Easter Island not destroyed by war, analysis of 'spear points' shows
|The causes of Easter Island's societal and economic collapse centuries ago |
are fiercely debated among scientists [Credit: Luis C. Cobo/Flickr]
Lipo and his team analyzed the shape variability of a photo set of 400-plus mata'a collected from the island using a technique known as morphometrics, which allowed them to characterize the shapes in a quantitative manner. Based on the wide variability in shape of the mata'a and their difference from other traditional weapons, the team determined that the mata'a were not used in warfare after all, as they would have made poor weapons.
"We found that when you look at the shape of these things, they just don't look like weapons at all," said Lipo. "When you can compare them to European weapons or weapons found anywhere around the world when there are actually objects used for warfare, they're very systematic in their shape. They have to do their job really well. Not doing well is risking death."
|A map of the Pacific Islands showing Rapa Nui [Credit: Carl Lipo, |
According to Lipo, this evidence strongly supports the idea that the ancient civilization never experienced this oft-theorized combat and warfare, and that the belief that the mata'a were weapons used in the collapse of the civilization is really a late European interpretation of the record, not an actual archeological event.
"What people traditionally think about the island is being this island of catastrophe and collapse just isn't true in a pre-historic sense. Populations were successful and lived sustainably on the island up until European contact," said Lipo.
|Images of various mata'a [Credit: Carl Lipo, |
"We've been trying to focus on individual bits of evidence that support the collapse narrative to demonstrate that really there's no support whatsoever for that story," he said. "Sort of a pillar of the broader study is the fact that this is an amazing society that really was successful. It just doesn't look like success to us because we see fields that are rock, we think catastrophe, and in fact it's actually productivity."
The paper, "Weapons of war? Rapa Nui mata'a 1 morphometric analyses" was published in Antiquity.
Source: Binghamton University [February 16, 2016]