulf of Cambay are underwater structures, bearing clear evidence of advanced pre-diluvian culture. Around the world, from the pyramids of Giza, to the terraces of Machu Picchu, many ancient structures can now be viewed with fresh eyes; and the idea dawns, that much of the great stonework attributed to known societies may, in fact, have been only their inheritance, not their creation. Some of the most interesting evidence for this contention may be found on Easter Island.
Even though the 887 strange and immense statues found there are hard to incorporate into any coherent model of civilization, as now understood, their moving—let alone carving—clearly required a kind of engineering skill found only in more advanced societies. The same can be said of Göbekli Tepe, Gunung Padang, and many other inexplicable sites.
Even more strangely, the Rongorongo writing script found on Easter Island offers what some consider clear evidence of civilized, albeit ancient, influence. First described by Eugene Eyraud, a French missionary, in 1864, the still untranslated script strongly suggests that, at some point, Easter Island had been exposed to a literate culture.
Geologist and archaeologist Dr. Robert Schoch, professor at Boston University and frequent contributor to Atlantis Rising, has spent years analyzing the evidence for pre-diluvian civilization in many places, most notably at the Great Sphinx of Egypt. Like professor Lipo, he believes the conventional scenario for Easter Island’s history falls a good deal short of the truth; and he goes considerably further, speculating that, not only does Rapa Nui provide evidence of civilization from before the end of the Ice Age, but that it offers unexpected clues to exactly how that epoch may have come to an end.
The primary trigger for the great glacial melting episode that dramatically raised sea levels all over the world and led to the extinction of many animal species, Schoch believes, was a sudden and unexpected blast of unwelcome energy from our own sun. The argument is made in his 2012 book, Forgotten Civilization: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future (Inner Traditions). In fact, says Schoch, the Rongorongo script may contain representations of ‘plasma’ events that could have accompanied solar outbursts, which, he believes, would have terrified people. He cites the work of Dr. Anthony L. Peratt, a specialist in plasma physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Plasma phenomena, we learn, has many distinctive forms. Some look like intertwining snakes or pieces of rope, others like stacks of circles. Plasma columns, in fact, can expand in places and form donut and cup shapes, becoming narrow at other points (due to what are known as “pinch instabilities”), which may have been witnessed in the skies. Peratt and his team have documented many such plasma forms in ancient petroglyphs around the world, and Schoch thinks that Rongorongo might be yet another example. (Read “Easter Island’s Rongorongo: Records of a Cataclysm” in Atlantis Rising #82, July/August 2010).
Whether best measured in centuries or millennia; whether the advanced engineering of a long-lost civilization or the primitive handiwork of indigenous local culture; whether literate or not—whichever version of Easter Island history eventually prevails, one thing is clear; it will have to exclude the familiar scenario of an insane and warlike people bent on self destruction, even as they worshipped their enormous, and weird, idols. That story is, itself, finished. While that narrative might well fit our own society, we now know that it did not fit ancient Easter Island.
Modern scholarship, some might conclude, has been projecting its own neuroses onto the ancients. If so, it would not be the first time.