The Survival of Easter Island: Dwindling Resources and Cultural Resilience 9781107027701, 1107027705

In this book, Jan J. Boersema reconstructs the ecological and cultural history of Easter Island and critiques the hither

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The Survival of Easter Island: Dwindling Resources and Cultural Resilience
 9781107027701, 1107027705

Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Half-title......Page 3
Title page......Page 5
Copyright information......Page 6
Epigraph......Page 7
Table of contents......Page 9
Timeline......Page 11
Acknowledgments......Page 17
A Green History......Page 19
The Dutch......Page 26
The Spanish......Page 30
The English......Page 32
The French......Page 33
Thor Heyerdahl......Page 36
Isotopes and Genes......Page 37
Hotu Matu’a......Page 39
Polynesians at Sea......Page 41
The Sweet Potato......Page 42
Three Inactive Volcanoes......Page 46
No Neighbours, Friendly or Otherwise......Page 49
Trees and Forest......Page 50
Other Vegetation......Page 53
Sea Animals......Page 56
Land Animals......Page 58
Essential Baggage......Page 61
Three Sources......Page 63
Seven Phases......Page 64
Hearth and Home......Page 65
Fields and Gardens......Page 70
Meat, Fish and Eggs......Page 73
Language and Signs......Page 75
Appearance and Behaviour......Page 79
Chiefs and Commoners......Page 86
Religion, Culture and Society......Page 94
Makemake, the Creator God......Page 95
Moai, the Stone Statues......Page 100
The Statue Cult......Page 107
The Tangata Manu and the Birdman Cult......Page 113
The Beginning of Awareness......Page 120
Easter Island = Earth Island......Page 121
Hard Facts?......Page 125
Population......Page 127
Carrying Capacity......Page 133
Chopped Down or Gnawed Away?......Page 137
Uninvited Guests......Page 140
Different Goals......Page 141
Effects......Page 147
Little of Good......Page 148
Peruvian Raids......Page 154
Between Hope and Fear......Page 157
The Return Journey......Page 159
The True Collapse......Page 160
Immigrants......Page 163
The First Missionary......Page 164
The Second Mission......Page 167
Sheep Breeder, Adventurer and King......Page 169
Isla de Pascua, Chile......Page 172
Anthropologists......Page 174
Wilhelm Geiseler......Page 175
William Thomson......Page 177
Katherine Routledge......Page 179
Alfred Métraux......Page 183
Thor Heyerdahl and Bill Mulloy......Page 185
Mataveri Airport......Page 190
Chapter 9 The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny......Page 192
Earlier Doubts......Page 193
Dating Techniques and Rats......Page 195
An Alternative Interpretation......Page 197
The Power of a Word......Page 201
No Toothbrush......Page 202
Bury the Notion?......Page 203
Impoverished State......Page 205
Complex Societies......Page 207
Easter Island Today......Page 210
The Future......Page 215
Glossary......Page 219
1 Easter Island as an Icon......Page 223
2 From the East or the West?......Page 224
3 The Green Past......Page 229
4 Culture Appears, Nature Disappears......Page 234
5 Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu......Page 243
6 Resilience and Sustainability......Page 248
7 Foreigners......Page 254
8 Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research......Page 257
9 The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny......Page 261
General Accounts......Page 267
Expedition of Jacob Roggeveen 1721–1722......Page 268
Expedition of Captain James Cook 1774......Page 270
Nineteenth Century Accounts......Page 271
References......Page 273
Index......Page 305

Citation preview


In this book, Jan J. Boersema reconstructs the ecological and cultural history of Easter Island and critiques the hitherto accepted theory of the collapse of its civilization. The collapse theory, advanced most recently by Jared Diamond and Clive Ponting, is based on the documented overexploitation of nat­ural resources, particularly woodlands, on which the culture of Easter Island depended. Deforestation is said to have led to erosion, followed by hunger, conflict, and economic and cultural collapse. Drawing on scientific data and historical sources, including the shipping journals of the Dutch merchant who was the first European to visit the island in 1722, Boersema shows that deforestation did not in fact jeopardize food production or lead to starvation and violence. On the basis of historical and scientific evidence, Boersema demonstrates how the society of Easter Island has responded to cultural and environmental change over the course of its turbulent history. Jan J. Boersema is Professor of Principles of Environmental Sciences at Leiden University. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Integrated Environmental Sciences and editor (with Lucas Reijnders) of the textbook Principles of Environmental Sciences (2009). Diane Webb has translated numerous books and scholarly articles on historical and art-historical subjects. She was a member of the team that translated Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. In 2005, she was awarded the Vondel Prize for Dutch Translation.

The Survival of Easter Island  Dwindling Resources and Cultural Resilience

Jan J. Boersema Leiden University Translated by Diane Webb

32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473, USA Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Information on this title: © 2011 Jan J. Boersema English translation © Diane Webb 2015 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published in Dutch as, Beelden Van Paaseiland by Uitgeverij Atlas, Amsterdam English edition 2015 Printed in the United States of America A catalog record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Boersema, J. J., 1947– [Beelden van Paaseiland. English] The survival of Easter Island : dwindling resources and cultural resilience / Jan J. Boersema ; translated by Diane Webb.  pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-107-02770-1 (hardback) 1.  Easter Island--Civilization.  2.  Prehistoric peoples – Easter Island.  3.  Sculpture, Prehistoric – Easter Island.  4.  Polynesians – Easter Island--Antiquities.  I.  Title. F3169.B6413 2015 996.18′01–dc23   2014043708 ISBN 978-1-107-02770-1 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet Web sites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such Web sites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

Los Hombros Yo soy el peregrino de Isla de Pascua, el caballero extraño, vengo a golpear las puertas del silencio . . . Men I am the pilgrim of Easter Island, the strange knight, come to knock on the doors of silence . . . Pablo Neruda


Timeline page ix Acknowledgments


1 Easter Island as an Icon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 From the East or the West?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 3 The Green Past. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 4 Culture Appears, Nature Disappears. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 5 Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 6 Resilience and Sustainability. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102 7 Foreigners. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 8 Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research. . . . . . . . . . 145 9 The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny. . . . . . . . . 174 Glossary




Bibliography Easter Island, Early Accounts References

249 249 255





c. 300,000 bc ad 1000–1200 c. 1100 1100–1250

1250–1550 c. 1550 1550–1722 c. 1650 1722–c. 1800 1722

1770 1774


The island takes on its present shape through the coalescence of three volcanoes. Polynesian settlers reach the uninhabited island. First settlement at Anakena appears. Settlement and construction (Phase I) are under way; the statue cult begins; and traces of the felling and burning of trees from this period can be found. The golden age (Phase II) occurs; the statue cult reaches its peak; deforestation gradually takes place. Deep-sea fish disappear from the islanders’ diet, owing to the lack of seaworthy canoes. Natural resources dwindle (Phase III); the birdman cult arises. The forests vanish completely; the statue cult gradually disappears. The historical era (Phase IV) occurs; four great European expeditions call at Easter Island. On Easter Sunday, 5 April, the members of the Dutch expedition led by Jacob Roggeveen first sight the island and name it Easter Island. The Spanish arrive under the command of Don Felipe González de Haedo. The English arrive under the command of James Cook; the first artefacts find their way to Western museums. The French arrive under the command of Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse.




c. 1800–1862/63

1862/1863 1864


1877 1888 1947 1967–present 1972

1974 2010–15


The dark era (Phase V) occurs; the islanders barter with food, and transients provoke several bloody incidents. Peruvian slave traders raid the island. The missionary Eugène Eyraud becomes the first foreign resident on the island; repatriated Easter Islanders expose the remaining inhabitants to fatal viruses. A turbulent period (Phase VI) ensues; Easter Island is renamed Rapa Nui; its inhabitants are baptized into the Catholic Church; and anthropologists come to study the island. Alphonse Pinart counts 110 inhabitants; the birdman cult ends. Easter Island is annexed to Chile. Thor Heyerdahl sails on the Kon-Tiki from South America to Polynesia. The contemporary age (Phase VII) dawns, marked by the construction of the landing strip at Mataveri. A report published by the Club of Rome points out the threat posed to society by the overexploitation of nat­ural resources. Bill Mulloy publishes the first collapse story about Easter Island. Relations with Chile remain strained; plans to build a casino and a prison spark protests; and a limited form of self-government is established. Easter Islanders claim property rights to tracts of land; protests lead to clashes between Easter Islanders and the Chilean authorities in which people are wounded. Easter Island has a population of approximately 6,000; more than 80,000 tourists visit it every year.

MAP 1.  Geography of Easter Island as it appears in this book.


MAP 2. Route taken by the three ships belonging to the expedition led by Jacob Roggeveen. Archief van het Zeeuws Genootschap der Wetenschappen, 1911.




Let me begin with a word of thanks to the island and its inhabitants, among whom I spent a number of weeks in the autumn of 2007. I thank my host, René Pakarati Icka, and his partner, Tonia Mahoney Pate, for their generous hospitality as well as for taking me on tours of the island and providing me with a wealth of information. My working life at the University of Leiden and VU University, Amsterdam, has always been characterized by a series of short projects that take up whatever time I  have left after my academic duties. Since most of these jobs are pleasant as well as useful, any long-terms projects I may be contemplating are usually relegated to the sidelines. Hence the advice given to me by my wife, Anthonia: ‘If you want to write that book about Easter Island, you’ll have to go someplace else to do it.’ Fortunately, I was able to follow her advice with the endorsement and support of the university. In 2009 and 2010, I spent four months as a visiting professor at the University of East Anglia in Norwich and more than six months as a visiting Fellow at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. It was a wonderful experience, and during that productive time the foundation was laid for Beelden van Paaseiland, the Dutch version of this book, which was published in April 2011 by Atlas Publishers in Amsterdam. The book appeared just in time for me to take it along, in May of that year, to a conference in New York, where I showed it to Beatrice Rehl of Cambridge University Press. Beatrice had supervised the publication of Questioning Collapse, so she and Cambridge seemed ideally suited to producing an English version of my book. Luckily, Beatrice showed an interest, and the Dutch version received favourable reviews, so after acquiring the rights and finding sufficient funding, Cambridge invited Diane Webb to do the translation. A  writer can only be extremely grateful for having




such competent, attentive and pleasant people to work with. I  am also greatly indebted to the Dutch Foundation for Literature and the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) for their financial support. I would also like to thank everyone who has helped me since the publication of Beelden van Paaseiland:  Frans Berkhout, Bert Boekschoten, Morgan de Dapper, Ton Schoot-Uiterkamp and Wonu Veys all read the book and provided me with valuable commentary. Many others have sent their reactions to parts of the book or pointed out minor errors. Brigid Mulloy allowed me to see letters and objects from 1960, when, as a little girl, she lived with her parents on Easter Island. Ruud Paesie took me on an inspiring ‘Roggeveen hike’ through Middelburg, and I had informative and fascinating talks with Roelof van Gelder, Jacob Roggeveen’s biographer. Herman de Swart was unflagging in his efforts to draw my attention to the more obscure speleological literature about the island. Paul Bahn read the English translation and kept me from making numerous small errors. He does not agree with every aspect of my reconstruction, but is happy to see it published, because, as he said, ‘life would be very dull if we all wrote the same things and came to the same conclusions from the poor and patchy evidence available to us all’. The collapse theory, as formulated by Jared Diamond, was no longer defended at the international conferences of the Easter Island Foundation held in July 2012 in Santa Rosa, California, and in November 2012 at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels. So far, however, no one has been able to come up with a plausible scenario of what really happened: no sooner is one riddle solved than another one crops up. Easter Island continues to stymie researchers. I hope that my readers appreciate the results of my efforts to piece together the puzzle that is Easter Island. If not, the blame rests squarely on my shoulders and not on those of the people mentioned above.

Chapter 1

Easter Island as an Icon

. . . and we named the land Easter Island, because we discovered and found it on Easter Sunday. Journal of Jacob Roggeveen, 5 April 1722

A Green History In November 1992, the British historian Clive Ponting gave a lecture to a jam-packed auditorium at Groningen University about his book A Green History of the World, which had been translated into Dutch soon after its publication the previous year.1 The book had made a deep impression because of its unique perspective: previous accounts of world history had been told from the viewpoint of kings and rulers, or even of ordinary citizens, but never before had the history of the world been examined from an ecological perspective. Ponting wondered how civilizations throughout the ages had treated their natural environment and how their interaction with it had affected their development. His most significant finding was that in many cases a reciprocal relationship with nature was of decisive importance for the continued existence of a culture. Proper use of natural resources leads to prosperity and sustainability, whereas overexploitation and pollution not only harm the environment, but can sap a culture of its vitality and ultimately cause its collapse. The downfall of highly developed and complex civilizations had long been an object of study, but Ponting took a surprising approach by considering the way people treat the environment as the principal determinant of a culture’s longevity.2 Ponting’s most striking example of cultural collapse was the dramatic fate of Easter Island. On this tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean  – the most remote inhabited island on earth – Polynesian settlers succeeded in developing a spectacular statue cult that continues to fascinate the 1


The Survival of Easter Island

world. During the island’s heyday, around ad 1400, hundreds of colossal stone statues marked the landscape. But, Ponting argued, the island’s culture took its toll. The trees that once covered the island were felled and used to make fires and build canoes, as well as to transport the statues to their destinations around the island. The resulting erosion allegedly caused a decline in food production, leading to a downward spiral of hunger, war and even cannibalism. The population plummeted, the statues were deliberately toppled, and the forces driving these changes undermined the social structure. This highly developed culture suffered a complete collapse. The entire process – rise, heyday, fall – took only a few centuries to unfold, so that by the time Dutch explorers visited the island, all they saw were the neglected and impoverished remains of a once flourishing civilization. In Ponting’s words:  ‘The Dutch Admiral Roggeveen, on board the Arena, was the first European to visit the island on Easter Sunday 1722. He found a society in a primitive state with about 3,000 people living in squalid reed huts or caves, engaged in almost perpetual warfare and resorting to cannibalism in a desperate attempt to supplement the meagre food supplies available on the island.’ To take full advantage of Ponting’s visit to Groningen, the Department of Energy and Environmental Science – where I then worked – held a symposium the day after his lecture. Ponting received remarkably strong support for his approach. Many speakers emphasized the lessons to be learned from the tragic loss of a culture such as the one he had so vividly described. What would be the outcome of our own overexploitation of the earth’s natural resources? Did the same laws of nature apply to today’s global culture? Was our own society headed for disaster? In my talk, I  questioned the characterization of the culture of Easter Island as ‘highly developed’. Was that an apt description of a population that had persisted in a way of life so patently harmful to its survival? How could a highly developed society fail to recognize that its obsession with stone statues was leading to its ruin? Perhaps the Easter Islanders would have done better to confine their statue making to small works in wood or stone, but in that case the island would have remained as unknown and unexciting as Hiva Oa  – just one of the hundreds of Polynesian islands whose names mean little or nothing to us. What provoked such self-destructive and obviously unsustainable megalomania? And what does this tell us about our own ‘highly developed’ culture, particularly as we now realize, more poignantly every day, that we are heading down a similar path of self-destruction? Evidently the quality of life we have come to demand is at odds with its sustainability. Asking questions, however, is usually easier

Easter Island as an Icon

than answering them, and this certainly proved true at that symposium, where plenty of issues were raised but nothing was resolved. In 2002, I  was appointed to a professorship at the VU University, Amsterdam,3 where I assumed the task of conducting research and instructing students in the cultural and philosophical aspects of the relationship between humankind and nature. The subject of my inaugural lecture was the inevitable trade-off between quality and sustainability. The history of Easter Island seemed to be a possible opening gambit, so I reread Ponting and studied several more recent publications with approximately the same message, including an article by the biologist Jared Diamond (the prelude to his later book Collapse) and a detailed study by Paul Bahn and John Flenley, two professional Easter Island researchers, whose book compared the developments on Easter Island to the Club of Rome’s computer-generated model of the future of planet Earth in the twenty-first century.4 The similarities were remarkable: both models showed dwindling resources, increased pollution and strong population growth for as long as it was sustainable; this was followed by a sharp drop, over the course of only a few decades, in the number of inhabitants, and this decline in population clearly heralded the disintegration of society. This is the collapse theory in a nutshell, and Bahn and Flenley took the history of Easter Island to be solid proof of it. What struck me most was the fact that they placed the island’s steep decline in the period between 1680 and 1750. The first Europeans, Dutchmen sailing under the command of Jacob Roggeveen, arrived in 1722  – in other words, in the middle of the alleged collapse. This concurred with Ponting’s theory, but I wondered whether the Dutch explorers had recorded similar findings in their journals. I set out in search of their accounts. I was in luck. A  rare copy of Roggeveen’s journal, published only in 1838, had been donated to the university library by the geographer A. van Deursen.5 Less than half an hour after asking myself whether it even existed, I was sitting in my office reading Roggeveen’s original journal: Dagverhaal der ontdekkings-reis (Journal of the Voyage of Exploration) (Figure 1.1). To my surprise, there was almost nothing in the journal to corroborate or flesh out Ponting’s story. In fact, the Dutchmen encountered a healthy population, saw no weapons and even traded linen for chickens and bananas. Roggeveen concluded his account with the observation that the land was not ‘sandy, but, on the contrary, exceptionally fertile, producing bananas, potatoes, sugarcane of considerable thickness, and many other fruits of the earth’. The island could have been ‘turned into an earthly paradise’ if only its inhabitants had been willing to cultivate the land properly, but



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 1.1.  Cover of Dagverhaal der ontdekkings-reis by Jacob Roggeveen, Middelburg, 1838.

they did so merely to the extent necessary for subsistence.6 Roggeveen had been used to very different ideas about working the land in his native province of Zeeland, where grain and cattle had been traded since the late Middle Ages. How could these reports be reconciled with accounts of the sudden collapse of civilizations? A seed of doubt had taken root, and new questions began to sprout in my mind. What started out as an opening gambit had grown into an exciting quest. Were Roggeveen’s findings wrong? His visit to the island had been short, to be sure: he and his men had spent only one day on shore, and had kept to the coast. What had other members of his expedition reported? What about the accounts of European explorers who visited the island after Roggeveen? The Spanish, English and

Easter Island as an Icon

French expeditions admittedly arrived decades after the Dutch, yet still in the e­ ighteenth century. I  decided to study their journals, too, for the sake of comparison. They proved to be more numerous than expected, for in addition to the commanders’ official logbooks, there were the journals kept by the crew members and scientists on board. Even though these accounts vary in their reliability and degree of detail, they are extremely informative and well worth reading, if only because their observations shed light not only on the island’s culture but, implicitly, on their own societies too. Through their journals, we come to know the first European visitors to Easter Island as Dutch traders who thought a place uninteresting if it lacked profitable opportunities for trade. The Spanish emerge as fervent Catholics with true missionary zeal: before departing, they erected three large crosses on the island. The globally minded English made it clear that the island was too insignificant to be part of the British Empire, while the French remained true to the spirit of the Enlightenment by surveying the island and reflecting on its form of governance. I gradually became more knowledgeable about Easter Island and, by reading between the lines, also learned a great deal about the visitors’ cultures. But none of these sources contained any support for the collapse theory, nor any evidence of a decline caused by famine and high mortality. I wondered whether Ponting had actually read Roggeveen’s account. The previously quoted passage betrays extraordinary sloppiness: he calls the ship the Arena instead of the Arend (Eagle), and he states that Roggeveen explored the island on Easter Sunday, whereas he only sighted it that day, and it was not until a couple of days later that the landing party finally ventured ashore. And what about Ponting’s description of widespread misery? That information could not have come from the journal. I sent Ponting an email, asking him about his sources. He replied that he had taken most of his information from J. D. Jennings’s book on the prehistory of Polynesia, which contains a chapter on Easter Island.7 That chapter, written by Patrick McCoy, did indeed paint a bleaker picture of the island’s pre-European history than the journals did, but I found McCoy unconvincing as a witness to the drama Ponting had described. Could Ponting possibly be wrong? After all, ten years had passed since he had formulated his theory. Could confirmation of the collapse be found in the publication (from which Ponting quoted) by the anthropologist Alfred Métraux, who had worked on Easter Island in the 1930s?8 Or had Ponting neglected to mention some of his sources? He had no doubt read – perhaps already in elementary school, as I had – the exciting books by Thor Heyerdahl (see Figure  1.2).9 But where else could I  look? By this time,



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure  1.2. The Kon-Tiki expedition led by Thor Heyerdahl. Courtesy of the Kon-Tiki Museum.

the subject had taken hold of me. I was becoming a familiar figure at the library as my research gained momentum. After several months of study, I was convinced that in this case the collapse theory did not hold water, certainly not the version of it championed by Ponting and Diamond, by now so well known that it features in textbooks on environmental science.10 I certainly had enough material for a lecture, but there were still a lot of loose ends to tie up.11 Certain questions arose with increasing insistence. What had actually happened? Had Easter Island experienced one cataclysmic event or merely a series of gradual changes? Could its history be reconstructed? What was the significance of the hundreds of large statues (moai) erected along the coast? Why had this practice been discontinued, and what explains the subsequent emergence of a birdman cult? How did the island fare after the eighteenth century? It was clear to me that the story of Easter Island was in need of a sequel, since the fascination for this island and its history has never waned. The lecture ballooned into the present book, in which I reconstruct and

Easter Island as an Icon

describe the ecological and cultural history of the island. In doing so, I have ­concentrated on the written sources, but I have also studied artefacts, spoken to many scientists, and travelled to Easter Island, where I interviewed numerous inhabitants and examined the situation firsthand. This book focuses on humankind’s relationship to nature and on the question of how sustainability and quality relate to both nature and culture in Easter Island’s pre-European society. What did the first visitors actually see of that society? And do their observations substantiate the findings of later scientific research? I soon discovered that the literature on Easter Island had grown out of all proportion in recent decades, so I decided to highlight only the main contours of its nineteenth- and twentieth-century history. My research has shown that if indeed Easter Island can be said to have experienced a collapse, it did not occur until the nineteenth century and for reasons completely different from those hitherto put forward. This raises important questions. Did the islanders rediscover their Polynesian culture after that dramatic event, and did they succeed in rebuilding any of it? Have they been able to preserve their hard-won – or newly acquired – character under the Chilean authorities that have governed the island since 1888? The question of identity resurfaces continually: since the air strip was built with American support in 1967, modern tourism has been more in evidence every day. Fifty years ago, the lack of a cash economy meant that sailors were forced to trade cigarettes for woodcarvings and fleeting affairs, whereas now there are serious proposals to build a casino and a prison. Finally, there is the question of whether the history of that tiny but iconic island in the vast ocean holds any meaning for planet Earth, an island in the cosmos. In the eyes of Ponting, Diamond and many others, Easter Island is ‘a grim warning’: if we behave imprudently and continue to deplete our natural resources, we earthlings can expect a collapse similar to that experienced by the Easter Islanders, who, after all, brought their suffering upon themselves. But does Easter Island have another story to tell? Is its history less a cautionary tale than a story of cultural resilience? What, in fact, are the lessons to be learned from the vicissitudes of this enigmatic island?


Chapter 2

From the East or the West?

The Dutch The Dutch are credited with being the first Europeans to visit Easter Island. Although there are several reports of an earlier Spanish visit,1 convincing proof of it has never been found. The Dutch, at any rate, were the first to give the island a non-Polynesian name and to describe it in their journals.

Travel accounts by five different authors describe the expedition led by Jacob Roggeveen. The complete titles are listed under ‘Easter Island, Early Accounts’ in the bibliography near the end of this book. Briefly, the five accounts are the following:

1. Kort en nauwkeurig verhaal van de reize door drie schepen (A Brief and Accurate Account of the Journey by Three Ships), Amsterdam, 1727; several editions, which differ in some respects, appeared that same year. 2. Tweejaarige Reyze Rondom de Wereld (Two-Year Voyage Around the World), Dordrecht, 1728; later editions appeared in 1758 and 1787. 3. Carl Friedrich Behrens’s Reise nach den unbekandten Süd-Ländern (Voyage to the unknown South Lands) of 1728 is a rhyming account; a later version, recast in prose by the same author, was published as Der wohlversuchte Süd-Länder (On the Well-Sought South Lands) in Leipzig in 1737; the latter account appeared in the eighteenth century in Dutch, French and English translations. In 1732, Behrens also published Nader onderzoek door Karel Fredrik Behrens: En bericht van zyne reyze


From the East or the West?


naar de Zuid-Landen gedaan (Closer Examination by Karel Fredrik Behrens: An Account of His Voyage to the South Lands), a slender volume addressed to the Dutch East India Company (VOC), arguing in favour of continuing the quest for the ‘great southern continent’. 4. Scheepsjournaal, gehouden op het schip Tienhoven (Ship’s Log, Kept on the Ship Thienhoven), the journal of Cornelis Bouman, published in Middelburg in 1911. 5. Dagverhaal der ontdekkings-reis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen (Journal of the Voyage of Discovery of Mr. Jacob Roggeveen), published in Middelburg in 1838 and republished in an annotated edition in 1911. Journals 1 and 2 are anonymous. The writer of 1, who did not journey to Easter Island himself but got his story from an eyewitness, is known to have had the initials T. d. H. This is probably the Mr De Haze who is named in an epilogue at the end of the journal by a certain Werner Köhne (W. K.). The anonymous writer of the Tweejaarige reyze (Two-Year Voyage) did not undertake the journey either. Carl Friedrich Behrens’s rhyming account of 1728 and his prose version of 1732 have not yet been studied or edited. The former, which was discovered by Roelof van Gelder in the Regensburg University Library, is now available digitally; a copy of the latter is kept in the Leiden University Library.2 The journal of Roelof Roosendaal, captain of the Africaansche Galey, was presumably lost when his ship sank. The journal of Jan Coster, captain of the Arend, and that of first mate Jacob van Groenveld, which are mentioned explicitly in the documents of the Dutch West India Company (WIC), have never surfaced. When the Dutch East India Company (VOC) seized Roggeveen’s ships in Batavia, the journals of Coster, Bouman and Roggeveen were handed over after days of difficult negotiations. Transcriptions of them were made for the VOC chamber in Middelburg, and Roggeveen kept his own journal or a copy of it, which was sold at auction in Middelburg in 1788. In 1836, another copy of Roggeveen’s journal surfaced in Middelburg; the various hands bear witness to its transcription by four VOC officials in Batavia. This copy, now in the National Archives in The Hague, served as the basis of the printed edition of 1838. The members of the Spanish, English and French expeditions could have had access to the accounts (or translations of them) described under numbers 1, 2 and 3, which later proved not to be the most reliable sources. It is unlikely that copies of Roggeveen’s and Bouman’s journals were in circulation in the eighteenth century.



The Survival of Easter Island Bouman’s account was discovered in 1905 in the family archive of the Rotterdam businessman D.  Hudig, a distant relative of the VOC captain of the ship on which Bouman returned to the Netherlands, which might explain the provenance of the journal. This copy (which might actually be the original manuscript) formed the basis of the printed version, which did not appear until 1911, together with an official reprint of Roggeveen’s journal. These volumes were edited by F. E. Baron Mulert and published by the Linschoten Society.

The discovery that the island was inhabited provoked a host of questions. Where had these people come from, the Dutchmen wondered, and how had they managed to reach this far-off island? At the time, the members of the expedition were unaware that this was the most remote inhabited island in the world, a fact that only gradually became known. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the Pacific was still an ocean that Europeans had barely sailed, let alone charted. Mariners explored the South Pacific in hopes of finding the long-sought southern continent.3 The Dutch geographer Arent Roggeveen (father of the future explorer) was determined to prove its existence, and in 1676 he obtained permission from the States General (the national assembly) to organize an expedition for this purpose. Although the WIC did not object to his plan, nothing ever came of it. Not only did Roggeveen fail to raise the necessary funds, but his health deteriorated. The permission expired, and Arent Roggeveen died in 1679 before he could embark on his adventure. His son Jacob had no desire to travel, despite two periods of service in the Dutch East Indies, the second as a member of the Court of Justice, the highest legal body of the VOC in Asia. After returning to the Netherlands in 1714, he established a respected law practice in Middelburg, but was subsequently embroiled in religious disputes which became so heated that he was banished from the city. This might be one reason why, at the age of sixty-two, he set out to make his father’s dream come true. In 1721, he petitioned the Heren X, the governing board of the WIC, and was given its authorization to go in search of that ‘unknown southern continent’, Terra Australis Incognita, present-day Australia. The preparations proceeded with unexpected smoothness and speed.4 In July 1721, he set sail from the island of Texel with three ships:  the Arend, the Thienhoven and the Africaansche Galey (see Figure 2.1).5 To give a wide berth to the territory of the VOC, the ships sailed via South America. The western side of this continent belonged to the commercial territory of the WIC; the expansion of that territory to include the ‘great South Land’

From the East or the West?

Figure 2.1.  The ships Arend, Thienhoven and Africaansche Galey en route to the South Land. Engraving from Tweejaarige Reyze Rondom de Wereld (Dordrecht: Braam, 1728).

would give them a big advantage over the VOC. These two Dutch trading companies, vying for supremacy on the other side of the world, thus provided ample evidence of the mercantile spirit and competitiveness that prevailed in the eighteenth century. The three Dutch ships rounded Cape Horn and sailed north up the west coast of South America before heading west. After weeks of nothing but water as far as the eye could see, the mariners finally spotted an island on the afternoon of Sunday, 5 April 1722. The entry in Roggeveen’s journal that day included the following passage: ‘and we named the land Easter Island, because we discovered and found it on Easter Sunday’. Easter Island, however, did not greatly resemble the low, sandy island that the English buccaneer Edward Davis had described in



The Survival of Easter Island

1687 as lying off the coast of Terra Australis.6 Was this in fact Davis Island? The smoke spiralling upward was a sign of habitation, and after waiting a couple of days, the Dutchmen went ashore. Being experienced mariners, they were surprised to find no seaworthy boats, and, as one journal notes, the few canoes they saw were so leaky that their crews must have spent half the time bailing.7 Clearly, those were no oceangoing vessels. But then how had these people ended up here? It was just one of the many questions that remained unanswered when, after their one-day expedition to the island, the Dutch seamen continued their voyage in a westerly direction. They eventually sailed thousands of miles before finally arriving in Batavia after a rough and difficult voyage, having failed in their quest to find the ‘great South Land’.

The Spanish The Spanish who visited the island in 1770, less than fifty years after the Dutch, were  – geographically and cartographically  – only slightly better equipped than Roggeveen (see Figure 2.2).8 Knowledge of the region had scarcely increased in the meantime: the maps were inaccurate and full of blank spots, and Terra Australis was still unknown. The Spanish, however, hoped to do more than merely discover the fabled continent. Unlike the Dutch, for whom trade was of paramount importance, the Spanish were bent on expanding their territory by taking possession of the lands in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean. The regent of Peru had supplied the commander Don Felipe González with two ships for the purpose of annexing to the empire of Carlos III of Spain everything that fell within six hundred leagues (approximately 1,800 nautical miles) of the coast. Altogether it could not amount to much, but any base would help the Spanish gain control of the sea, and perhaps they would also discover sandy Davis Island, which Roggeveen had been unable to locate. González was familiar with Roggeveen’s voyage from reading two or possibly three journals that had been printed soon after the Dutchmen’s return.9 As mentioned previously, Roggeveen’s journal was lost until 1836, when a transcription of it – made by VOC officials in Batavia – surfaced in Middelburg. The Spanish did not find Davis Island either, but they did reach Easter Island, which they rebaptized San Carlos, a name that later proved to have no currency outside the Spanish sphere of influence. They, too, were surprised by the flimsy canoes, and they noticed that the Easter Islanders bore no resemblance whatsoever to the South American Indians

From the East or the West?

Figure 2.2.  Spanish map of 1770; the Spanish baptized the island San Carlos.

with whom the Spanish were familiar. Nor did they see any relationship to the Asian peoples they knew, such as the Filipinos.10 They took the islanders’ language to be of Polynesian origin. We are indebted to Juan Hervé, an officer who also left us a journal, for the first map of the island. The Spanish persuaded several of the island’s leaders to sign a document by which they ceded the island to Spain. Later on, these ‘signatures’ were a source of much amusement. The Spanish returned to Peru with slim pickings in terms of land and a great many unsolved mysteries.



The Survival of Easter Island

The English Had the inhabitants of Easter Island come from the east or the west? The Dutch and the Spanish got no further than asking this question, but the Englishman James Cook was the first to provide an answer (see Figure 2.3). Cook arrived at Easter Island in 1774 on his second great expedition to the Pacific Ocean. That voyage had taken him to the farthest corners of the region, and after sailing for many weeks he was in urgent need of fresh provisions, particularly drinking water. Cook hoped to find both food and water on Easter Island and even an opportunity to recuperate, for he had been suffering from an intestinal ailment and was quite ill when he

Figure 2.3.  James Cook (portrait from the James Cook Museum, Whitby). © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

From the East or the West?

arrived.11 It is possible that this coloured his opinion of the quality of the drinking water and the living conditions on the island. Cook’s background knowledge of the area enabled him to make observations that were more astute than those of his predecessors. He assumed, for example, that the Easter Islanders were of Polynesian origin, owing to their similarity in skin colour and the correspondence of some of their customs to those of the inhabitants of New Zealand and other islands in the Pacific. Cook did not specify which customs he found similar, but previous visits to numerous Polynesian islands – on both his first and now this second voyage of exploration – had provided him with sufficient material for comparison. And he had another reason for surmising the islanders’ descent: the strong affinity between their language and the languages of the other islands he had visited. His right-hand man, Lieutenant Richard Pickersgill, recorded the words he thought he understood. By way of illustration, Cook copied these words into his journal, listing them alongside the same words in the language of the Polynesian island of Otaheite and their translation into English.12 The relationship is obvious. Cook was even more convinced of the correctness of his assumption when it became apparent that Mahine, a young Tahitian in his company, could understand the Easter Islanders reasonably well (see Figure 2.4).13

The French After Cook’s expedition, everything was quiet for more than ten years, until the next European power called at the island in 1786. The French voyagers benefited not only from the wealth of information that Cook had compiled about the Pacific, but also from the material collected – and disseminated in the form of engravings – by the scientists, mapmakers and artists who had accompanied him on his expeditions. There were still plenty of gaps in that body of knowledge, however, and the French felt obliged, as the inhabitants of a European country of no small consequence, to do their part to fulfil the important duty of all enlightened nations: to survey and map the entire world.14 It was not enough to garner knowledge; they also aimed to convey it in both the material and intellectual sense. To this end, they collected some of the seeds and animals they encountered along the way so that they could introduce them, later on in the voyage, to places where their presence might prove beneficial to the development of society. The French expedition was under the command of the experienced captain Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse. From 1785 to 1788, his two



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 2.4.  Mahine, a young Tahitian (engraving by William Hodges). Courtesy of Captain Cook Memorial Museum.

ships sailed along the northwest coast of America and the coasts of Asia and Australia, and also explored the southern regions of the Pacific Ocean. The expedition ended tragically: on 10 March 1788, the ships left Botany Bay in New South Wales and set sail for Tonga and New Caledonia, but they never reached their destination, and not one of the persons on board was ever seen again. It is assumed that the ships were engulfed by a hurricane

From the East or the West?

Figure  2.5. Sketch of an Easter Island canoe (after L’Atlas du voyage de La Pérouse, 1797).

and perished somewhere near the island of Vanikoro, where remains of the vessels were later found.15 Fortunately, Lapérouse sent his journals to France from a Russian port at which he called. One of his journals, which reveals that the French visited Easter Island in the spring of 1786, records their remarkable observations about the island and its inhabitants. The French had no doubts about the islanders’ origin: they were Polynesian, the French noted, because many of the objects they noticed reminded them of the Îles de la Société (Society Islands). The few canoes they saw had also been patterned after a Polynesian model, although the lack of large trees on the island meant that their boats were smaller (see Figure 2.5). They could accommodate four men at most, the French estimated, and could not sail much beyond six miles from the coast. Lapérouse did not touch upon the obvious question of how the inhabitants had managed to reach the island. Knowing from experience that most Polynesian islands had enough timber to build seaworthy canoes, he probably assumed that the Easter Islanders had once arrived in canoes suitable for lengthy expeditions.



The Survival of Easter Island

Thor Heyerdahl Nineteenth-century scholars occasionally pointed out the similarities between Central and South America and Polynesia. The Englishman Sir Clements Markham, for example, suggested in a lecture given to the Royal Geographical Society in 1870 that the statues on Easter Island bore a strong resemblance to those in Tiahuanaco (Bolivia).16 Similar remarks were made now and then, but it was not until the mid-twentieth century that the origin of the Easter Islanders again became the subject of serious debate. This time it was the Norwegian anthropologist and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl who took the plunge and came up with the provocative theory that they had come from South America. And in his view it was not only Easter Island but all of Polynesia that had been populated by settlers coming from the east in pre-Columbian times, having arrived at Easter Island directly from South America or via a Polynesian detour. The first thing Heyerdahl had to do to verify his theory was to demonstrate that the inhabitants of South America had possessed the materials and the know-how to make seaworthy boats. To prove this, he went to Peru to build a raft of balsa wood and other native materials; it turned into a solid construction made of logs lashed to cross-beams, which supported a bamboo deck and a hut large enough to accommodate a crew of six. In this vessel, baptized the Kon-Tiki, he left Peru in 1947, sailed across the ocean, and actually ended up on a Polynesian island. The name of his raft was a daring choice, for Kon-Tiki was the old Inca name of a legendary sun king who fled across the sea to the west after losing a battle. Heyerdahl now followed suit in an attempt to turn this legend into a possibility worth considering. After a voyage of more than 4,300 miles, which took Heyerdahl and his five companions over a hundred days to complete, their raft was wrecked on the coral reefs of the Raroia atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago. Their voyage became legendary, owing in part to the spectacular scenes preserved on film, which show the men desperately struggling against towering waves, only to repair the damage and spend the next day sunning themselves on the deck. They were also such skilful fishermen that they managed to catch a large shark with their bare hands (see Figure 2.6). The undertaking commanded universal respect. Overnight Heyerdahl became a hero of modern-day exploration and was suitably nicknamed Mister Kon-Tiki.17 His theories about the South American connection, which he defended with verve,18 initially made an impact, but his peers became more and more sceptical. Despite a growing body of evidence to the contrary, Heyerdahl continued to uphold his ideas

From the East or the West?

Figure 2.6.  The Kon-Tiki expedition, 1947. A shark caught by hand. Courtesy of the Kon-Tiki Museum.

until his death in 2002, though by then he was almost the only one who still believed in them.19

Isotopes and Genes As is often the case in debates about historical events, scientific developments lent the discussion enormous impetus. New techniques – such as radiocarbon dating, which became available in the 1950s, and the methods of DNA analysis developed in the 1980s – enabled more reliable reconstructions of the past.



The Survival of Easter Island

Methods of Dating The atoms of many chemical elements, including carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and oxygen (O), occur in nature in a number of variants. In the case of carbon, for example, there are three naturally occurring forms (called isotopes):  carbon-12, which is by far the most common; carbon-13; and carbon-14. The carbon-12 atom has equal numbers of protons and neutrons, but the other isotopes have either one or two extra neutrons and therefore a higher atomic mass. Radiometric dating methods are based on the known rates of radioactive decay and rely on the measurement of the ratios of isotopes. In living organisms, the ratio is nearly constant and specific to their habitat. The ratio changes after death, owing to the instability of radioisotopes. But because they decay at a known rate, measuring the degree of decay makes it possible to determine the age of the organism. This method can be applied to a wide variety of materials.20 The best-known method, radiocarbon dating, measures the ratio of carbon-12 and carbon-13, the stable forms of carbon, to carbon-14, the unstable radioisotope.21 The so-called carbon-14 method is used for dating wood and other organic materials. Many other isotopes can also provide useful information about the past. The enamel on teeth, for instance, can be dated with the help of oxygen isotopes, whereas nitrogen isotopes can tell us whether a person’s diet consisted mainly of fish, meat or vegetable matter.22 The 1980s saw the development of genetic methods, such as mitochondrial (mt) DNA analysis and Y chromosome analysis, and the twenty-first century has seen the introduction of the microarray23 – an orderly arrangement of fragments of DNA, representing the genes of an organism – which makes it possible to determine rather accurately the degree of relationship between humans and animals and the point in time at which they branched off from one another. These extremely effective techniques are still being improved and refined. Obsidian hydration dating (OHD), a recently developed method, meas­ ures the thickness of the layer of water penetration (called the hydration rim) in this glassy volcanic material.24 Easter Island has several obsidian outcrops. Flakes and used remnants of obsidian are scattered about the island. This hard, sharp material was frequently used as a tool for cutting or hacking and as a weapon. These dating methods are very susceptible to impurities in the samples, however, and the results often vary greatly.25

It was long assumed that Easter Island was first settled between about ad 400 and 600. The first results of radiocarbon dating pointed in this direction,26 but improvements in sample taking revealed the unreliability of these early datings. New analyses of artefacts yielded datings of ad 900 at

From the East or the West?

the latest, meaning that settlement would have occurred sometime before that, around ad 850. The most recent datings of objects from Anakena, the oldest known place of habitation, suggest that colonization took place later, perhaps not until the late twelfth century.27 Despite these new dating methods, the reconstruction of the history of human settlement is still fragmentary and fraught with uncertainties. A classical dating on the basis of pollen and charcoal from the Rano Kau crater yields ad 100. There are indications of disruption of the vegetation and erosion in the period ad 650–700. Was this caused by the human use of fire or by the forces of nature? Is it possible that this crater had been inhabited even earlier than Anakena? The pollen record poses questions and is inconsistent with the physical-chemical and historical datings.28 The big question is why this early habitation left so few traces. Or have researchers simply been digging in the wrong places? New archaeological information and more and better datings are urgently needed. For the time being, however, there is a lack of hard evidence for settlement long before ad 1000. One thing that could indeed be resolved by modern dating techniques was the question of the islanders’ origin. Modern DNA research has proved Cook right.29 The Easter Islanders came from Polynesia and probably landed all at once, as a single group. They may have come from the Marquesas Islands, and if so, it is likely that they made their way to Easter Island indirectly, via the southeast, sailing first to Mangareva or Pitcairn, before starting on the last, long leg of their journey.

Hotu Matu’a The Easter Islanders’ Polynesian roots are confirmed by their own legends – recorded in the course of the twentieth century by a priest, Father Sebastian Englert, and by the anthropologists Katherine Routledge (see Figure 2.7) and Alfred Métraux – which relate their history clearly and in detail. Under the leadership of the great chief Hotu Matu’a, they came from the west and, after a long voyage, landed at Anakena, the only sandy beach on Easter Island and therefore the best landing place for canoes. Over time, a web of smaller legends was woven around this historical core, and it is these tales that have become part of the extensive oral tradition of Easter Island. According to one story, the Easter Islanders originally came from Hiva, a mythic island that lay ‘somewhere’ to the west and was also seen as the home of the gods. Another, more plausible story has it that they came from



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 2.7.  Katherine Routledge, 1866–1935. From Katherine Routledge, The Mystery of Easter Island (Hazell, Watson and Viney, London, 1919).

Rapa and therefore named their new home Rapa Nui (Big Rapa), although this version of events does not find much support in the written sources.30 Rapa, Polynesian for rock, is one of the southern Austral Islands and is now part of French Polynesia. Yet another, more probable story has it that mariners from Tahiti gave Easter Island the name Rapa Nui in the late nineteenth century, because they thought it resembled Rapa. At any rate, it is not very likely that Rapa was the cradle of Easter Island civilization, since it is too small and does not lie on a plausible route. It is more likely that Rapa and Easter Island were settled at about the same time, when new groups of migrants set out to explore the islands to the east and the south.31

From the East or the West?

Polynesians at Sea In Polynesia, island hopping proved to be a viable means of exploring, bit by bit, the enormous area dotted with thousands of islands.32 Whenever there was a good reason to get up and leave – tribal warfare, food shortages, overpopulation or simple curiosity  – young men would set out in canoes on an exploratory expedition. If there was still no land in sight by the time they had used up half their provisions, they turned around and sailed home again. If, on the other hand, they discovered a promising place with good opportunities for subsistence and returned with positive reports, an expedition was launched, manned by potential settlers. Explorers set out in large catamarans – double canoes fifteen to twenty-two metres long, fitted out with a sail – which were capable of carrying dozens of people and their belongings. Sailing with the wind, they could reach speeds that enabled them to cover 100 to 150 nautical miles a day.33 The prevailing wind was an important factor in the success or failure of these expeditions, for catamarans were unable to sail close to the wind, and in some cases it was necessary to take roundabout routes to reach new islands. Even so, the Polynesians gradually managed in this way to explore and eventually inhabit an immense area.34 A recent study shows that the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), ad 800–1300, might have created conditions in which voyaging to remote islands such as New Zealand and Easter Island was possible by off-wind sailing.35 Everything necessary for successful settlement was taken on board: most importantly, of course, enough women of child-bearing age to ensure the survival of future generations; sufficient water (carried in hollow bamboo stalks) and food to last for several weeks at sea; and seeds and plants for cultivation, as well as pigs, chickens and rats. It is unclear whether explorers were the first to set foot on Easter Island, but it is not likely, because they would presumably have returned with negative reports about the island’s suitability for habitation. After all, the conditions on Easter Island were far from ideal for settlers, certainly in comparison with many other islands. Another problem was its remoteness. This makes it more likely that a group of explorers took a deliberate risk, and when their boats began drifting, they eventually reached Easter Island more or less by accident. Polynesians knew how to make optimal use of changing winds, and they preferred routes that would allow them to sail with the wind if they turned back. The prevailing winds around Easter Island are dependent on the seasons. The easterly winds that took Thor Heyerdahl to Polynesia blow closer to the equator; toward the south, westerly winds prevail. That it is possible



The Survival of Easter Island

to reach Easter Island with a Polynesian canoe was proven in 1999 by Ben Finney, who in eighteen days sailed in the Ho﻾ku﻽le’a  – a classic double canoe he had used on previous long voyages – from Mangareva via Pitcairn to Easter Island, a journey of 1,400 nautical miles.36 Finney’s reconstruction was less historically correct than Heyerdahl’s, however, for he had his boat fitted with modern sails, which enabled him to sail close to the wind and thus achieve much faster speeds. Whichever route the original settlers took, they must have spent several weeks at sea, depending on the prevailing winds. We do not know how many previous voyages met woeful ends at sea, since it is only the successful ones that have left traces on the islands. The Polynesians were formidable sailors and successful settlers of the Pacific, but it is highly unlikely that they intentionally set sail for Easter Island. It is certain, however, that they were extremely skilled at finding their bearings at sea, making use of every indication that nature provided: the position of the heavenly bodies; fluctuations in temperature; the direction of the wind; ocean currents; smells; the colour of the water; and the behaviour of clouds, birds and marine animals.37 It has been shown that they were capable of determining latitude to within half a degree, or approximately thirty nautical miles.38 In any case, these ‘Vikings of the Pacific’, as they are sometimes rather Eurocentrically called, succeeded in reaching Easter Island with enough people, not to mention chickens and rats, to enable them to build up a unique Polynesian culture.

The Sweet Potato The conclusion that the first settlers on Easter Island were Polynesians still leaves room for Heyerdahl’s ‘detour hypothesis’, which is based on the assumption that Indians from South America – Amerinds or Amerindians, as anthropologists prefer to call them  – first populated the northeastern islands of Polynesia before proceeding via a roundabout route to Easter Island. All of this supposedly happened long before Columbus discovered America and in fact a good deal earlier than ad 1000, for it has been shown that the sweet potato was present on Easter Island well before the arrival of the European explorers, so it must have been introduced by the Polynesian settlers.39 Heyerdahl’s voyage proved that it was possible to reach Polynesia, even with the materials and knowledge available at that time. There were other arguments, too, in favour of the Amerindian connection, including a certain linguistic affinity and the similarities between Amerind and Polynesian statue cults, but closer examination revealed the tenuousness

From the East or the West?

of these connections.40 The languages of Polynesia, for example, proved to have more in common with the language of the original inhabitants of Taiwan. The stone images on Easter Island were exceptionally large, to be sure, but they bore at least as strong a resemblance to sculptures on other Polynesian islands as they did to Amerindian statues. There was still one compelling argument in favour of Heyerdahl’s theory:  the dissemination of the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), which is unmistakably a foodstuff of Central and South American provenance, thought to have originated in Mexico. In post-Columbian times, it was the Spanish who continued to introduce the sweet potato to other parts of the world, taking it both eastward to Europe and westward to such lands as China, the Philippines and the Indonesian archipelago. In Polynesia, however, the sweet potato appears to have arrived many centuries before Columbus, presumably around ad 800. How did the sweet potato end up in Polynesia? Did the fish bring it? Or birds? Or did it float over on driftwood or loose clods of earth? These are all possible methods of dissemination for crops and seeds that can withstand rough treatment. Yet the sweet potato could not possibly have survived – either as a plant or a tuber – an overseas journey in a bird’s alimentary canal. Only humans could have carried it that far, but how they did so remains a mystery. Was it brought by the Incas or first taken from the Americas and subsequently introduced by Polynesians? Both possibilities are questionable. If Polynesians took the sweet potato from Central America, why not take along other edible plants as well? And if indeed they voyaged to the Americas, it is equally strange, considering how well equipped their expeditions were, that they left no traces in any American country. Until recently it was thought that the sweet potato had most likely been introduced to Polynesia by the Incas, also because it made its earliest and most widespread appearance on the Marquesas and the Tuamoto Islands, the region to which Heyerdahl sailed. So were the Polynesians actually Amerindians? Here, too, genetic testing involving the analysis of mitochondrial DNA and the Y chromosome passed down by the male has provided some clarity. Latin America was rejected as the Easter Islanders’ place of origin when detailed research carried out on comparative material from the entire region showed that they were of mixed Asiatic and Melanesian origin. An important point of discussion now was whether the settlers had spread across the area relatively quickly or had lingered somewhere and continued on their way later; in other words, did they move in rapidly or take the slow boat? The available information suggests slow settlement, starting from Southeast Asia, followed by a relatively long stay in Melanesia and a



The Survival of Easter Island

great deal of cross-breeding with Melanesians, after which they proceeded eastwards to colonize the central Polynesian islands,41 finally reaching the eastern edges of Polynesia.42 The issue has not been completely resolved, one reason being that considerable differences have been found between the genetic profiles of men and women. Moreover, the profiles are always mixed, indicating a rather complicated pattern of settlement. Technological advancements are making the methods of analysis more and more precise, while at the same time reducing the amount of material needed to carry out research, all of which will eventually increase our understanding of the situation. The primary controversy, however, has meanwhile been laid to rest:  the Polynesians came from Asia, not South America. Was the sweet potato more likely to have been taken from South America by Polynesians or introduced to Polynesia by Amerindians? Until recently there was not a shred of evidence for either hypothesis, but lately ­researchers have come up with some fascinating results of possible Polynesian–Amerindian connections. To begin with, there was the Polynesian DNA in Chilean chickens from the pre-Columbian era. This finding, which was put into perspective less than a year later in a comparative study, can be summed up as a first indication that the Polynesians had already reached the continent of South America early on.43 This means that the chickens taken along on the outward journey could have been replaced by a cargo of sweet potatoes on the homeward voyage. Moreover, a study published in 2008 indicated that the coconut had migrated from west to east, supposedly around ad 200, from Malaysia via the Philippines to Ecuador.44 An even more surprising find was made deep inside Latin America. The analysis of skeletal remains belonging to the indigenous Botocudo peoples of Brazil found among them two male individuals with no detectable Native American ancestry who did, however, have the same components of mtDNA variants as Polynesians. The carbon-14 and isotope datings indicate that the material dates from the pre-European period or the cusp of that era: around 1600 with a certain margin of error, but certainly long before 1700, when Europeans began trading in that region.45 This find is puzzling. If the Polynesians were able to reach South America on their own, how did they end up in Brazil? Chile would be a more likely place. Every scenario raises more questions than it can answer. No less spectacular was a close study of the genetic makeup of the present-day inhabitants of a number of Polynesian islands,46 which did not show any traces of early South American influences. This refutes Thor

From the East or the West?

Heyerdahl’s hypothesis once and for all, one would think, but there was one exception:  Easter Island! There researchers found weak influences that point to some mingling with Native Americans in the pre-Columbian period, somewhere between ad 1280 and 1495. How and where this mingling took place remains a mystery. A  group of Polynesians might have ended up on Easter Island after voyaging to South America and mingling with the native population. It cannot be ruled out that a small group of South Americans reached Easter Island long before the European period but after its colonization by Polynesians. Despite the fanfare that greeted the results of this research, these scientists were not the first to discover South American genetic influences on Easter Island. As early as 2006, a study had appeared which announced ‘an early introduction of Amerindian HLA alleles’. That research was carried out on only a few individuals, however, and the supposed introduction was placed in ‘the early 1800s or earlier’.47 This left open countless possible routes by which this mingling of peoples could have occurred, yet no other, nongenetic evidence of South American colonization has ever been found on Easter Island. The sweet potato, therefore, was most likely brought to Easter Island – centuries before the Columbian era – by Polynesians from South America, and a separate order was possibly brought to Easter Island, later on, by the original growers. It would not have surprised Heyerdahl in the slightest.


Chapter 3

The Green Past

Three Inactive Volcanoes What did the Polynesian settlers find when they landed on Easter Island? What did the island look like before these people left their mark on it? The picture is gradually coming into focus, but it will never be complete, simply because some pieces of the puzzle have disappeared for good. In any case, the island was not like other Polynesian islands. It was not surrounded by dazzling white beaches – an enchanting sight, and also a convenient landing place for boats  – but it was greener, more wooded and richer in fauna than it is today. Easter Island is a fairly small (165 km2), triangular-shaped volcanic island with a subtropical climate. It lies south of the equator at a latitude of approximately 27 degrees south and a longitude of 109 degrees west and has existed in its present form for an estimated three hundred thousand years. Long before this, approximately three million years ago, the oldest volcano, Poike, erupted, placing it permanently above water for the first time.1 Two other volcanoes followed suit a few hundred thousand years later, and the island’s shape evolved from the coalescence of these three volcanoes, which now form the points of the triangle. The island itself is part of another triangle, for it lies at the eastern vertex of the so-called Polynesian triangle, the other points of which are formed by New Zealand in the southwest and Hawaii in the north (see Figure 3.1). The volcanoes that created Easter Island have been inactive for thousands of years. The last one to erupt, more than eleven thousand years ago, was Maunga Terevaka, which is 510 metres high and has no crater at the top. Its wide conical shape ends in a prominent crown, which provides a magnificent view of the whole island and the vast ocean on all sides. To the south of the top, at an altitude of 425 metres, is a small crater lake called Rano Aroi. Because Terevaka is both the largest and the youngest 28

The Green Past







Figure 3.1.  Possible routes of colonization in the Polynesian triangle.

volcano, the island consists largely of lava from this volcanic source.2 The oldest volcano, Poike, is 410 metres high and is now shaped like an oblate sphere. At the southeast edge of Poike lies Cape Roggeveen, a rocky peak that was possibly the first thing spotted by the Dutch sailors who saw the island looming in the distance on that Easter Sunday in 1722. In the south lies the third volcano, Rano Kau, which rises to 325 metres above sea level and has a deep, flat-bottomed crater – also called a ‘caldera’ because the cavity is cauldron-like – with a crater lake. Scattered across the island are several lower hills of volcanic origin, one of which, Rano Raraku, has a substantial crater lake. The three crater lakes are the only natural water reservoirs of any appreciable size on the island. Owing to its volcanic origin, Easter Island rises rather steeply from the ocean, so most of it is not endangered by the tidal waves that occur regularly in this region. But it is not invulnerable either. In May 1960, a tsunami hit Tongariki, the low-lying coastal area to the south of the Poike volcano in the northeast, and completely destroyed the remains of a platform with stone images. Sixteen large statues – moai – were carried dozens of metres inland. In the 1990s, a Japanese subsidy made it possible


The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 3.2.   An overturned moai: a silent witness of the tsunami at Tongariki in 1960. Photo: author.

to reinstall fifteen of these statues on a restored platform, leaving one specimen on the ground to bear witness to the enormous power of nature (see Figure 3.2). Easter Island has no large coral reefs and no lagoons or shallows where fish or other seafood can be caught with simple gear. In terms of quantity, the supply of fish is fairly small compared with islands that are fortunate enough to be surrounded by coral reefs. Nor are there any natural harbours or bays where ships can easily lie at anchor. Only the north coast has two small sandy beaches. The largest, at Anakena, is very modest by Polynesian standards. There are no rivers or streams on the island, but there is enough fresh water in the crater lakes to provide drinking water in times of severe drought. The average annual rainfall is 1,200 millimetres, but even though the rain comes at irregular intervals, there are no markedly dry periods. More rain falls at higher altitudes, but even in the drier periods, short downpours can occur all over the island. The volcanic ground contains many caves and hollows, some of which have been used in the past to store rainwater.

The Green Past

No Neighbours, Friendly or Otherwise Easter Island is the most remote island in the Polynesian triangle. The nearest inhabited island is now Pitcairn, 2,100 kilometres to the west. When Easter Island was being colonized, however, Pitcairn was still uninhabited or had only recently been colonized. Perhaps settlement took place in a single campaign, with part of the group staying behind at Pitcairn while others ventured farther east and finally landed at Easter Island. Unlike Easter Island, Pitcairn has not been permanently inhabited since its first settlement. It has a limited capacity to sustain life, owing in part to a lack of arable land. Its most famous inhabitants were the mutineers of the British ship Bounty, who in 1789 seized their own vessel 1,300 miles west of Tahiti. After trying unsuccessfully to settle on the island of Tubuai, the mutineers returned to Tahiti, where a number of the men decided to stay. The others took flight again and, after sailing through the Fiji and the Cook Islands, they found Pitcairn Island, where they managed to hide from the Royal Navy until 1814. At that time there was just one surviving mutineer, John Adams, who was finally pardoned. The small settlement on Pitcairn, Adamstown, is named after him – quite an honour for an alleged rogue. It has been conjectured that the mutineers visited Easter Island, but there is nothing to substantiate this theory. In 2013, the island of Pitcairn, a United Kingdom Overseas Territory, had sixty-five inhabitants, all of them Seventh-Day Adventists. More than 400 kilometres northeast of Easter Island lies the uninhabited Chilean island of Sala y Gómez, which is known mainly as a breeding ground for seabirds. It is a small, low volcanic reef, more than half of which is submerged at spring tide. Its flora and fauna resemble those of Easter Island in their type and limited variety. When the weather is good, it is possible to sail between the two islands, so the Easter Islanders could have made the journey when they still had seaworthy canoes. During the breeding season, it is possible to collect large numbers of eggs and catch young birds. Stories about these journeys persist in the oral tradition, in which the island is referred to by its Rapanui name, Manu Motu Motiro Hiva: ‘bird island on the way to Hiva’.3 Lying a couple of kilometres below the southwestern tip of Easter Island are two rocky islets, Motu Nui (‘large island’) and Motu Iti (‘small island’), and midway to these islets is a sea stack called Motu Kau Kau. It is not possible to land at the islets except in very calm weather. Only skilful swimmers can scramble onto land there, by allowing themselves to be carried ashore by a wave. The islets are unsuitable for permanent human habitation,



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 3.3.  Great frigatebird (Fregata minor). Photo: author.

which is why they are the last refuges for several species of seabird which used to breed on the main island. Among these are the great frigatebird (see Figure 3.3) and the sooty tern, both of which play an important role in the culture of Easter Island.4 On the east side of the island, the journey to the nearest neighbour is considerably longer. After more than 3,100 kilometres of seemingly endless ocean, one finally arrives at the Juan Fernández Islands, and from there it is another 600 kilometres to the coast of Chile.5 Because it is so utterly surrounded by water, it is understandable that Easter Island’s original name – at least according to legend – was Henua, meaning ‘land’ or ‘earth’.6 This was later expanded to the highly appropriate Te Pito te Henua, literally ‘part of the earth’, or, even more tellingly, ‘navel of the world’, which is what Roggeveen would have discovered on Easter Sunday in 1722, if only he had known.

Trees and Forest In the course of its geological history, the island became covered with vegetation and forest. By the time settlement took place, most of it had been

The Green Past

covered with trees for thousands of years. According to John R.  Flenley and Sarah M. King, who conducted research in the crater of Rano Kau, the climate became warmer and drier approximately thirty-seven thousand years ago, and this encouraged the growth of trees and enabled the survival of subtropical species. Studies of earlier forms of vegetation rely mainly on pollen analysis, which can be carried out on seed plants but not on mosses and ferns, which have spores rather than pollen.7 The outer wall of pollen grains is extremely stable, which enables them, in the most favourable conditions, to survive in the ground for millions of years. Unfortunately, not every type of soil provides such conditions. Pollen grains survive best in damp places, such as peat bogs and lakes, where decomposition is slowed by the lack of oxygen and the high acidity (low pH). On Easter Island, these conditions are found at the bottom of the crater lakes.8 Changes in the vegetation can be detected by means of pollen analysis, which makes this a useful method for relative dating.9 Olof H. Selling began to conduct pollen analysis on Easter Island in the late 1940s, and in the 1950s he received material from Thor Heyerdahl,10 who was the first to find pollen from a palm tree but was unable to identify it.11 Cornelis Bouman, who first recorded such a tree on Easter Island, wrote in his journal: ‘we saw a few small coconut palms but no other trees’.12 Subsequent research carried out by John Flenley and John Dransfield confirmed that this tree, the most widespread species on the island, was an indigenous variant of the coconut palm, now extinct and posthumously named Paschalococos disperta.13 We will encounter this Easter Island (or Rapa Nui) palm frequently, for it is one of the protagonists in the ecological history of the island. In addition to palm trees, there were also specimens of a mimosa-like tree, the flowering toromiro tree (Sophora toromiro), the portia tree (Thespesia populnea) – also known as the Indian tulip tree, called makoi in Rapanui  – and a tree now known as the Sacramento burbark (Triumfetta semitriloba). The wood of these three species proved eminently suited to the woodcarving frequently engaged in by the Easter Islanders.14 The bark and leaves of the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) were used to make clothing, and the well-known tapa (the beaten bark of this tree) and its fibres were used to make rope and mend nets. The French couple Catherine and Michel Orliac also made detailed studies of the trees of Easter Island. In one of their last large research projects, they analysed hundreds of charcoal remains at three different sites on the island, making use of radiocarbon dating. Their work led to further revisions of the traditional picture of ‘an island with a few palm trees’. To be sure, the Easter Island variant of the coconut palm had been



The Survival of Easter Island

the dominant species, but twenty-two different species of tree and shrub appear in the island’s soil archive.15 Eight of these species have been shown by previous research to exist, now or in the past, on Easter Island. The five most widely known species were mentioned earlier in this section; the other three are the soapberry (Sapindus saponaria); the mirror bush (Coprosma), which belongs to the madder family (Rubiaceae); and the yellow nicker (Caesalpinia major), a representative of the pea family (Fabaceae). In addition to these previously known species, the Orliacs found no fewer than fourteen species that had not yet been identified on Easter Island. Eight of these could be classified under named species, but this left six unidentified species.16 Most of the eight identifiable species were known from other Polynesian islands. These include Elaeocarpus rarotongensis, a species that still grows on the Cook Islands, and Alphitonia zizyphoides, a member of the buckthorn family, which is found on Vanuatu and the Marquesas Islands. The latter is a sizeable tree whose hard and durable wood lends itself to making seaworthy canoes. The Elaeocarpus is a smaller species whose wood is well suited to carving paddles. The Orliacs think that some species, such as the Malay apple (Syzygium malaccense), were introduced by the settlers, because its edible fruit is prized throughout Polynesia. This may have been the ‘small fig tree’ seen by the Spanish in 1770. Although it does not bear fruit in the season in which the Spanish visited the island and looks nothing like the fig trees in Spain, it was identified as a fig from the smell of its sap. Moreover, when the Easter Islanders boarded the Spanish ships, they instantly recognized the figs they were offered and called them gecoy.17 The original tree and plant species must have come to the island by natural means and subsequently developed there. Islands are sometimes called laboratories of evolution, because all the developmental processes can be studied there in relative isolation.18 It is known, for example, that an island’s isolation can lead to the evolution of new (sub)species. However, time is needed for such evolutionary processes as genetic drift (a gradual shift in the genetic pattern within a species), mutation and natural selection to do their work. The rate of species formation differs considerably throughout the plant and animal kingdom and is also dependent on major external factors, such as climate change and the impact of meteorites. In geological terms Easter Island is not very old, but old enough for new (sub)species to have evolved in this way. It is also possible, however, that species occurring on a remote island are relicts of species that have died out on other islands. On the island where a given species survives the longest, it automatically becomes indigenous – that is, specific

The Green Past

to that place, in this case Easter Island. Relict species can, moreover, evolve further by means of genetic drift. The indigenousness of species therefore has various causes. If we take a look at the age of Easter Island and the rate of species formation, it stands to reason that the native species of trees, birds and fish are likely to be relicts, whereas the mosses and fungi could well be new formations. Native species deserve special attention, because they are especially vulnerable to (global) extinction. Nature lovers and tourists find them fascinating because of their exclusiveness: not only are they rare, but they cannot be seen anywhere else. With regard to its trees, Easter Island clearly resembled other East Polynesian islands, though we also see such specialities as the Easter Island coconut palm and the toromiro tree. The native species of coconut palm is unfortunately extinct; the only specimens are casts of trunks preserved in the volcanic soil. In the case of the toromiro tree, there appeared to be one specimen still growing in the crater of Rano Kau in the 1950s. Thor Heyerdahl took some seeds from this tree back to Norway, and they were eventually cultivated in the botanical gardens of Göteborg, where a tree sprouted up. This illegal act can be credited with saving the species from extinction. The Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF, Chilean state forestry commission) has attempted in recent years to reintroduce this and other ‘authentic’ species of tree to the island. The arboretum on Easter Island boasts small specimens of the toromiro tree, and the intention is to plant these on the island in the near future, along with other characteristic island species, such as the paper mulberry and the portia tree. It is hoped that woodcutters will leave the roots in peace.

Other Vegetation Vegetation can grow quickly on volcanic soil, because lava provides a fertile medium for plant seeds. If the volcano is still active, however, such places remain hazardous breeding grounds that risk being buried under ash and molten lava with each new eruption. Subsequent colonization  – which must begin anew, either wholly or in part  – might then take a different course. Naturally this is true of all volcanic islands, but the isolated position of an island can be an additional obstacle to settlement and resettlement. Seeds and spores generally take a long time to reach an island, if indeed they ever get that far. Easter Island was evidently too remote for many plant species, since it has always had very scant vegetation compared with most other Pacific islands. This was already apparent to eighteenth-century



The Survival of Easter Island

observers. The German natural scientist Johann Reinhold Forster, who accompanied Cook on his second voyage of exploration to the Pacific, left us a drawing and a description of just one plant species, far fewer than those found on the other islands they visited.19 The Swedish botanist Carl Skottsberg was the first to attempt a complete description of the flora and fauna on Easter Island.20 This monumental work, in which he also described the natural environment of the Juan Fernández Islands, was completed in the 1950s, after thirty-five years of cataloguing and analysis. It is still the point of departure for other researchers, although the plant and animal kingdoms have recently been reclassified according to completely new DNA guidelines. The fungi, for example, now comprise a separate kingdom, which means that mushrooms, the best-known fungi, no longer belong to the plant kingdom. The same is true of the seaweeds, which are now in a category of their own. Several species of edible brown and green seaweed grow on the coast of Easter Island. Skottsberg, who assigned the fungi to the plant kingdom, recorded twenty-three species on Easter Island, including four indigenous species. Adhering to the common system of classification, he assigned the other land plants to one of two main groups: mosses and vascular plants. He collected and described fourteen species of moss, nine of which were native to the island. Only one species of moss was red; all of the others were green. Almost nothing is known of the history of the seaweeds, fungi and mosses before the arrival of the settlers. The relatively numerous indigenous species of moss might suggest fairly rapid species formation among these groups, but it might also be an indication that these species had already existed there for hundreds of thousands of years, which gave them enough time to evolve into species specific to Easter Island. Skottsberg described forty-six species of vascular plants  – thirty-one angiosperms (flowering plants) and fifteen ferny plants – but registered his uncertainty as to their presence on the island before the arrival of the settlers. Dating methods were not so highly developed in his day. The angiosperms included four indigenous species: three species of grass and the previously mentioned toromiro tree. A non-native but characteristic species of reed (Scirpus riparius) – known as the totora reed and called nga’atu in the local language – was found to be growing in the craters. The inhabitants must have used it to roof their houses and weave pora, a type of surfboard. There were also four species of fern growing only on Easter Island:  too few to cause much excitement among botanists, but ‘true’ Easter Island species nonetheless. All of these native species

The Green Past

evolved from ‘ancestors’ that had either come to the island millennia ago or were residual populations. After Skottsberg’s pioneering work, John Flenley continued in the 1970s and 1980s to broaden research into the island’s vegetation. From the bottom of the crater lakes, he collected pollen that covered a time span of thirty-seven thousand years. Material from the various layers was dated by analysing the levels of carbon-14 and lead-210. A  1984 article coauthored by Flenley and Sarah King describes forty-six different species of vascular plants, including many species of grass of the Gramineae and Cyperaceae families. The distribution of the plant species over three craters, each at a different altitude, provided evidence of a microclimatic effect. The Easter Island coconut palm occurred relatively infrequently in the highest crater (Rano Aroi) and most frequently in the lowest (Rano Raraku). At this degree of latitude, small differences in temperature are important, since the species of palm growing on Easter Island was at the southern edge of its ecological range. (Coconut palms grow best in tropical regions.) Several representatives of the Compositae family displayed the opposite pattern. They were found more frequently in the Rano Aroi crater at an altitude of more than 400 metres. Pollen analysis also showed the change in numbers over time. Such data enabled Flenley and King to sketch a provisional picture of the changes in the vegetation over the past thirty-seven thousand years. Between twenty-one thousand and twelve thousand years ago, the climate was cooler and drier than either before or since, but this change in climate did not cause great changes in the vegetation. The tree line rose to above 400 metres, and the island gradually became forested  – a situation that lasted several millennia. Significant changes did not occur until after ad 1000, and these can almost all be attributed to the arrival of human inhabitants. The disappearance of trees created open spaces that benefited the grasses, which therefore increased greatly in number.21 Little is known about the mosses and fungi of earlier times, so it is difficult to trace any changes. The Orliacs’ work has shown that there must have been a wider variety of trees, but the species of vascular plants could not have numbered much more than sixty, including all the species of trees and shrubs already identified. All of these species, with the exception of one or two, were present before the settlers arrived. Many of them have disappeared for good.22 Among the species identified, a few have white, blue or red blossoms, but the dominant colour of the vegetation seen by the settlers upon their arrival was no doubt green.



The Survival of Easter Island

Sea Animals The coast of Easter Island rises up steeply from the ocean on nearly all sides. There are no coral reefs of any appreciable size and no shallow coastal waters or lagoons with their usual wealth of marine animals. This only concerns their quantity, however, because if we look at the variety of sea animals, Easter Island can boast quite a respectable number of species, a substantial proportion of which are indigenous. The number of fish species now stands at 164, of which 107 are known to be coastal species and 28 indigenous. These include the following eye-catching creatures: the Easter Island flyingfish (Cheilopogon rapanouiensis), whose Latin name betrays its home base; the Hotumatua dwarf angelfish (Centropyge hotumatua), a tiny fish named after the island’s legendary king; and the small Easter Island butterflyfish (Chaetodon litus), pictured in many travel guides, which in 2006 was put on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global network dedicated to the preservation of Earth’s biodiversity. It is difficult to determine the site specificity of marine organisms. Where do boundaries lie in the sea? Strictly speaking, a species of fish found swimming around the island of Sala y Gómez cannot be said to be indigenous to Easter Island. In the broader context of the entire Pacific Ocean, however, these two islands appear to have much more in common with each other than they do either with other islands or with the South American mainland. Both are small, young islands with much the same flora and fauna, including the snails and other shellfish that live in the coastal waters. This has led researchers to consider the two islands as one ‘faunal district’.23 A particularly high percentage of the shellfish – forty-two species altogether  – are native to these islands. On Hawaii, which is larger and much older (twenty million years old at the least), the percentage of native shellfish is less than half that number. Again, the question is whether this is an example of species formation or whether these species became indigenous because their ancestors and congeners died out elsewhere. Did the islands where their ancestors lived in the distant past become submerged? William Newman and Brian Foster defend this ‘relict species’ hypothesis, partly because shellfish occur on these islands that seem to be remnants of species older than the islands themselves.24 There is no indication of species of fish that have disappeared or become extinct since the settlement of Easter Island. But it is not certain that all the species hitherto described were there when the Polynesians first set foot on the beach at Anakena. This can be said with a reasonable degree of

The Green Past

certainty only about the indigenous species, owing to the time needed for speciation. The other species swam to the island at some point and then remained in the coastal waters because they found an ecological niche, a suitable place to live and breed. As long as the human inhabitants had seaworthy canoes, they fished in the deep waters off the coast. The remains of their catches have provided us with information about what was there in the past. We now know, for instance, that those who fished in the open ocean around Easter Island at the time of the European Middle Ages were able to catch what would now be considered a very sophisticated diet of deep-sea fish, including tuna, dolphin and shark. In Easter Island’s heyday – the thirteenth to the sixteenth century – such fish comprised much of the islanders’ daily diet. The Easter Islanders left us not only the remains of their meals but also petroglyphs, carved in rock walls and in the volcanic ground of the island. Many of these rock carvings include images of sea animals, such as lobster, octopus, shark, tuna, seal and turtle, all species that can still be seen in the waters around the island. Of the ten species of shark that have meanwhile been identified, the Galápagos shark and the tiger shark present a danger to humans. Conversely, sharks have little to fear from the islanders nowadays, because they are no longer a popular source of food. The yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), however, is still highly pursued. Fishermen who catch three or four a week and sell them to the catering industry can earn a modest living. The specimens they catch in their one-man boats are seldom more than two metres long. If the Japanese would also engage in such small-scale fishing and confine themselves to the local market, tuna would be much better off. The sea contains not only fish but numerous other species that contribute to the rich biodiversity of the island. Easter Island has its own species of octopus (Octopus rapanui Voss), for instance, and there are frequent sightings of whales and seals. Remains have been found on the island of ordinary seals (Phocoena phocoena) and even a piece of bone from a leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx).25 Seals do not come ashore on Easter Island, nor is it known whether they did so in the past. Johann Reinhold Forster saw large numbers of seals near the island.26 Nowadays they can be seen sunbathing on Sala y Gómez. Sea turtles have always appealed greatly to the Polynesians’ imagination. These long-distance swimmers figure as kuhane, or spiritual beings, in numerous myths and legends, and rock carvings testify to their early presence around Easter Island. A specimen more than a metre long can still be seen almost daily, swimming in the small harbour. Living in the shallow waters just off the coast are various species of crab,



The Survival of Easter Island

such as the coconut crab (Birgus latro) and a few species of sea urchin (Diadema sp.). Old photographs on display in the Museo Antropológico Padre Sebastián Englert show Easter Islanders spearfishing these prickly creatures. The name of Sebastian Englert, a priest important to the island and its inhabitants in the mid-twentieth century, is reflected in the name of one of the three indigenous species of cowrie. Cowrie shells are used to make the ubiquitous necklaces and other jewellery sold throughout the Pacific. The best-known shells are the dark-brown speckled dragon’s-head cowrie (Cypraea caputdraconis), followed by the aforementioned Cypraea englerti, which is light brown with white dots, and in third place the brown-and-white Cypraea cernica leforti. These shells are sold online for prices that vary from $6 for a dragon’s-head cowrie to a whopping $550 for a cernica. Tourists on Easter Island are confronted with a suspiciously large number of ‘genuine’ Easter Island specimens, which are naturally more expensive than non-native shells. The fact that they can hardly be distinguished from one another makes the business of selling them very profitable indeed. Despite the lack of extensive coral reefs, coral does occur in the island’s coastal waters.27 The most common species are the multicoloured Pocillopora verrucosa and the lemon yellow Porites lobata. The latter coral grows very slowly; this colony’s size suggests that it is at least a thousand years old. The influx of researchers to Easter Island in recent decades has done a great deal to increase our knowledge of the species present there.28 Findings have been made, particularly in the sea, of small species that generally lead a hidden existence.29 One of the most delightful finds was made by the Dutch carcinologist L. B. Holthuis, who discovered a genuine Easter Island species of lobster.30 Its name – Scyllarides roggeveeni – testifies to the discoverer’s sense of history.

Land Animals Whereas the waters around Easter Island were distinguished by a rich variety of life forms that managed to survive practically intact, the land animals did not fare nearly so well. In this respect, the history of the island’s terrestrials fits into a woeful pattern.31 The Polynesian settlement of the Pacific islands led to one of the biggest waves of avian extinction in human history.32 All of Easter Island’s native birds have disappeared. Various species of seabird have also vanished, but fewer in comparison to native species, presumably because birds from other areas could

The Green Past

supplement or replace them. In absolute numbers, fewer species of land animals have become extinct, merely because there were fewer to begin with. The direct and indirect causes of the decline and eventual extinction of all these species are fairly well known and were often due to a combination of factors. First and foremost, overexploitation, such as excessive hunting or egg collection, greatly curtailed breeding activity. Second, the changes that took place in the animals’ natural habitat, such as the felling of trees, reduced their nesting opportunities. Third, the introduction of ‘foreigners’, such as the Polynesian rat, and the depredations of animals of prey led to the suppression of native species. The rats had no natural enemies, apart from humans; the size of their population depended only on the availability of food. Their large numbers may well have been fatal to animals that bred on the ground. The disappearance of animal species can also lead indirectly to the disappearance of plant species that depend on animals to disseminate their seeds,33 although it is not known whether this happened on Easter Island. The extensive work done by David W. Steadman, Alvaro Jaramillo and others has shown that Easter Island had seven native species of land birds, six of which were non-migratory. These species all appeal strongly to the imagination, since the only thing we know about them is that they were independent representatives of a certain family. There was, for example, a native species of heron (Ardeidae sp.), a rail (Rallidae sp.), an Easter Island crake (Porzana sp.), two species of parrot (Psittacidae sp.) and even a species of barn owl (Tytonidae sp.).34 The seventh was a petrel (Procellariidae sp.), and Easter Island was its home base. These species were all among Easter Island’s original population of nesting birds. All the indigenous species are extinct.35 Of the species of seabird originally present, five managed to survive; four of these species took refuge on the islets of Motu Iti and Motu Nui or in the rocky cliffs along the coast. Johann Forster, on his visit in 1774, saw the frigatebird, the masked booby (see Figure 3.4) and three species of tern, but did not identify them as breeding birds.36 Only one species, the graceful red-tailed tropicbird (Phaethon rubricauda), bred ‘inland’ on Easter Island itself. A  dozen or so other species of seabird are known to have been on the island before the settlers’ arrival, but it is not known whether these birds were seasonal or permanent residents. None of these species survived into the historical period, which in this case began after Roggeveen’s ‘discovery’ of the island and the accounts prompted by that visit. These birds  – one example is the shy albatros (Diomedea cauta) – quickly disappeared after the arrival



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 3.4.  Masked booby (Sula dactylatra) with eggs on the islet of Moto Nui. Photo: Debbie van den Berg.

of the Polynesian settlers.37 Fortunately, these species were able to survive elsewhere. In historical times, too, various species of bird – mostly sea- or shorebirds – have succeeded in reaching Easter Island. Sometimes they have managed to survive by staying away from humans and keeping a low profile, as evidenced by the inconspicuous behaviour exhibited by a couple of extremely reclusive species of petrel that still breed on the island.38 Occasionally land birds also breeze in, but they never stay permanently. Remains show that three such species once reached the island:  two of these, the bristle-thighed curlew (Numenius tahitiensis) and the long-tailed meadowlark (Sturnella loyca), are true migratory birds; the third species, the Pacific reef egret (Egretta sacra), does not normally fly such great distances. Recent inventories show that birds still stray to Easter Island.39 The non-migratory species that now breed on the island were brought by humans, several of them at the end of the nineteenth century.40 The chimango caracara, a small bird of prey, was introduced to combat the plethora of rats. Unfortunately, it proved totally unsuited to this task: rodents were not at all part of its diet, either in its native Chile or on Easter Island.

The Green Past

Mammals were lacking on Easter Island. All of the species now living on the island were brought by humans, most of them deliberately, though an exception is the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), which arrived as a stowaway on the ships that called at the island from the eighteenth century onwards. This rat, which is larger, has completely supplanted the Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans) brought intentionally by the settlers.41 The island has no amphibians, but does have reptiles. Two species of lizard inhabit Easter Island:  a skink-like lizard (Cryptoblepharus boutonii) and a small gecko with a doleful Latin name (Lepidodactylus lugubris). Early on, these lizards – called moko in the local language – inspired woodcarvers to make carvings from the root of the toromiro tree. This resulted in the famous moko miro – curved, lizard-like figures with human and avian characteristics – of which a number of splendid specimens are preserved in museums. The other small land animals that inhabit, or once inhabited, Easter Island are less appealing and therefore less well studied. Researchers have their preferences, after all, and the smaller, unattractive species are less popular. Charles Darwin, while studying at Cambridge, dedicated his weekends to collecting beetles; he was exceptional in this regard as well. There is, in fact, an up-to-date list of the snails, flies, cockroaches, beetles, spiders and scorpions that have been spotted on the island, but we know little about the early history of these species. Skottsberg’s overview records five endemic species: four insects and a land snail.42 Since then, little has been done to investigate these species, which is a pity, because targeted research can lead to surprising results. In the 1970s, for example, researchers taking stock of the flora and fauna in the Rano Kau crater found two species of mite that were completely new to scientists, thus making a worldwide discovery. According to custom, one of the two was given a name that honoured both the discoverer, Maric Hammer, and the place of discovery:  Sabacarus ranokaoensis Hammer.43 These two species must have arrived on Easter Island and evolved before the advent of humans, or else they have been overlooked elsewhere in the world. An archaeological excavation at Anakena yielded two indigenous land snails, one of which  – Hotumatua anakenana – was immediately recorded as extinct. The researchers suspect that the Polynesian rat was largely responsible for its disappearance.44

Essential Baggage The settlers did not arrive on the island empty-handed. They brought along the plants and animals they needed to survive. In ecological terms, this is



The Survival of Easter Island

a risky business. Extreme isolation can make an island vulnerable to new, invasive species that can easily supplant old species through competition or predation, though this does not always happen.45 There are known cases of new species that adapted effortlessly to an existing situation.46 The settlers on Easter Island introduced various edible plants, chickens, rats and possibly a fruit tree. Most Polynesian expeditions also took along pigs and dogs, but if the settlers who landed on Easter Island had these animals with them, they either did not survive the voyage or died out early on.47 No remains have been found. The edible plants – yams, sugarcane, sweet potatoes and bananas – easily joined the existing vegetation. The chickens posed no threat to the native flora and fauna, though they no doubt pecked at plants and ate some insects. As we will see, the worst problem was the rats. There is one non-indigenous species that habitually causes more problems than any other, and that is Homo sapiens.48 Easter Island, too, fell victim to the ravages of human beings, who caused the island’s deforestation, which led to the extinction of all the native trees and birds. The land suffered the most damage, and if the human inhabitants had had sufficient technological means, they would also have caused profound changes to the sea around the island. But did these changes necessarily leave the island a poorer place? John Perlin’s book A Forest Journey makes it clear that throughout history, beginning with ancient Mesopotamia, humans have cut down forests and used timber to build civilizations.49 Was this also true of Easter Island? Was the culture that arose there built up at the expense of the forest?

Chapter 4

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

Three Sources How does a culture come into being? What are the forces that shape a society? John Perlin pointed out the availability of wood as a formative factor, but, of course, that is too limited. According to the geographer Clarence Glacken, there are three realms of inspiration – the earth, humankind and the gods1 – and each has a long history with well-known proponents. The materialists ascribe the greatest importance to the earth, that is to say, the environment in which man lives. The classic example is the physician Galen, who thought that the type of soil determined the human character, human health and the nature of human society. Today this school of thought is represented by Jared Diamond, who attributes the strength of European culture to such earthly factors as iron ore, horses and germs.2 The presence of these things put Europe at an advantage: the continent had the iron ore necessary to make steel weapons; it had useful horses, as opposed to the untamable zebras on other continents; and the viruses unintentionally taken by Europeans on their voyages of exploration proved fatal to the inhabitants of other parts of the world. Humanists such as Desiderius Erasmus, on the other hand, attributed to the human spirit the formative power that made it possible to forge new paths in cultural history. The environment was not unimportant in their view, but it was humankind, above all, that shaped the future and built civilizations. As corroborative evidence, they pointed to the Greek philosophers, whose ideas underpinned the Renaissance, and to the Enlightenment, which had brought order to modern society. Then again, there are many people who credit gods or supernatural forces with shaping the course of history and human culture, whether by the compelling coherence of the cosmos, in which Albert Einstein 45


The Survival of Easter Island

believed, or by direct or indirect intervention. Typical expressions of this viewpoint include the following: ‘Our future is in the stars’; ‘Man proposes but God disposes’; ‘We are subject to the cosmic order’; and ‘There is no such thing as coincidence’. In theory, these formative influences can be distinguished from one another, but in practice they combine, albeit in differing measure, to exert a cumulative force. It is this interaction between humankind, environment and religion that forms the heart of this book. In the case of Easter Island, however, another equally important factor comes into play: foreigners. The island’s encounter with foreigners – starting with the Dutch – made a great impact on its culture and seriously influenced the course of its history.

Seven Phases The culture of Easter Island is clearly defined by the Polynesian origins of its settlers – who brought along not only material goods, but also their culture  – and by its isolation, limited natural resources and, finally, foreign influences. On the basis of these factors, I distinguish seven periods in the ecological and cultural history of Easter Island, starting with the year ad 1100. Some periods can be clearly demarcated, but for the most part they display gradual transitions. The first phase of settlement and construction (I), marked by few people, scant artefacts and abundant forests, was followed by a golden age dominated by the statue cult (II). This was the island’s heyday, which lasted, roughly speaking, from 1250 to 1550. The ultimate disappearance of the forests, around the mid-seventeenth century, was the most dramatic event of a new phase from 1550 to 1722 (III), which was characterized by dwindling natural resources and the rise of a bird cult that possibly coexisted for a while with the statue cult. When the first Europeans visited the island, the statue cult was still in force, though presumably already on the wane. The bird cult, a ritual enacted every year for the purpose of choosing a new leader – the birdman – persisted until well into the nineteenth century. The arrival of the Dutch in 1722 put an end to the isolation that had lasted for centuries, and the culture of Easter Island gradually gave way to external influences, giving rise to the historical phase (IV). The foreigners, in addition to leaving permanent traces, sometimes brought drastic change to the island. The first to arrive were the Dutch: the instant they set foot on land, they caused an unnecessary shooting incident that ‘left ten to twelve people dead, in addition to those injured’.3 Later visitors introduced

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

European genes and diseases, including syphilis, whereas the French also left behind plants and animals. After this there were no more great voyages of discovery to Easter Island. From the end of the eighteenth century, the island was visited only by rough transients, mostly whalers, who generally did more harm than good.4 This dark phase (V) had a low point: the Peruvian slave raids of 1862–3.5 Only after these attacks did people who had not been born on Easter Island come to live there: natives of Tahiti and other Polynesian islands, as well as French and German missionaries, sheep breeders, adventurers and scientists. This gave rise to a turbulent phase (VI), during which the Easter Islanders became Christianized, which made it particularly difficult for certain elements of their own religious culture to survive. Many artefacts disappeared from the island, either burned as ‘pagan’ or bartered away to anthropologists and other visitors. The introduction of horses and sheep – at one point there were tens of thousands of sheep on the island – caused severe changes to the landscape. Up to this time, Easter Island had been an autonomous Polynesian island, but in 1888 it lost its independence when it fell into Chilean hands. Even after this, however, the pace of its development was determined by its remoteness. The landing strip constructed in 1967 as part of NASA’s space programme finally put an end to the island’s isolation and ushered in the latest era in the island’s history, the contemporary phase (VII). The thematic description in this and the following chapters of the society and culture of Easter Island must be viewed against the backdrop of these developmental phases.

Hearth and Home The supposition that the Polynesian settlers landed in canoes on the beach at Anakena is supported by archaeological finds that display what are still the oldest traces of prolonged habitation, dating from the end of the twelfth century.6 The site was subsequently inhabited until well into the nineteenth century. It is possible that the settlers arrived even earlier, however, and lived in caves or relatively simple forest dwellings before starting to build houses. Naturally they would have explored the entire island from their base at Anakena and perhaps settled elsewhere on the island as well. There is not much concrete proof of early settlement: the archaeological evidence from the earliest period, before ad 1000, is scarce; of the few datings, some are unreliable and others contradictory. On the slope of the Rano Kau caldera at the southernmost tip of the island, Patrick McCoy discovered what are still the oldest signs of a simple rectangular house.7 Its



The Survival of Easter Island

dating shows wide margins of error, however. Easter Island is rich in caves, many of which were inhabited in the later phases of its history, as seen and recorded by Spanish and French visitors. The caves have not yielded any evidence of early settlement in Phase I; the earliest traces of habitation date from the fifteenth century. As far as the artefacts are concerned, only near Tahai on the west coast has a statue been assigned to a time that predates the earliest known dwelling. This dating, too, is open to debate.8 Although earlier habitation is a possibility, from the twelfth century onwards there is firm evidence of settlements,9 which generally consisted of a few smaller houses, widely scattered, and several communal dwellings. The Easter Island house that gradually developed was typically oval in shape, 3 to 18 metres long, 2 to 3 metres wide, 1.5 to 2 metres high in the middle, and with one or two low entryways, through which the occupants crawled on their hands and knees. According to Cornelis Bouman, the smaller houses resembled beehives, but the bigger houses were very large indeed: how many people they accommodated is a matter of conjecture, but the structures may have housed a whole clan, consisting of twenty to thirty people. Roggeveen saw seven of these family dwellings, and Carl Friedrich Behrens, a member of his crew, spotted approximately twenty more a short distance away. These houses were likened by Dutch seamen to ‘a Greenland sloop turned upside-down’.10 This was an image familiar to the next European visitors: Captain James Cook spoke of a ‘large boat turned bottom up’,11 whereas the French described it as an overturned canoe (see Figure 4.1).12 Stones were placed along the sides of the house. The posts that formed the frame – over which leaves, totora reeds and other grasses were woven – fitted neatly into post holes in the stones. According to Roggeveen, these reeds were so thick that they offered just as much protection from the rain as a thatched roof in Holland.13 It must have been pretty dark inside, which is why such dwellings are thought to have served only as dormitories or shelters. This theory is supported by the fact that neither household goods nor furniture have ever been found in them. Perhaps mats or grass beds were laid on the ground to make sleeping more comfortable. Provisions were kept in a storage bin in the corner.14 In later times, such houses may have contained statues, certainly if they were the dwellings of important leaders. In front of the entryway there was sometimes a stone-paved terrace, called a paenga in the islanders’ language. Roggeveen was no doubt thinking of cities back home in Holland when he idyllically described such a terrace as ‘a pavement on which to sit and converse in the cool of the evening’.15 Remains of this type of house, called a hare paenga, have been

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

Figure  4.1. The oldest photo (taken in 1886)  of an Easter Island house (William J.  Thomson, Report of the U.S. National Museum, Washington, DC:  Smithsonian Institution, 1889; NAA INV 04952900, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution).

found all over the island, but always near giant statues, or moai, which suggests distinguished occupants (see Figure 4.2). About a dozen places along the shore had concentrations of dwellings that could be called villages. The names they were given are still used today, but the sites are no longer inhabited. In addition to the upside-down-boat houses, the islanders built terrace houses in the village of Orongo, a religious centre on the southern rim of the Rano Kau caldera. These houses boasted a splendid view of the islets of Motu Nui and Motu Iti, just off the coast. Orongo was the centre of the bird cult that developed during the more impoverished Phase III. These quality houses were built differently from dwellings on the rest of the island. The walls were constructed of flat stones, stacked up, and the roof was made of larger flat stones and turf, which provided protection from the weather in this high, windy place. These houses were so well preserved that it has proved possible to reconstruct them. The terrace houses of Orongo formed complexes of varying size with low entryways. They were found to contain stone slabs beautifully painted with birds’ heads and other motifs. A photograph taken by William J. Thomson in 1891 (see Figure 8.3) shows such slabs being removed from the houses and prepared for transport to Western museums. A somewhat larger dwelling contained a beautifully wrought basalt statue two and a half metres tall, standing half-buried in a chamber, which in 1868 was hoisted onto the HMS



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 4.2.  Ground plan of a hare paenga. Photo: author.

Topaze and taken to England, where it has been displayed with ceremonial splendour in the British Museum ever since.16 For most nineteenth-century Europeans, this moai was their first encounter with the famous statue cult. The Easter Islanders refer to it ironically as Hoa Hakananai’a (‘Stolen Friend’ or ‘Hidden Friend’). Orongo was not inhabited on a permanent basis, only during the annual birdman ceremony, which will be explained in the next chapter. The Easter Islanders built houses not just for themselves, but also for their chickens. These hare moa were stone structures with small entrances and sometimes a walled extension. It is not known when they first appeared, but it seems likely that these chicken houses were erected as a result of agricultural intensification, in an effort to increase the production of animal protein and to facilitate the collection of eggs. Another factor may have been the emergence of a concept of ownership or ownership rights, since such structures would have made it more difficult to steal chickens or eggs. There are also two types of stone constructions whose meaning is not entirely clear. The first is the tupa, a pile of stones one and a half metres high, with white – or whitewashed – stones on top. The French took them to be cenotaphs, or sepulchral monuments, but some of them are known to

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears


covering of leaves

hot stones leaf wrappings food

Figure 4.3.   Sketch of an umu, a small oven in which food was prepared.

have served later on as chicken houses. The second type is the pipi horeka, pyramidal stacks of stones that possibly functioned as landmarks or boundary markers between the various clans. In the immediate vicinity of the houses were small ovens – umu – for the preparation of food (see Figure  4.3). The average umu was approximately 10 to 20 centimetres deep and 20 to 40 centimetres in diameter: a pentagonal construction of upright stones, half submerged in the ground.17 Roggeveen and his men were offered drumsticks prepared in these umu. Bouman gives an apt description: ‘They knew how to prepare poultry very well in pits in which they put pebbles, which they made glowing hot by setting fire to some brushwood. After wrapping the chicken in wide, flat grasses, they laid them on the hot stones and then covered the pit again with dry brushwood. They were done in no time and eaten by some of our men, who declared them delicious – really very good indeed.’18 The oven was an elegant construction and the method of preparation very efficient: stone-grilling a piece of meat wrapped in a leaf – the Easter Island ‘wrap’.19 In the first centuries of habitation, the islanders probably


The Survival of Easter Island

burned wood as well, and undoubtedly used this method to cook other fowl too, as well as deep-sea fish and naturally the tuberous plants introduced by the settlers. The Easter Islanders probably succeeded all this time in making fire by rubbing two sticks together, because flint was lacking. Materials that burned quickly, such as dry grass, were present in abundance. The early European visitors did not notice any other cooking utensils, such as wooden spoons, which either did not exist or have not survived. Easter Island lacks ores, so there were no metal objects such as knives or pots and pans. The lack of cooking vessels explains the absence of spoons and other implements. Water was kept by the houses in small basins made of stone or vegetable material. The Dutch spoke of ‘calabashes, in which they keep their water’, which could be a reference to hollowed-out pumpkins or well-preserved coconuts of the Easter Island coconut palm, which by this time was nearly extinct.20 The list of words in González’s journal contains a phonetically spelled word in Rapanui – ‘geracona’ – and its translation: ‘calabash to contain water’.21 Calabashes were used as water receptacles until the late nineteenth century.

Fields and Gardens The tuberous plants brought by the settlers could certainly be cultivated in open forest, if ample distance between the trees allowed for sufficient light and moisture. Yams and taro can easily be grown in such conditions. The same is true of cassava or manioc, which Robert Langdon steadfastly maintains was present.22 Pumpkins and sweet potatoes need a bit more sun, and more space must be found or cleared for banana trees – likewise brought by the settlers – and sugarcane. Most species of palm form an open forest, with considerable distances between the trees, but it is not known whether this held true for the Easter Island coconut palm. We do know, however, that open spaces emerged in Phase I, because trees were felled for canoes, firewood and houses, and for the edible sap that can be pressed from palm trunks. Trees were also destroyed by fires set deliberately. The archaeological soil archive has yielded many root stumps of the Easter Island coconut palm that contain traces of a hoe and charred remains – clear evidence of the slash-and-burn technique.23 The ash was most likely used as mineral fertilizer for the gardens. Obsidian could not have been used to fell trees, because even though it is hard and sharp enough to be fashioned into knives or spearheads, it is too fragile to chop down trees. For this task, pieces of hard basalt or trachyte were attached to a handle. The first European visitors saw a piece of obsidian being used as a

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

knife: ‘They cut the bananas with a sharp black stone all around the branch and then twisted them off.’24 The growing population required more food, hence the need for more fields, plantations and gardens. The forest – used for a variety of purposes – thus disappeared in the settlers’ immediate surroundings, giving rise to open spaces. Although the soil is rocky in many places, with quite a few loose stones, it is reasonably fertile, particularly in the low-lying areas. The soil was fertilized with ash and possibly also with human excrement. The volcanic soil on Easter Island has always been a source of dietary minerals. When lava cools, it forms igneous rock, such as trachyte and basalt. There is trachyte only on Poike, but basalt occurs in numerous places. As basalt erodes, it becomes phosphate-rich soil. Lava soils also contain silicic acid, and after erosion they often have a structure favourable to plant growth and are rich in minerals (calcium and magnesium) and trace elements (boron, manganese and zinc). Tuberous plants, in any case, grow easily on Easter Island, where they require little care and bear fruit more than once a year. Eugène Eyraud, the first missionary to arrive on Easter Island, in early 1864, described the soil as rocky but fertile. In his view, farming was not very difficult. He recounted how easy it was to grow potatoes: a little hole was made in the ground and the eye of a potato was put in it – that’s all there was to it. No other tending was necessary; providence did the rest.25 Dehydration of the soil is the greatest threat to a good harvest. Sugarcane did well on the island, growing into thick stalks. The Dutch described it as much ‘heavier’ than the sugarcane they had seen in Brazil and Suriname,26 and also very sweet. A  variety of plants were tended in the gardens. Archaeological soil research has shown that it took a couple of centuries for the fields and gardens to spread over large parts of the island, although the highest areas were left untouched.27 It is unclear whether the fields were private property or belonged to a chief (the head of a clan or family).28 Cook thought that the fields belonged to chiefs  – a system he had seen on Otaheite (present-day Tahiti). The fields, at any rate, were not communal property. Cook relates how men traded relatively worthless baubles for sweet potatoes that turned out to have been taken from a neighbour’s garden. The furious owner soon came to recover his stolen property, and a short while later the seamen learned that the rate of exchange for ‘legal’ potatoes was considerably higher.29 Hippolyte Roussel recounts that in the nineteenth century the sea just off one’s own piece of land was also considered private property.30 It is not known whether this had always been the case. The notion that property rights extended into the sea seems to have arisen in later times. It could have applied only to the coastal waters,



The Survival of Easter Island

however, since it would be nearly impossible to enforce such a ‘law’ with regard to deep-sea fishing. The Easter Islanders were quite successful at adapting to changing conditions. They built walls around their gardens to protect the plants, and when the soil became more susceptible to drought as a result of the increasingly open landscape, they adopted lithic mulching, which entails covering or filling the topsoil with stones and pebbles to reduce the amount of erosion from wind and water.31 From the account of the natural scientist George Forster – a German who, together with his father, Johann Reinhold Forster, accompanied James Cook on his second voyage – we know that they also took pains to cover the land with tufts of grass, a practice comparable to that of fertilization.32 They no doubt used grass as ground cover before this time, but – unlike the ‘pebble cover’ – there are scant archaeological traces of it. The Polynesian settlers were of course familiar with the plants they had brought with them and knew the best method of cultivation, but they could not have known the circumstances in which their plants would be forced to grow. For one thing, there is quite a lot of wind on Easter Island, and its effects certainly became more and more noticeable as trees were felled and the landscape opened up. Low stone walls were built around the most exposed fields, and crops were planted in the spacious natural depressions in the rocky ground. The only information we have about how the islanders tended their fields comes from the later accounts of Europeans, who described skilful gardening and careful maintenance. According to Bouman, the fields were ‘square, with furrows, and clearly demarcated’.33 To produce enough food, it was evidently not necessary to cultivate all the arable land available. Roggeveen notes with surprise that the inhabitants left the island largely uncultivated and tended only their own gardens, a situation also observed by the Spanish.34 All the visitors describe crops growing in regular rows and beds, ‘prettily laid out by line’, as noted by Cook. George Forster was full of praise for the sugarcane and banana plantations and wrote that ‘both were in excellent order’. The largest gardens were to be found where the soil seemed the most fertile, such as on the southeast coast. The accounts of the French are the most detailed and the most positive about the agriculture and horticulture on the island. They judged the fields to be cultivated with great intelligence, which was apparent from the fact that weeds were removed and burned and the ashes then used as fertilizer. The French estimated that no more than one-tenth of the island was cultivated, but evidently that was more than enough, because they observed that the Easter Islanders could afford to barter with food

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

and were convinced that working the land for three days a year would provide enough food for everyone.35 The island’s productivity had already been observed by Roggeveen, who declared it to be ‘extremely fertile’.36 Even though they deemed the methods of cultivation effective and agricultural production more than adequate, the early European visitors expressed mixed opinions about the quality of the food. The Dutch appreciated the ‘chicken wrap’, and the critical James Cook declared the sweet potatoes to be the best he had ever eaten. Even so, the English found the rest of the offerings meagre and the water simply awful. The French defended the island’s cuisine:  in their opinion, the English had judged the food too harshly because they were in no shape to appreciate it after their long ocean voyage. Cook, who was suffering from a nasty intestinal complaint, went ashore only briefly.37 Many of his crew were afflicted with scurvy and in need of fresh fruit and vegetables. Sweet potatoes were very good for scurvy sufferers, and the members of Cook’s expedition knew this. Indeed, George Forster noted that they were extremely nutritious and ‘very antiscorbutic’.38 The French thought the choice of food limited but of reasonable quality. In fact, the Spanish turned out to have the most rigorous culinary standards: no matter what was on offer – whether turnips, bananas, or sugarcane – they found it all equally disgusting.

Meat, Fish and Eggs The food that was served to the European visitors was less varied than the fare the islanders had enjoyed in the first centuries of their residence: Phase I and the golden age (Phase II).39 To begin with, there were fruit trees, such as the Malay apple and the Easter Island coconut palm, which produced coconuts as well as edible sap. Moreover, there were flavourful breeding birds whose eggs could also be eaten. Once in a great while, an expedition sailed to Sala y Gómez to fetch eggs. Over time, the chickens and rats that had arrived with the first settlers multiplied to the extent that they too became a source of food. How the islanders managed to catch the rats is a mystery, but we know they succeeded in doing so from an observation made by Cook, who saw an Easter Islander with ‘several rats’  – a footnote below this passage says, by way of clarification, ‘some dead ones’40  – that he was obviously not willing to share with anyone. Rodents long remained a sought-after commodity on the island. More than a century later, Hippolyte Roussel recounted that the young men of Easter Island would work for daily wages consisting of one or two rats and a couple of sweet potatoes.41



The Survival of Easter Island

The islanders were also skilled fishermen and certainly succeeded in catching an abundant supply of fish as long as they had seaworthy canoes. The analysis of fish bones in human waste tells us a great deal about the islanders’ eating habits. We know, for example, that for a long time, deep-sea fish, porpoises and seals made up a substantial part of the islanders’ diet, some researchers even putting the figure at thirty per cent.42 Fish was eaten in later times too, but to a lesser extent. Of the eighteenth-century journal writers, only the two Forsters mention fish as a source of food.43 These archaeological and historical findings are supported by modern isotope research carried out on the skulls and teeth of exhumed Easter Islanders. The permillage of the stable isotopes nitrogen-15 and carbon-13 provides information about the vegetable content of the islanders’ food intake and their sources of animal protein. This reveals that Easter Islanders were never completely vegetarian, not even in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Recent findings suggest a predominantly terrestrial diet based on rats, chickens and C3 plants,44 but seafood always remained part of their diet.45 Most of the archaeological finds concerning fishing and fish consumption were made on the coast, the north shore in particular. The coastal caves have yielded a great deal of material, such as the remains of fish bones and fishhooks. Rock carvings depicting sharks, tuna and swordfish bear witness to the great importance of fishing. Of the five hundred petroglyphs at Papa Vaka – literally ‘lava canoe’ – on the north side of the island, nearly all of them relate to fishing: the images depict canoes, fishhooks and the catch itself. The Polynesians were a seafaring people, whose traditions no doubt included much knowledge of fishing, but they still had to put it into practice using local materials. Fishhooks were fashioned of either stone or bone, including human bones; dozens of fishhooks of many shapes and sizes have been preserved. The great majority were specially made for catching deep-sea fish such as tuna.46 Museums with collections of Easter Island artefacts invariably include fishhooks in the permanent display, and the subtlety and effectiveness of their design is truly amazing. (No less surprising is the number of museums worldwide that own objects from Easter Island.) Little has survived, however, of the islanders’ fishing lines and nets, which  – despite being made of vegetable matter  – must have been very strong. Hooking a tuna or a shark is one thing, but getting it on board is a different matter altogether. It requires great strength and strong tackle to keep a fish on the line long enough to exhaust it. Sometimes this process must have been helped along by an extra wound inflicted with a spear, as whalers do with

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

harpoons. For deep-sea fishing, the islanders might also have used nets, in which seals occasionally became entangled as well. At any rate, nets were certainly used in later times for fishing near the shore. One of the first people to observe this was the English captain James Baker, a fur trader who put in at Easter Island in 1793. He described nets made of grass and fishhooks fashioned from bone.47 Eugène Eyraud wrote that the islanders were skilled at sewing and weaving, and noted that they made thread from the fibre of wild hibiscus (purau) and the bark of the paper mulberry.48 The Englishman J. Linton Palmer – the ship’s surgeon on board the HMS Topaze, which called at Easter Island in 1868 – reported seeing nets with a half-inch mesh. The English took along a couple of nets, but the islanders would not part with any fishing line.49 The annotated edition of the report written in 1883 by the anthropologist Wilhelm Geiseler contains an illustration of a fishing net, and the catalogue at the back of his report lists several as ‘not available’.50 Apparently the nets he took along were later lost. His own report makes no mention of fish or fishing, nor does it describe any nets.51 William Thomson, on the other hand, described them in 1891. He also brought along the only classical fishing net to have survived, and it is indeed made of twisted fibres of the paper mulberry and a species of grass.52 His book contains a photograph of this twenty-metre-long net and two bone needles used to mend such nets. The islanders also fished the coastal waters by diving for crabs, lobsters and shellfish. They collected birds’ eggs as well, but it is not known whether they hunted or caught the breeding birds themselves, let  alone how they might have accomplished this. It is possible that they used nets for this purpose or knew how to surprise the birds in their nests. The missionary Eugène Eyraud, writing in the late nineteenth century, said that the islanders were afraid of blood, and that they killed chickens by strangling them with a rope, even though by this time they had knives.53 The Spanish proved empirically that Easter Islanders were unfamiliar with bows and arrows by fashioning one of each – to the best of their ability, given the available materials – and presenting them to an islander, who immediately used them as a headdress and obviously had no inkling of their true purpose.54

Language and Signs That the Easter Islanders spoke a Polynesian language was obvious to both González and Cook. Owing to the island’s isolation, its language – Rapanui – had developed as a spoken language only. The raids by Peruvian



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 4.4.   Symbols inscribed below the document (not internationally recognized) that specified the terms by which the island was handed over to King Carlos III of Spain in 1770.

slave traders in the 1860s represent both a historical and a linguistic watershed: from then on, the language was subjected to such strong outside influences that natural development was impossible.55 The Chilean authorities subsequently discouraged Rapanui and promoted the use of Spanish as the lingua franca. Despite these efforts, Rapanui – in both its spoken and written form  – has managed to survive to this day as part of the Polynesian palette of languages. There are no known written texts in the language that was spoken before 1862, when the Peruvians first raided the island. The ‘signatures’ below the deed of sale (which is not recognized by the people of Easter Island), whereby the island’s leaders handed the island over to the Spanish in 1770, consist of ‘petroglyphs on paper’: bird symbols, several vulvas and a couple of undeciphered signs (see Figure 4.4). Our only record of their language consists of the phonetic spellings in Spanish and English of the words recorded by explorers. This was more than enough to confirm the Polynesian connection, but otherwise not very enlightening. Eyraud categorically stated that the Easter Islanders could neither read nor write, but they were good at counting and had words for all the numbers.56 Their numeracy is also apparent from their definitions of time: they had names for the seasons and measured time with a sun-and-moon calendar.

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

The moai also signalled the changing of the seasons. Thanks to the work of William Liller, this is well documented for such places as Uri A Urenga, a single moai, and Ahu Akivi, a group of seven moai, all situated inland. The orientation of these statues enabled the islanders to determine the winter and summer solstices.57 Easter Islanders may not have produced any texts in their old Rapanui language, but they did provide the world with cultural enrichment in the form of rongorongo: a ‘script’ consisting of hieroglyphic characters, which were engraved on wooden tablets and other wooden objects. A  total of twenty-five such tablets have survived, but we know that there were many more, because in the nineteenth century some of them were deliberately destroyed by  – or at the instigation of  – the first missionaries, who suspected that they played a role in heathen practices. However, one of the missionaries, Father Gaspar Zumbohm, recognized the historical significance of the tablets and saved a few from destruction by sending them to Tahiti. Several others ended up in Chile.58 According to the anthropologist Wilhelm Geiseler, the tablets became known only in 1870 through a publication by Professor Eduardo Philippi, director of the museum in Santiago, who had studied the specimens taken to Chile.59 Some researchers assume that rongorongo developed as a reaction to the European visitors’ habit of writing, whereas others suspect earlier beginnings. Naturally there are also stories that trace the script back to the time of the legendary king Hotu Matu’a. The only tablet that has actually been dated appears to have originated around 1680 (see Figure 4.5). But this is no proof that rongorongo already existed then, since the writing might have been applied to an old piece of wood. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were no Easter Islanders who could translate this script into any known language. Shawn McLaughlin gives an occasionally amusing overview of the fate of the tablets and the attempts made since 1862 to interpret them, sometimes with the help of islanders who claim to read rongorongo.60 It is thought that only an elite group of leaders or priests could understand these glyphs. The twenty-nine surviving objects display three hundred different pictographs, including animals, plants, phalluses and human figures, as well as abstract depictions. The differences between the preserved tablets suggest the existence of hundreds of additional characters. In the twentieth century, researchers tried continually to decipher or at least interpret the script; the most serious attempts were made by William Thomson, Thomas Barthel and Steven Roger Fischer.61 Barthel, after examining a small number of inscriptions, declared them to be calendars, but could not read them in any depth. Fischer, who continued the work



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 4.5.   Wooden tablet with rongorongo, Easter Island script consisting of pictographs. Tablet taken on board the Topaze in 1868 and now in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

started by Barthel, had made a name for himself as one of those claiming to have deciphered the ‘Phaistos Disc’, found on the Greek island of Crete in the second millennium bc. The basic assumption was that rongorongo served a ritual purpose and that the signs functioned as mnemonic devices to prompt the readers or singers of sacred texts – in other words, they served as crib sheets for Easter Island mantras. The majority of texts are thought to be short cosmogonies and stories of the Creation, in which Creation is conceived – according to old Polynesian notions – as the result of ancient, prehistoric copulations, described in terms such as ‘all the birds copulated with the fish and brought forth the sun’. Fischer thinks that the script originated after the islanders’ first contact with Europeans, and that rongorongo is a mixed system of writing, with some signs standing for words and others for modes of behaviour. Not every specialist is convinced, but Fischer’s approach is certainly the most serious to date.62 Perhaps this will change, however, since the publication by the Dutch scholar M. de Laat of a surprising and compelling study, in which he not only describes rongorongo as an ‘ordinary’ language, but also offers translations.63 De Laat even sees a connection between rongorongo and modern-day Rapanui. Assuming that each symbol stands for a syllable and using his knowledge of present-day Rapanui, he deciphers the language, making use of transcriptions – which are said by some experts to contain inaccuracies – of several tablets. It is no easy task in any case, but his method of linking symbols and syllables is, in my opinion, insufficiently clarified in his book. Moreover, De Laat’s translations of the inscriptions on three tablets yield curious and rather incoherent texts. We read about a man who wakens his friends from death,

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

only to hear them complain about their resurrected bodies. Another story is about a group of quarrelling women who are confronted by a man with the evil eye. These are not stories that are easy to place in the existing body of knowledge about Easter Island. De Laat makes no attempt to explain why the tablets could no longer be understood in the nineteenth century. He arrived at his own conclusions without consulting other researchers, so it is hardly surprising that his findings have met with a hesitant and sceptical reception. We must now wait for his results to be subjected to a serious test,64 which could be undertaken by examining the tablets and texts he has not yet studied.

Appearance and Behaviour ‘So what did they look like?’ This is invariably the first thing we ask about exotic peoples in far-off places. Human beings have always attached great importance to their own appearance and that of others. It was, in fact, the first thing Roggeveen and his crew noticed: even before setting foot on land, they were visited on Tuesday, 7 April by a naked islander paddling near their ship on a ‘surfboard’ made of reeds and bits of wood. Bouman went to meet him in a sloop, and the man, who struggled at first, was hoisted on board. This was followed by an amusing scene – savage meets white man and vice versa – which included the obligatory mirrors and beads, as well as violin playing, dancing and brandy.65 ‘Mirrors and beads’ are notorious in colonial history, but these particular beads tell a more nuanced story. In the 1950s, the Norwegian expedition found beads in a number of places on Easter Island, including one presumably brought by Roggeveen and used for barter.66 It appeared to be a glass bead of beautiful blue. Roggeveen also recorded ‘two strings of blue coral’.67 The man who had paddled out to the ship was estimated to be ‘in his late fifties’ and ‘very robust’.68 The natives’ good health is mentioned in every eighteenth-century account. The truth might have been somewhat distorted, however, by the fact that the sick and disabled would not have been the first to show themselves, certainly not swimming two miles from the coast. Yet even after the European visitors had seen hundreds of Easter Islanders, their opinion remained favourable. The natives were handsome people: well proportioned and rather tall, and with well-developed muscles – all in all, they cut a fine figure. They were also accustomed to walking on rough terrain. The natural scientist Johann Forster, who was no longer young, exhausted himself exploring the uncharted island, but a native boy kindly took him by the hand and supported him the whole way



The Survival of Easter Island

back – a truly moving sight.69 Estimates of the islanders’ height vary from 1.60 to 1.80 metres. In one of the Dutch journals, we read: ‘The men were twelve feet tall, and a European could easily walk between their legs.’ This is just one of the many exaggerations and inaccuracies in this particular account, whose author also expressed uncertainty about the truthfulness of his source, for we read in a footnote, ‘Though I fear that the measurements are based not on science but on guesswork.’70 The Spanish saw no bowed legs on Easter Island, which indicates a rather balanced diet and the absence of vitamin deficiencies that could have caused rickets or similar diseases. Roggeveen expressed his surprise at the islanders’ strong, ‘snow-white teeth’, even among the elderly, ‘as was confirmed by the cracking of a large, hard nut, whose shell was thicker and firmer than our peach stones’.71 But if we are to believe the specialists who later examined the skulls of Easter Islanders, such strong, healthy teeth were the exception rather than the rule. Foreign visitors also marvelled at the swimming skills of the islanders, who did not hesitate to swim through heavy surf to meet visiting ships, either with or without a reed surfboard (pora). The swimmers were always naked, and their skin colour, according to experienced travellers, was not black but the yellowish brown customary among South Sea islanders. Their hair was black and worn in various lengths and styles:  sometimes short, and sometimes long and bound up on the head. The men shaved their faces with a sharp piece of obsidian, as recorded by the physician J. Linton Palmer, writing a century after the Dutch. He also noted during his visit in 1868 that the islanders practised male circumcision.72 Many of the men had a small beard, described by the English as a ‘goatee’ and by Bouman as a ‘small beard in the Turkish fashion’.73 A similar growth of hair on the chin is also seen on the wooden statues (moai kava kava) that have survived. The Europeans noticed that the islanders wore ornaments: shells the colour of mother-of-pearl around their necks and on their chests, and round headdresses made of chicken feathers and, according to the Spanish at least, seaweed. Behrens saw something that looked exactly like stork feathers, but wondered how such birds could have ended up on Easter Island at that time of year: they migrated to warmer climes, to be sure, but always returned north by April.74 George Forster either saw headdresses made of other feathers, or took a closer look at those that had puzzled Behrens, since he reported that the headdresses were made of the feathers of the great frigatebird, the brown feathers of gulls and the long white feathers of the masked booby (in his words, a ‘gannet’), which breed on Motu Nui and Motu Iti. Several of these ornamental headdresses have been preserved.75

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

The most beautiful necklace was the crescent-shaped rei miro, which was decorated with human heads at either end and sometimes inscribed with rongorongo texts. As far as clothing was concerned, the Easter Islanders had to make do with the materials at hand. The Spanish thought them very poorly dressed and, worse still, bereft of gold or silver jewellery.76 Most of the men walked around naked, with at most a small loincloth, fastened by a string tied through the buttocks and around the waist. The women wore colourfully dyed skirts made of grasses and the bark and fibre of the paper mulberry. Red was the ladies’ colour of choice. Several of the male leaders wore white cloaks, and a couple of them carried a wooden staff known as a paoa. The most striking thing about the islanders, however, was their extensive body painting. Those of higher rank boasted extravagant decorations that

Figure  4.6.  Easter Island man with feather headdress. Etching by Francesco Bartolozzi, after William Hodges, 1777.



The Survival of Easter Island

were extremely beautiful and very carefully applied, representing birds and other animals, as well as abstract motifs. The Spanish, who described them in the greatest detail, were impressed by the skill and precision with which they were painted. They reported seeing circles and lines on the men’s chests and backs and terrifying masks of monsters (‘rostros horrorosos’) on their buttocks.77 We cannot be certain whether these were subcutaneous tattoos, such as those found elsewhere in Polynesia, but in all likelihood they were, at least in part. Johann Forster described them as ‘punctured’ and Cook, too, reported that tattooing, which entailed applying dark ink beneath the skin, was widespread among the islanders. Their stay was too brief, however, to see it being done. The decorations on the women’s skin were usually red, whereas white was also used to paint the men, particularly the leaders. Behrens saw one man whose clothes and skin had been painted completely white. Even the carrot-like ornaments in his earlobes were white. The ‘white’ man made a very pious impression, which led Behrens and his party to conclude that he was a ‘servant of pagan gods’ (‘Götzendiener’).78 Equally conspicuous were the islanders’ elongated, pierced earlobes (see Figures 4.6 and 4.7). The holes were so large that a decorative object, such as a ‘thick white carrot’, could be inserted in them.79 To prevent this decoration from dangling annoyingly while engaging in an activity such as dancing, an islander would remove the ‘carrot’ and fold the earlobe over the ear, ‘which was a strange sight that made one laugh’,80 according to Roggeveen. These large, pierced earlobes, as well as the feather headdress, are plainly visible in the first drawings of Easter Islanders, made by the Englishman William Hodges. The woman sketched by Hodges wears a necklace with a large shell. Yet the work of Hodges is not above criticism. His drawings and paintings are inaccurate and misleading, owing to an overdose of imagination. He depicted, for example, a man and a woman smartly dressed in jackets. The man’s headdress almost seems like an aureole, and the woman’s cap is not at all typical of Easter Island apparel.81 The moai, too, had remarkably long ears. Piercing and stretching the earlobes remained in fashion until the late nineteenth century. Eyraud describes little girls starting the day by carefully repiercing and stretching the holes in their ears.82 One aspect of the islanders’ behaviour was noted by every visitor to Easter Island:  they were ‘very desirous of everything they saw’.83 That they were adept at petty thievery was immediately clear to the Europeans. As soon as the Dutch approached the shore, a number of enterprising islanders made a beeline for their ships, either swimming or in canoes. Once on board,

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

Figure 4.7.   Easter Island woman with elongated, pierced earlobes. Etching by James Caldwell, after William Hodges, 1777.

they appeared to want the sailors’ caps more than anything else, but one of them also leapt overboard with an old broom handle. One islander who managed to climb in through a porthole made off with a beautiful tablecloth.84 The Spanish and English had the same experience: it was always their head-coverings that the islanders coveted the most. Evidently these held some special meaning for them. Perhaps this had something to do with their statue cult, because the finest moai also had headdresses (pukao); then again, it is possible that the moai were given head-coverings because of the value long placed on them. Regardless of how it developed, this deep-rooted partiality for headdresses is mentioned in nearly every account of Easter Island.85 The members of each new expedition noticed that the islanders were sporting the hats and clothes of previous explorers. Any handkerchiefs to be had, such as those carried by the French, were also stolen. This is



The Survival of Easter Island

depicted in one of the most beautiful of the eighteenth-century prints of Easter Island, engraved after a drawing by the French artist Gaspard Duché de Vancy (see Figure 7.2). We see Lapérouse measuring a large statue while his men engage in pleasant conversation with scantily clad island women. Everything has its price, however, and the cost of exchanging pleasantries with female islanders is exacted by their menfolk, who meanwhile rob the Europeans of their hats and handkerchiefs. While the men were called thieves and Easter Islanders in general described as lacking in decorum, most of the reports about women make specific mention of their overtly sexual behaviour. The journals are rather revealing on this subject, not only because of what they say (or decline to say) about the women and the tone in which they say it, but also because they shed light on the authors themselves. There is a varying degree of reticence, for example, not only among the various nationalities but also between persons of higher and lower rank. Two rules of thumb emerge: the more southern the country, the more detailed the account, and the lower in rank, the more explicit the description. Roggeveen’s text, the most succinct, accords with these rules. His account tells us merely that he saw a couple of older women and suspected that the younger women were hidden away somewhere, to prevent jealousy among the men. Captain Bouman, too, was rather uncommunicative on this subject, though he did make the acquaintance of some younger women, whose scant but colourful clothing he described as decent. The twenty-one-year-old German Carl Behrens (see Figure 4.8) was more forthright: he failed to detect a king, but clearly noticed more women and commented on their behaviour: ‘They sat down in front of us and undressed. They laughed and were very friendly. Other women, who had remained in their houses, called from afar and beckoned for us to come to them.’86 In another passage from his journal, we read that the islanders showed their womenfolk to the seamen who had landed and gave them to understand that the women were at their service.87 That Behrens’s report was closer to real life than those of his superiors is apparent from the Spanish account, which describes the same behaviour in slightly more subtle terms. Don Juan Hervé, an officer on González’s ship, relates that the women did their utmost in sign language to offer a man his heart’s desire.88 The observations of the young George Forster are somewhat less poetic, as is only to be expected from a scientist. He writes that the women ‘were neither reserved nor chaste, and for the trifling consideration of a small piece of cloth, some of the sailors obtained the gratification of their desires’.89 Even so, the Spanish detected a bit of shame among the very young girls, because despite their general nakedness, they

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

Figure  4.8.  Carl Friedrich Behrens. From Carl Friedrich Behrens, Reise durch die Süd-Länder (Leipzig: Johan Georg Monath, 1738).

succeeded in covering their breasts and genitals. That some of those young girls behaved differently can also be deduced from the experience recorded by the French. Lapérouse saw his men confronted with young girls – thirteen or fourteen years of age, by his reckoning – who were offered to them by the Easter Island men in the hope of receiving something in return. The girls were unwilling, which led the enlightened admiral to surmise that the laws of the land had been transgressed. None of the Frenchmen



The Survival of Easter Island

accepted these outright propositions, and if there were moments of tenderness between the girls and the French sailors, the feeling was mutual, and it was the girls who took the initiative.90 This, at least, was the naval officer’s version. Although the journals make only veiled references to actual sexual contact, the result of such contact was later documented by mitochondrial DNA research, which found  – on the basis of a specific allele pattern, which looks ‘Basque’91 – indications of an Iberian contribution to the Polynesian gene pool. The findings point to a European genetic ‘contribution’ at the end of the eighteenth century, and this was accompanied – as was customary among seamen – by the introduction of venereal disease, in this case syphilis.92 The reader may well ask why this did not occur until the late eighteenth century. Were the Dutch really better behaved than their smooth-talking European neighbours? In general, the culture of Easter Island was strongly focused on sexuality and fertility. Their Creation stories assume that the earth and the cosmos came about through copulation, which explains the prevalence of explicit sexual symbols,93 the majority of which are female. This can be seen in the countless petroglyphs, the ornaments and the woodcarvings.94 The rock art features dozens of vulvas (komari), the most frequently occurring symbol. They are also found on ornaments and a few even appear in the ‘signature’ to the deed of sale drawn up by the Spanish to acquire the island for their king, Carlos III, in 1770. Phallic symbols are discernible among the characters on the rongorongo tablets, and even nowadays depictions of vulvas and phalluses, skilfully carved in wooden pillars, can be found in the houses on Easter Island.

Chiefs and Commoners Little is known about the original society of Easter Island and how it functioned: the presence (or absence) of a ruling class, the role played by its leader and the nature of its social structures. The European visitors were certainly interested in such questions – though the four nationalities differed greatly in their preconceptions and hence their conclusions  – but they were never on land long enough to take proper stock of the situation. Roggeveen was aware of this when he wrote: ‘As far as the religion of this people is concerned, we have imperfect knowledge of this, owing to the brevity of our stay.’95 Moreover, the Europeans saw a society that was long past its heyday, so we must augment their observations and weigh them in the light of other data. One way to do this is to compare the inhabitants

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

of Easter Island to other Polynesian peoples, even though this will provide little information that is specific to Easter Island. Another source of knowledge is the wealth of observations and stories compiled by missionaries, anthropologists and other scientists who visited the island in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Unfortunately, this information is not always reliable either, and for good reason: until 1864, there were no foreigners living on the island. Only afterwards did the island see the arrival of the ship’s surgeon J. Linton Palmer; missionaries such as Eyraud, Roussel, Zumbohm and Englert; the ship’s paymaster Thomson; and professional anthropologists such as Alphonse Pinart, Wilhelm Geiseler, Katherine Routledge, Alfred Métraux and Thor Heyerdahl. They heard and recorded the traditional stories and legends, but in a rather uncritical way, thus lending authority to a somewhat distorted and sometimes inaccurate picture of the past, which continued to trickle down into later studies and popular stories.96 Research carried out in recent decades has yielded scant evidence in support of important elements of the island’s oral history – such as hunger, war and cannibalism – and this further complicates any historical reconstruction. According to one of the most persistent myths, each of the clans belonged to one of the two larger groups or tribes that existed on the island:  the Hanau Eepe (‘Long Ears’) and the Hanau Momoko (‘Short Ears’). Legend has it that these groups were permanently at loggerheads and in 1680 finally fought a decisive battle at Poike Ditch, which supposedly resulted in the massacre of the Long Ears. The most bizarre version of the story even characterizes the Short Ears as intruders from South America. In the legends, this battle – the low point in the island’s cultural decline – ushered in the total collapse of Easter Island. In fact, there is not a kernel of truth to this story, which was first recorded by Thomson in 1891 and survives in the oral tradition.97 The division of the island’s population into two hostile camps has never been proven; the names of these rival groups  – ‘Long Ears’ and ‘Short Ears’  – are incorrect translations of the vernacular; there is no trace of a massacre at Poike Ditch or anywhere else on the island; and the year 1680 is merely the result of Father Englert’s back-calculation, based on the genealogy of someone who allegedly survived the battle, a certain Oroiraina.98 Nevertheless, this story was blithely told again and again, until it took root in theories of the pre-European demise of Easter Island culture. It is typical of the complicated and emotionally charged history of this fascinating place. However, ‘the myth of 1680’ was refuted in detail and finally laid to rest in 2009, at last clearing the path for a more sensible picture.99 But which picture exactly?



The Survival of Easter Island

Naturally, the Polynesians who colonized Easter Island would have brought along not only provisions, plants, chickens and rats, but also their ideas about religion and society. This spiritual and sociocultural start-up capital continued to develop in the new surroundings, taking on typical Easter Island qualities. The first European visitors did not stay long enough to notice much of this, but the first foreign residents, the missionaries, encountered a society that had just survived an era of turmoil. The information they gathered must be given due consideration. The researcher Patrick V. Kirch, who has compared and described the social organization of the various Polynesian cultures,100 characterizes them as ‘chiefdoms’: societies with hierarchies of chiefs. In a tribal society, these clan leaders or family heads formed the elite, generally together with the priests. This was also true of Easter Island society, which consisted of clans – referred to as mata – each of which inhabited its own part of the island. The clan leaders were referred to as ariki (aree or areke), a word that the European visitors understood, since Cook included it in his vocabulary list and translated it as ‘king’. He knew the term from other places in Polynesia, where it was used to designate someone of impressive bearing who acted as leader and commanded great respect. Johann Forster recounts a conversation, carried on mainly in sign language, with a leader who told them that he was called Kotoheeta﻾i and was the ‘chief of the Land of Wa﻾ihoò’ (‘Aree no te Hennoòa﻾ Wa﻾ihoò’). The man was very pleased indeed when they addressed him in his own language by his proper name and title.101 Roggeveen wrote of a ‘king or supreme commander’,102 who invited him to visit the other side of the island. He was a man of authority, because his orders were obeyed instantly. It is possible that he was an ‘ordinary’ chief, but there was a king as well – Ariki mau (great leader) – and it was this man who probably came to meet Roggeveen and Cook. Everything suggests that the arrival of the Europeans was an extraordinary event on Easter Island. The islanders flocked to greet them, so we may safely assume that their king, too, would have come to meet these curiously dressed visitors with their weird and wonderful ships. When the French paid a visit at the end of the century, however, the islanders no longer appeared to have a king. This prompted Lapérouse to hypothesize that the island’s society was egalitarian, because there was no point in being the king of a people who walked around naked and subsisted on yams and sweet potatoes. Leaders with authority, moreover, were not needed in a place with no neighbours to wage war against – a nice example of enlightened French logic.103

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

According to tradition, the king was a direct descendant of the great leader Hotu Matu’a, who, like all Polynesian kings, was of divine birth. (The suffix -atu’a indicates divine status.) Anakena is assumed to have been the traditional seat of royal power.104 The title of king was hereditary. In fact, descendants of the royal family were living on the island until the end of the nineteenth century. The last descendants died during or shortly after the Peruvian raids. Roussel relates that the last king and his two sons and two daughters were taken away on a Peruvian ship, and that the priests had all disappeared some time before this.105 What was the structure of Easter Island society? Did the growth in population cause the formation of social layers with a clear division of labour? Did the women work alongside the men? We know that from the beginning the Easter Islanders engaged in fishing, but were there professional fishermen? Crops were cultivated, but were there what we would call farmers? Was there a caste of priests who concerned themselves only with things spiritual? At some point, the islanders began to make stone statues, but was this done by a permanent group of stonecutters? Roussel recorded the Rapanui words for a number of these professions  – ivi atua (priest), kio (peasant) and matatoa (warrior)  – but this list of words does not give us any concrete information about the earlier phases in the island’s history. It is remarkable, for instance, that his list does not include fishermen, and its striking omission of a word for stonecutters merely demonstrates the limited usefulness of such terms as ‘proof’ of the existence of occupational groups in earlier times.106 It is only natural to think that fishing and stonecutting were engaged in by specialists, because these activities demanded time, knowledge and skill and were tied to places that were not close together.107 The archaeological finds that are related to fishing are concentrated on the north coast.108 The most obvious explanation for this is the fact that canoes could easily land there. Making fishhooks (see Figure 4.9), lines, nets and boats, as well as fishing itself, are time-consuming tasks that could not easily be combined with other work inland. When the timber needed to make canoes became more scarce and deep-sea fishing was no longer possible, the number of fishermen – vaka tangata – must have decreased sharply. Something similar probably happened to those who carved the stone statues. When Easter Island was at its cultural peak, the statue cult was all-important, and the stonecutters – maori tangata – would have been held in high regard. Their gigantic workplace was the quarry on the slopes of the Rano Raraku crater, where numerous stonecutters could work on a statue simultaneously. Given the size of the statues and the simplicity of the tools – stone picks



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure  4.9.   Metal fishhook. After 1888  © Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (National Museum of World Cultures), Leiden [RV-517-6].

made of basalt and pieces of obsidian for the finer work – creating just one statue would have taken numerous men many weeks, not including the transport of the statue to its destination. Rock carvings, or petroglyphs, can be found everywhere, testifying to the many inhabitants who left their mark on the island.109 Concentrations of petroglyphs have been found in such places as Papa Vaka and Orongo. The distribution and nature of the inscriptions suggest a scattering of the important cultural and social centres. The hundreds of petroglyphs – some of rare beauty – to be seen on the south coast at Orongo were presumably made over many years in the month of September, when the islanders flocked to this place to choose their new leader:  the birdman. This cult revolved around his yearly election.110 A smaller number of islanders occupied themselves with woodcarving. The remains of their products testify to great skill, despite a clear difference in talent among the practitioners. Little has changed in this respect, because nowadays, too, the island has many woodcarvers and sculptors, including a few who are extremely talented. There was probably never a peasant class, since the fields and gardens were too small and too far apart, and the work required to cultivate them

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

Figure  4.10.   Reyze naar het Zuydland, etching by Matthijs Balen, produced for Tweejaarige Reyze Rondom de Wereld (Dordrecht: Joannes van Braam, 1728). Collection Maritime Museum Rotterdam, BWAE204.

was not enough to make it a full-time occupation. All the evidence suggests that producing food was an activity undertaken by each household and only to the extent deemed necessary. Professional warriors did not exist either, unless one believes in unarmed soldiers. The lack of weapons in pre-European times is well documented. It stands to reason that the naked islanders who swam out to meet the Dutch ships would not have been carrying weapons, but even on the coast, where hundreds of islanders awaited the sailors, no one was armed. Evidently the Dutch did not expect this, because Cornelis Bouman emphatically records that ‘our people also testified . . . that they did not see a single man with weapons of any kind’.111 Admittedly, Tweejaarige Reyze Rondom de Wereld (1728) contains a print with the inscription Reyze naar het Zuydland (Journey to the South Land), which shows numerous people armed with spears, but this booklet is unreliable in many respects (see Figure 4.10).112 The Spanish, who saw no weapons either, surmised that the islanders defended themselves in emergencies by throwing stones. This was true, and their stone-throwing strategy also proved effective in later times – at the beginning of the nineteenth century, for instance, when their initial hospitality had been abused once too often  – as a means of scaring off



The Survival of Easter Island

uninvited guests.113 No doubt the islanders also threw stones when quarrelling among themselves, to lend force to their arguments. The Spanish did in fact see wounds on an Easter Islander that had probably been inflicted by a sharp object. This could have been a piece of obsidian, a material used as a ‘fruit knife’, as we read in Bouman’s journal. It remains unclear whether these wounds were accidental or deliberately inflicted by another person. Cook saw a couple of men with spears in the distance, but he did not describe their weapons in more detail. He also saw a few ‘clubs’ or paoa: sticks with a thick, carved knob at the top. George Forster and his father, Johann, who accompanied Cook on his hike around the island, do describe a spear, however. George writes about an ill-shaped stick with a sharp triangular point of black, glassy lava.114 His father remarked that the islanders often wrapped the spearhead in an ahoù:  a scrap of Easter Island clothing made of leaves or bark.115 The spearhead was undoubtedly made of obsidian (mata’a). Many mata’a have been found, but the great variation in shape makes it highly unlikely that they were all spearheads.116 The Forsters saw no other weapons. The French likewise observed that the inhabitants were unarmed and declared the wooden paoa harmless: they were not weapons, they said, but a kind of status symbol that lent the owner a certain authority.117 These observations concur with the findings of George W. Gill, Douglas W. Owsley and other paleo-osteologists who have examined ‘prehistoric’ skulls and bone remains from Easter Island and found almost no traces of violence. Even so, a small number of pre-European skulls have been found that display injuries caused by a sharp blow to the head. A publication by Gill and Owsley contains an illustration of two injured skulls, one of which has a piece of obsidian stuck in it, as proof of the violent deed. As it happens, the blows suffered by these men were not fatal, as evidenced by plain signs of recovery.118 Later periods – after the arrival of the Europeans – saw an increase in the number of fatal wounds.119 In the late nineteenth century, missionaries described a form of tribal warfare between ‘parties’ who set fire to one another’s homes and harvests.120 It is not known whether these versions of events are based on eyewitness accounts, but it is clear that the first missionaries did not think very highly of the ethical notions of the Kanakas, as South Sea islanders were then called.121 Reports about the role of women in society are scarce, much scarcer than descriptions of their appearance and behaviour. At first, the European visitors mainly encountered men. As mentioned earlier, the seeming scarcity of women made Roggeveen think that the men of the island hid their

Culture Appears, Nature Disappears

womenfolk to prevent jealousy. Cook also thought that the women were kept hidden from view, but did not speculate on the reason. The Spanish and French encountered more women, but wondered why there were so few. González guessed that the women were communal property, but later that evening, when he suddenly saw eight women sitting in front of his house, he concluded that it was more likely that they were kept hidden. Lapérouse surmised that the women were busy taking care of the children and the household and wrote as much in his journal.122 It was thought, based on analogies with other Polynesian societies, that the Easter Islanders practised a form of polygamy, and that there was both intra- and intertribal marriage. Analysis of family names led to the conclusion that at least seven tribes lived on the island and that excessive inbreeding was prevented by cultural practices.123 Recent craniometric research supports the idea that the tribes intermarried.124 None of the early visitors saw women working the land, nor did the missionaries, who arrived much later, see any women cultivating the fields and gardens. Like every Polynesian people, the Easter Islanders must have had priests or spiritual leaders of some kind. They functioned alongside and under the king, himself a person of divine origin who combined worldly and spiritual power. Behrens may have been right in thinking that the man painted and dressed in white was a ‘servant of pagan gods’. As the statue cult was gradually replaced by the birdman cult, this combination of secular and spiritual power was assumed by the birdman, who acted as the surrogate of the creator god Makemake. The terms ‘worldly’ and ‘secular’ are too modern, however. On Easter Island, as in nearly all pre-modern societies, there was no strict division between the two. Everyday life was steeped in symbolism and spirituality, in which nature played a major role. As a result, the first European visitors did not doubt the existence of a religion; instead, they asked themselves what form the religion took. On Easter Island, religion cannot be separated from the statue cult or the birdman cult, though it must not be equated with them either.


Chapter 5

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

Religion, Culture and Society Up to now, the terms ‘culture’, ‘society’ and ‘religion’ have been used rather loosely and somewhat interchangeably, but at this point it would be useful to make more precise distinctions, bearing in mind that there will always be some degree of overlap in the definitions of these words. I propose reserving the term ‘religion’ for the ideas and customs that have to do with the supernatural and the spiritual world. Naturally, this includes notions about the gods of mythology and legend, but also the belief in the spiritual meaning of humans, plants and animals, as well as the writings and rituals that shape these beliefs. The concepts of culture and society are closely related, but ‘society’ is more suggestive of people and the way they coexist in social networks in a certain period in history (e.g., ‘there is the threat of a social divide’), whereas ‘culture’ places more stress on the verbalizations, ideas and artefacts produced by a society as part of the process of bestowing meaning on life (e.g., ‘this is a shame culture’).1 ‘Religion’ can be considered a subset of culture (e.g., ‘the religious culture’). In a society whose spiritual elements are ubiquitous, the boundaries between religion and culture become vaguer, but never disappear altogether. This describes the situation on Easter Island until the end of the nineteenth century.2 The three Rapanui words in the title of this chapter denote the protagonists of the island’s religious culture. Makemake was seen as both the creator god and the supreme god, whose image appears in large numbers of rock carvings (see Figure 5.1). The moai are the stone statues to which the island owes its fame and its place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List (as Rapa Nui National Park).3 And the tangata manu is the birdman, the leader who was chosen in a yearly ritual that formed the very heart of the birdman cult. 76

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

Figure 5.1.   A petroglyph of Makemake at Orongo. Photo: author.

Makemake, the Creator God It is not known whether the ancient god Makemake was brought to the island with the first settlers. He is the highest in rank, the Zeus of Easter Island. Orongo, the centre of the birdman cult, is where most of the rock carvings of this figure have been found. Of some 500 petroglyphs inventoried by Georgia Lee, around 375 represent Makemake’s surrogate, the birdman; approximately 100 depict parts of faces; and slightly fewer than 20 depict Makemake in his entirety.4 They show a simple, recognizable face with big round eyes. On modern-day Easter Island, we see paintings of him on the walls of Catholic chapels. As is often the case with supreme gods, he does not occupy himself greatly with everyday life; instead, he has a representative on earth who oversees worldly matters. When the



The Survival of Easter Island

Spanish ceremoniously took possession of the island, their priests – whom the Easter Islanders apparently connected with their own god – were hailed by the inhabitants as Maca Maca.5 It is the first record of his existence, or at least of his name. Yet his role in the life of Easter Island is unclear − so unclear, in fact, that anthropologists have little of interest to report about him. Wilhelm Geiseler describes him with reference to Orongo as an omnipotent household deity who could be represented by the frigatebird eggs found on Motu Nui.6 Geiseler’s term ‘household deity’ refers primarily to the fact that most images of Makemake have been found in and around the houses at Orongo. In the islanders’ view, creation was an act of procreation connected with the fertility cult, and Makemake was evidently its very fount. He is hardly mentioned by Katherine Routledge, who did not even include Makemake in her index.7 Annette Bierbach and Horst Cain, who studied the Rapanui religion and religious language in a Polynesian context, mention his name only once and describe him cursorily as the creator god. But he was given this name only on Easter Island; nowhere else in Polynesia does one encounter such a word.8 Another study connects Makemake with Hiva, the mythological homeland of the Easter Islanders.9 If indeed this land is seen as his place of origin, his obscurity in the rest of Polynesia is understandable. The study of the island’s religious vocabulary began in earnest during and after the Christianization of the islanders by the first missionaries, which gave rise to a certain hybridization that obscures our view of the original Rapanui religion. During the period of Christianization, old terms took on new meanings: for example, the old Rapanui word atua (god, divine being) acquired a capital letter and, as Atua, came to mean the Christian God, while under the influence of the missionaries the word akuaku, meaning soul or spirit, took on the meaning of ‘devil’.10 In any case, akuaku is a key concept in the spiritual world of Easter Island, and it is also a typical Rapanui word, which is otherwise found with a similar religious meaning only on Pukapuka, one of the Cook Islands.11 Another Rapanui word for spirit or soul is kuhane, which was mentioned earlier in connection with the special spiritual significance of the turtle. There are clear differences in their usage. Akuaku is the spirit or soul of the deceased and, as such, connected with ancestor worship, whereas kuhane refers to the animated, spiritual part of living beings. In later times, both terms were forced to compete with the more general Polynesian term for spirit, va﻾rua, which was presumably imported from Tahiti shortly after 1862. Even though the great creator god Makemake and the atua, the lesser gods, remained in the background, spirits played an important role in the

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

everyday life of the islanders. Their mere presence was a cause for worship, veneration and the performance of rituals. They are not supernatural in the sense of non-natural, but rather part of both nature and culture. Animals that possess a kuhane, such as turtles, were treated with reverence and not put in captivity. The term akuaku was made famous by Thor Heyerdahl’s eponymous publication.12 That book and its description of nocturnal expeditions to caves containing human bones revealed not only the word’s clear connection with death, but also its great spiritual meaning. Bierbach and Cain linked the term, on etymological grounds, to the treatment of corpses.13 The root word a’u means ‘to scrape’. The accounts of Eugène Eyraud, J.  Linton Palmer and later Alfred Métraux tell us that the dead were not buried immediately, but rolled up in a mat and laid out to dry and eventually to decompose between sticks placed crosswise between supports stuck in the ground or mounted on a base (see Figure  5.2). Cremation occurred on a much smaller scale.14 Bierbach and Cain now assume that

Figure  5.2.   Two methods of drying a body wrapped in leaves. From Jo Anne van Tilburg, Easter Island (British Museum Press, London, 1994).



The Survival of Easter Island

after a time the largely decayed and desiccated body was ‘scraped clean’, thus exposing the bones: the visible manifestation of akuaku. The bones were then ritually buried, whether in front of the moai or in a cave. It is unlikely that all the dead were accorded such treatment; instead, such rituals were probably reserved for important persons. This selectiveness held true in any case for interment under the paved area in front of the moai, where only the leaders of the clan were buried. This explanation is supported to some extent by the fact that the well-known ancestral statues, the moai kava kava, often display a sunken chest cavity with visible ribs, confronting the owner with the akuaku of the deceased, as it were.15 The presence of statues in and around the houses provided a framework for religious culture in daily life. Usually these statues were made of wood and only occasionally of stone. No stone statues from caves or houses have survived from the pre-European era, so their existence is uncertain. Pierre Loti’s account of 1872, however, contains a drawing of a typical Easter Island house with a small statue, presumably of stone, standing next to the entrance.16 Only the ‘Stolen Friend’ – the moai now in the British Museum – is known to have been installed inside a house at Orongo, but its size alone made it an exceptional specimen. Wooden statuettes were present in large numbers over a much longer period. The enthusiasm and skill with which the island’s woodcarvers set to work no doubt explains the disappearance of the smaller species of tree that were used to make them. It is estimated that one tree and its roots provided enough wood to carve five to ten small statues. For the ‘upright’ statues, such as the moai kava kava, the wood of the makoi – the portia tree (Thespesia populnea), also known as the Indian tulip tree – was the most popular. The roots of the toromiro tree were used to make the curved lizard-like figures known as moko miro. The small trees from which these woodcarvings were made must therefore have continued to grow in limited numbers on the island for quite some time. To propitiate the gods or ward off evil spirits, certain items of jewellery were worn as amulets. The rei miro – shaped like a crescent moon with human heads at either end – probably functioned as an amulet. In 1868 J. Linton Palmer saw men wearing this ornament while performing ritual dances, during which they also carried a paddle known as a rapa, which was decorated with inscriptions and had a blade at either end.17 Such double-bladed dance-paddles were ritual objects; they were never used to row canoes. It is not known when the islanders began to produce statuettes, but they were already in existence when the Europeans arrived, because the Spanish mentioned them in their journals (though the Dutch did not). If they had been present in reasonable numbers in the eighteenth century,

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

when Europeans began to visit the island, they would certainly have been used for bartering, as they were in later years. Another explanation is that at the beginning of the eighteenth century such ritual paddles were considered too valuable to barter with, and were therefore kept hidden. This concurs with one of the few datings we have for such an object, which suggests that it was produced at the beginning of the fifteenth century.18 Like the Spanish, the English saw them too and made drawings of them. They also took a few along, together with other artefacts, including a beautifully carved wooden hand with long fingers and nails. The long fingers suggest the existence by this time of the birdman cult, because the birdman was required to let his nails grow for the duration of his reign. This also explains the long fingers seen on many moai, even on the buried part of some moai at Ranu Raraku. It has also been suggested that important chiefs had always let their fingernails grow, and that the birdman simply adopted this custom. George Forster describes the statuettes of human figures as skilfully carved, highly polished, elongated in form and ‘not very pleasing’ to the eye. He also relates that the Polynesian crewman Mahine was very active in acquiring headdresses and woodcarvings and took numerous artefacts back to Tahiti. David Attenborough’s splendid documentary The Lost Gods of Easter Island (BBC, 2005) relates the story of one such statuette. Tracing the provenance of a piece he acquired at auction, he argues convincingly that it was one of the statuettes that Mahine had brought back from Easter Island.19 It is quite possible that the small-statue cult did not emerge until the large-statue cult had run its course. Then again, the statuettes may well have served as models for the stone moai. The only two datings we have  – one statuette is dated to around 1680 and another to the early 1500s  – accord with both theories.20 In addition to finding the smaller wooden statues and the large stone moai, the Spanish saw another kind of statue, which for some unknown reason they described as a ‘Judas figure’ – ‘another effigy or idol clothed and portable which is about four yards (varas) in length: it is properly speaking the figure of a Judas, stuffed with straw or dried grass. It has arms and legs, and the head has coarsely figured eyes, nostrils and mouth’.21 According to González, this statue – a straw doll about two and a half metres long – was carried around on certain days in the midst of noisy festivities. The Spanish also recorded the doll’s name: Copeca. Unfortunately, this is the only description we have of this Easter Island ‘Judas’. Métraux informs us that copeca means ‘revenge’, and that the statue was used in the burial ceremony,22 which is odd in view of the gaiety reported by the Spanish.



The Survival of Easter Island

The religious culture of Easter Island consisted of three layers, the first being the belief in a creator god who migrated along with his people and is tied to Hiva, the mythological land of origin, and to procreation. Creation came about through procreation, which was at the heart of everything. The islanders also believed in a spiritual life after death that was linked to ancestor worship. The second layer comprises everyday spirituality, taboos and the sources of inspiration found in daily life, including certain animals, sacred statuettes and possibly the rongorongo tablets. These objects possessed varying degrees of holiness: some had an intrinsic spiritual meaning, whereas others only referred to religious objects or rituals, and still others were mainly of aesthetic or social value. Finally, there were the moai and the birdman cult, two related systems of objects and rituals, each of which also had an important social meaning, because they lent form and expression to tribal traditions or were involved in leadership selection.

Moai, the Stone Statues Easter Island’s best-known and most mysterious feature is its statue cult. Nearly everything about these monoliths is surprising, beginning with their size. They certainly made an impression on the Dutch, who described them as ‘all of thirty feet tall and comparatively robust’.23 That was certainly no exaggeration, because the statues are indeed many metres tall. Paro – the largest moai to be erected on an ahu, or stone platform – is nearly ten metres tall, weighs eighty-two tonnes and has a pukao, or headdress, that weighs a staggering twelve tonnes. It is not just the size but also the sheer number of statues that is awe-inspiring. Roggeveen saw many of the colossal statues standing upright and instantly asked himself ‘how it was possible for these people – who have no heavy, thick timber to make machines of any kind, and no sturdy ropes – to erect such images’. He thought he had solved the mystery when he was struck by the idea that the statues were not made of massive stone and transported to their destination, but ‘fashioned’ on the spot of ‘clay or greasy earth, and that one had inserted small, smooth pebblestones . . . having on the head a basket in which whitewashed cobblestones were piled up’.24 This description did not earn the Dutch a reputation as careful observers. Baked clay would have been possible, because it can turn to stone, and the ‘smooth pebblestones’ could be the writer’s own interpretation of the feldspar that occurs in trachyte, but ‘whitewashed cobblestones’ are certainly far-fetched. The Spanish, whose observations were somewhat more accurate, noted that the statues were not made of the same material as the headdresses. It

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

was the Spanish who reported the Rapanui name for the statues: ‘Moay’ (moai). But where had the material come from? González wondered whether it had even come from the island itself.25 Cook examined a couple of statues that were close to the landing place and ascertained that they were made of the same material that had been used to build the low wall on which they stood. Several members of his crew, who saw other statues a slight distance away, did not agree with him. Both opinions are duly recorded in the journal.26 After giving it some thought, the French decided that the statues were made of a volcanic material known as lapillo  – a general name for the small, cinderlike stones or pebbles ejected from volcanoes – more recently identified as trachyte, a type of volcanic rock rich in feldspar.27 We now know that the statues are indeed made of volcanic rock: some ninety-five per cent consist of tuff from the Rano Raraku quarry, and the rest were made of basalt or trachyte. The headdresses prove to be made of red scoria, a volcanic rock from the quarries of Puna Pau and Maunga O’Tuu. Tuff and scoria are relatively light and easily hewn and modelled. None of the early European visitors saw the quarry or identified the production site of the moai, but William Wales, a member of Cook’s crew, did report the location of the quarry where the pukao were made.28 The one- or two-day visits of these eighteenth-century explorers did not allow the time for observation that Jo Anne Van Tilburg had in the 1980s, when she embarked on her study of the statues and subsequently made it her life’s work. In fact, she still runs the Easter Island Statue Project (EISP).29 Van Tilburg obtained her Ph.D.  in 1986, writing a dissertation in which all the statues on the island are inventoried and documented.30 She meticulously counted and measured the 887 moai still to be seen on the island. Of all the moai produced, 394 never left Rano Raraku, where they stand on the slopes or lie, unfinished, in the quarry, with their backs still attached to the rock. Nicolas Cauwe and his Belgian colleagues recently wondered whether all the statues had in fact been intended for transport to the coast.31 Many of the heads that rise above ground level have torsos that extend for several metres underground. The sharp transition between the weathered and unweathered sections shows that they did not sink slowly into the ground, but were dug in deeply from the beginning. Moreover, the remains of small foundations have been discovered underneath the excavated statues. Researchers think it possible that these heads were placed around the quarry to guard it, and were never meant to be erected on an ahu by the coast.



The Survival of Easter Island

Of the 493 statues that left the quarry, a number of them were abandoned along the way and never reached their destinations. In the end, approximately 480 of them were erected in places obviously designed for their installation:  the large majority along the coast and a few of them inland. In the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, seven statues were taken to museums elsewhere:  to London (the British Museum and its subsidiary, the Museum of Mankind), Oxford (the Pitt Rivers Museum), Brussels (the Royal Museums of Art and History), Washington (the Smithsonian), Viña del Mar (Museo Fonck; see Figure 5.3) and Tahiti (Otago Museum).32 The moai were hewn chiefly with toki – stone picks made of basalt – many of which have been found in and around the quarry. Obsidian was used for the finishing. It was not only the size of the moai that varied, but also their features and their setting. Some had stylized arms and hands with long fingers. Several of the statues have motifs carved in them, usually on the back. Nearly all of these are Easter Island motifs, but a statue on the slope of the Rano Raraku quarry displays a European three-master on its belly. This incised decoration, presumably inspired by the visit of the Dutch, contains a remarkable and witty detail: a turtle acts as the ship’s anchor – or was it intended as the helmsman? The finest statues were supplied with a pukao, a cylindrical headdress made of red scoria, and white eyes of coral with black pupils of obsidian. The fact that some moai had eyes was discovered rela­ tively recently: in 1979, the Easter Island researcher Sonia Haoa and the archaeologist Sergio Rapu found a white, almond-shaped object of coral that proved to fit perfectly into the eye socket of a moai. The effect was astonishing, for the eyes gave the statues a penetrating look. Several of the restored moai were immediately supplied with similar eyes, such as Kote Riku at Tahai and the four splendid, pukao-bearing specimens on Ahu Nau Nau near Anakena. Further research revealed, however, that the Anakena statues never had eyes, so they have now been removed. Some travel brochures still show them with eyes, and the postcards that were made of the ‘seeing’ statues have meanwhile become collector’s items. Although no two moai are alike, they do have features in common. To begin with, they are all – with one exception – torsos. The only statue that is not legless can be seen kneeling on the slope of the Rano Raraku quarry. Named Tukuturi, it is also the only statue that sports a goatee. Presumably, it was one of the last moai ever made. Moreover, the moai are overwhelmingly male, which suggests their connection to ancestor  – more specifically, forefather – worship. The two distinctly female statues that have been found were not standing on elevated platforms.33 Finally, all of the statues

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

Figure 5.3.   The only moai that left the island with permission. Museo Fonck, Viña del Mar, Chile. Photo: author.

have remarkably long ears, deep eye sockets, rather large noses and powerful chins – strikingly bold heads that are instantly recognizable. No wonder they have acquired iconic status.34 Most of the moai were not placed on the ground but on an ahu: a wide, dry stone wall with a platform in front of it. In several cases, the wall is made of large, skilfully hewn boulders. The wall at Vinapu is one of the finest:  the seamless fit of its stone blocks was already admired by Cook, who considered it every bit as good as the very best English masonry,35



The Survival of Easter Island

surely the highest accolade he could imagine. An ahu could accommodate a number of moai; fifteen statues stand in a row on the ahu at Tongariki. Van Tilburg’s book contains descriptions of 239 ahu. In front of the wall was a semi-oval, slightly raised platform, the poro, paved with round stones, where the dead were buried and rituals were performed. The moai on the ahu are, on average, smaller than the moai still standing in the quarry. Even Van Tilburg’s detailed inventory does not reveal the total number of moai ever made, because the toppling and destruction of the statues and their platforms that took place from the late eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century caused much material to be scattered and lost. Detailed examination of ahu has also shown that in the heyday of the statue cult, remnants of old statues were used to make new ones and repair old ones.36 Despite the difficulty of establishing the exact number of statues, the volume of production remains impressive. The knowledge that nearly nine hundred moai were produced and that several hundred of them actually left the quarry to be erected elsewhere on the island only heightens the mystery of their transport and installation. How did the Easter Islanders manage this with the means at their disposal? This question, which is asked in every journal, continued to vex scientists until well into the twentieth century. The most spectacular explanation was put forward by the Swiss author Erich von Däniken,37 who conjectured that the islanders had received outside help, that is to say, from extraterrestrial beings. In his best-selling book Chariots of the Gods? Was God an Astronaut? Von Däniken argues that such prehistoric artefacts as Stonehenge, the Egyptian pyramids and the Easter Island statues all demanded so much expertise and skill that they could never have been the product of primitive cultures. He assumed that intelligent aliens had placed them there for the purpose of making themselves known to us. This theory explained both transport and installation in one fell swoop. Long before Von Däniken committed these lucrative (and ludicrous) speculations to paper, however, the Easter Islanders themselves had already come forward with an interesting explanation: they told anthropologists that the statues had simply walked to their destinations. The persistence of stories about the ‘walking moai’ sowed doubt in the mind of Heyerdahl, who began to wonder whether they might contain a kernel of truth. He had seen a moai standing far from the quarry that showed signs of wear and tear on the left and right of its base. Had that perhaps been caused by transporting the statue in an upright position, tilting and swivelling it from side to side, as movers do with heavy objects? If that had been the case, this method of transport could have evolved in the oral tradition

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

into walking and then into the legend of ‘the statues that walked’. The advantage of this method is that less manpower is needed, because gravity works to one’s advantage. The greatest risk is loss of balance. Heyerdahl, of course, was determined to test the tilt-and-swivel theory. When he and Pavel Pavel finally carried out his experiment in the 1980s with the help of dozens of islanders, it did indeed prove possible to manoeuvre a statue quite some distance. Unfortunately, he used an original statue and it suffered some damage, though he hardly mentioned this in his 1989 report.38 The tilt-and-swivel theory recently received new support from Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo,39 who maintain that the statues were made in such a way that they naturally lean slightly forward, which makes them even easier to tilt and swivel. In their view, the statues were finished after transport. In an experiment carried out in 2012 in Hawaii and highly publicized by National Geographic magazine, Hunt and Lipo used ropes to transport a standing, concrete moai dozens of metres. Some might consider this spectacular proof of the method, but not Georgia Lee, who remarked that ‘if this had been done on Easter Island with real moai of relatively soft tufa, by the time the statues arrived at their destinations – if indeed they arrived at all – the rough stone ground would have turned them into tiny statuettes’. It has meanwhile been demonstrated that the Easter Islanders were capable of producing from woven grass and tree fibre the ‘sturdy rope’ whose absence the Dutch had so lamented. Heyerdahl, too, needed strong rope to keep his statue in balance. This gave others the idea that the statues could also be towed horizontally by huge numbers of men pulling on ropes, though not over the rocky ground, since the statues would have had no chance of arriving intact. William Mulloy assumed that a ‘bipod’ could have been used for reinforcement. This ‘two-legged’ construction of tree trunks, to which the moai were tied, prevented damage to the statues during transport.40 The towing itself must have been accomplished with the help of rollers, which gave rise to the now commonly accepted explanation that the statues were rolled horizontally across tree trunks. This method of transport is thought to have prompted the building of the roads that can still be seen in the landscape.41 Charles Love tested this method in the United States and Jo Anne Van Tilburg later did the same on Easter Island. Fully aware of the possibility of damaging the statue, they did this with carefully made imitations of average weight and dimensions. The method they used is shown in Kevin Reynolds’s film Rapa Nui (1994). The statues, lying on their backs, were put on a wooden sledge made of two tree trunks and then pushed and pulled with ropes across lubricated trunks that acted as rollers. These rollers were continually shifted forward so that a relatively



The Survival of Easter Island

small number of them  – twenty or thirty  – sufficed. Calculations made by Svi Schiller, a mechanical engineer, prove that this was a reasonably energy-efficient mode of transport. Schiller estimated that it would have taken fifty workers – known in Rapanui as moai tangata anga, or ‘the people who work on moai’, that is, the stonecutters – about six days to transport a statue to its destination. A working day consisted of four or five hours of pushing and dragging the statue over rough terrain to its final destination, in this case Ahu Akivi at the foot of the Terevaka volcano, a distance of fourteen kilometres.42 It therefore took a week, on average, to transport a moai to its destination. Schiller’s realistic estimate demonstrates the feasibility of this method of transport. Finally, it has been suggested that the statues could have been transported in a rough, unfinished state and then finished on location. If this method had been common, there would be many small pieces of stone, the remnants of sculpting, under and around the ahu. Such remains have indeed been found, but only near a few ahu, and not in convincing quantities. When the statue had arrived safely at its final destination, the next job was to erect it on the ahu. In the currently accepted hypotheses, this part of the procedure is less disputed. It is generally assumed that stones were used to build a ramp with a transitional plateau at the top, over which the moai was eased into place. It was then levered up with tree trunks until it was standing upright on the low base of the ahu. This procedure, too, was reconstructed as authentically as possible and proved to be practicable. Just how the pukao was put into place is a riddle that already baffled the Spanish. González noticed that the pukao was larger than the head on which it rested, and he wondered why it didn’t slide off. Basing his conclusions on a smaller statue that was easier to observe, he surmised that the head of a moai had a projecting piece made to fit into a hole in the pukao – in the manner of a mortise and tenon joint. (In fact, the pukao lie flat on the statues’ heads; there are no signs of mortise and tenon joints.) How this ‘crown’ was hoisted into place is another question,43 one with only a few plausible answers. The pukao could have been placed on the moai during the final phase of installation, before the statue was fully erected, although this would have required a great deal of balancing expertise. Alternatively, the islanders could have placed the pukao on the head of the upright statue by building the stone ramp even higher, so that workers standing on scaffolding made of stone and wood could place the pukao on the statue’s head in a single horizontal movement. When the scaffolding was removed, the moai could be seen in all its glory. This ‘scaffolding method’ was the only

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

one Cook could imagine, and the thought of it filled him with awe. In his journal, he marvels at the immense amount of work involved, which testified to the islanders’ perseverance and ingenuity.44 When all the ahu and moai had been counted and their characteristics recorded in detail, a remarkable detail came to light: all of the coastal statues stood with their backs to the sea, facing inland. What was the reason for this? If they were meant to be guards of some sort, why didn’t they look out to sea, which is a potential source of danger? And if they were intended to mark the seasons, why was their orientation always the same? Or did they face the houses so that the occupants would know they were under the watchful eye of their ancestors?

The Statue Cult In the eighteenth century, when Europeans first visited Easter Island, the moai cult was already on the wane. Only Roggeveen and his crew saw something of its rituals. And even though he explicitly connected the statues with the ‘religion of these people’, he did not stay on the island long enough to learn much about their beliefs. He therefore recorded sober observations devoid of religious interpretation, such as the fact that fires were lit in front of the statues, and the Easter Islanders ‘then sat on their haunches and, with bowed heads, they put the palms of their hands together and moved them up and down’.45 This is praying, a Christian would think, but Roggeveen sticks to his matter-of-fact description. Cornelis Bouman noted similar observations, reporting that on the evening of the second day the crew saw from their ships ‘fire at various places on land’. He was also the first to record the sighting of the statues themselves. On Wednesday, 8 April, he wrote: ‘Saw various high places on land, in the manner of heathens.’46 Once ashore, Bouman reported little about either the islanders’ behaviour towards the statues or the statues themselves. He did, however, offer a remarkable explanation of the position of the entryways of the houses with respect to the statues: ‘They have to crawl in and out on their hands and feet, and this opening faces northeast, so that when they come out of their houses in the morning, they worship and serve their god in this way, for all their entryways are oriented towards their high places.’47 The large houses were, in fact, quite near the moai, as though they belonged together. He had previously observed the bowed, reverential bearing of an Easter Islander and had connected it with religion. The first islander to come aboard ship had also engaged in what the Dutch had taken to be ‘praying’, which Bouman describes as follows: ‘He thus laid his arms and head on



The Survival of Easter Island

the table and seemed to be addressing his god, as was clear enough from his movements, raising his head and hands many times to the heavens and uttering many words in a loud voice. He did this for at least half an hour, and when he finished, he began to jump and sing.’48 Carl Friedrich Behrens notes that in the morning ‘several hundred fires’ were lit. These were probably intended as a morning sacrifice to the gods in a place of prayer, because he saw the inhabitants throwing themselves to the ground near the statues.49 The presumed author of Het Waare en Nauwkeurige Journael, a certain De Haze who signed his name T.d.H. and did not make the journey himself, is less reticent in his characterization of the moai as ‘pagan idols’ and ‘delusory gods’. He even gives an Old Testament twist to Roggeveen’s and Bouman’s sober descriptions of how the islanders behaved around their statues: ‘The name of the greatest idol was TAURICO, and of the other DAGO, since they called out these words to their delusory gods, which they did by dancing, rejoicing, walking about, even by clapping their hands, in nearly the same way as the children of Israel when, according to Moses’ story, they sinned in worshipping the golden calf.’50 The name Dago, which they imagined they heard, was linked in a footnote to the ‘Canaanites, who served the god Dagon, among others’.51 The writer asked himself how such a practice could ever have come to Easter Island. Had the Canaanites sailed there after being defeated by Joshua? De Haze is acutely aware that this oversteps the bounds of credibility, since he pre-empts criticism as follows: ‘That these Phoenicians voyaged across the ocean to the islands is a theory that no one can either boldly uphold or flatly deny.’52 The accounts of the Dutch lack an important element that is noted in later journals: there are people buried in front of the statues. González was the first to report this. The Spanish did not see any rituals performed at the statues, but they did notice that the images were treated with respect. They inferred this from the agitation shown by the islanders whenever the Europeans approached the statues for a closer look,53 as though they were trespassing on hallowed ground. Cook, who visited the island four years later, also noticed the graves in front of the moai, but he was the first to observe that some statues had toppled over and others were poorly maintained. This led him to believe that the statues did not portray gods and were not – or were no longer – places of worship, if indeed they ever had been, but were probably burial grounds for clans or families. Both Cook and his lieutenant, Richard Pickersgill, overheard several of the names given by the islanders to the statues  – ‘Gotomoara’, ‘Marapoti’, ‘Matta Matta’, sometimes preceded by the word ‘moi’ or followed by ‘areeke’ – and

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

rightly concluded that they were the last resting places (moi) of the chiefs.54 The human bones buried there were still clearly visible, being covered only with some stones. It was obvious to Cook that if indeed the moai had been the site of religious activities, this was a thing of the past, for the moai and ahu were clearly falling into disrepair. George Forster, on the other hand, observed in his journal that the statues were still held in reverence and that the Easter Islanders did not approve of the English walking on the poro, the raised platform in front of the moai, to ascertain what kind of stone it was made of.55 The same kind of reverence was observed by the French twelve years later, in 1786, but Jean-François de Galaup de Lapérouse did not connect it to religion. Instead, he compared it to the respect shown in France for graves and tombs. The French remarked that all of the moai were very old, and no new ones were being made. Rather, the islanders were now building tupa, piles of stones – with a whitewashed stone on top – which could also serve as observatories (see Figure 5.4).56 The islanders explained in sign language that these monuments did in fact serve as grave-markers, emphasizing this by raising their hands to the heavens repeatedly, as though indicating that they believed in life after death. This, at least, is the explanation given by one of the crew members, Mr de Langle, as well as by the officers and some of the passengers. Lapérouse had his doubts about this interpretation, but,

Figure 5.4.  A tupa, a sepulchral monument or observatory.



The Survival of Easter Island

as an enlightened leader, he let himself be persuaded by such unanimity. He also reasoned, in the same democratic vein, that no new moai were being made because the island had achieved such equality that no single leader was important enough to have a statue erected in his memory.57 As a Frenchman, he knew all too well that social inequality gives rise to outstanding edifices. The moai cult was, in essence, a form of ancestor worship that focused on the male line and was the exclusive preserve of the male clan leaders. There is no evidence of female leaders, nor any sign that women were buried under the poro. The two female statues that have been found were not standing on an ahu. The communal dwellings are close to the ahu, so that the buried leaders and their akuaku were present in the community and could be worshipped in daily rituals. The meaning of the fires lit in front of the moai is unclear. They might have served to ward off evil spirits and possibly also functioned as a mark of reverence. The carving of statues is a universal practice. Other places in Polynesia, such as Hawaii and the Marquesas Islands, have images that resemble the moai, including the headdress. The Easter Island moai are unparalleled, however, in both size and number, which suggests that competition played a role and that the biggest and most splendid moai were made for the most revered leaders.58 It is not known when the Easter Islanders began to make the moai. The very early datings of moai and ahu, certainly those predating ad 1000, have proved to be unreliable.59 Their production undoubtedly started soon after the discovery of suitable stone in the Rano Raraku quarry and the realization that the island had sufficient manpower to carve and transport the statues. All of this must have happened at some point in the thirteenth century. We also know that the Easter Islanders stopped making statues in the mid-seventeenth century, when they ran out of the tree trunks needed to transport and install them. By that time, the number of trees on the island had dwindled to such an extent that there were no longer any rollers to transport the colossal statues. The last moai to be erected along the coast were probably transported sometime between 1625 and 1650. Twenty or thirty tree trunks would have been needed to transport a statue, so the approximately five hundred statues could have been transported and erected by felling a maximum of fifteen thousand trees. In practice, this number must have been much lower, because the rollers could be reused. Assuming the island was largely forested, with an average growth distance of 2.6 metres between trees (and approximately seventy per cent of the island covered with them), we can calculate that there must once have been hundreds

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

of thousands of trees, perhaps even a couple of million.60 Thus, while the statue cult certainly contributed to deforestation, it explains only a small part of it. There must be another reason for the disappearance of the trees on Easter Island. Not only is the moai cult itself a mystery, but its cessation also raises questions that have yet to be answered satisfactorily. First of all, it is unclear how the cult ended. Blaming its loss on the scarcity of wood implies a gradual process with a foreseeable end, but the situation in the Rano Raraku quarry suggests a fairly abrupt halt. On its slopes we find large numbers of finished statues, as well as unfinished ones in every phase of production. This prompts us to ask why the moai tangata anga (stonecutters) continued to work for so long and even began new projects when there was no longer any prospect of transport. Among the unfinished statues is the largest moai ever made: El Gigante, whose name is justified by its length of nearly twenty metres. Its transport would have been an equally gigantic undertaking. Why was such a statue even begun? The second enigma involves the destruction of the statues and their platforms, a phenomenon first reported by Cook. Between his 1774 visit and the second half of the nineteenth century, all of the moai erected outside the quarry were toppled, but how, why and by whom remains a mystery. That most of the statues were still standing when Cook visited the island was confirmed by Johann Forster, who noted seeing statues on platforms everywhere as the expedition sailed past the island:  sometimes a solitary statue, occasionally two and even four or five in a row.61 Lapérouse’s journal says nothing about toppled moai, only that they were ancient and a thing of the past. The French, however, visited another part of the island, where the statues were probably still standing, since toppled statues would certainly have been worthy of mention. In the following decades, reports of the statues, whether upright or toppled, became increasingly scarce. The visitors were more interested in the island’s edible products.62 Sometimes the voyagers did not even bother to go ashore, but conducted their business at sea. To this end, the islanders came like peddlers alongside the visitors’ ships to trade sweet potatoes for items of clothing. The occasional reports usually mention statues that are, oddly enough, still upright. Captain Charles Bishop, a British fur trader who called at Easter Island in 1795, saw at every village along the shore one or two upright monuments facing inland.63 When the North American merchant Amasa Delano visited the island in 1805, he saw so many statues that he thought the Easter Islanders must have added some since Cook’s day.64 During the Russians’ visit in 1816, Ludovic Choris made a drawing off



The Survival of Easter Island

Hanga Roa on the west coast, and it shows the moai still standing.65 More than twenty years later, the Frenchman Abel Aubert Dupetit-Thouars reported seeing standing statues complete with pukao.66 The first detailed account of the island in the nineteenth century was written by the missionary Eugène Eyraud, who arrived on 2 January 1864. He recounts his adventures among the Easter Islanders and records numerous observations of the island as he found it, but he makes no mention whatsoever of the statues.67 His successor, Hippolyte Roussel, does tell us a thing or two about the statues, but not what state they were in. His account of 1869 seems to describe the past. He maintains, for example, that the statues were transported not by rolling but by pulling, and remarks that one never encounters broken or abandoned statues:  they all arrived intact at their final destinations. What he records about the pukao suggests that he never saw them atop the statues, since he writes, in the past tense, ‘tradition has it that the enormous millstone that rested on each head was put on top of each statue by piling up stones’.68 This notion is correct, but did he see the statues with or without their headdresses? Presumably without, because J. Linton Palmer, who sailed to the island in the same period aboard the HMS Topaze and published a long account of his visit, describes only toppled and demolished statues. In the crater some were still upright, but those along the coast were all overturned.69 Pierre Loti, too, gave a clear report of his visit to the island in 1872. A cadet on the warship La Flore, Loti spent just under a week on Easter Island. In his romantic and spontaneous account, he reports seeing statues on the coast and others farther inland; the coastal statues had all toppled over and were broken, but the inland statues, whose faces differ in character, were still standing.70 The latter were undoubtedly the statues in Rano Raraku. To be sure, since Cook’s visit in 1774 there had been reports of moai that were no longer upright, but on the basis of the aforementioned sporadic observations, it seems most likely that a considerable number of statues were toppled during and shortly after the events of 1862 and 1863 (see Chapter 7). The moai cult was endangered when the supply of trees began to dwindle, but production continued for a while even after transport had become impossible. It is easy to imagine that statue-carving brought with it a sense of community and was also a pleasurable pastime. After all, there was not much else for energetic people to do on the island. It took approximately a century – from around 1650 until the mid-1700s – for the cult to disappear altogether. Roggeveen witnessed rituals connected with the statue cult during his visit in 1722. After that, the statues

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

eventually fell over, whether or not deliberately toppled by the islanders, and most of the ahu were destroyed as well.71 The long, slow demise of the cult likewise lasted more than a century, perhaps coming to an abrupt end shortly after 1862. At any rate, by the time the missionaries and anthropologists arrived, only fragments of the cult remained. The supply of tree trunks had enabled it to flourish, but deforestation made its continued existence impossible.

The Tangata Manu and the Birdman Cult In September, when spring begins in the southern hemisphere, the seabirds and shorebirds come back to breed. This was a joyful time for Easter Islanders: not only did it mark the beginning of a new season in the yearly cycle and offer the prospect of a welcome addition to their diet, but it gradually took on religious and social significance.72 In the first phase of settlement, these birds also bred on the main island, but they were slowly driven away by the islanders, probably with the help of the rats. Only on the rather inaccessible islets of Motu Iti and Motu Nui below the Rano Kau caldera on the southern tip of the main island did these birds manage to survive. Legend has it that this was due to Makemake, who reputedly drove the birds to the islets to protect them from the islanders.73 The birds that have continued to breed on the islets represent only a few species, including the masked booby, the sooty tern and the great frigatebird – small numbers of the great frigatebird, however, because this species prefers to nest in trees. The sooty tern and the frigatebird are the most important, culturally speaking, for depictions of them can be found on rocks and in caves all over the island and also in the houses at Orongo. Seabirds play an important role in the mythology and religious culture of many coastal and island peoples.74 Birds fly wherever they choose, and because they can leave the island, they are considered suitable carriers of the spirits of the dead. The Polynesians, too, had a bird cult, whose principal motif was a birdman or birdwoman: a human body with the head of a bird (see Figure 5.5).75 The sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) has a deeply forked tail and the great frigatebird (Fregata minor) has a long hooked bill. Among the small number of species that frequent Easter Island, these are the birds with the most characteristic behaviour and profile. The great frigatebird was selected as the ‘head’ of the birdman, while the sooty tern (manutara in Rapanui)  – a graceful, ‘spiritual’ bird  – features in many colourful murals. The cave of Ana Kai Tangata on the southwest coast



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 5.5.  Stylized rock carving of the birdman at Orongo.

boasts some twenty depictions of the sooty tern, interwoven in a manner reminiscent of the work of the graphic artist M.  C. Escher. They are so high up on the wall that some kind of scaffolding must have been needed to paint them. The whole is a truly captivating sight. Over time, houses with a view of the two islets were built on the rim of the caldera. Here people assembled in September to await the arrival of the birds and the beginning of the breeding season. It is not known when gatherings and house-building began at this site, or which came first, but it stands to reason that these activities reinforced one another. Datings show that, as early as the fifteenth century, houses were built here that were occasionally inhabited. In the following years, more and more dwellings were constructed, until the village grew to about fifty houses in the mid-seventeenth century. Some of them may well have been occupied for longer periods by priests, who would have been supplied with food. Otherwise, everything points to temporary occupancy for special occasions:  for example, none

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

of these houses has its own umu, the Easter Island oven. At some distance from the terrace houses, we find a number of umu grouped together, which suggests the communal preparation of food, as is common during gatherings and celebrations. A striking number of petroglyphs have been found in and around the houses.76 They show from every possible angle the important actors who performed the rituals that took shape here. To begin with, there is Makemake, the creator god, followed by the birdman or tangata manu, sometimes portrayed with an egg in his hand, then the sooty tern or manutara, and finally the vulvas or komari. What exactly did the ritual entail? The bird – or birdman – cult and its rituals are better known to us than the statue cult because we have eyewitness accounts of its final phase. The birdman cult persisted until 1878, though in its last years it existed in a milder, somewhat reduced form under the influence of the missionaries. By this time, the population had declined to such an extent that the rituals could no longer be performed properly. In its full and most spectacular form, it was a ceremony that lasted for several weeks, culminating in the ‘crowning’ of the island’s new spiritual and social leader. This tangata manu became the temporary representative of Makemake on earth, reigning supreme on this tiny island, which the islanders believed to be the navel of the earth. The candidates for this position were ambitious foremen of the leading tribes, and selection took place by means of a competition. Each candidate appointed a young, athletic kinsman or fellow tribesman to compete for him. The young men gathered in Orongo, where the battle for supremacy began. The first task was to descend the 300-metre-high cliff – climbing down the sheer rock face to the shore – and swim on their small reed rafts (pora) to Motu Nui or Motu Iti, a distance of more than two kilometres through strong currents, high waves and shark-infested waters. Once there, they had to wait for the manutara to arrive and start breeding. This might take anywhere from several days to two weeks, and all that time they lived in caves, where we can still see the 179 rock carvings and paintings that testify to their brief period of residence.77 Not only did they have ample time for such activities, but they evidently possessed talent as well. What they did not have, however, was an abundant supply of food. Rather, they had to make do with the provisions they had brought along, supplemented with fish and seaweed. Drinking water, such as it was, could be found in the rain-filled hollows. As soon as the first brown-speckled egg had been laid, there was a scramble to be the first to take it back to Orongo, a return journey that



The Survival of Easter Island

was just as treacherous as the outward passage, the more so because once the winner reached the main island – with the egg in his possession – he had to climb the 300 metres back to the top of the cliff. Every year this ritual claimed lives.78 When a young man, carrying the egg on his head, succeeded in arriving at the top of the cliff – with the egg intact – he called out to his leader: ‘Shave your head, you have the egg.’ The clan leader was thus proclaimed tangata manu: the birdman for the coming year. The leader ceremoniously received the egg and performed a ritual dance, presumably with the rapa, the dance-paddle. All the hair on his head was shaved off, including his eyebrows and eyelashes, and he had to spend a year living in relative seclusion in a house at the foot of the Rano Raraku quarry. The birdman was not allowed to cut his nails, wash himself or bathe. It is not known how he exercised his spiritual and social authority. He was probably visited by people who asked his advice on various matters, and who no doubt kept their distance because of his odour. His uncut nails resulted in the extremely long fingers seen in the petroglyphs and woodcarvings and on some of the moai, on which the arms and hands have been carved into the abdomen in bas-relief. The losers who survived the race still had to face dramatic consequences: as an expression of their shame and grief, they inflicted wounds on themselves with mata’a, or sharp pieces of obsidian (the Spanish might have seen the scars arising from this practice during their visit in November 1770). Joy prevailed in the winning camp. Stories abound that in the last phase of the birdman cult, the winner’s clan carried out raids on the other groups. These are perhaps the ‘wars’ mentioned by Roussel,79 which were certainly not part of the original ritual. But what exactly did the original ritual entail? In 1917, Katherine Routledge made an interesting attempt to ascertain the minimum time span of the birdman cult. She compiled a list of the names of eighty-six birdmen. Proceeding back in time from the final year, 1878, and taking into account several ‘blank’ years for which no name was recorded, she reckoned that the cult began around 1760.80 This period tallies nicely, as regards the number of years, with the 120 rock carvings Routledge documented at Orongo,81 which means that a petroglyph was carved for each new birdman. Georgia Lee, by contrast, counted nearly 400 rock carvings in the 1980s.82 This does not rule out the hypothesis of a new petroglyph for each birdman, but it does suggest the existence of many more birdmen or even older petroglyphs. Both are possible, but the latter

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu









Figure 5.6.   Various phases in the depiction of the birdman. After Georgia Lee, Easter Island Rock Art.

theory – the existence of rock carvings of birdmen that predate 1760 – has been irrefutably demonstrated. Lee made it clear in her work that the birdman depictions evolved in an interesting way (see Figure 5.6). At first, the birdman was a simple curved flourish with an unelaborated head and beak or even no head at all. The depictions of birdmen outside Orongo – those in Anakena, for ­example – mostly date from the early phase. The petroglyphs in Orongo itself also show this development, and it is here that we see the emergence of the most elaborate specimens. This means that at first there was an island-wide


The Survival of Easter Island

cult of bird worship which gradually gave way to a birdman cult that continued to develop in one place. The archaeological data indicate that Orongo was a site of ritual activity long before 1760. The cult that developed from the fifteenth century onwards revolved around Makemake, birds and fertility. The petroglyphs and the drawings on stone tablets in the houses clearly show that these three ingredients played a role from the very beginning. The fact that nesting seabirds were found only on Motu Nui and Motu Iti may have given rise to the bird cult in Orongo. The nature of the rituals that accompanied this cult in its early phase is unclear. It would naturally have been a springtime ceremony and celebration, and a stay of some days on the islets would have been necessary to lay hold of some eggs. Makemake, whose identity evolved in close connection with the tern’s egg as a symbol of fertility and creation, eventually came to be represented by the birdman. ‘Simple’ depictions of birdmen from early times have also been found in Orongo. When the moai cult gradually had to be abandoned, these ingredients gave rise to the birdman cult, in which a ritualized contest was held every year to choose the new leader.83 This leader was necessary because the authority of the king, who was evidently associated with the ancestor worship embodied by the moai, had eroded, leaving a power vacuum. This process took place in the course of the eighteenth century. The vacuum was filled by choosing one of the candidates to be the tangata manu – the leader for a year. Every clan could compete for leadership, so Lapérouse was not so wide of the mark with his reflections on kingship and democracy. The connection between the moai cult and the birdman cult emerges from the birdman’s residence near the old statue quarry and from the veneration of Hoa Hakananai’a – the large moai known as the ‘Stolen Friend’ – in a house at Orongo.84 This beautifully carved statue – which displays vulvas, birdmen (perhaps a male and a female ‘birdman’) and other symbols of power, such as the double-bladed paddle (rapa), a ring and a belt – is made of basalt, which is harder than the volcanic tuff that most of the moai are made of. This goes some way towards explaining why its petroglyphs are so well preserved. Along with Tukuturi, the sitting moai at Rano Raraku, Hoa Hakananai’a was the last stone statue to be carved on Easter Island. Its installation in the house at Orongo was most likely intended to symbolize the transfer of the seat of power and the continuity in the island’s culture.85 The pre-European history of the island is more a story of continuity and change than of collapse and disappearance. The continuity is obvious, because the islanders managed to adapt to deforestation and the consequences it had for their social and religious traditions. The emergence of

Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu

the birdman cult was in keeping with the change in ecological conditions, which prompted Paul Bahn and John Flenley to speak in this context of a ‘turn to a new religion centred on the environment’, a kind of eco-religion.86 Yet there seems to have been a gradual impoverishment and loss of quality, with regard to both nature and culture. This situation generates a number of questions, such as how significant the loss might have been, whether the decline was gradual or drastic, and whether it was truly a collapse.


Chapter 6

Resilience and Sustainability

Collapse? What characterizes the collapse of a society or a culture? What distinguishes a collapse from a fundamental change? Some authors make no distinction between the two, but the descriptions they provide generally point to two important differences.1 The first is the time span in which it occurs. True collapse takes place quickly; if the process of decline goes on for centuries, it is more a change than a collapse. In particular, collapse is characterized by a rapid decrease in population, and it takes place over several decades to a century at most, depending on the complexity and size of the society. The breadth of the phenomenon is also important. Are only some parts of society affected, or is the decline all-embracing? The society in question must therefore have attained a certain complexity, which is largely destroyed by the collapse. Societal collapse is marked by the crumbling of important social structures, resulting in chaos, hunger, poverty, strife and a sharp decline in population. The sweeping nature of the decline makes short-term recovery impossible. Did Easter Island experience such a collapse in the period preceding the visits of the Europeans? Did its inhabitants place too many demands on their environment, exhausting it to the extent that it could no longer serve their basic needs, as a result of which society itself could not survive?

The Beginning of Awareness Around 1970, the state of the environment suddenly became a cause of great unrest in the Western world. One of the first to sound the alarm was the American marine biologist Rachel Carson. As early as 1962, she warned of the harmful effects to nature of the increased use of pesticides, herbicides 102

Resilience and Sustainability

and other toxic substances. Many of these are not biodegradable, and when they accumulate in the food chain, they can be fatal to birds and other animals. If such pollution were to continue, birdsong would soon be a thing of the past, hence the title of Carson’s book: Silent Spring.2 There was also growing concern about the great increase in energy consumption and the squandering of our natural resources. In June 1972, the United Nations organized a large international conference in Stockholm, the first devoted entirely to environmental issues. Scientists began to wake up and ask questions. Aren’t there too many people on the earth, asked the biologist Paul Ehrlich in his best-selling books The Population Bomb and The Population Explosion (co-authored by his wife, Anne) – alarming titles that reveal the answer to the question. If nothing was done to halt population growth, it would become impossible to feed everyone; the earth would exceed the bounds of sustainability, and hundreds of millions of people would die of hunger.3 Environmental concerns were widely shared, even by those in entrepreneurial circles. A need was felt for a more coherent approach to the global environment. In 1968, a group of industrialists led by Aurelio Pecci, the head of Fiat, founded the Club of Rome and enlisted the help of Jay Forrester, who had developed systems-oriented computational models that made such an approach possible.4 Forrester set a group of brilliant minds to work, and in 1972 they presented their report, The Limits to Growth, a study that made a huge impact on the Western world.5 The authors had developed a model that enabled them to calculate the effects of depletion and pollution on a worldwide scale. Those effects were dramatic, mainly because of variables that were growing exponentially, such as energy consumption and the use of natural resources. If governments did not change their policies, the world would head straight for disaster, and its apotheosis would be marked by a sharp decline in population after 2050. According to their model, the overexploitation of natural resources would rapidly lead to societal collapse. It was the birth of the ‘overshoot and collapse theory’.6

Easter Island = Earth Island The American archaeologist Bill Mulloy was a member of Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition to Easter Island in the 1950s, and afterwards remained in thrall to the island and its history. He returned there frequently to carry out excavations and conduct research into the island’s unwritten history. But he also took the future of Easter Island to heart, and saw to it that the Tahai complex on the southwest coast was beautifully restored, thus putting his



The Survival of Easter Island

archaeological knowledge to use for the benefit of present and future generations  – a sentiment expressed by a plaque installed at the complex.7 Mulloy’s scholarly contributions have been commemorated with a splendid volume of Easter Island studies.8 Yet despite his achievements, Bill Mulloy was the principal architect of a persistent and disputed hypothesis: the pre-modern collapse of Easter Island culture. In 1975, he published an article in which he described this phenomenon in very stark terms: . . . disaster hovered and it was not precipitated by enemies from beyond the seas. Forty-five square miles was a finite environment and, with ever-increasing labor-consuming emphasis on religious construction, food had to be produced continually more efficiently by those allotted the task. Food-producing potential was probably never completely exhausted, though its limits may have been approached. It was, however, dependent on the uninterrupted maintenance of what must have been a highly coordinated social mechanism. Even slight disruption might have been expected to be sharply felt by many people. A legend describes trouble and dissension erupting from disagreements about the idea of improving the productivity of agricultural land by removing surface stones and throwing them into the sea. Animosities once generated appear to have produced their usual reactions, and eventually two groups, the Hanau Eepe and Hanau Momoko, fought a great battle along an entrenched line on the slopes of the volcano Poike. The former are said to have been all but exterminated. Radiocarbon dates and genealogical research agree that this decisive conflict took place about 1680. A new era appears to have been inaugurated. Very probably because the devastation of war interrupted food production, the established religious aristocracy lost its essentially magical control and the people degenerated into mutually hostile bands controlled by new war leaders called matatoa. The hitherto efficient economic equilibrium disintegrated. Crops were burned and farmers prevented from cultivating in safety. Fishermen were molested and the coordination that had provided food for many non-food producers could no longer be maintained. Though ritual cannibalism may have been present in earlier times, this now became a more practical activity and people were hunted for food. A frequent theme of the legends of this period relates the suffering of fugitives who hid in caves from human predators. The most horrible of atrocities are described. . . . The toppling of statues on altars became one of the typical depredations of the time. . . . In salient contrast to earlier periods, weapons become the commonest items encountered in archaeological deposits of these times. . . . The general cultural level was reduced greatly and the population had decreased to an estimated three or four thousand people by the

Resilience and Sustainability time the island was discovered by the Dutchman Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Sunday of 1722. He and three other eighteenth-century explorers who came after him encountered a remnant people progressively more deprived of the capacity that had produced their earlier achievements. They survived in an impoverished and grass-covered land that retained slender water resources.9

Even though Mulloy’s article does not mention the word ‘collapse’ – he speaks of a ‘disaster’ and a ‘catastrophe’ – his description contains all the characteristics of a true collapse. What could have moved him to paint such a picture? The article never appeared in a scholarly journal and contains no bibliography. In his earlier work, he showed no tendency to think in such sombre terms.10 The preceding quotation is marred by inaccuracy, sloppiness and inconsistent chronology. There is no evidence whatsoever of disputes about farming practices, setting fire to crops or a decisive battle in 1680.11 Hunting humans and cannibalism have never been shown to be a successful nutritional strategy in any society.12 If weapons were really as common in that period and if the statues had been deliberately toppled, the Dutch and Spanish would surely have noticed this. In any case, an estimate of three to four thousand inhabitants is not corroborated by the earliest journals. All in all, it seems that Mulloy’s account was strongly influenced by the disaster literature published around this time. A  clear indication of this is the fact that he placed the following passage from Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1968) above his article: ‘The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines – hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programmes embarked upon now.’13 Mulloy had evidently been so impressed by the seriousness of this and similar publications that it strongly coloured his view of the history of – and the legends surrounding – his beloved Easter Island.14 Mulloy was probably the first but certainly not the last to present the events that unfolded on Easter Island as a collapse. A couple of years later, Patrick McCoy also wrote a sombre  – though somewhat more balanced and subtle – account of the island’s prehistory.15 There is no trace of subtlety, however, in the version of the island’s downfall given by the deep-sea diver Jacques-Yves Cousteau in his Umweltlesebuch (Environmental Handbook).16 This encyclopaedia, published in 1983, still wielded so much authority ten years later that the biologist Claus Stortenbeker adopted Cousteau’s version wholesale as the source of his contribution to a publication issued by a Dutch scientific committee on environmental policy.17 In this version, the island had in its heyday a population of ‘ten to



The Survival of Easter Island

twenty thousand souls’, who severely overtaxed their natural resources. The ‘extremely rigid religious structure with its strange rites’, as well as the ‘large, strange statues’ that had to be transported, caused, in conjunction with agriculture, the deforestation of the island.18 This resulted in famine and a scarcity of firewood, and the social structure collapsed. According to Stortenbeker, it happened like this: ‘The peasants revolted, massacred the priests and artists, and subsequently became embroiled in a chaotic civil war. When Roggeveen discovered the windy, barren island, the few thousand inhabitants still remaining were living in caves and fighting each other to the death. Fifty years later, Captain Cook encountered only a couple of hundred half-starved survivors.’ The developments on Easter Island were ‘an ecological and cultural catastrophe’.19 Stortenbeker’s account is evocative, but has little basis in historical fact. Since the 1990s, the collapse interpretation has been deliberately placed in a broader context and expressly tied to global environmental issues. Isn’t the earth simply an island in the cosmos, just like that tiny piece of land in the vast ocean? For Clive Ponting, whose dramatic account was quoted in Chapter 1, Easter Island serves as ‘a grim warning’ to the world.20 In Easter Island, Earth Island by Paul Bahn and John Flenley, the models put forward in the Club of Rome’s report are linked to what is presumed to have happened on Easter Island.21 The authors relate the important elements of the story – pollution, depletion of natural resources, population growth – to the specific situation on Easter Island. The resemblance of their Easter Island graph to the graph of worldwide developments from the report of the Club of Rome is indeed striking (see Figure 6.1). The models came true with retroactive effect. The authors of the 1972 Rome report did not realize it at the time, but proof that their model could become reality had already been provided by Easter Island. The analogy contained a threat that was taken seriously. Global developments and environmental concerns were no less worrisome at the beginning of the twenty-first century. When three of the four authors of the Club of Rome’s first report looked back on the past thirty years, they came to the conclusion that a sharp decline in the second half of this century is still a very real possibility.22 Easter Island provided historical proof that such a thing could happen, even in a pre-modern society. When, at last, a prominent scientist such as Jared Diamond joined the debate, introducing his views with several articles before publishing his best-seller Collapse, the case seemed closed.23 The collapse interpretation is now firmly rooted in the environmental debate. It crops up in all the media, not only in scholarly articles and books, but also in textbooks, government

Resilience and Sustainability




Natural resources Pollution


2000 A.D.



Forest resource





1200 A.D.


2000 1722

Figure  6.1.  Model devised by the Club of Rome, compared to that of Bahn and Flenley (Easter Island, Earth Island, 1992).

documents, novels, books for young adults, cartoons and films.24 Could it turn out to be a textbook example of collective error?

Hard Facts? If we consider all the dramatic details  – cannibalism, people starving in caves, peasants slaughtering priests and artists – to be an exaggeration, what remains at the core of the collapse theory is a causal chain of events with a seemingly logical order: deforestation, erosion, food shortages, hunger,


The Survival of Easter Island

strife and, finally, a sharp decline in population. The drop in population, in particular, is a characteristic feature of the process; Diamond speaks of a decline of ninety per cent.25 How hard is the theory’s core? Let’s start with deforestation, which is an indisputable fact. Most of the island was covered with forest when the Polynesian settlers arrived, but a number of centuries later, when the Europeans visited, the island was largely devoid of trees. Pollen analysis and the archaeological soil archive reveal that even before 1550, the number of trees had declined to the extent that it was no longer possible to make large seaworthy canoes. Tuna, dolphin and swordfish disappeared from the islanders’ diet.26 Less than a century later, the entire island was well-nigh treeless. A  stray tree could be seen here and there, such as in the Rano Kau caldera, but from that time onward, it was impossible to transport the heavy statues with rollers. Deforestation also caused erosion in places, particularly on the slopes and in the area of Poike,27 though this did not necessarily endanger food production, since all the soil that disappeared from the slopes ended up in the flatter, low-lying areas and thus remained on the island. Only on the eastern slopes of the Poike crater could soil have been washed into the sea by erosion. The islanders were well aware that open fields were at risk of dehydration, so they covered the ground with a stone mulch wherever necessary: an agrarian innovation they developed as early as the fourteenth century. All of the written sources from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries confirm problem-free food production. The European visitors never encountered starving people. The islanders traded with every passing ship, bartering food for goods. Visitors and missionaries alike record sufficient food production, even though only a small part of the island was cultivated and the islanders spent only a few days a year working the land. When the botanist Carl Skottsberg visited Easter Island in the early twentieth century, he concluded that its soil was ‘of good quality and quite fertile when properly cultivated’. Therefore, if hunger had indeed become a serious problem before the arrival of the Dutch, it was not due to impoverished soil caused by deforestation and erosion. After all, it would have taken far longer than a few decades to turn such depleted soil into the fertile fields observed by the Europeans. Widespread hunger and mortality leave paleopathological traces that can be detected in old bones. This is particularly true of death caused by violence or armed conflict, yet we search in vain for evidence of these phenomena in the period in which they supposedly occurred: between 1550 and 1750 at the latest. There are a few indications of stress, and violence was presumably also the occasional cause of death on Easter Island, but this

Resilience and Sustainability

does not constitute evidence of societal collapse.28 The preeminent expert in this field, George Gill, after evaluating his own and others’ work, concluded that the inhabitants of Easter Island were generally in good health before they came into contact with Europeans.29 This concurs with the research carried out by Caroline Polet, who examined the teeth of Easter Islanders, found in the skulls of people who died between the seventeenth and the nineteenth century. The form and chemical composition of teeth reveal a great deal about a person’s health and well-being. Polet found signs of stress, especially in young girls, but the Easter Islanders’ general state of health was better than that of the inhabitants of other Polynesian islands and of Europeans as well.30 On closer inspection, the arguments for collapse are flawed; they do not have a firm foundation, and the proposed chronology does not tally with the facts.31 Even if there had been a period of hardship, there is clear evidence that society was sufficiently resilient to survive difficult times. Finally, what is actually known about the decline in population? Is there any indication that the number of people exceeded a sustainable level and that this imbalance was corrected by a large increase in the number of natural deaths? What is known, in fact, about the island’s ability to sustain its inhabitants?

Population The collapse literature presents varying figures for the island’s population at its peak, shortly before the supposed collapse. Bahn and Flenley state that the population reached a maximum of about ten thousand, whereas Diamond finds fifteen thousand plausible.32 These numbers can only be approximations, because it was not until 1877 that the first census was conducted on Easter Island. To arrive at a plausible estimate for the preceding period, we must base our calculations on historical sources. The first written sources provide important, but limited, information, since the European visitors did not spend enough time on land to see the whole island. They recorded disproportionately small numbers of women and children. Their estimates are useful, however, because taken in combination they provide us with a lower limit. Table 6.1 gives a summary of all the estimates and observations recorded in eighteenth-century journals. Bearing in mind the problematic nature of these estimates – given by people whose visits were brief, who saw little of the island, and who noticed a disproportionately large number of men  – we may deduce that in the eighteenth century the island had a minimum of 1,500 and a maximum of



The Survival of Easter Island

Table 6.1  Estimates of Easter Island’s population in eighteenth-century journals Author

Number of inhabitants


Roggeveen, Bouman 1722

Mention no numbers

See few women

Behrens 1722

‘The inhabitants were swimming around in their thousands’a

No numbers on land

González 1770

More than 800 people on the coastb ‘One day [there were] more than 400 in the frigate’c 900–1,000d

Estimated from the sloop

600–700 in totale No more than 700f ‘300 or 400 on our side of the island’g ‘Not exceeding 500 Souls’h ‘Several hundreds’i ‘Round the beach at least 500 men’j 600–700 menk

Two-thirds men

1,200 gathered around the bay 2,000 in totall

Including 300 women


‘The natives seem numerous’

Cook 1774 George Forster Johann Forster Charles Clerke William Wales Anders Sparrman

Lapérouse 1786

James Baker 1793 Urey Lisiansky 1804

500n 1,500o

Included few women

‘No more than 800 or 900 in total’ ‘Of whom 350 are Men’ ‘Gathered on the shore’ ‘Not more than 6 to 8 women’ ‘scarcely thirty of the other sex’

‘Without exaggerating’

Gathered round Lieutenant Powalishin on the shore ‘I may safely assert that the island contains at least fifteen hundred inhabitants’

Carl Friedrich Behrens, Der wohlversuchte Südländer: Reise um die Welt 1721–1722 (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1925), p. 64: ‘Zu tausenden schwammen die Einwohner im Wasser herum’. The Tweejaarige Reyze contains a similar observation: ‘an immense throng of savages on the shore’ (‘een ontelbaare menigte van wilden op de oever’), but the author of this travel account did not


Resilience and Sustainability

3,000 inhabitants. The numbers cited give no reason whatsoever to assume a drastic drop in population in the course of that century. A number of methods allow us to calculate the peak population. The anthropologist Alfred Métraux used a comparative method. If the population density found on other Polynesian islands, such as Tahiti, of approximately 20/km2 also held true for Easter Island, its population could have numbered between three and four thousand.33 But there are huge differences in population density among all these islands, so the question is which one most resembled Easter Island in this respect. To this end, we must make use of the historical facts at hand. Table 6.1 (cont.) make the voyage himself. Tweejaarige Reyze . . . (Te Dordrecht, Gedrukt by Joannes van Braam, Boekverkooper, 1728), p. 43. b Bolton Glanvill Corney, ed., The Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González in the Ship of the Line San Lorenzo with the Frigate Santa Rosalia in Company to Easter Island in 1770–1771 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1903), pp. 93, 100. c The introduction to González’s journal includes a letter from Dalrymple to Dr Hawkesworth, written shortly after González’s return. This letter states: ‘Its natives number about 3,000 of both sexes.’ Dalrymple received information from the Spanish expedition, but the reliability and exact source of this number is unclear. See Corney, ed.,Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. XLV. d This estimate comes from the journal of Hervé, an officer on the San Lorenzo; see Corney, ed., Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 127. e J. C. Beaglehole, ed., The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery, vol. 2:  Voyage of the Resolution and Adventure 1772–1775 (Cambridge:  Hakluyt Society, 1961), p. 354. f Nicholas Thomas and Oliver Berghof, eds., A Voyage Round the World:  George Forster (Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press, 2000), vol. 1, p. 320. g Michael E. Hoare, ed. The Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster 1772–1775 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1982), vol. 3, p. 468. h Beaglehole, ed., Journals of Captain James Cook, appendix IV, p. 760. i Beaglehole, ed., Journals of Captain James Cook, appendix V, p. 820. j Beaglehole, ed., Journals of Captain James Cook, appendix V, p. 821. k Anders Sparrman, A Voyage Round the World with Captain James Cook in H.M.S. Resolution (London: Robert Hale, 1953), p. 116. l J. Dunmore, ed., The Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse 1785–1788 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1994–95), vol. 1, p. 61. m Rhys Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861:  Observations by Early Visitors Before the Slave Raids (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2008), p. 20. n Urey Lisiansky, A Voyage Round the World in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806 Performed by Order of His Imperial Majesty Alexander the First, Emperor of Russia, in the Ship Neva (London: John Booth & Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown, 1814), p. 58. o Lisiansky, Voyage Round the World, p. 60.



The Survival of Easter Island

Diamond’s calculation is based on – and requires a reasonably accurate idea of – the number of houses and the number of occupants per house. His sums show a substantial spread, with results varying from six thousand to thirty thousand islanders.34 To my mind, this method seems extremely unreliable, certainly if one assumes, as Diamond does, that many people were living in caves, of which there are quite a few on the island. Eventually Diamond arrived at a population of fifteen thousand, basing this rather high number – the upper limit in the current estimates, but an estimate that seemed to him a safe bet – on information supplied by archaeologists with long years of experience on the island.35 The most direct method of reckoning is population dynamics, whereby the increase in population can be calculated on the basis of a certain parent population and a given rate of growth. There will always be temporary fluctuations in the growth rate, but these are of little importance in the long run. To arrive at the average growth rate, we can make calculations based on a number of fundamental assumptions. The size of the original population is not known, of course, but Polynesians usually embarked on their voyages of settlement with anywhere from fifty to one hundred people. We do not know exactly when the settlers came to Easter Island, but for the purposes of our argument, we can call it ad 1100 – in between the late date of arrival recently hypothesized by Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo (c. 1200) and the previously assumed date of settlement (c. 1000).36 Bone analysis has shown that the average settler of Easter Island was thirty-five to forty years old. The rate of growth is more difficult to determine, owing to the scarcity of reliable figures for pre-modern societies. We do have something of a foothold, however, since between 1350 and 1800 the population of the world grew at a rate of 0.3 per cent. The United Nations assumes that in the pre-1850 period, the average growth rate for a rather long period seldom exceeded 0.5 per cent worldwide, owing mainly to the high rate of infant mortality. Peter Boomgaard arrived at a growth rate for Java of 0.1 per cent, and for the whole of Southeast Asia in the period 1600 to 1800 of 0.2 per cent.37 The latter rate of growth can be assumed for islands in the Pacific,38 but the isolation of Easter Island and the fact that it was untouched by outside influences after its original settlement means that its population could have increased somewhat faster. Then again, the estimated number of women on Easter Island is disproportionately low in all the eighteenth-century sources. Those figures are probably underestimations, but even slightly skewed proportions would have resulted in a lower rate of growth. We also know that infant and child mortality was high on Easter Island, which makes it unlikely that the population grew at an average rate of more than 0.5 per cent.39

Resilience and Sustainability 7000






1000 0 1100 1150 1200 1250 1300 1350 1400 1450 1500 1550 1600 1650 1700 1750 1800 1850 1900

Figure 6.2.   Four scenarios of population growth on Easter Island since ad 1100. From top to bottom: one hundred settlers and an average of 0.5 per cent growth; fifty settlers and 0.5 per cent growth; one hundred settlers and 0.1 per cent growth; and fifty settlers and 0.1 per cent growth.

These figures have been used to work out a few simple scenarios for the rate of population growth on Easter Island, the results of which appear in Figure 6.2. The underlying assumption is a rate of growth varying from 0.1 to 0.5 per cent and an initial population of fifty to one hundred settlers. We see that, regardless of whether we start with fifty or one hundred settlers, the low rate of 0.1 per cent does not yield realistic long-term results: the population hardly grows and could never have reached the numbers documented in the travel accounts of European visitors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An average growth rate of 0.5 per cent paints a much more plausible picture. The uppermost blue line marks the growth in population, based on a group of one hundred settlers arriving in around ad 1100, whereas the green line below it marks the same rate of growth based on half that number of settlers. The estimate based on fifty people yields numbers that are too low, whereas basing the estimate on one hundred people results in numbers that are slightly too high – at least if we look to the travel accounts for corroboration. The literature recounting the island’s history in the nineteenth century gives a sound estimate of the number of Easter Islanders around 1860, a number based on actual counting and on the numbers cited in accounts of the events discussed in Chapter 7. This rather reliable historical estimate



The Survival of Easter Island

puts the number of inhabitants at 4,000,40 which is in line with my estimate of 4,300, based on 100 settlers and a growth rate of 0.5 per cent. For the period 1722–1800, too, the calculations tally with the estimates derived from the early journals. The calculations come even closer to the estimates in the old sources by assuming fewer settlers – ninety, for ­example – and choosing an average rate of growth of just under 0.5 per cent. Sound arguments can be found for either scenario. These calculations show that all the fragmentary data at our disposal can be encapsulated in a realistic model to arrive at an estimate of the population of Easter Island that never contradicts the written sources. The large numbers of people sometimes mentioned in the literature – five thousand or more – can only be obtained by making assumptions that are inconsistent with what has been published on population dynamics. I could find no arguments in the literature to support such deviations. What Figure 6.2 does make clear is the degree to which the ultimate size of the population is dependent on the growth rate. Early settlement (c. ad 100), which Bahn and Flenley consider plausible in the most recent edition of their book, combined with an average growth rate of 0.5 per cent, soon leads to improbably large numbers, resulting in far more than the ten thousand inhabitants they assume to be the maximum.41 A low growth rate of just over 0.1 per cent, which is not unrealistic over a period encompassing sixteen centuries, is still compatible with the historical estimates recorded in this chapter. Another important factor that is ignored in the collapse literature is the reaction of society to changing circumstances. The anthropological literature reveals that some kind of family planning existed in pre-modern societies, allowing adaptation to tougher circumstances or bleaker prospects. The most drastic method was infanticide, but others were used as well.42 In the case of low population growth, even a small decrease in the growth rate can have a great effect.43 Little is known about this in the case of Easter Island, but it is certainly conceivable by analogy with other Polynesian societies.44 After all, the Easter Islanders demonstrated their resilience and flexibility by adapting their farming methods to drier periods and – much later, when the statue cult became untenable – by developing the birdman cult. Their adaptation to a more arid climate and less fertile growing conditions allowed them to achieve a new balance, albeit with a lower quality of life. As Kirch put it, ‘sustainability came at a price’.45 It is, above all, this cultural adaptation – the resilience of a society – that people such as Ponting and Diamond seriously underestimate.46 Their approach to history is highly

Resilience and Sustainability

materialistic – in the sense of neglecting cultural factors and the power of ideas – and thus to some extent deterministic.

Carrying Capacity In the end, it is the amount of food that determines how many people can inhabit a certain area. This is just as true of the earth as a whole as it is of an isolated island.47 In the case of Easter Island, one had to make do with what could be produced on the island and what the settlers had brought with them. This was supplemented by the birds that happened along and whatever could be fished from the sea. When there was no more timber to make canoes, the only fish they had were the ‘fruits of the sea’ by the coast (see Figure 6.3). All in all, this meant a leaner diet than the islanders had enjoyed in better times, but it was balanced and nutritious enough to maintain health and vitality. Yet there is still the question of how many people the island could actually feed. To calculate the number of people the island could sustain after deforestation, we need to know the daily calorie requirement of the average Easter

Figure 6.3.   Easter Islander fishing with a spear, c. 1950. Collection of historical photos at the Museo Antropológico Padre Sebastián Englert, Hanga Roa.



The Survival of Easter Island

Islander, how much food the island could produce and how nutritious the food was. To prevent deficiency diseases, a wide variety of essential nutrients is necessary – nutrients which, ideally, are available throughout the year. The amount of food available depends in turn on the productivity of both land and sea and the size of the area in cultivation. As regards this last factor, the European visitors noticed that Easter Island was not intensely cultivated. The islanders grew only as much food as they needed, and this required only a small part of the available land – the French estimated it at one-tenth of the island. They also put the number of inhabitants at two thousand, so if all the land had been put into cultivation, there would have been enough food for twenty thousand people. This large number appears to tally with the more complicated calculations made on the basis of crops and nutritional values. Such calculations were first made, to the best of my knowledge, by Nancy Pollock.48 She assumed an average daily energy requirement of 2,300 calories, slightly more than half of which could be provided by sweet potatoes, a typical staple food. The rest, according to her calculations, was supplied by 500 grams of bananas and 400 grams of fish, which together account for the remaining 1,100 calories. Somewhere between eight thousand and ten thousand people could have subsisted on such a diet. This significant though somewhat rough estimate is in need of refinement, however. Pollock does not venture to say how much land would have had to be cultivated, and she refrains from estimating the yield per cultivated hectare. Nor does she discuss the quality of the food, such as its vitamin and mineral content. In order to do this, I enlisted the help of a student of environmental science, who was able to make some additional calculations. We examined the entire spectrum of foodstuffs, both with regard to caloric value and vitamin and mineral content and in terms of yield per hectare.49 According to the Corporación Nacional de Desarrollo Indígena (CONADI) – the Chilean government’s indigenous development corporation – approximately 1,100 hectares are now earmarked as arable land. This is just under seven per cent of the total surface area of the island. The crops that could be cultivated on this land – sweet potatoes, taro, yams, bananas and calabashes – could provide six thousand to ten thousand people with healthy diets. If we use the statistics available from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, for similar subtropical islands, the lower limit is determined by a minimum of mineral nutrients, and the upper limit by the number of calories actually produced.50 If we also assume that this basic diet could be supplemented with small amounts of shellfish, chicken,

Resilience and Sustainability

eggs and rats, there would be no risk of mineral or protein shortages, so the number of inhabitants could safely be set at the upper limit of ten thousand people.51 If we scale up these data to correspond to the surface area that could have been cultivated in the past and exclude the marginal lands, then another 8,000 hectares appears to have been available. If equal amounts of food were produced everywhere on the island, it would even be able to sustain tens of thousands of people. This does not seem realistic, but the conclusion is clear: even after deforestation, there would have been enough food for the huge population described in the collapse literature. Only a small part of the island would have had to be cultivated: an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 of the entire 16,600 hectares. As far as productivity and calories are concerned, the island could easily have provided some twenty thousand people with a healthy diet. At a symposium in Brussels in November 2012, Caroline Polet presented the results of her research on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century skeletons.52 She examined their teeth in particular, because these can provide reliable information on the composition of the diet. The pattern of very small scratches on the teeth – dental microwear – differs among carnivores, omnivores and vegetarians. Meat-eaters have fewer, but longer, scratches than vegetarians. The amounts of the stable nitrogen isotope δ15N and the carbon isotope δ13C also provide information on these three trophic levels, from which it can be deduced whether a person ate predominantly meat or fish. Polet’s analyses reveal that Easter Islanders were mainly vegetarian, but they also ate meat and, to a slightly lesser extent, fish.53 Finally, Polet also looked for the occurrence of hypoplasia on the enamel of the teeth, which is a good indicator of stress caused by such factors as hunger. Polet found no signs of higher-than-normal levels of stress. The percentage of teeth with hypoplasia in the skulls of Easter Islanders did not differ markedly from the percentages found on other Polynesian islands. Moreover, they compare quite favourably to the teeth of stress-ridden, medieval Europeans. It might be pointed out that people need water in addition to food, and that this could have been a problem on Easter Island, which has no natural springs and where long periods of drought could seriously deplete the reservoirs. In the discussion of a collapse caused by human behaviour, this is a digression: extreme drought cannot be the result of human error, though deforestation can lead to less rainfall, thus increasing the chance of drought. There are no indications, however, that there was ever a dry period so severe that a shortage of water led to a serious increase in mortality. The three crater lakes have always contained water, and the islanders



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 6.4.   Crater lake of Rano Raraku. Photo: author.

were accustomed to catch rainwater and store it in rocky hollows, of which there are many on the island (see Figure 6.4). It is possible that in very dry periods, a lack of moisture did contribute to the high rate of child mortality, because children dehydrate quickly.54 To sum up, the large numbers of inhabitants mentioned in the collapse literature (ten to twenty thousand) were probably never present on Easter Island. To reach a population of ten thousand, the island would have had to experience an average growth rate that is highly implausible for pre-modern cultures. Yet even if there had been such large numbers of people, they would not have had to go hungry. A more realistic estimate, however, is a maximum population of three to four thousand. The food produced on Easter Island was certainly sufficient, in both quantity and quality, to support a population of that size, even after deforestation. Teeth analyses indicate a reasonably varied diet and the absence of higher-than-normal levels of stress. All of these findings concur with what can be deduced from historical sources about the size of the population. They also concur with a study by Mara Mulrooney suggesting that ‘Rapa Nui settlement and land use exhibit continuity rather

Resilience and Sustainability

than punctuated, detrimental change during the late pre-European period’.55

Chopped Down or Gnawed Away? ‘What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?’ Jared Diamond asked rhetorically in his book Collapse.56 He also gives three possible answers:  ‘Jobs, not trees!’, ‘Technology will solve our problems, never fear, we’ll find a substitute for wood’ and ‘We don’t have proof that there aren’t palms somewhere else on Easter, we need more research, your proposed ban on logging is premature and driven by fear-mongering.’ Readers will be familiar with such answers, because they crop up frequently in ongoing environmental debates. This was Diamond’s point, of course. The existing threats and the helpfulness of these answers in the current debate will be discussed in Chapter 9, but here I would like to explain why it is inappropriate even to pose Diamond’s question. To begin with, posing the question is wrong because its very wording suggests that the deforestation of the island was carried out in one relatively short, ruthless campaign,57 in a way, moreover, that now occurs all too frequently in the tropics: men sweep down on an area with chain saws and heavy machinery, and within a couple of weeks it is completely cleared of trees. In the case of Easter Island, deforestation must have taken three to four hundred years, perhaps as long as five hundred. The man who cut down the last tree had been born on an island with only a few scattered specimens. He could have had no inkling of the meaning of his actions, since they brought about only the slightest of changes. The average islander was less than forty years old, and deforestation had taken centuries; each generation witnessed only minimal changes. ‘Deforestation’ thus describes a process viewed with hindsight, since we know that in the beginning the island was covered with trees and that several centuries later it was largely barren. If indeed there was a man who chopped down the last tree, he would not have been inclined to apologize for his actions, certainly not with any of the modern-day excuses that Diamond puts in his mouth. But was it really a human being who felled the last tree on Easter Island? This brings us to another reason for considering Diamond’s question inappropriate. If robust materials are lacking, chopping down a tree is no easy task, certainly not in the case of a coconut palm, which, we assume, had fairly hard wood. The Easter Islanders used axes with wooden handles and a blade



The Survival of Easter Island

of hard stone; numerous tree stumps around the island testify to their efficacy. But the islanders would not have felled more trees than they needed to build their canoes and houses, to burn as fuel and serve as fertilizer, to transport their statues and possibly to consume (the heart of some species of palm is edible). An estimate of the number of trees necessary for such purposes leaves a surfeit.58 The disappearance of these surplus trees can be explained by assuming their accidental demise: intentional burning could have resulted in a forest fire. A large fire could have destroyed most of the trees on the island, but a disaster of this magnitude would have left evidence in the soil archive, and so far none has been found. We do find many traces of fire, however, but mostly confined to certain places and often in combination with felling. Moreover, even after a large fire, regeneration would have taken place. Charred areas generally recover well, since the minerals released by the fire are conducive to new growth. Foresters know that fires are essential to the vitality of a forest, which is why, for example, foresters in California deliberately set fire to Sequoia trees to encourage regeneration. Could there have been something wrong with regeneration on Easter Island? The failure of the forest to regenerate is in fact the most likely explanation for its ultimate disappearance, and a guilty party has been found on which to blame this lack of rejuvenation: the Polynesian rat brought to the island by the settlers. That the rats targeted the trees as a source of food has been suspected since traces of gnawing were discovered on nuts and seeds of the Easter Island coconut palm. Many of the seeds found were heavily gnawed, as clearly shown by the collection in the Museo Sebastián Englert on Easter Island.59 The role played by rats has recently been combined with the idea of later settlement, and this provides a fairly plausible explanation of the island’s deforestation.60 In addition to eating the nuts and seeds of the palm trees, the quickly multiplying rats no doubt feasted on the new shoots as well. Admittedly, they could not have gnawed down whole trees, but by gnawing at new growth they could have prevented rejuvenation. That rats are capable of this has been sufficiently documented. Even if the islanders had wanted to keep the rats under control or protect the trees, they did not have the means to do so. Still, it is difficult to imagine that rats could have prevented the regeneration of an entire forest possibly consisting of some sixteen million trees, the more so because in addition to gnawed seeds, intact specimens were also found.61 It is thought, by analogy with other species of palm, that the Easter Island coconut palm had a life span of four hundred to five hundred years.62 At that degree of latitude, moreover, it grew slowly and periodic drought

Resilience and Sustainability

would have hindered regeneration. If the settlers had arrived in the twelfth century, the forest – lacking new growth – would have met a ‘natural’ end at some point in the 1500s, a time frame that concurs with the other information now available. But the forest never had a chance to reach its ‘natural’ end, because the presence of human beings – who burned and felled trees, and had introduced the rats – exacted a heavy toll on the environment.63 The complete disappearance of the forest could well have been an unintended side effect, however, so it is even possible that the last tree on the island died of old age as the Easter Islanders looked on in despair, wondering how they could possibly manage without trees.


Chapter 7


Uninvited Guests The voyage of Columbus to America at the end of the fifteenth century suddenly made the inhabited world a lot bigger, and beyond the New World there was said to be an undiscovered southern continent. One expedition after another embarked from Europe to go in search of that unknown South Land.1 Curiosity was one reason to investigate the world, of course, but there were also national interests at stake. The four European countries whose explorers called at Easter Island in the eighteenth century were all striving for power and influence in the region, and the success of their voyages was measured by the degree to which these interests were served. The inhabitants of the lands that were ‘discovered’ – as it is usually incorrectly termed – took a different view of matters. They suddenly had uninvited guests on their doorstep, which in most cases marked a turning point in their history, in part because the visitors brought things that were alien to their society, such as firewater and firearms. Thus their arrival could cause a great deal of misery, even when the foreigners had good intentions. Their mere presence often had unsuspected consequences, one being the introduction of new organisms. Some of these, such as dogs and rats, were familiar to the islanders, though no one knew what effect these introduced species would have on their new surroundings. More often than not, the visitors unwittingly brought along microorganisms that now had an opportunity to attack a group of humans who had no resistance to them.2 In theory, these encounters involved mutual exchange, but in practice the Europeans often proved resistant to alien germs, and it was the indigenous peoples who were more frequently the victims.3 This is one reason why the Europeans were so successful at colonizing the new world.4 When Jacob Roggeveen and his men put in at Easter Island in 1722, it heralded a 122


new phase in the history of this region – a phase marked by occasional contact with the outside world, but still without permanent foreign residents.

Different Goals The journals kept by the European explorers often clearly outline the goals of their voyage. They had, after all, been sent on a mission, and the mission statement had been put down in writing. Following orders was crucial in avoiding difficulties, such as non-payment of the crew, at the end of the voyage. The failure of an expedition to fulfil its mission could damage the reputation of its leader. Roggeveen’s journey was an exploratory trading mission. He had been sent to find the unknown South Land and claim it as a trading territory for the Dutch West India Company (WIC). The expedition took the route around Cape Horn to avoid the territory of their competitor, the Dutch East India Company (VOC). The only thing they had to go on was Edward Davis’s assertion that in 1687 he had seen a low, sandy island that was presumably a harbinger of the unknown southern continent. Roggeveen knew this story from the journal kept by Lionel Wafer and William Dampier.5 When Easter Island turned out to look nothing like sandy Davis Island, the men discussed this at length and officially recorded their conclusions in a resolution signed by the expedition leader, Jacob Roggeveen, and the three captains, Jan Koster, Cornelis Bouman and Roelof Roosendaal, who together formed the ‘Council of the heads of the three ships sailing in company’.6 This was a necessary formality, as otherwise the directors of the WIC might demand explanations and refuse to pay their wages. The merchandise on board the Dutch ships included bales of fabric used for bartering on Easter Island. Bouman stated that the islanders were given ‘a half piece of Haarlemmerstreep [a kind of fabric] worth 5 or 6 stuyvers per ell’ in exchange for chickens and bananas.7 Many weeks later, when the Dutch ships were approaching New Guinea (without having found the South Land), their ships were ‘hailed’ by VOC ships. ‘Hailing’ sounds like a friendly act, but in fact it was a show of strength followed by a kind of arrest. The Dutch ships were eventually taken under escort to Batavia, allegedly for having overstepped their competitor’s ‘limit’ (i.e., boundary). Once in Batavia, that Haarlemmerstreep proved to be their undoing. The local directors saw it as clear evidence of their intention to conduct trade in VOC territory. Roggeveen’s protests that their goods were of very little value (but good enough for those Easter Islanders!) made no impression on the VOC officials. His two remaining ships – the third, the Africaansche



The Survival of Easter Island

Galey, had been lost at sea – were seized by Governor-General Hendrik Zwaardencroon. The ships and their cargo were sold and the proceeds given to the VOC. The cargo is recorded as including, in addition to textiles, ‘small items of ironmongery’.8 Roggeveen was forced to stay in Batavia for the duration of the investigation. After a couple of months, he returned, disillusioned, in a VOC ship to the Netherlands, where he arrived in July 1723. A large part of his crew had died of scurvy, mainly on the last leg of the journey, from Easter Island to New Guinea, in part because Roggeveen was afraid to land on unknown islands or indeed wherever he was unable to find a suitable landing place. Moreover, five crew members had chosen to stay behind on the atoll of Takapoto after the shipwreck of the Afrikaansche Galey.9 The WIC, incensed at the treatment it had received, initiated legal proceedings against the VOC in the Netherlands, claiming compensation for the confiscated ships and merchandise. The case revolved around the question of boundaries. The WIC disputed the VOC’s right to take action as far out as New Guinea. As was customary in the Netherlands, the case was finally settled in court, on 2 March 1725, and the VOC paid damages of 120,000 guilders ‘as well as the wages of the seamen from Batavia to the harbours of this country’.10 In other words, the sailors were paid for the return voyage. Because their aim had been to find new trading territories, the Dutch had no scientists or draughtsmen on board who could have surveyed or portrayed the new territories. They did not collect anything either: no statuettes, ornaments or other artefacts. As far as we know, the only things they took home were memories. In 1978, a small stone statue made of basalt was dug up in the Netherlands, at Ouddorp in the province of Zuid-Holland. It definitely comes from Easter Island, but it is not known when or by whom it was brought to the Netherlands.11 There are no indications that the Dutch left the islanders with lasting reminders of their visit, such as diseases or children fathered on native women. Yet Roggeveen’s visit was not entirely without consequences for the Easter Islanders, for the Dutchmen caused death and destruction in their first half-hour on land, when a shooting incident left a dozen people dead and a number of others wounded. The description of this skirmish states that a group who stayed behind under second mate Cornelis Mens felt threatened by what they perceived as aggressive behaviour on the part of the islanders, one of whom had shown undue interest in a sailor’s rifle. The order had been given to shoot: ‘it’s time, it’s time, open fire, whereupon more than thirty rifles were fired, seemingly all at once’.12 Panic broke


out, and in the midst of all the shoving and screaming, it was difficult to determine the number of victims. Roggeveen, Bouman and the other leaders took the incident very seriously and demanded an explanation. Mens maintained that he had acted in self-defence, but the others mistrusted his account and continued to hold it against him. Bouman even called Cornelis Mens a ‘coward’. The journal does not say whether the guilty were punished.13 The voyage ended just as badly. After failing to find the fabled South Land, losing one of its ships and having the other two seized and sold, the expedition could be called a complete fiasco. But the island they found along the way had been given a name and could now take its place on the map of the world. The Spanish arrived with completely different intentions. They were bent on territorial expansion, but they went about it in style. On 20 November 1770, they officially took possession of the island for King Carlos III. They named it San Carlos, and on Poike Hill they erected three crosses, each with a Spanish insignia. Many islanders witnessed this event. To seal the deal, the Spanish drew up a document that was ‘signed’ by the Easter Island chiefs with a curious collection of marks and symbols. The erection of each cross was greeted with three cheers for the king and three salvos of musketry from each sailor on shore, followed by twenty-one-gun salutes from the two Spanish vessels lying at anchor.14 This was the Spaniards’ first and last exploit on the island, for after the roar of the cannons they took their signed document, boarded their ships and sailed back to Peru. The crosses were the first Catholic Christian symbols on the island. To devout Catholics such as the Spanish, territorial expansion went hand in hand with Christianization. This had been their intention on Easter Island, too, but they did not stay long enough to realize their plan. The priests they had brought along confined themselves to performing the ceremonies marking the transfer of the island to the Spanish. The members of González’s crew did in fact state that the islanders had no difficulty whatsoever in reproducing the sentence ‘Ave Maria, Viva Carlos Tercero, Rey de España’ (Hail Mary, long live Carlos III, King of Spain), which they declaimed in loud voices whose timbre reminded the Spanish of the ‘Lazarones’, the street singers of Naples.15 González thus surmised that the Easter Islanders’ tractability and intelligence would make them fairly easy converts to any religion that was offered to them.16 This raised the old issue of whether to classify the inhabitants of the new world as ‘barbarians’ or as ‘potential Christians’. In Spain, this question had been the subject of serious debate between Bartolomé de Las Casas



The Survival of Easter Island

and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda in Valladolid in 1550. Las Casas considered the ‘Indians’ fellow human beings capable of conversion to Christianity, whereas Sepúlveda placed them at the bottom of the Aristotelian hierarchy, seeing them as barbarians and slaves.17 González’s statement is a late contribution to that debate, since the status of the ‘Indians’ of Easter Island had not yet been determined. We are indebted to the Spanish for providing us with the first map of the island, for preserving the ‘act of conveyance’ and for recording several words that are vital to Easter Island culture, such as ‘moay’ and ‘Make Make’. As far as we know, they did not take home any artefacts, and apart from the map, they made only a few sketches and drawings of the island. Their visit went smoothly: they arrived as noble Spaniards, went about their business without mishap, and left as noble Spaniards, albeit with considerably fewer hats and other items of clothing, since they, too, had been victims of the islanders’ petty thievery (particularly of head-coverings). James Cook, who called at Easter Island on his second great voyage of discovery, was not only the representative of a powerful country, but also a preeminent explorer. By the time he put in at Easter Island in 1774, he had been nearly everywhere in the South Pacific. Exploring the globe in the service of the British Empire, he was naturally on the lookout for bases from which to exercise British dominion over the region and to provision British warships and trading vessels. His ships were fitted out in grand style; in fact, his whole approach exuded experience and grandeur. His methods allowed the scientists in his crew to conduct state-of-the-art exploration, although a French commentator stated that his ‘success in preserving good health among his crew was more the result of common sense, attention to detail, the experience of a lifetime spent at sea and good luck than deductive scientific reasoning’.18 As on his first voyage, Cook’s crew on his second expedition initially included Joseph Banks, the president of the Royal Society and later director of Kew Gardens. Banks, however, was critical of the new ships and found his accommodation too cramped, and this led to discord. His place was taken by Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George, natural scientists from Göttingen, and by Anders Sparrman, a Swedish botanist who had studied with the great Carl Linnaeus.19 Another member of the expedition was the draughtsman and painter William Hodges, whose rather romantic approach has provoked mixed reactions. The French journals express frank criticism of his inaccurate depictions of the moai,20 but such imprecision did nothing to diminish the popularity of his work. As early as 1777, his drawings of a man and woman from Easter Island were reproduced as engravings, which have been used to illustrate


Figure 7.1.   William Hodges, View of the Monuments of Easter Island. © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.

Easter Island literature more frequently than the original drawings.21 His well-known oil painting View of the Monuments of Easter Island has been copied time and again by numerous graphic artists (see Figure  7.1). In these prints made after the work of Hodges, the moai are sometimes barely recognizable. Cook and his men took along various objects from Easter Island. The role played by Mahine, a crew member from Tahiti, is noteworthy in this respect, for it was thanks to him that some of these artefacts were taken to Tahiti and from there to Russia. The fate of such an artefact was wonderfully described by David Attenborough in his documentary The Lost Gods of Easter Island (BBC, 2005). The English took their finds – including a beautifully carved hand and one real rarity, a female figurine  – back to England, where they were dispersed among various museums, including the British Museum in London and the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. The Forsters took the objects they collected to Germany, where most of them ended up in Göttingen and Berlin. Since the artefacts collected on this journey all originated before 1774, they represent an important link in the reconstruction of the island’s culture, the more so because they appear to have been the only objects collected in that century that actually arrived in Europe.



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 7.2.   Islanders and Monuments of Easter Island by Gaspard Duché de Vanchy, 1786. © The Bridgeman Art Library.

The French, who visited Easter Island in 1786, were the first who intentionally brought things for the islanders. Their expedition was extremely well prepared and fitted out, also in terms of the crew. The muster roll included not only seamen but also scientists, mapmakers, draughtsmen and a chaplain. Unfortunately, little has been preserved of the work they did in the Pacific. The few surviving maps are noteworthy for their accuracy, and the drawings made by Gaspard Duché de Vanchy are real gems. Regrettably, the small collection contains only one, very beautiful drawing of Easter Island (Figure 7.2). The ideals of the Enlightenment played a distinct role in the Frenchmen’s interpretation of the situation on the island. The members of the expedition took the absence of a king and the perceived end of the statue cult to be the result of the levelling influence of democracy. Lapérouse saw Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s ideas about the noble savage clearly disproved by the behaviour of the Easter Islanders, for he found them even more hypocritical than some Europeans.22 In addition to their Enlightenment ideals, the French brought along material goods, including – according to the journal – goats, ewes and pigs and seeds for orange and lemon trees, cotton, maize and many other things that were thought to have a chance of flourishing on the island.23 They


were sadly mistaken on many counts: of all the animals and produce they brought along, little or nothing was found in later years. The aforementioned animals and fruit trees did not last long in any case. Any artefacts the French might have taken from the island are now lying on the ocean floor, since the expedition hit the rocks off Vanikoro in 1788 and perished to a man. All we have are the things – including Lapérouse’s journal and drawings by Gaspar Duché de Vanchy – sent to France before the fatal shipwreck, and for this we are indebted to Jean-Baptiste Barthélemy de Lesseps, whose knowledge of Russian had prompted Lapérouse to ask him to join the expedition. On 29 September, de Lesseps was put ashore at Petropavlovsk (Kamchatka). After a spectacular journey lasting nearly two years – including a sleigh ride across the snow-covered central Siberian plateau  – he arrived safe and sound in Paris with these precious documents still in his possession. In the last decade of the eighteenth century, two British fur traders put in at Easter Island. The fur trade was profitable, owing to increasing demand from China, and European traders had begun to travel farther and farther in search of suitable animals. In 1793, Captain Charles Bishop called at Easter Island, and in 1795 Captain James Baker paid a visit, both on ships that had sailed from Bristol. Their reports contain nothing that cannot be found in earlier accounts. Perhaps their most noteworthy observation is their sighting of standing moai – ‘one or two at every village’ – and the fact that they saw no weapons anywhere on the island, nor traces of any violence among the inhabitants. Both of these English captains thought that the people looked remarkably healthy.24 Finally, in 1797 a British whaler who dropped anchor at Easter Island reported that the coast was crawling with rats.25 It is not known whether these were still Polynesian rats or whether the European rat had already established itself on the island, but it underlines the fact that these rodents can become a plague. The whaler’s visit at the end of the eight­ eenth century marked a temporary halt to the European expeditions that called at Easter Island.

Effects If we take stock of the effect that these eighteenth-century visits had on Easter Island and its inhabitants, we must begin with the deaths caused by their very first contact with the Dutch. For a people unfamiliar with firearms or indeed any metal objects, the guns, as well as the cannons on board the ships, must have been terrifying. The Europeans left the islanders with an ample supply of textiles, especially hats, though all of these



The Survival of Easter Island

articles were perishable. Naturally, some of the baubles, mirrors, buttons and beads handed out by the Europeans were later found by archaeologists. Thor Heyerdahl and the members of his expedition, for instance, found a bead that could pass for a Dutch corael.26 Sexual contacts left lasting traces. The genetic profile of Easter Islanders reveals modest European (Basque) influence in the second half of the eighteenth century and modest Amerindian influence.27 Syphilis, too, made its appearance then, but on Easter Island this did not lead to a marked increase in mortality.28 The plant seeds and animals brought by the Europeans did not survive. Depictions of European ships eventually made a modest appearance in Easter Island rock art.29 All in all, the Europeans’ effect on the island, its culture and its environment appears to have been limited. But the impact made by the confrontation with other cultures – their ships, clothing, writing and other mater­ ial goods  – on the hearts and minds of the Easter Islanders cannot be measured. One thing, however, is certain: from the eighteenth century on, they would have to prepare themselves for repeated dealings with foreigners.30

Little of Good One important result of the early expeditions was to put Easter Island on the map, which led to an increase in the number and frequency of mariners and adventurers who stopped there. Even though some of these visitors had good intentions, they did not, on balance, do the island much good. Now that Easter Island appeared to be of scant importance to Europe, it was left to its own devices. The Spanish did not actively try to govern the island, and their claims were not recognized by other countries. Easter Island remained a world unto itself, where passing travellers could do as they wished. There were difficult times ahead. Some early visitors to Easter Island wrote about their experiences; their accounts were compiled in 2006 by Richard Rhys and published by the Easter Island Foundation.31 The route taken by short-term visitors who left no journals can be deduced from the records kept by shipowners and the various port authorities. Digging around in maritime archives has yielded a long list of documented visitors to the island in the first half of the nineteenth century. In addition, there were seamen who stopped at Easter Island but left no record of their route. Our knowledge of them comes from the general information found in archives, such as shipping lists that contain the names of ships and the routes they took. Not all of


these transients actually set foot on land. Sometimes they were put off by the islanders, who were inhospitable enough to pelt them with stones. Yet the crew of the Russian ship Neva that dropped anchor at Easter Island in 1804 was still given a warm welcome. It was the first Russian expedition to call at the island. Its leader, Urey Fyodorovich Lisiansky, was a servant of Tsar Alexander I.32 The men went ashore only briefly, yet they managed to take along not only the compulsory sweet potatoes, yams and bananas, but also a few artefacts, including two small bags for provisions, now to be seen at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St Petersburg.33 In 1806, English whalers were pelted with stones so fiercely that they could barely land. This un-Easter-like rebuff is connected with a shocking event that must have occurred a short time before. The story, as recorded by Otto von Kotzebue, begins with the seal hunt on Más Afuera, an island off the coast of Chile that belongs to the Juan Fernández Islands.34 The hunters and traders wanted sealskins, which were becoming more and more valuable since the opening of new markets in Asia. A certain J. Crocker, captain of the American schooner Nancy, thought he could increase the volume of trade by founding a workers’ colony on Más Afuera. Men and women were needed for this venture, so he sailed to Easter Island to recruit some ‘volunteers’. The islanders would not go along without a struggle: in fact, they put up a fight that cost many lives. In the end, they proved unable to resist the superior force of firearms, and eventually twelve men and ten women were hustled on board the ship, where they were locked up in the hold. In J.  A. Moerenhout’s version of events, the unsuspecting islanders boarded the moored ship,35 as they had done on many previous occasions whenever a foreign ship dropped anchor. Whatever the case  – whether they boarded voluntarily or under duress – the schooner set sail, and after three days, when Easter Island was well out of sight, the hatch was opened and the islanders were allowed on deck. The men immediately jumped overboard; the women could be restrained only with difficulty. The captain put out sloops and sailed around the ship, attempting to coax the men on board again, but they continued to swim away from the boats. It is not known whether any of them reached Easter Island, but the chance is extremely slight, despite their reputation as formidable ocean swimmers. According to one version of the story, the women were taken to Más Afuera, but another version of events has them taken back to Easter Island and ‘dumped’ just off the coast.36 A story of a different kind, but sad nonetheless, is that of an Easter Island boy who was taken to England in 1806 aboard the British whaling ship



The Survival of Easter Island

Adventure – either as a curiosity or as a gift, as sometimes happened with ‘savages’ from the colonies and other exotic lands.37 In this case, however, his ‘abduction’ may have been revenge for the allegedly inhospitable treatment received by the crew, since the Adventure, under the command of Captain Benjamin Page, had arrived shortly after the aforementioned dramatic events. Page was received with a shower of stones and sustained a chest injury. Whatever the reasons for taking the boy along, he was well treated on board and arrived safely in England. The boy spent several years with Page’s family in London, living with them as a kind of adopted son, but after five years he expressed a desire to return to his native island. Page agreed to this, but only after having the boy baptized in the historic church in the London borough of Rotherhithe. According to the account of this baptism, the boy was the youngest son of the Easter Island king Crang-alow, but he is recorded in the baptismal register under the appealing name of Henry Easter. Nothing more is known of Henry’s experiences, apart from his repatriation to Easter Island, where he became the only Christian in residence, at least for the time being. No doubt the Easter Islanders listened in amazement to his stories about Tower Bridge, the large mansions, the harbours of London and the church services in Rotherhithe, and perhaps they enjoyed listening to the English hymns Henry might have sung to them. By this time, Easter Islanders were extremely wary of foreigners. This was definitely the impression received by Otto von Kotzebue, the German captain of the Russian ship Rurik, which dropped anchor at Easter Island in 1816. In this period, the Russians were making an ever-greater display of power, one manifestation of which was the truly scientific expedition that sailed around the Pacific for several years under the command of Kotzebue. His expedition intended to visit Easter Island as well, but the two rowing boats that headed for shore were obstructed by hundreds of islanders, who pelted them with stones. A second attempt also failed. The few sailors who finally reached the shore felt as though they were ‘surrounded by nothing but apes’ and returned in their boats to the ship.38 Though the expedition never disembarked, the islanders proved willing to barter, and the scientists on board were able to observe something of their culture. They noted that there was apparently no lack of tree bark, since white and yellow cloaks made of this material were very common. There were few headdresses to be seen, but necklaces with pendants consisting of beautifully polished shells were much in evidence. The characteristic pierced and elongated earlobes were seen on only a few of the older men.39 The draughtsman on board, Ludovic Choris, made sketches of


the coast and also drew a number of objects, including a canoe, a paddle and the decorated wooden staff known as a paoa. They also succeeded in obtaining a splendid statuette of the birdman, the tangata manu, recognizable by the hooked bill of the frigatebird. These treasures can now be seen at the museum in St Petersburg.40 Five years later, in 1821, the islanders’ xenophobia had cooled to the extent that Edward Dobson, a passenger on board the trading vessel Surry, was able to give us an account of his visit to the island.41 Of the goods brought along for bartering purposes, the most popular were articles of clothing and razors. An Easter Islander with a long beard made it clear that he wanted a shave, and a member of the crew immediately obliged him. Dobson was impressed by the gardens, particularly their orderliness. The crops stood in neat rows in the fields. He could honestly report that it exceeded all expectations one had of ‘such people’. Less than a year later, however, there was trouble again, when the crew of the Pindus misbehaved. The ship had set sail for Easter Island in 1822 to do business there. The sailors – rough customers in search of furs and skins – were mainly interested in the girls on the island. The men went ashore and managed to row back to their ships with a reasonable number of young females, who were subjected to a whole night of abuse. The next morning, they were taken ashore: that is to say, they were rowed a short distance and then forced to swim the rest of the way. On shore, a large group of islanders awaited the girls’ arrival. This regrettable incident even had a deadly sequel, when Richard Weeden, one of the seamen, got so excited that he fired a couple of farewell salvos at the crowd on the shore, thus causing a number of fatalities.42 In the following years, dozens of ships managed to find the island, and each time the islanders waited with trepidation for the visitors to make their intentions known. As far as we can tell, most of them came to barter. The island produced what it could: yams, bananas and sweet potatoes were supplied in great quantities to the seamen, and any freely bestowed sexual favours were certainly not refused. The islanders still pilfered whenever they could:  ‘The wimmin get in the boat and make love with the officer so the men can get a chance to steal’, noted an American sailor in 1849.43 Occasionally the islanders bartered statuettes or other artefacts, receiving in return textiles and ironmongery, knives and fishhooks, and – from the whalers  – a bit of frozen whale blubber. Cigarettes or tobacco are not mentioned in these accounts, and the islanders showed almost no interest in strong drink. Those who tried it found that alcohol disagreed with them and spat it out again. The seamens’ accounts are usually very



The Survival of Easter Island

brief. Among the five somewhat longer ones, the account written in 1827 by the Englishman Hugh Cuming and that of the Frenchman Abel Aubert Dupetit-Thouars of 1838 are the most informative. Cuming’s account was found in the Mitchell Library in Sydney and published in its entirety only in 1991.44 He confirms yet again that the island was ‘extremely well cultivated’, and comments on the fine appearance of the inhabitants, the elongated, pierced earlobes, the customary feather ‘turban’ and the necklace with a shell pendant. The islanders’ desire for clothes and handkerchiefs appears to have been undiminished. Cuming traded a shirt for a couple of wooden statuettes that are described in his account. They were shaped like humans and fish, and he suspected that they were household deities. Cuming was the first to record a statuette with a fish-head. During his visit, the islanders showed a great deal of interest in (metal) fishhooks and wood and would gladly exchange a whole bag of vegetables for a single hook. Cuming saw no chickens. Other accounts from the first half of the nineteenth century corroborate the increasing scarcity of chickens and the islanders’ growing interest in fishhooks, possibly because of their good experiences with the first ones they had bartered. Fish remained an important source of protein. Cuming remarks on the thinness and flexibility of the sticks with stone points that he observed, finding them more suitable as fishing spears than as weapons. Among the crew was a man from ‘Paumotuan’ (present-day Tuamotuan), but he understood only a few words of the island’s language and could not communicate easily with the natives. Cuming thought the islanders loud and garrulous, but otherwise he was rather positive about their behaviour. He also suspected he had met a chief, judging by the man’s extraordinary tattoos, his clothing and his readiness to give orders to the others. Cuming also noted the presence on the coast of the huge monuments from the past. Dupetit-Thouars, captain of the frigate La Vénus, came to the island in 1838 in search of a provisioning base for French whaling ships (see Figure  7.3). On the west coast, he saw a few monuments which he recognized as the ‘morais’ described by previous visitors. He was also struck by the stone pyramids with white stones on top. These were the tupa that presumably served as tombs, some of which had been redesignated as hare moa (chicken houses). This Frenchman had an eye for detail. He reported, for example, that the women swam differently from the men, the latter moving their arms and legs at the same time, whereas the former used their limbs alternately. In his opinion, all the women of Easter Island swam like that. He also gave a pretty accurate description of the wooden statuette he received in barter. He found the body rather roughly carved, but the


Figure  7.3.  Sketch by Louis-Jules Masselot of Easter Islanders dancing on the deck of La Vénus (from Abel Aubert Dupetit-Thouars, Atlas pittoresque du voyage autour du monde sur la frégate La Vénus (Paris:  Gide et Cie, édit., 5, rue des Petits-Augustins, Paris, 1846).

head betrayed true craftsmanship: the irises of the eyes were made of bone and the pupils of lava stone. The islanders showed little interest in the knives and scissors the crew had brought along, but they continually called out the word miro (wood), to make clear to Dupetit-Thouars what they wanted. The Frenchman was truly the product of an enlightened nation, as far as the interpretation of female behaviour is concerned, for he took the modesty he perceived in the nearly naked womenfolk to be a sign of cultural progress. Otherwise, his account contains the now-familiar reports of Easter Island: jolly people who loved caps and hats, men who drew the foreigners’ attention to willing girls, and huge quantities of bananas, sweet potatoes and yams. Clearly, quite a bit of cultivation and bartering went on in those years. Easter Island had admittedly been put on the map, but it was known to seafarers mainly as a place to pick up provisions. On balance, this dark phase brought little of good to the island. Even though only a couple of visitors were hit by stones in this whole period, Easter Island received at least three visits that were marred by many casualties among the inhabitants. But this was nothing compared to what happened shortly after 1862.



The Survival of Easter Island

Peruvian Raids In the second half of the nineteenth century, South America’s growing economies needed cheap labour, which could not always be found locally. This scarcity created a profitable market for press gangs, since it was often more lucrative to supply the workers than to do the work oneself. (This still holds true in some sectors.) The wealthy hacienda owners were, like their counterparts in the southern United States, in search of cheap labour: ­people to work as domestic servants in their homes and as labourers on their plantations. Along the coast of South America, it was the guano industry, in particular, that was short of workers. Guano, the urine and faeces of birds, was used as a fertilizer in farming. Rich in nitrogen and phosphates – richer than cow or horse manure – it is considered the natural predecessor of artificial fertilizer. For efficiency’s sake, it was generally collected only from colony breeders, which was a dirty and difficult job. In the late nineteenth century, people were forcibly recruited to work in the guano mines. This was done on a scale many times greater than the efforts made in the first half of the century to find hunters for the fur trade.45 The Peruvians, the most active in this growing slave trade, scoured the entire Pacific region for sources of cheap labour. In the beginning, this involved only small numbers of people, many of whom were reasonably willing to ‘volunteer’, even though they had no idea what they were letting themselves in for. But in mid-1862, recruitment activities escalated. The first ship that set out with the intention of capturing slaves was the Adelante, which sailed from Callao in Peru on 15 June and returned on 3 September carrying 253 slaves from Tongareva and the Cook Islands:  men, women and children who were sold for $200, $150 and $100, respectively. In just three months, one could earn $30,000 – a fortune in those days.46 This encouraged human trafficking, and Easter Island became a target for such activities. The Bella Margarita and the Eliza Mason set sail for the island. The latter made a detour via the Marquesas, but the Bella Margarita returned to Callao on 24 November with 154 Easter Islanders, almost all of them men. The captain managed to sell them immediately for an average of $300 per person, thus earning around $46,000 and far surpassing the profits of his predecessor. This opened the floodgates, and within a couple of weeks a fleet of eight ships set out to kidnap more islanders to serve as workers, a practice known as ‘black-birding’. In the meantime, the General Prim made the journey there and back in only forty-one days, arriving in Callao on 6 January 1863 with 115 Easter Islanders, the majority of them men. The British deputy


consul E. W. Robertson, who saw them come ashore, remarked that the people were in good health and had apparently boarded the ship voluntarily. The Eliza Mason also reached Easter Island eventually, before the arrival of the eight-ship fleet, and returned to Callao on 26 January carrying 238 islanders. The captain admitted that he had enticed the 140 men, 86 women and 12 children on board with gifts, but swore that they had signed up voluntarily for the journey and that an interpreter had clearly explained to them the nature of their contracts.47 The anthropologist Grant McCall, who made a close study of the human trafficking that went on in the Pacific, found some support for the idea that these first three groups with a total of 507 people had left the island more or less voluntarily.48 The islanders had become increasingly aware of the rather primitive conditions on the island through their contact with foreign visitors. In McCall’s view, once people started to leave the island, others were inclined to follow, perhaps in order to join their relatives. The gifts and false pretences – the slave traders no doubt painted a rosy picture of the work that awaited the islanders in their new home – must have made it easier to leave the island. Meanwhile, the fleet of eight ships had arrived at Easter Island in late December. The first ship to drop anchor immediately tried to lure people on board, but found the islanders disinclined to come along. When the other ships arrived, the captains consulted one another and resolved to mount a concerted, armed attack, led by Captain Marutani, the Spanish commander of the clipper Rosa y Carmen, the flagship of the ‘armada’. The notorious Marutani – a real buccaneer who was always armed to the teeth – was in command of the largest and most heavily armed ship. The captains devised a plan to get as many people as possible on board the Rosa y Carmen, where they would be branded and then distributed among the other ships. To this end, the sailors went ashore and set up a display of armbands, mirrors and other baubles to tempt the islanders. When some five hundred islanders had gathered around the sailors, Captain Marutani fired a shot in the air with his revolver, which was the sign to leap into action. His salvo was answered by the seamen. The unsuspecting islanders were terrified. Even though it had been the intention only to fire in the air, several members of the crew lost their heads, and the result was ten casualties. The throng panicked and fled in all directions, with the sailors in hot pursuit. The scuffle turned into a free-for-all, and dozens of islanders were conveyed to the ships at gunpoint. Many others managed to hide in caves or flee to the hills. The atmosphere was grim and violent. Two unfortunate souls were discovered in a cave and mercilessly



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 7.4.   Edmond-Prosper de Lesseps (1815–68), French chargé d’affaires in Peru.

shot when they refused to come out of their hiding place. Evidently, one day of bloodshed was not enough, for the sailors returned the next morning to continue their hunt. In the end, 349 Easter Islanders were seized in these ‘December raids’, as they are referred to in the records.49 The slave traders kept returning to the island, and in February 1863 the crew of the Rosalia cunningly succeeded in taking 196 people. It was soon followed by the Teresa with another 203. When they came ashore in Callao, Deputy Consul Robertson was again on hand to witness the event. He noted that the men were dressed in shirts and trousers and the women in skirts, and he let the captain persuade him that they had come of their own free will. The French chargé d’affaires in Lima, Edmond de Lesseps (see Figure 7.4), was more distrustful. His interest in Easter Island no doubt stemmed from the fact that his father, Jean-Baptiste Barthélemy


de Lesseps, had been the sole survivor of the French expedition to Easter Island in 1786. Relations between France and Peru were already strained, owing to Peru’s support of the revolution in Mexico. France, after all, was bent on expanding – at the expense of Spain – its sphere of influence in the Pacific. De Lesseps spoke with the Dutch ship’s carpenter Harry Maas, who had sailed on the Teresa. Maas told him that the islanders had been lured on board by the promise of fishhooks and clothing, whereupon the ship suddenly set sail.50 While objections to human trafficking gradually increased, certainly among the English, ships continued to ply the Pacific on labour-recruiting missions. A few captains were decent enough to take on board only those who seemed genuinely willing, and sailed on if the islanders appeared reluctant to leave, but other captains used the usual enticements to tempt people to come on board, and sometimes employed violence as well. A total of sixteen ships were involved in the transport of Easter Islanders to Peru. The protests grew louder, and on 28 April 1863 new regulations came into force that prohibited human trafficking. At the time, ships were still en route, and when they finally returned in June and July with another 54 men and women, it increased the total for Easter Island to 1,407 – a huge drain on the population, considering that in all probability just over 4,000 people had been living on the island around 1860. More than one-third of the islanders had been carried off in less than six months.

Between Hope and Fear By the time the last shipload of Polynesian workers arrived in Peru, there had been numerous casualties among those who had come with the first ships. Many of these victims had been working the guano deposits in the Chincha Islands. Most of the women had stayed on the mainland to serve as domestics and work on the plantations. That Easter Islanders were put to work on the Chincha Islands is suggested by the discovery there of a statuette from Easter Island.51 The guano workers were chained together and subjected to hard labour under appalling conditions. The missionary W. Wyatt Gill wrote, on the authority of an eyewitness, that whenever a worker died, a hole was dug in the guano and the body simply thrown into it to decompose.52 The number of Easter Islanders working in the guano mines remains a subject of dispute. Grant McCall, for example, maintains that the Easter Islanders in Peru were relatively well off; that few, if any, mined the guano deposits; and that the large majority worked on the mainland as servants.53 Cushman, on the other hand, states that 1863 was a ‘bad



The Survival of Easter Island

year for disease in Peru no matter who you were. A measles epidemic broke out in February, and the strain of influenza that year was so malignant that locals named it “mala fe” (“bad faith”). Tuberculosis, a respiratory disease that also thrives on poorly nourished individuals in enclosed environments, was actually the leading cause of mortality among Islanders whose cause of death was recorded, slightly outnumbering those killed by diarrheal illness.’54 In May 1863, a smallpox epidemic followed. This was ‘by far the worst that struck the country during the course of the nineteenth century, killing a quarter of those infected’.55 In the meantime, more and more objections were raised to what was in effect a slave trade conducted with the tacit consent of the authorities, and other countries began to exert pressure on Peru to put an end to it. The aforementioned Edmond de Lesseps, who played an important role in these developments, took it upon himself to investigate the matter. The Peruvian government, too, realized that something had to be done and announced regulations to limit the influx of workers. Inquiries were made about the lawfulness of the licensing system that granted traders permission to recruit Polynesian labourers. W. Stafford Jerningham, the British chargé d’affaires, finally realized the seriousness of the situation when he heard that people had been taken under false pretences from islands that were part of the British protectorate in the Pacific. He sought redress from the Peruvian minister of foreign affairs, Paz Soldán, who appealed to a treaty that supposedly allowed human trafficking if the people had actually volunteered. The Englishman was told to keep his own house in order, and the Peruvians would take care of theirs. The correspondence that followed reveals that Jerningham had not done his homework and did not even know which British islands were involved. By the spring of 1863, de Lesseps was ready to take action. He had collected so many facts about the illegality of the slave trade that his protests were now taken seriously, and European governments had also begun to exert pressure on Peru. The new minister of foreign affairs, Juan Antonio Ribeyro, who had assumed his post in April, quickly distanced himself from previous policy. He and several colleagues in the government realized that a more humane stance was called for. At the end of April, Ribeyro wrote a letter to a fellow minister, acknowledging that the whole project had been both an economic failure and a cause of great misery, as evidenced by the surprisingly high number of deaths among the Polynesian workers. Not only did those people deserve our compassion, Ribeyro wrote, but the recruitment of Polynesian labourers must be prohibited.


Ribeyro’s letter was followed on 13 May by an official declaration drafted by the diplomatic corps. This document condemned the atrocities committed, praised the measures taken to end the slave trade and expressed satisfaction at Peru’s abolishment of human trafficking, which proved how much the Peruvians valued a moral, just and humane government.56 This political about-face came sooner than expected. As the declaration was being signed, the last Peruvian ships were still unloading their human merchandise. These ships had begun their return journey before the regulations had come into effect, thus posing the next problem:  what was the status of the imported workers? Were they now legally free to return to their native countries?

The Return Journey After his struggle to stop human trafficking, de Lesseps continued tirelessly to fight for more humane treatment of the Polynesian labourers in Peru, pleading for their release and repatriation. He encountered many obstacles, one being Minister Ribeyro. They disagreed about who was to blame and who should bear the responsibility for setting things right. Ribeyro, who sought improvements in working conditions and regulations to limit the extent of hard labour, saw a clear role for the state in these developments. Calls for repatriation became louder, however, and when the British and French governments became directly involved, it was obvious that this course of action merited serious consideration. The arrival of the Barbara Gómez in Callao on 11 June with twenty-three new workers from Easter Island provoked the decision to take them back immediately, preferably with as many workers as possible from previous shipments. Rounding them up took a while, because by this time the Polynesians were scattered all over Peru and it was difficult to bring them to Callao. When the last slave boat, the Urmeneta y Ramos, arrived on 10 July and turned out to have another thirty-one Easter Islanders on board, these late arrivals joined the growing group of waiting repatriates. The Barbara Gómez was chartered to take them home. Initially there were 200 – almost the boat’s official capacity – but under pressure from the authorities, many more were added, until the group had swelled to a total of 470. As soon as de Lesseps heard that the Barbara Gómez had been hired to repatriate the workers, he knew it was a bad idea, because the inhabitants of the islands would certainly meet any Spanish or South American ship with hostility. Why not choose the Diamant, a French steamer that was



The Survival of Easter Island

due to leave for Tahiti? Moreover, the Barbara Gómez, which was badly in need of repairs, could not accommodate 470 passengers. De Lesseps tried to persuade the English to support his view, and the result was a joint letter to Minister Ribeyro. While the diplomats and the government discussed the issue by letter, the conditions deteriorated for those waiting in Callao. Their ambiguous status made it unclear who was responsible for them; they lacked food and, after a while, clothing. To make matters worse, there was an outbreak of smallpox among the Polynesians, who were packed together in overcrowded quarters, awaiting repatriation. It had long been obvious that they had little resistance to disease and were faring badly in their South American surroundings. Many of them fell ill and died. Vaccination programmes were set up to prevent infectious diseases from spreading, but this was done too late to stop the spread of smallpox among the workers waiting in Callao. Their repatriation was now a matter of urgency: the captain of a ship leaving for the Marquesas declared his willingness to take an extra twenty-nine people; on 18 August, the Barbara Gómez was also ready to leave. Of the 470 people waiting to embark, 162 had died. Nearly all those remaining (including 100 Easter Islanders) had smallpox or had been infected by the virus. The ship first made a long detour, which caused the voyage to last more than a month. Along the way, the Polynesians were dying like flies, and one corpse after another was thrown overboard. When they finally arrived at Easter Island in September, only fifteen islanders were still alive. In the following months, a few Easter Islanders returned from Peru via other routes. Of the 3,125 labourers taken to Peru, 1,219 boarded ships hired to repatriate them, but only 157 survived the homeward voyage. Easter Island was the worst hit of all the islands that had supplied ‘recruits’ for Peru. Indeed, it might have been better for Easter Island if none of its inhabitants had made it home alive, for those who returned now brought death to their loved ones. The disastrous consequences of their repatriation became increasingly evident, and the presence of missionaries on the island, starting in 1864, ensured that these consequences were well documented by eyewitnesses.

The True Collapse More than 4,000 Easter Islanders had been living on the island before the Peruvian slave raids, but the population had dropped to approximately 2,600 by the end of 1863. A  disproportionately large number of victims had belonged to the island’s elite group of spiritual and social leaders. The


consequent loss of knowledge about Easter Island’s traditions posed a serious threat to its culture. Despite the sharp drop in population, however, there were, theoretically, more than enough people left to make a new start. It was not the first time that the island’s inhabitants had been called upon to demonstrate their resilience: they had adapted to deforestation and dwindling resources; and they had survived shootings and combated the consequences of introduced diseases, such as syphilis. Now, however, they were confronted with a more virulent enemy:  the smallpox virus, which was spreading, slowly but surely, over the entire island. Together with tuberculosis, another new arrival, this disease sowed death and destruction. One islander after another became infected and died. In the meantime, groups of still-healthy inhabitants were leaving for other islands. The few statistics we have tell a clear story. The missionary Hippolyte Roussel reported in 1869 that there were only 650 people left on the island.57 Pierre Loti, the nom de plume of the naval officer and later writer Louis Marie Julien Viaud, who spent several days on the island in 1872, was shocked by the large numbers of bones and skulls he saw, and he likened the island to ‘a vast ossuary’.58 Alphonse Pinart, who visited Easter Island several years later, could smell the dead.59 In 1877, when the epidemic was over, he counted a mere 110 Easter Islanders.60 The downfall had taken place in less than ten years; Easter Island had finally experienced a true collapse. The Peruvians and the smallpox virus succeeded in doing, to dramatic effect, what deforestation, rat-induced devastation and a dearth of natural resources had failed to bring about. Food production all but ceased. Whereas Eugène Eyraud had written in 1864 that a couple of days of work was all that was needed to produce enough food for the entire year, Roussel noted in 1869 that meagre crops were forcing people to go hungry for at least four months a year.61 The fields were neglected, and the missionaries reported hostilities among the islanders, including fire-raising, in attempts to destroy each other’s harvests and houses. Such behaviour, never before seen on the island, suggests a lack of generally recognized leaders and authority. There are indications that the last descendant of the royal family died during deportation, and that nearly all the priests had disappeared as well. Knowledge of the past was lost. For a long time, the cultural rituals had not been properly performed; now, however, societal structures began to disappear, resulting in social disarray and demoralization. Roussel reported frequent suicides, the islanders’ method of choice being to jump off the cliffs. The missionaries also suspected cannibalism, but could supply no proof of it. That this practice continues to



The Survival of Easter Island

crop up in their accounts is entirely in keeping with their negative view of the moral standards of the Kanakas, as they called the natives. The missionaries witnessed the downfall of a Polynesian culture that was unique in many respects. Easter Island, in 1862, was the last un-Christianized Polynesian island, with a fascinating pre-modern culture that had demonstrated its resilience, adapted to dwindling resources and resisted subordination to any foreign peoples. But the full breadth of Easter Island culture had vanished forever. After the collapse, there remained little more than a hundred people, some snippets of memories and the material residue of their earlier culture, scattered like debris over the island – and of course the new, non-native inhabitants, who from now on would be part of the island’s history.

Chapter 8

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research Immigrants In 1833, Pope Gregory XVI divided the Pacific region into western and eastern mission territories and entrusted their Christianization to two French religious groups, giving a monopoly of the eastern territory to the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.1 It was the Pope’s express intention to bring the true Catholic faith to the peoples of Polynesia, and to combat the heathenism and the heresy propagated by the Protestant mission, which in the preceding centuries had been quite suc­ cessful in converting large parts of Polynesia to Protestantism. The Pope’s missionary task was carried out with such zeal that Catholicism gained a great deal of ground in the following decades. There was one excep­ tion, however: Easter Island. Owing in part to its isolation, this island had escaped the missionaries’ notice. It was Captain Lejeune, commander of the French warship Cassini, who, upon returning to Valparaíso in early 1862, pointed out to the mission this blank spot on the map. Lejeune had visited the island and had seen for himself that the people were unfamil­ iar with Christianity. Obviously, Easter Island was fertile ground for the Catholic mission. The Catholic mission was also a means of strengthening French hege­ mony in the region. Owing to the tragic events that had taken place there – the raids carried out by Peruvian slave traders – Easter Island had suddenly become the focus of international attention, which may well have prompted the decision to permit the missionary Eugène Eyraud to set out for Easter Island in 1863. His time there coincided with a difficult and turbulent phase in the island’s history. In the 1860s, Easter Island’s popu­ lation was nearly wiped out by introduced diseases, and from this time on, the inhabitants were constantly exposed to foreign influences of a cultural, 145


The Survival of Easter Island

social and religious nature. The missionaries were soon followed by other foreigners who came to settle on the island. What remained of the original culture was corrupted by immigrants; besides the Catholic missionaries, there were adventurers and sheep breeders, not to mention the Chilean government, which annexed the island in 1888. Soon the anthropologists began to arrive as well. The island’s past was reinvented, and in addition to its official Spanish name, Isla de Pascua, it acquired a new Polynesian name: Rapa Nui, ‘Big Rapa’. Written as one word – Rapanui − it became the name of the language spoken on the island. Easter Island had finally become an official part of the larger world.

The First Missionary Eugène Eyraud (see Figure 8.1), a driven man with deep religious feelings, had gone to South America to work as a mechanic, in order to pay for his brother’s theological studies and his dispatch to a mission. Gradually Eugène, too, felt an urge to preach the gospel, and thus became a lay friar of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Captain Lejeune’s story had not fallen on deaf ears, for in 1862 Eyraud and several other friars asked to be sent to Easter Island, still ignorant of the drama that was unfolding there. When at last they received permission to leave, they managed to persuade a schooner to make a detour and take them to Easter Island, along with six natives who were being repatriated. The group travelled via Tahiti, where they first heard of the seriousness of the Peruvian raids. The other friars decided to return on the same ship, but Eyraud was unde­ terred: his mission lay on Easter Island. He had not come unprepared. His baggage contained a small, prefabricated wooden house, as well as the nec­ essary carpenter’s tools, some plants and seeds, five sheep and a catechism in the Tahitian language. On board, he became acquainted with Daniel, a native of Mangareva and a convert to Catholicism, who had promised to help bring his things ashore. He also became friendly with Pana, one of the returning Easter Islanders. When they arrived at the island on 2 January 1864, there was initial uncertainty about where they should land. Eyraud wanted to go ashore at Anakena, because that was where he intended to live, but the captain thought Anarova (now Hanga Roa) a better place to moor. He said that the islanders would be willing to carry Eyraud’s things to Anakena in exchange for a few articles of clothing. Daniel first rowed the returning Easter Islanders ashore, but he was frightened by the enormous crowd of people and their rather inhospitable behaviour. In fact, he found

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

Figure  8.1.   This portrait on the wall of the church in Hanga Roa is said to portray Eugène Eyraud (1820–68).

them so intimidating that he returned in haste to the schooner, told the captain what he had seen and tried to dissuade Eyraud from going ashore, telling him that the captain would take him back to Tahiti at no extra cost. Eyraud was determined to be taken to the island, however, and arranged for the captain to put his baggage ashore at Anakena the fol­ lowing day. He was rowed to the coast, and he and Pana set off immedi­ ately. About halfway to Anakena they decided to stop and sleep in a cave. The next morning, they continued on their way, and finally reached Anakena after an arduous hike. Eyraud was not used to walking on rough terrain, and his feet were covered with blisters. The schooner eventu­ ally appeared in the bay later that day, yet nothing was brought ashore. Eyraud tried to signal the ship, but there was no response, and after sev­ eral hours it sailed away. He remained behind, dismayed to be left there without his baggage. It was not his material possessions that he cared about, it was his Tahitian catechism, for what could he possibly hope



The Survival of Easter Island

to achieve without it? Just before nightfall, Pana came to report that Eyraud’s baggage had been put ashore after all − at Anarova. After spend­ ing the night at Pana’s house, they made the painful hike back to retrieve the baggage. It was indeed on the coast, but everything not inside the locked chests had been stolen. Eyraud saw a man wearing his hat and another walking around in his jacket. The islanders were in no mood for honest barter, after their terrible experiences with the slave traders. Even so, Eyraud’s courageous behaviour commanded respect, and he was now left alone to assemble his house in peace. After spending two nights in typical Easter Island comfort – first in a cave and then in Pana’s primitive dwelling – he now had a roof over his head and a place where his posses­ sions were reasonably safe. The first foreigner to settle on Easter Island was ready to start his new life. Brother Eyraud was bent on establishing cordial relations with the island­ ers and making a success of his religious mission on this hostile island. His neighbour − Torometi, an ariki, or leader – took him under his wing, thus robbing Eyraud of his freedom (and frequently his property as well), but giving him the opportunity to do his missionary work. One thing that Torometi refused to do, however, was help construct a place of worship; indeed, he thwarted all of Eyraud’s plans to build a church. Eyraud there­ fore concentrated on giving reading lessons and teaching the words of the prayers to anyone who showed an interest. To facilitate contact with the islanders, he tried to learn Rapanui, but this proved more difficult than he had expected. Eyraud could not complain about a lack of interest in either himself or his teachings: the young people came knocking on his door, and if he did not come out quickly enough, they began to throw stones, which was their way of urging him to start the lessons immediately. Eyraud was honest enough to admit that much of this interest could be attributed to a lack of anything better to do. Owing in part to the disappear­ ance of their priests, the Easter Islanders had been deprived of ritual in recent years, so they listened with rapt attention to Eyraud’s stories about his Christian God and the suffering of Christ on the cross. Inasmuch as the islanders understood these stories, they seemed to concur with their own ideas about the creator god Makemake and the misery they, too, had expe­ rienced at the hands of foreigners. Eyraud’s teachings were comforting. The missionary saw very little evidence, however, of Easter Island’s own religion: once or twice he saw someone with a wooden statuette, but when he asked what purpose it served, he was told that it was simply one of their traditions.

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

Communication was a big problem. To find out what the islanders thought about life after death, Eyraud confronted them with their own mor­ tality, but his question was interpreted as a curse. His work proceeded with great difficulty, and he gradually became drawn into the inevitable rivalries between the island’s leaders and their respective followers. His protector, Torometi, was not very popular, and during one of the many skirmishes that took place, Torometi’s house was set on fire by a rival clan. When Eyraud voiced criticism of the festivities surrounding the birdman cult in September 1864, his remarks were taken the wrong way, and once again his clothing was stolen, this time so thoroughly that he had little left to wear. In his report, he remarked wryly: ‘I found myself dressed pretty much like my neighbours.’2 He felt compelled to move to Vainu (now Vaihu) at the southeast point of the island, where he found a slightly calmer audience for his catechism lessons. Eyraud’s presence on the island became increasingly problematic. In early October, a ship appeared on the horizon that eventually dropped anchor at Anarova. It was the Teresa Ramos, which was flying under the French flag and carrying Father Barnabé, a colleague of Eyraud who had come to find out how he was doing. A sloop headed for shore, but Torometi did not wait for it to land; instead, he carried Eyraud through the surf to deliver him personally to the boat. Brother Eyraud’s nine difficult months on Easter Island came to an end on 11 October 1864. Despite his bitter experiences and disillusionment, he returned to Chile in an optimistic mood. ‘As for me, when the decision is made definitively to establish a mis­ sion on the island, I might be able to give some useful advice to those to whom this task is assigned’, he wrote at the end of his report.3

The Second Mission Back in Chile, Eyraud lost no time in promoting the missionary work on Easter Island. He hoped to return there himself, thinking that better working conditions would lead to more satisfactory results. His request to return to the island was granted, and he set sail on 25 March 1866. Under the auspices of the bishop of Tahiti, Tepano Jaussen − who not only wielded ecclesiastical power on Easter Island, but also, given the lack of formal rule, exercised a certain degree of civil authority − Eyraud returned to Easter Island in the company of his intended successor, Father Hippolyte Roussel, and seven natives of Mangareva who had converted to Catholicism. This was certainly no promotion for Roussel, whose rigid attitude had made him so unpopular on Mangareva that he



The Survival of Easter Island

was now being transferred to Easter Island. Eyraud’s previous experi­ ences on the island had led them to take along a burglarproof metal shed and enough tools and sufficient timber to build a church. The atmosphere on the island seemed to have improved. This time, there was no hostile reception or serious vandalism, though someone broke the lock on the metal shed, and the islanders harassed the missionaries by throwing stones at the structure, obviously taking pleasure in the deaf­ ening noise it made. The mission built a wooden church at Hanga Roa. The Sunday services held there attracted more and more people, some of whom consented to be baptized. Like Eyraud, Roussel committed his experiences and observations to paper for his ecclesiastical patrons.4 Both of their reports are valuable sources of information about life on the island in a period of turbulence and change. During the missionar­ ies’ term of residence, the population was nearly wiped out by disease and emigration. What remained of the ancient Easter Island culture was changing under the influence of permanent foreign residents, whose priority was to pursue their own interests. On 6 November 1866, the mission received reinforcements, the German priest Gaspard Zumbohm and the Chilean friar Hermano Teodulo Escolán, who had been sent partly as a counterbalance to Roussel’s brusque behav­ iour. They arrived on the schooner Tampico and settled at Vaihu. Over a year later, Zumbohm returned to Chile to fetch supplies – building mater­ ials, for example, and probably tools to work the land  – as well as some cattle: ‘a complete Noah’s ark’, as he described it. By the end of 1868, Easter Island could boast dogs and cats, dozens of sheep, eight cows and a bull, six donkeys, four pigs and a horse. Hundreds more horses and sheep would fol­ low in the coming years. The vegetation on the island changed completely under the influence of all these grazing animals and their manure. One or two things changed for the people too. In addition to the church, the mission built a hospital on the edge of the village, intended mainly as a place to care for (and isolate) patients with infectious diseases. This did not prevent contagion, however: tuberculosis and smallpox continued to afflict the inhabitants, and the result was a sharp drop in population. To the missionaries’ delight, the decline in population was inversely pro­ portional to the survivors’ interest in the Catholic faith. Father Zumbohm appeared to get  along well with the islanders, and the missionaries suc­ ceeded in Christianizing the whole of Easter Island. In August 1868, when a headcount revealed that there were still approximately eight hundred Easter Islanders, Brother Eugène Eyraud died of tuberculosis, which he had contracted in his own mission hospital. Tradition has it that his last

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

words were, ‘Have they all been baptized?’ The reply  – ‘all of them’  – allowed Eyraud to die peacefully in the knowledge that his mission had been accomplished.5 With the help of the seeds and animals they had brought with them, the missionaries hoped to improve the living conditions on the island and to set up profitable agricultural and horticultural projects for the mission, just as they had done on the Gambier and the Marquesas islands. They cleared some ground and planted a mission garden, in which an orange and a fig tree soon blossomed, but the island never became the ‘paradise’ predicted by Jacob Roggeveen. This would have required adequate sources of water, and fresh water could be found only in the crater lakes, which made it dif­ ficult to keep pigs, for example. Sheep fared better here, and this showed promise for the future, because the island was largely covered in grass, now that its forests had disappeared. Still, the missionaries were not the only ones with this idea.

Sheep Breeder, Adventurer and King Jean-Baptiste Onésime Dutrou-Bornier was the captain of the schooner Tampico, which had brought Zumbohm and Escolán to the island in 1866. Dutrou-Bornier was an adventurer who had fought in the Crimean War and was now trying his luck in the Pacific. He had been sailing for a num­ ber of years between Tahiti and Valparaíso and regularly called at Easter Island. He, too, saw the island’s emptiness and abundance of grass as good reasons to start a sheep-breeding business. And, since success in the Pacific depended on the support of the Church and the commercial world, he sought backing for his plans in Tahiti from Bishop Tepano Jaussen and the influential British businessman John Brander. Dutrou-Bornier was lucky: the bishop approved of his plans, and Brander agreed to invest in the project. Dutrou-Bornier lost no time in putting his plan into action. He landed on Easter Island in late 1868, having brought along the necessary build­ ing materials, cattle, seeds and plant cuttings. The captain set to work in true entrepreneurial style. With stones ‘borrowed’ from Orongo, the cer­ emonial centre of the birdman cult, he built a fine house in Mataveri, close to Eyraud’s little church. The cattle were put out to pasture and the sheep ate their fill of the plentiful grass. Some of his sheep had come from Australia, from the Namoi Valley in New South Wales; the Easter Islanders corrupted the name Namoi to mamu, a word still used there today as a generic term for sheep. The animals felt at home on the



The Survival of Easter Island

island and soon outnumbered the people. The mission was unhappy with the sheep breeder’s aggressive behaviour, however. Dutrou-Bornier got along rather well with the tolerant Eyraud, but when the latter died that same year, relations between Dutrou-Bornier and the missionaries quickly became strained. Father Roussel, who saw himself as the leader of the mission – and, by extension, the entire island – was irritated by the ambitious entrepreneur, who flaunted his power by surrounding him­ self with armed European guards and intimidating anyone who tried to cross him. By contrast, Dutrou-Bornier got along rather well with Zumbohm – whose peace-loving nature was made even more concilia­ tory by the onset of illness – and recognized and respected the priest’s ‘territory’ in Vaihu. In the meantime, Dutrou-Bornier’s sheep breeding had begun to flour­ ish. It was not a very labour-intensive business; the island had more than enough workers to keep it going. It even left him some time to pursue a sideline, so when the financier Brander needed labourers for his planta­ tions on other Pacific islands, Dutrou-Bornier persuaded a couple of hun­ dred Easter Islanders to leave their homes and go to work elsewhere – a friendly gesture for which he asked ten dollars a head.6 By now, the missionaries had had enough:  seeing no future for themselves and their work, they left Easter Island in 1871. Leaving some 350 islanders behind,7 Father Zumbohm, whose health had deteriorated, travelled on a warship to Valparaíso. Roussel was reluctant to leave the people to their fate, unpro­ tected from Dutrou-Bornier’s harsh regime. He offered to have them taken to the Gambier and the Marquesas islands, where they could work in good conditions on the Church’s coconut plantations. Several dozen island­ ers took him up on this offer. The resulting loss in population reduced the number of inhabitants to the previously mentioned 110 recorded by Alphonse Pinart in 1877.8 Bishop Jaussen was furious at what had happened and blamed Father Roussel for the loss of church property, which he would have preferred to see burned than simply abandoned. He drew up a list of the church’s possessions on Easter Island, including the two chapels and some cattle, and estimated their total value at more than $12,000, for which he sought compensation from Brander.9 The shrewd Brander, however, made a plau­ sible case for his view of the situation: the Church had been collaborating with the captain and was in fact a partner in his business, and in the case of one party’s voluntary departure, the remaining party was entitled to all the goods. The bishop, without recourse to any kind of legal action, was left empty-handed.

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

Dutrou-Bornier was now the absolute ruler of the depopulated island, and he acted accordingly. On his voyages around the Pacific, he had fre­ quently encountered like-minded adventurers who had succeeded in set­ ting themselves up as ‘ruler’ or ‘king’ of an island. The idea had always appealed to him, so he now proclaimed himself King Onésime, after strategically marrying Pua Akurenga Koreta, an Easter Island beauty who claimed descent from the island’s last king. The two daughters born to King Onésime and Queen Koreta consequently bore the title of princess. Koreta, too, behaved like a ruler, demanding that her ‘subjects’ pay in kind, which created a great deal of friction. A fervent Francophile, Onésime attempted to persuade the French government to make his kingdom a protectorate of France. The French authorities in Tahiti flatly refused his request − pre­ sumably as a result of Bishop Jaussen’s unremitting opposition − and even forbade him to fly the French flag at his house in Mataveri. This did not prevent the ‘king’ from adopting a royal lifestyle. He further expanded his sheep-breeding business, imported some cows, and had building materials shipped from Australia. Any Frenchman worth his salt drinks wine, so King Onésime planted a vineyard. Captains, officers and other high-ranking visitors were royally received on the island. Bishop Jaussen was informed that, as far as ‘the king’ was concerned, the mission was also welcome, but the bishop did not dare to set up another mission with a full complement of staff. His letters betray much more concern about the loss of Church property than about the welfare of the converts.10 Even so, he arranged for Nicolás Pakarati, a native of the island living on Tahiti, to be sent to Easter Island to assume responsibility for the spiritual care of his fellow islanders. Pakarati, who had been trained as a catechist, continued to work on Easter Island until his death in 1927. He got along well with the royal couple. In the following decades, a Catholic priest occasionally called at the island, but it was not until 1936 that another priest took up residence there. In August 1876, King Onésime died unexpectedly and was buried by his house in Mataveri. The cause of his death has never been satisfactorily explained. Some people maintain that he died of injuries sustained when falling from his horse – not an unusual thing for a nobleman to do – though rumour has it that he was drunk at the time. According to other sources, he was murdered by furious residents of the island who had had enough of his tyrannical ways. The Catholic Church has always preferred the latter account, and it is this interpretation that prevails in the stories surrounding the history of Easter Island. Yet another version has it that he had ordered a coat for the queen from a native woman, but the garment was not to his liking, so he armed himself and went to the woman’s house to confront her.



The Survival of Easter Island

She was not at home, but the king went inside anyway and was stoned to death by three islanders who had been lying in wait for him.11 As soon as Brander heard of Dutrou-Bornier’s death, he took steps to safe­ guard his business interests. He and his British agent, Alexander Salmon, travelled to Easter Island and moved into the king’s house. Salmon, a distin­ guished gentleman who was related to the royal family of Tahiti, remained on Easter Island for twenty years. He understood the islanders and was familiar with their history and traditions, and also felt very much at home on Easter Island. During his period of residence, he brought relative peace and stability to the island. The population grew slowly but steadily in those years: in 1900, there were 231 inhabitants, of whom 213 were native-born Easter Islanders.12 The thousands of sheep and other cattle grazing on the island caused so much damage to the vegetation that erosion became a problem on the slopes. The flora and fauna, which had suffered consid­ erably since the settlement of the island, became more varied at the end of the nineteenth century through the introduction of new plants and ani­ mals. This brought a few oddities to the landscape: the chimango caracara (Milvago chimango), a South American bird of prey; the common diuca finch (Diuca diuca); and the Chilean tinamou (Nothoprocta perdicaria), a shy partridge-like bird. These three exotic species continue to flourish on the island.

Isla de Pascua, Chile In 1888, the ‘free’ status of Easter Island finally came to an end. To be sure, González had officially acquired the island for Carlos III of Spain in 1770 by having a document ‘signed’ by Easter Island’s head men, but this annex­ ation had never been recognized by other countries and was never actually put into effect by Spain itself. The document had been carefully filed away in the archives in Madrid, and that was the end of it. The other European players in the region had not come into action either in all those years. In the Netherlands, the island’s location was scarcely known, for the Dutch were not interested in a place with so few possibilities for trade. And even though England was bent on global expansion and potentially interested in the entire world, this tiny island in the Pacific was so insignificant that it was ignored by the British Empire. It was the French who showed the most interest in the island. As a colo­ nial power, France was strongly represented in the region and had long had connections with Easter Island through the bishop of Tahiti. This partly

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

explains the active opposition of the French to the Peruvian raids in 1862 and 1863, even though these protests were largely the doing of the French chargé d’affaires Edmond de Lesseps. In the following years, France con­ tinued, via the mission, to be involved in the island’s politics, but never attempted a formal annexation. Evidently, its interest in the island was also limited. The failure of European countries to show an interest in Easter Island left room for emerging regional powers to test their strength. Chile, a young nation, had territorial ambitions and a strong fleet, and it did not hesitate to deploy its armada. Easter Island itself boasted a statue of Arturo Prat, a Chilean naval hero who died in a skirmish in 1879. The country, seeking to assert its influence in the whole of the eastern Pacific, laid claims to a couple of islands in the area, including Isla de Pascua. Although Easter was, ethnologically and geographically, a Polynesian island, Chile was the nearest large country and controlled the transport routes in this part of the Pacific Ocean. In the absence of protests from other countries, Chile decided in 1888 to effect a formal annexation. On 9 September, Captain Policarpo Toro, acting on behalf of the Chilean government, officially ‘accepted’ the island from the people of Easter Island, represented by Atamu Tekena, the last ariki on the island. The act of annexation was offi­ cially signed. A monument in the main street of Hanga Roa, with the busts of both gentlemen, would have us believe that this handover took place harmoniously and without coercion. In fact, the 150 or so Easter Islanders had no alternative. After the formal annexation, it soon became apparent that Chile did not have the islanders’ interests at heart either. The continuation of the profitable sheep-breeding industry proved more important, and little was done to benefit the people. In the beginning, Chile hardly interfered with life on Easter Island. The islanders were largely left to their own devices, but were never allowed to forget who was in charge. A naval base was established, and the Chilean commander put in control of Easter Island even visited it from time to time. The islanders were forced to move to Hanga Roa; Spanish replaced Rapanui as the official language; and the island now appeared on maps as Isla de Pascua, Chile. Relations between Easter Island and Chile have been strained ever since, and the conflicts continue. But there was also one positive development, for a new type of visitor started to arrive:  scholars who wished the islanders well and were bent on preserving their traditions, even though their main concern was the island’s material culture.



The Survival of Easter Island

Anthropologists The nineteenth century saw the rise of anthropology, a discipline that focuses on the study of humankind as a species, and of ethnology, the study of races and peoples and their relationship to one another, particularly the customs, traditions and way of life of foreign peoples, who must there­ fore be studied in their native habitat – ‘in the wild’, as it were. Seafaring explorers had kindled interest in this adventurous field by keeping journals, recording stories and occasionally taking home live specimens of exotic animals and even people – to put on display for the public to gape at. But the time was ripe for a more academic approach. Most anthropologists were equipped not only with pens and notebooks, but also with large trunks to be filled with artefacts. These artefacts were generally handed over to those who had funded their expeditions – usually relatively wealthy museums in the West – to be studied more closely and put on display. The public showed an enormous interest in these objects, and a great deal of bartering took place between institutions. This proved very lucrative for the clever middlemen and dealers who capitalized on the passion for collecting that gripped the museums. In this way, approximately forty artefacts − almost all of them from Wilhelm Geiseler’s first anthropo­ logical expedition to Easter Island in 1882 − made their way via Germany to what is now the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden.13 The Germans were admittedly the first to launch a proper anthropolog­ ical expedition to the island, but Geiseler was not the first anthropologist to visit Easter Island. That honour goes to Louis Alphonse Pinart, who sailed on the French warship Seignelay and spent a couple of days on the island in April 1877.14 Pinart’s report states that he and a few crew members went ashore at Anakena, where, to their surprise, they found the beach completely deserted. It soon became clear that the island was in the grip of death. Pinart could see and smell the corpses, which, according to Easter Island practice, had been wrapped in mats, tied between two sticks and laid out to dry. His account betrays a scientific interest: he provides pre­ cise descriptions, measures things accurately and, whenever possible, gives exact figures. For example, he records the average height of an Easter Island man (1.57 metres) and the average height of a woman (1.50 metres). He was also the first to give exact figures for the number of inhabitants on the island at the time of his visit: 110 people, including 26 adult females. Their clothing was mostly European, but their earlobes were still pierced and elongated ‘down to the chin’. The islanders were tireless walkers, Pinart writes. In Mataveri, he counted thirty small houses − more like huts, in

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

fact – which were built mainly of driftwood. They displayed the character­ istic oval shape and a single low entryway. The mission church was still in place, and had been expanded to accommodate all of six hundred people. He noticed that the inhabitants had many statuettes carved of toromiro wood and saw clusters of toromiro and mulberry trees on the island. There was little evidence of agriculture, but the plantations and the fruit trees that Dutrou-Bornier had planted were flourishing. The sheep had plenty of grass to graze on, and there were also a few wild pigs, but the islanders hoped these would disappear. Pinart could discover little from the islanders about the meaning of the old monuments and statues and thus judged them to be rather ignorant of their own cultural past. He did notice a certain reverence for some of the monuments, however, and there were protests when two members of the crew tried to take skulls and bones from a grave. A couple of leaves of tobacco worked wonders, however: the protests died down and the natives even proved willing to carry the relics. The Easter Islanders still had no taste for alcohol, but tobacco had gradually become a sought-after com­ modity. The small French company was received by Queen Koreta, and Pinart learned that the island was hoping to become a protectorate of France. The islanders had an obvious aversion to Chileans, Americans and Germans. Pinart also heard from several sources that his compatriot had died after falling from his horse in a drunken state, and he judged this to be the true course of events. He apparently found it inconceivable that a Frenchman could be attacked by furious Easter Islanders.

Wilhelm Geiseler Wilhelm Geiseler was captain of the warship SMS Hyäne, but on this voy­ age of exploration he was working for the Imperial Museum in Berlin. In practice, however, there were also other ‘sponsors’, including the German consul in Valparaíso, Heinrich August Schlubach, who had asked Geiseler to bring him a few rongorongo tablets (which later ended up in Germany). Geiseler was on Easter Island from 19 to 23 September 1882, and his report shows that in many respects he accomplished much in those few days. His report contains concise descriptions of eighty-seven different artefacts, and of most of these he took along multiple specimens, which he later traded or sold. According to Geiseler, the artefacts had been purchased, not simply taken, but because the island had no cash economy, they were most likely bartered for textiles, fishhooks and so on. Many of his artefacts were objects known from previous expeditions, such as feather headdresses, paddles,



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 8.2.   Moai kava kava. Photo: author.

staffs and the ancestral statuettes called moai kava kava (see Figure 8.2). However, there was also a novelty  – two small ‘stone household gods’, thirty-five and sixty centimetres in height  – which tells us that in those days, in any case, small moai were kept in the houses. Geiseler was the first to visit Easter Island for purely scientific purposes and to leave a detailed and accurate record of his findings. Not surprisingly, his report is called an ‘ethnological investigation’.15 He was assisted in his fieldwork by the ship’s paymaster, J. Weisser, a versatile man who was not only a competent finan­ cial manager but also an outstanding draughtsman, collector and trader. It was from Weisser that the museum in Leiden acquired twenty-five of its forty objects from Easter Island. When Geiseler arrived on Easter Island, it had just passed the lowest point in its process of depopulation and was in the midst of a slight recovery. In 1882, Geiseler counted 150 inhabitants: 67 men, 39 women and 44 chil­ dren. His wide-ranging fieldwork included, among other things, investiga­ tions into the islanders’ living conditions. Geiseler examined and described

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

the houses on the island, and Weisser made detailed drawings which, in their precision, resemble floor plans. He even made beautiful depictions of the rock carvings found at Orongo. With regard to the language, Geiseler recorded, among others, the words for numerals. Cannibalism, he reported, had been practised long ago, but had since disappeared. The oldest inhab­ itants remembered islanders eating prisoners of war. Geiseler was told that these enemy warriors had been kept captive in stone houses protected by moai specially erected for this purpose. In fact, Geiseler had come too late – despite being one of the first to carry out such research – to obtain truly reliable answers to larger anthropological questions. The oral tradition had been ruptured by the loss in population suffered in the 1860s. Much of the culture had disappeared for good; what he saw and heard had in many ways been ‘corrupted’ by recent influences and changes. For example, he made the following observation: ‘They have little religion.’16 But what does that mean on an island where recent, dra­ matic events had caused the loss of its spiritual leaders, the disappearance of nine-tenths of its population, the relatively swift conversion (in less than three years) of its remaining inhabitants to Catholicism, and the subsequent, decade-long absence of missionaries on the island? Moreover, it is doubt­ ful that Geiseler spoke enough Rapanui to converse with the islanders in any depth or ask probing questions. In many respects – such as clothing – the population had left tradition behind:  they were already wearing new, imported clothes, and the characteristic elongated and pierced earlobes were gradually disappearing. The missionaries saw young girls who still practised this custom, but by the early twentieth century it was seen only among old women.17 Geiseler’s report is a valuable and systematically recorded source, and Weisser’s twenty-two drawings document the situation much more accu­ rately than the highly imaginative prints that previous visitors had sometimes produced. Pierre Loti, who spent a week on the island in 1872, wins hands down in this respect, for this romantic spirit sketched statues, people and landscapes that he could have seen only in his mind’s eye.

William Thomson After Geiseler, Americans arrived in 1886. Under the leadership of the pay­ master and self-made anthropologist William Thomson, they accurately described 555 statues and collected a wealth of information about petro­ glyphs, drawings, houses, graves and the language.18 Thomson had pre­ pared his expedition well, to the extent of visiting Bishop Jaussen in Tahiti to photograph the mysterious pictographs on the rongorongo tablets that



The Survival of Easter Island

had ended up there. For his fieldwork on Easter Island, Thomson enlisted the services of Alexander Salmon as guide, interpreter and census-taker: in 1888, Salmon counted 68 men and 43 women, as well as 17 boys and 27 girls under the age of fifteen – a total of 155 Easter Islanders.19 Thomson’s recently republished account is very valuable indeed, if only because it contains the first published photographs of Easter Island and its artefacts. Yet it also presents a tragic picture of the island: in one photo we see sev­ eral fine stones − decorated with paintings of the birdman – being removed from the houses at Orongo (see Figure 8.3).20 Thomson was also the first

Figure 8.3.   Painted stones from houses in Orongo (William J. Thomson, Report of the U.S. National Museum, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution 1889).

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

to record the story of the Long Ears and the Short Ears and to produce, with the help of the old Easter Islander Ure Vaeiko, a translation in both Rapanui and English of the photographed rongorongo tablets.21 Naturally, many artefacts were spirited away in the Americans’ suitcases, this time going to anthropological museums in Washington, DC, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and other places in the United States. It is just as well that the moai are too big to fit in trunks and too cumbersome to ship easily, as otherwise there would be none left on Easter Island. Nevertheless, a few were taken away, and these can now be seen in such places as Brussels, London and Tahiti. Anthropologists continued to visit the island at approx­ imately two-decade intervals.

Katherine Routledge Katherine Scoresby Routledge, née Pease, was an enterprising, upper-class Englishwoman who spent seventeen months on Easter Island during the First World War.22 The first female scientist to visit the island, she received her scholarly training as an anthropologist at Oxford, at a time when women had only recently been permitted to attend lectures, but were not yet  allowed to obtain degrees. She married the physiologist William Scoresby Routledge, who went by the name of Scoresby, and the couple spent some time in Kenya. Katherine Routledge had been fascinated by Easter Island ever since reading about its giant statues in Cook’s journal. Her attraction to the island continued to grow, as did the island’s enig­ matic nature, especially after the discovery of the rongorongo tablets. When she asked the anthropologists at the British Museum what remained to be investigated in the Pacific, they all answered: Easter Island! It was not easy to travel to the island, however, least of all for a woman. The only way to get there was on the occasional ship that left from Chile. Finally, after discussing the matter with her husband, ‘a keen yachtsman’, she decided to have a boat built for them. It was in this yacht – launched in 1912 and baptized Mana, which is Polynesian for ‘good luck’ – that the couple left Southampton on 28 February 1913 and set sail for Easter Island (see Figure 8.4). Since they were not in any hurry, they called at the Canary and the Cape Verde islands and visited parts of Brazil, Patagonia and Chile before sailing westwards. After a journey of more than a year, they first saw their goal looming in the early-morning mist on Sunday, 29 March 1914. (This first glimpse of the island occurs on page  125 of Routledge’s 400-page account of the journey.23) The Routledges were welcomed by Percy Edwards:  ‘He is English, and was, to all intent, at the time of our arrival, the only white man on the island; a French carpenter, who lived at



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 8.4.   Mana, the ship belonging to Katherine and William Scoresby Routledge (Archives of the Museum of Mankind, British Museum, London).

Hanga Roa with a native wife, being always included in the village com­ munity.’24 The island belonged to Chile, to be sure, but the Chilean gov­ ernment paid no attention to it and used it only as a sheep-breeding colony. At one point, the government had even leased it to Enrique Merlet, a man from Valparaíso who in 1897 had set up a ‘company for the exploitation of Easter Island’. In 1903, it was taken over by the British firm of Williamson, Balfour and Co., with Percy Edwards as manager. Once on the island, the Routledges had their fair share of difficul­ ties. Their base of operations was the house in Mataveri where Percy Edwards was living, which was a simple house with very thin walls. To the Routledges’ annoyance, Percy kept company with two native women, one of whom was shockingly young. They had witnessed similar behav­ iour in Kenya, and thought it inappropriate for a white ‘official’ to be so intimate with the ‘natives’. It produced so much friction that Routledge and Scoresby moved into a tent a short distance away. Like Edwards, they had disputes with the local workers about payment and unequal treat­ ment. This thoroughly English couple behaved like colonial rulers: their luxury-loving lifestyle was at odds with the norm on the island, and they made no secret of their habit of eating much better than their helpers did.

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

Even the members of their crew, in particular Lieutenant Ritchie, were annoyed by their conduct. Like all visitors to the island, the Routledges were often robbed of their possessions. In July 1914, they were even confronted with organized resis­ tance, a true ‘Easter (island) rising’. The revolt was led by the ‘prophetess’ Angata and Carlos Tori, and it was provoked by the low wages that Edwards paid the workers on the island. Angata announced that she had had a vision in which she had seen great disasters in store for Edwards, who in turn felt threatened and requested protection from the armed men of the Mana expedition  – in other words, those who had come on Scoresby’s yacht. These men gave him only half-hearted support, because they disapproved of the way Edwards and the Routledges behaved towards the islanders. Rumours of this conflict reached Chile, and the steamship Baquedano was sent to restore peace. All those concerned, including Katherine Routledge, were ordered to report to the captain and give an account of their actions. The islanders maintained that Easter Island, as part of Chile, should not have an Englishman as subdelegado marítimo (the highest local official). The captain agreed and immediately appointed the Chilean José Ignacio Vives Solar to the post. Edwards was allowed to remain as the company’s manager. Lieutenant Ritchie, an employee of the British admiralty whose contract was due to expire, saw his chance to return to England and requested a commission on a homeward-bound ship. Some measure of peace returned to the island, but the expedition split into two camps. In the meantime, the First World War had broken out. The Mana was able to sail twice more to Chile, which was officially neutral, in order to stock up on provisions, but the homeward journey had to be postponed. The members of the expedition remained on the island, and during their extra, unplanned months there, they had a few war experiences of their own. The Prinz Eitel Friedrich, a German war­ ship under the command of Admiral Maximilian von Spee, arrived and promptly dumped forty-eight British and French prisoners of war on the island. The Germans, who behaved as though the island belonged to them, built a radio mast on the summit of Terevaka. Chile, which was sympathetic to Germany, did not intervene. Love blossomed in such circumstances:  one of the Germans fell in love with a native woman, and they were married with much ceremony by the catechist Nicolás Pakarati. The German navy left after several weeks, and two months later the prisoners of war who had been dropped on the island were picked up by a passing Swedish ship. (As far as we know, Routledge never met the German admiral, but it is understandable that Jennifer Vanderbes gives



The Survival of Easter Island

a racy twist to their possible meeting in her romanticized novel about Routledge’s life.) That any field work could be accomplished in such circumstances was due entirely to the efforts of Katherine Routledge.25 Despite her trouble with the helpers, she had two trusted assistants on whom she could always rely: Juan Tepano and his mother, Victoria Veriamu, who were the source of most of what Routledge learned about the island and its history. She was courageous as well as competent. Given the discord among the members of the expedition, she thought it better for them to split into two camps. Routledge did not shrink from pitching her tents at Rano Raraku, which, according to the islanders, was haunted by the spirits of their ancestors. Undeterred, she carried out excavations and made a careful study of every­ thing from houses and artefacts to religion and writing. The birdman cult surrounding Orongo was the particular focus of the couple’s attention. After several abortive attempts, Scoresby and his helper, Tepano, succeeded in landing on the islet of Motu Nui, to study the caves inhabited by those who had competed to find the first tern’s egg of the season. These athletic young men first had to swim to the islets and then wait, sometimes for weeks, for that first egg to be laid. Wall paintings, petro­ glyphs and artefacts bear witness to their annual period of residence. One of the caves contained a stone statuette that Scoresby wanted to take along, but Tepano managed to dissuade him, saying that it would infuriate the ancestral spirits. For her part, Katherine Routledge recorded the stories she was told about the birdman cult, the Long Ears and the Short Ears and the legendary king Hotu Matu’a. During one of her hikes around the island, Routledge stumbled upon the grave containing the mortal remains of Ko Tori. According to the islanders, he was the last cannibal and had lived to a ripe old age. So far, the place where he had eaten human flesh had gone undiscovered, but now Routledge saw a toothless jaw, among other things, and asked Tepano and the other men in her company when its owner had lived. Their lack of understanding of dates or a calendar forced her to ask such questions as:  ‘Did your grandfather know him?’ To her surprise, she was told that Porotu, an old man in the company, had helped bury Ko Tori.26 But this knowledge did not deter Routledge and her assistants from violating the grave, piling the bones into a basket and taking them back to England. On 18 August 1915, Routledge and her husband left Easter Island. Bent on sailing around the world, they did not consider the shortest route to South America an option, and besides, neutral Chile was kindly disposed towards Germany. The homeward voyage took them to Pitcairn, Hawaii

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

and San Francisco before leaving the Pacific Ocean and sailing through the Panama Canal. Travelling by way of the Bahamas and the Azores, they arrived at the Isle of Wight on 23 June 1916. They had been gone three years and four months and had sailed thousands of miles without any serious mis­ hap, despite the war and other setbacks. In Routledge’s own words: ‘Such is the mana of MANA.’27

Alfred Métraux France had a long history of contact with Easter Island and many interests in Polynesia, yet it was nearly sixty years after Pinart’s visit that the first French scientists set foot on the island in 1934. They were part of a joint Franco–Belgian expedition sponsored by the Musée de l’Homme in Paris and the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels. Charles Watelin and Henri Lavachery were in charge of the archaeological investigations, and Alfred Métraux was entrusted with the ethnographic and linguistic studies. This expedition far surpassed its predecessors in the high level and thoroughness of its research. The archaeologist Lavachery was director of the museum in Brussels and a universally recognized expert. Métraux was an experienced specialist who had studied in France and Sweden and had already served as director of the Anthropological Institute of the University of Tucumán in Argentina for a number of years. The governments of Belgium and France supported the undertaking. When the expedition departed from the harbour of Lorient in Brittany, the Mercator was blessed by a priest and military salutes were fired. On the outward voyage, Watelin died of pneumonia, contracted during a stop at Tierra del Fuego. In his book, Métraux showed little remorse (as a scientist), for in his opinion Watelin had had unrealistic ideas about Easter Island, having hoped to uncover the remains of ancient civilizations at the foot of the colossal statues.28 The expedition arrived at the end of July 1934 and remained on the island until 2 January 1935. Easter Island still belonged to Chile, and in the meantime a governor had taken up permanent residence. All of the grassland was still leased to the firm of Williamson-Balfour, who left the exploitation of their livestock to two compatriots by the name of Morrison and Smith. Approximately forty thousand sheep were grazing on the island at this time. The Franco–Belgian expedition was extremely successful. For the first time in the island’s history, researchers were able to carry out their work practically undisturbed. There were a few minor incidents and the occasional theft, but that was all. The members of the expedition made



The Survival of Easter Island

the acquaintance of Vincent Pons, a French carpenter who had lived on the island for decades and still spoke a bit of French. As a source of information, however, his testimony was of little value; in all those years, he had never delved into the culture of Easter Island. Métraux had more luck consulting the ever-reliable Juan Tepano, who had assisted Katherine Routledge, and Victoria Rapahango, a young woman who was thought to be a distant descendant of the king. Now and then, he also heard something interesting from Viriamo, a woman who had probably been born around 1850, before the time of the missionaries. All three of these people are pictured in Métraux’s second book.29 In the photo of Viriamo, her elongated, once-pierced earlobe seems to have closed up again, which accords with the rather modern impression given by the photographs. The natives had adapted to modern ways and were now dressing in appropriately Western fashion. As seen in the photos, how­ ever, many people went barefoot. For a long time, shoes remained lux­ ury items that few could afford. When I visited the island in 2007, I was told that until the 1950s and even the 1960s, it was common for people to blacken their feet with shoe polish to give the impression that they were wearing shoes. Métraux was knowledgeable enough to realize that he was reconstruct­ ing, on the basis of fragmentary evidence, a culture that was largely lost. He carried out his task with dedication and discipline; few things escaped his notice. He managed to interpret correctly the meaning of numerous small artefacts and delved into the rituals tied to the birdman cult and the myster­ ies of the rongorongo tablets. The report he published in 1940 is still used to describe and interpret the island’s artefacts and has become a standard reference work on the ethnology of Easter Island.30 The Dutch National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, for example, still uses Métraux’s publica­ tion as its principal source for descriptions of their material. Métraux knew the work of his predecessors and made discerning use of it. In a book of 1957, intended for a broad public, he even put those who came after him in their place – particularly Thor Heyerdahl – though admitting that he had done so at the request of his publisher.31 After all, controversies are always good for sales. In this second book, he was also able to make use of the information gathered by Father Sebastian Englert, who had gone to work on the island in 1936.32 Englert, the first official missionary on the island since the departure of Roussel, worked there for thirty-three years, until shortly before his death in 1969. He had two qualities that greatly aided his work with the island­ ers: a sincere interest in the native people and an excellent command of

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

Rapanui. Since Roggeveen, the island had seen countless visitors, research­ ers and businesspeople, but little progress had been made in terms of build­ ing social structures beneficial to the natives. Englert was the first to tackle this problem. His efforts to aid Easter Island have been given an enduring monument in the form of the museum, built in Hanga Roa in the 1990s, which bears his name: Museo Antropológico Padre Sebastián Englert. This is a memorial at least as fitting as the popular ornamental shells that are also named after him. Despite his expertise, Alfred Métraux was rather uncritical of Easter Island legends and stories, and as a result reality and myth have become entangled in his treatment of such subjects as the origins of the Easter Islanders, tribal warfare and cannibalism. Perhaps the confusion is due less to what he wrote than to the way in which he wrote it and the influence this has had on the ideas of others. In his 1957 book, for example, the chapter titled ‘The Cannibal Society’ gave rise to several misunderstandings that became etched in the collective memory and resurfaced later in the col­ lapse literature. The archaeological part of the expedition was also successful, and in 1939 Lavachery published the results of his research on the rock carv­ ings.33 Another bonus was the wealth of objects they brought home with them. Easter Island seems to be an inexhaustible source of artefacts,34 as evidenced by the museums in Paris and Brussels, which still have beauti­ ful collections, despite the sale and exchange of portions of their treasures early on.35 Lavachery and his assistants even succeeded in hoisting two moai on board ship, the larger of which – nearly three metres in height – is now in Brussels, while the smaller is on display in Paris. Both collections are of enduring scientific interest and have inspired a succession of cura­ tors at these museums – such as Catherine and Michel Orliac in Paris and Dirk Huyge, Francina Forment, Nicolas Cauwe and others in Brussels – to engage in further study. One of those studies dates Pou Hakanononga, the moai in Brussels, to the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century.

Thor Heyerdahl and Bill Mulloy The American William (Bill) Mulloy was a member of the first Norwegian expedition led by Thor Heyerdahl in 1955 and 1956. Although Heyerdahl has had a far greater influence, both as a person and as an anthropologist, and also on the course of events on Easter Island, Mulloy is much better known there. When Mulloy died in 1978, he was cremated and his ashes taken to Easter Island for interment. Heyerdahl’s stature as a scientist, and



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 8.5.   Plaque in Tahai, in memory of William Mulloy. Photo: author.

especially as a man, actually extends far beyond the island, but Mulloy made Easter Island his life’s work and was also the first to begin restor­ ing its monuments. In Tahai, just north of Hanga Roa, he restored to its former glory an entire complex, consisting of numerous moai, ahu and the foundations of dwellings. A plaque on the base of the statue he re-erected at Anakena describes his contribution and expresses the islanders’ gratitude (see Figure 8.5). Thor Heyerdahl’s name is still heard frequently on Easter Island, but no lasting memorial to him or his work has ever been realized. Heyerdahl’s adventurous voyage from South America to Polynesia estab­ lished his name in the region. He was respectfully received everywhere as Mister (or Señor) Kon-Tiki, and the plan was soon conceived to set up an expedition in cooperation with the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo. This Norwegian archaeological expedition, which was not limited to Easter Island, carried out research on nine Polynesian islands. Its transport ship was actually a converted Greenland trawler. In 1955 and 1956, the expe­ dition visited Easter Island, where the crew acted on the advice of Father Sebastian Englert and pitched camp at Anakena. The priest served as a link between the local population and the members of the expedition. It was a wide-ranging and productive undertaking, and the various experts involved  – who, in addition to Heyerdahl and Mulloy, included Edwin

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

Ferdon and Arne Skjølsvold – published their results in many books, bul­ letins and articles, though sometimes years after the fact.36 Heyerdahl was unrivalled as a publicist. He knew how to tell stories in an exciting way, and his popular books, which were translated into many languages, reached a large public.37 His truly Heyerdahlian undertaking included its fair share of cinematic spectacle, such as the risky experiment in which he used an original moai to test the ‘tilt-and-swivel theory’ of trans­ port. Some other scientific findings were just as spectacular. Columns of sediment were drilled from the beds of the crater lakes, and the material was sent to Olof H.  Selling in Norway, whose analysis of lake-core sedi­ ments showed that the island was once covered with trees, including a spe­ cies of coconut palm indigenous to the island. A lot of digging was done, and at excavations in Rano Raraku it was discovered that a moai, whose head extended three metres above the ground, had a richly carved torso that extended for another four metres below the surface (see Figure 8.6). For the first time, physical dating methods were used. In terms of breadth and duration, it was the most ambitious expedition ever to visit Easter Island. A number of its members, including both Heyerdahl and Mulloy, returned later on to continue their research. In 1960, Mulloy returned with his wife and two daughters to spend nearly a year on the island, conducting research and making a start on his restoration projects. Naturally the Norwegian expedition did a lot of collecting. As men­ tioned earlier, Heyerdahl took seeds from one of the last toromiro trees in hopes of cultivating them in Scandinavia. The artefacts remained as popu­ lar as ever and were highly sought after by museums, though it became increasingly difficult to obtain objects that were genuinely old. In his book Aku-Aku, Heyerdahl gives an honest – and disconcerting – description of the way his expedition collected artefacts.38 He was able to persuade island­ ers to accompany him to barely accessible caves – if necessary under cover of night – to collect not only artefacts but also bones. It was ethically dubi­ ous, to say the least, but it provided the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo with a wonderful collection of objects, and the museum still has an active group of Easter Island researchers. Heyerdahl’s was the last big expedition to Easter Island before the advent of air traffic. In the mid-1960s, a medical expedition – set up by McGill University in Montreal and sponsored by the World Health Organization and the Canadian government, businesses and industries  – was sent to Easter Island, but its main purpose was to study the health of the popula­ tion.39 As a token of their gratitude to the islanders for participating in their research, the Canadians donated a couple of tons of artificial fertilizer,



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 8.6.   Moai excavated by the Norwegian expedition near Rano Raraku. Courtesy of the Kon-Tiki Museum.

distributing two large bags to each family on the island.40 The Norwegian expedition, however, had been the last to carry out anthropological research on this isolated island. Contacts with the outside world were still rather limited in the 1950s and early 1960s: there was radio contact, and once a year a Chilean naval vessel paid an official visit to the island. Any other visitors were usually passersby, tourists or scientists.

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

On 5 November 1960, a Dutch naval ship dropped anchor at Easter Island. It was the HMS Groningen, carrying the later vice-admiral Bert Veldkamp as first officer and Paul Roos as chief technician.41 The Netherlands had become embroiled in an international conflict over Indonesia’s claims to New Guinea, which in 1960 still belonged to the Netherlands. The HMS Groningen was part of a squadron of four ships that sailed around the world from west to east between 31 May and 20 December. In August, the ship remained for several weeks in the area of conflict, to make it clear that the Netherlands would not give in to Indonesia’s demands. On the homeward voyage, the HMS Groningen was allowed to call at Easter Island as com­ pensation for its long period of patrol duty.42 The officers were welcomed in style by the local elite: the Chilean naval officer Arnt Arentsen Pettersen, who was also the governor; the archaeologist Bill Mulloy, who had just completed his restoration project; and Father Sebastian Englert, who drove the distinguished visitors around the island in his red Jeep nicknamed the ‘Bolshevik’, which had been a present from Heyerdahl. The members of the crew were allowed to go on shore in small groups. They saw a vil­ lage with a little church and otherwise a barren island with sheep grazing everywhere. All the islanders were living in Hanga Roa – on the orders of the Chilean authorities – and Englert and a few nuns were caring for the sick in a small hospital at the edge of the village. Roos put the number of inhabitants at three hundred. They were reasonably well dressed, but only a few were wearing shoes. There were no shops and no cash economy, so those who bought woodcarvings had to pay in cigarettes, soap or copies of Life magazine. The prices were low, and in addition to artefacts, the women offered sexual favours. According to Roos, one could exchange a cigarette for an embrace, and a whole packet could buy ‘heaven on earth’. Both buyer and seller profited; it was a win-win situation. Some gifts were more mundane. Bill Mulloy had received a spoon with the coat of arms of the HMS Groningen, which his daughter showed me more than fifty years later in its original box (see Figure 8.7). Father Englert, originally a German from Bavaria, smelled sauerkraut on board the ship and managed to have a barrel of it brought ashore, along with a respectable quantity of beer. Two days later, the HMS Groningen continued on its way. For many of the crew, their visit to this exotic island was the high point of their jour­ ney. This was certainly true of Wessel Vermeer, the naval doctor on board the Karel Doorman in the Dutch squadron. He had been the one to request the visit to Easter Island, and when his request was granted, he had himself transferred to the HMS Groningen, so as not to miss the experience.



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 8.7.  Dutch spoon given to Bill Mulloy in 1960. Photo: author.

Mataveri Airport In the 1960s, the Americans launched an ambitious space programme, aimed at catching up with the Soviet Union and being the first to send a manned mission to the moon. Naturally, airfields would be necessary to serve as a base of operations or as a fallback arrangement for future NASA missions. In this regard, Easter Island is a strategic spot. In 1967, a large landing strip was built on Mataveri, which was later extended to nearly four kilometres, long enough for any aircraft. Chile started commercial flights to Easter Island, which instantly reduced the travelling time from five days to five hours. Ever since then, this airborne umbilical cord has provided the island with a steady stream of goods, people and services. The tour­ ists and scientists coming to the island have steadily increased in number, and Chile’s authority has become more noticeable. The airstrip meant the dawning of a new era, marking Easter Island’s entry into the modern world. The fact that there is now an airport does not mean, however, that every­ one and everything comes by air. Heavy goods, such as automobiles, con­ tinue to be brought by supply ship from Valparaíso. Individual yachts and cruise ships also know how to find the island. In 1981, the Dutch marine yachtsman Henk de Velde dropped anchor at Easter Island. He was sailing around the world on his ship, the Orowa, and on this leg of the journey, he had his heavily pregnant wife with him. She was afraid to give birth at sea, but luckily they reached Easter Island in time, and their son, Jan Steven Vairoa, was born on 17 July – as far as is known, he is the only Dutch

Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research

Easter Islander. Vairoa, De Velde explains in his book about the island, is the Polynesian word for ‘large body of water’ or ‘he who comes from far over the sea’.43 In his splendid travel account, De Velde not only tells his personal story but also shares his great knowledge of the island and its his­ tory, complete with accurate sketches of moai and ahu.44 What a pity that Roggeveen did not have such an example to follow. What is the future of Easter Island? The plaque on the Tahai complex restored by Bill Mulloy states the following:  ‘By restoring the past of his beloved Island he also changed its future.’ In many respects this is true, not only because Mulloy re-erected the fallen statues, thus marking a new beginning for the island, both literally and symbolically, but also because he was one of the primary architects of the collapse theory, which pro­ pelled Easter Island to iconic status in the field of environmental science.


Chapter 9

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

‘Perhaps little Easter Island is so fascinating because its fate can serve as a lesson to the modern world and its decline as a foreshadowing of the fate of humanity as a whole, since our planet is like an island in the infinite universe, and what the Easter Islanders did seems to be taking place again on a global scale before our very eyes.’ These gloomy words were taken from Ton Lemaire’s recent book De val van Prometheus (The Fall of Prometheus).1 The footnote marking this quotation gives Clive Ponting and Jared Diamond as sources and, I am honoured to say, my 2002 address, in which Lemaire credits me with a ‘slightly different version, namely no sudden collapse but a slow decline’.2 At the time, I considered my version substantially different; evidently, I should have put more emphasis on that point. In any case, the passage from Lemaire inadvertently encapsulates the central themes of this concluding chapter. To begin with, by now it should be obvious that my version is not just ‘slightly different’ from the classical story of collapse. My view of the facts, as well as the steady accumulation in the last decade of a body of evidence refuting the collapse theory, leads to the unavoidable question: why has the collapse interpretation remained so popular? This chapter examines the meaning that my account of the history of Easter Island might hold for the world as a whole. Is the world merely a tiny island in the cosmos? Do ecosystems work like complex societies? Are the rules that apply to a small island applicable to the entire planet? Here I return to the questions posed at the end of the first chapter. Are there ‘other’ lessons to be learned from Easter Island? And in the midst of our universal reflections, let us not lose sight of Easter Island itself, which for good reason is said to be the navel of the world. 174

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

The Need for a New Interpretation The classical collapse theory presents a clear and seemingly logical order of events, which, in the case of Easter Island, gives rise to the following scenario. The decline started with deforestation. Soon after their arrival, the Polynesian settlers began to fell trees for all kinds of reasons: to make canoes and, eventually, to transport the large statues they had begun to make. The forests were also deliberately burned for farming purposes. Slash-and-burn cultivation led to gradual changes in the environment, yet the islanders continued to fell and burn trees. The population grew, but the ability of the island to sustain itself declined as it headed for complete deforestation. Increasing erosion and ever-drier soil hampered food production so much that scarcity and hunger were the result. The island had exceeded the bounds of sustainability. The struggle for survival deteriorated into tribal conflicts, warfare and cannibalism. Society became trapped in a downward spiral and swiftly collapsed, literally taking the statues down with it. When the first Europeans arrived in 1722, they found the impoverished remains of a once-advanced culture. Easter Island seems to be a prime example of pre-modern ‘overshoot and collapse’. The drama of the story is heightened by the island’s fascinating culture and isolated location. Anyone who carefully sifts through the evidence, as I have done in this book, begins to have serious doubts about many of the basic assumptions that underpin the theory of Easter Island’s collapse: doubts as to the number of inhabitants, the rate of population growth, the causes and effects of deforestation, the sequence of events and the time that elapsed between them, the supposed hunger and scarcity of food, the alleged wars that left no traces and the fertile soil that was thought to have eroded away but had patently not disappeared. The story proves to be a construction in which the facts have been exaggerated and mythicized and for which a chronology of events has been suggested that is at odds with reality. The conclusion is inescapable: the collapse theory as put forward by William Mulloy, Jean-Yves Cousteau, Ponting, Diamond and many others does not bear scrutiny. Despite several valid premises, it contains many dubious ‘added ingredients’, and the result does not offer a valid account of the island’s history any more than it provides lessons for the future.

Earlier Doubts In discussions about the history of Easter Island, I  often hear the question: ‘If the collapse theory raises so many doubts, why did it take so long



The Survival of Easter Island

for people to voice them?’ In fact, more and more doubts have been cast on the collapse theory in the past twenty years. At first, the discussion focused on the question of whether the collapse could be attributed entirely to human error. What was its principal cause? Could factors other than deforestation have played a role? In her contribution to the 1997 Easter Island conference, Rosalind Hunter-Anderson suggested that changes in temperature and accompany­ ing drought should be examined more closely. In addition, she thought it unlikely that the islanders would have felled coconut palms to make canoes, since palm wood is not suitable for boat making.3 Catherine and Michel Orliac also conjectured that deforestation had been caused by climate change.4 Patrick Nunn was also thinking along these lines when he suggested – in several articles written shortly after the Orliacs’ article – that a change in the island’s average temperature might have had far-reaching consequences. He was referring to a cold period – the Little Ice Age – which began around 1300 and lasted until 1800 and supposedly affected a number of Pacific islands.5 Closer analysis, however, has failed to show that Easter Island experienced a change in climate so severe that deforestation was the result. Even so, drought could certainly have been one cause of poor regeneration. Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, challenged all doom mongers and their collapse theories; he was willing to accept on good authority that something serious had happened on Easter Island, but did not take it as a sign of what was in store for the rest of the world. Easter Island, in Lomborg’s eyes, is just a glaring exception. Thousands of islands in the Pacific fared better; the fact that things went badly wrong in one place is not unusual and therefore nothing to worry about.6 This was more or less the state of affairs when I  gave my inaugural address at the VU University, Amsterdam, in 2002. At the time, I  stated that the collapse theory found little support in the historical sources, such as eighteenth-century journals. I posited a gradual transition from a ‘rich system’ to a ‘poor system’ and expressed doubts about the theory of a sudden collapse that had brought with it hunger, warfare and cannibalism. The ‘true’ collapse occurred later, in the nineteenth century, and was not caused by deforestation. This drama, marked by a drastic decline in population, was entirely to blame on human behaviour, since the high mortality was caused by introduced diseases. As far as I know, my address was the first publication to level serious criticism at the commonly accepted theory of a collapse on Easter Island.7 I subsequently defended my views in 2005 in

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

Florence at the conference of the European Society for Environmental History, and again in 2007 in Gotland at the conference of the Easter Island Foundation, where the story was better received than it had been in 2005. By 2012, when the Easter Island Foundation’s conference was held in Santa Rosa, the collapse theory had been forced onto the defensive, and the debate had shifted to which version of events was in fact correct. The idea that a pre-modern society had brought disaster on itself through overexploitation of its resources eventually met with ideological resistance as well. Some people interpreted this as the retroactive superimposition of a typically Western scenario of environmental destruction on a pre-modern society – an exercise which, in retrospect, proved groundless. This made the history of Easter Island an argument in the discussion of Europe’s colonial legacy. Back in 2002, Paul Rainbird published an article in which he did accept a collapse resulting from the overexploitation of natural resources, but only after – and as a result of – the arrival of the Europeans.8 While Rainbird was suggesting a different guilty party for the same kind of collapse (though a later one), Benny Peiser, in 2005, pointed to the ‘true’ collapse, which took place in the nineteenth century.9 His target was mainly Diamond’s recently published book Collapse, which in his view remained silent about the ‘genocide’ of 1862 and 1863 and spoke instead of an ecocide which, moreover, could never have happened the way Diamond described it. Peiser, who examined Diamond’s version in the light of the existing literature and tested it against the rules of logic, found his story untenable. But Peiser’s article received too little attention. One reason for this was that he was known as a ‘climate sceptic’ – apparently a sound basis for refusing to take any of his ideas seriously; another reason was that the journal in which he published his article, Energy and Environment, did not reach historians, archaeologists and social anthropologists, simply because scientists often live in separate worlds.

Dating Techniques and Rats Several articles by Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo gave new impetus to the discussion.10 In their 2006 publication, they came to the conclusion, based on new datings and archaeological research carried out at Anakena, that Easter Island had not been settled until the eleventh or early twelfth century. In another article, they indicated the Polynesian rat’s possible role in deforestation. The notion that these rodents prevented seeds from germinating, thus hindering the regeneration of the forest, largely absolves humans of the crime. Hunt and Lipo were not the first to blame rats for the



The Survival of Easter Island

destruction of the biodiversity of islands. This point had already been made by both I. A. E. Atkinson and Jared Diamond in the 1980s, but they had not linked this fact to the situation on Easter Island.11 Now that the beginning of deforestation seemed to coincide with the later arrival of the settlers, there was a reason for Hunt and Lipo to investigate the role of the introduced rats. Their study of 2006 appeared in the prestigious journal Science and received its fair share of attention, also in the science supplements of newspapers and in weekly magazines. Hunt and Lipo already had a solid reputation in the field of Pacific Island studies, which partly explains the impact of their articles. Their hypothesis of later settlement has been reluctantly accepted since the appearance of their writings, even though most researchers prefer to keep their options open, because a lack of evidence for earlier settlement is not the same as evidence of late settlement. This notwithstanding, the rat story met with resistance from fellow experts. In a recent article, Andreas Mieth and Hans-Rudolf Bork conclude that the rats played at most a supporting role, and that the human inhabitants actually deforested the island in something over four centuries with their slash-and-burn cultivation.12 For my part, I find it difficult to imagine the islanders doing much ‘slashing’, given the modest tools at hand. While the exact roles played by humans and rats in deforestation remain a subject of debate, there is growing scepticism about the supposedly dramatic consequences of deforestation. During the Easter Island conference in 2007, two critical anticollapse theories were received rather favourably.13 Moreover, in a discussion following his lecture, George Gill confirmed that paleo-osteology had failed to provide any indication whatsoever of substantial mortality resulting from violence. A  discussion arose in the Rapa Nui Journal (the journal of the Easter Island Foundation) in which John R. Flenley and Paul Bahn admitted that criticism of their collapse view was justified, but refused to distance themselves from it completely.14 Joseph Tainter, who in the late 1980s wrote a well-balanced book about the collapse of complex societies, entered the fray by publishing an article in an anti-Diamond vein with the ironical title ‘Collapse, Sustainability, and the Environment:  How Authors Choose to Fail or Succeed’.15 Meanwhile, the ‘myth of 1680’, the account of a large-scale and decisive struggle between two rival tribes, has also been conclusively refuted.16 The theory claiming that deforestation caused hunger, armed conflict and collapse is clearly untenable. But what did happen? That is the question that continues to baffle Easter Island researchers.

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

An Alternative Interpretation To arrive at a more plausible reconstruction of the history of Easter Island, it is necessary to theorize about a society which depleted its own environment (both intentionally and unintentionally), built up a fascinating culture, adjusted to dwindling resources and finally succeeded in achieving a new balance. This new balance most likely meant that the islanders had been forced to tighten their proverbial belts and live in reduced but sustainable circumstances – at least until the foreigners arrived. This causes the Easter Island debate to shift from the notions of overexploitation and collapse to the concepts of sustainability and quality (or the loss thereof) of both nature and culture. The environment began to decline in quality as soon as the settlers and their rats landed on the island. It took only a short time for several small organisms and all the original non-migratory birds to disappear, the birds presumably vanishing sooner than the forests on which they were partly dependent. Thus Easter Island became part of a tragic pattern of extinctions that took place on Polynesian islands as a result of human settlement.17 A  number of other species were marginalized and could survive only in nearly inaccessible areas. Fish species escaped extinction, but for seals the island became a no-go area. The second and most salient degradation was the deforestation of the island. This took several centuries, but by around 1550 it had progressed so far that seaworthy canoes could no longer be made. How a Polynesian people with seafaring blood could allow things to deteriorate to this extent remains a mystery. Naturally, they needed timber for houses, canoes and firewood, as well as for transporting their massive statues. Trees were also felled and burned to clear ground for the fields and plantations needed for food production. Yet all of these reasons together cannot explain the massive deforestation that occurred. To my mind, this indicates that complete deforestation was not the result of deliberate actions; there were factors in play over which the islanders had no control. Deforestation allowed the grass to flourish, and the natural environment of Easter Island gradually ended up in an impoverished but reasonably stable and sustainable state. This is somewhat comparable to the ‘alternative state’ – a term known from the ecological literature – of some nature reserves.18 There is nothing to indicate that the ecosystem of the deforested island had sunk to a level that could no longer sustain the population. On the contrary, I  think that even in the absence of outside disruption this ‘reduced’ Easter Island environment could have sustained a population



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 9.1.   The Polynesian rat (Rattus exulans).

of several thousand or even ten thousand people over a long time. This hypothesis is now being investigated by a multidisciplinary research team.19 However, the population is unlikely to have reached the higher end of that estimate. There is no hard evidence to prove this hypothesis, and the calculations presented in Chapter 6 and Figure 6.2 clearly show that the rates of growth necessary to achieve this estimate have never been observed in a pre-modern society. And, as we well know, there was indeed outside disruption, and it affected other ‘settlers’ as well, not just the human settlers. European rats, brought as stowaways on European ships, ousted their smaller Polynesian cousins (see Figure 9.1), who eventually died out completely on Easter Island. At the end of the eighteenth century, the French also introduced several food crops and a couple of domestic farm animals, but they could not survive on their own. The arrival of the first permanent foreign residents marked a new phase in the ecological history of the island. From that time on, its ecosystem was constantly subjected to outside influences. In the second half of the nineteenth century, large grazing animals were brought to Easter Island and new food crops were introduced, as were several bird species. What remained of the original vegetation was supplemented and sometimes overrun – or even completely supplanted – by newcomers. Here and there

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

new trees were planted, such as eucalyptus and ficus. In the second half of the twentieth century, the authorities gradually began to take a greater interest in the specific ecology of the island. Intensive sheep breeding was stopped in the 1960s, and in recent decades flora and fauna have been introduced more circumspectly and reforestation has been undertaken with a certain historical sensitivity. The paper mulberry, the portia tree (Thespesia populnea) and the toromiro are making a cautious comeback, and the sandy beach at Anakena is again surrounded by palms – alas, no Easter Island coconut palms, for this species has vanished completely. Whereas nature quickly deteriorated after the arrival of the first settlers, the cultural sphere was greatly enriched by the flourishing statue cult. These two phenomena are linked, of course, but it is unlikely that the moai cult contributed substantially either to deforestation or to other forms of environmental decay. The Easter Islanders, with the help of rats and fire, admittedly deforested the island, but at the same time they carved nearly a thousand stone statues, approximately half of which were erected along the coast. This characteristic feature of their ‘highly developed’ culture did not cause a fatal drain on their natural resources. While it is true that resources – tree trunks, rope, stone – were necessary for the development of the statue cult, and equally true that the production and erection of large statues could not have gone on forever, it was the lack of trees that brought a premature end to the moai cult, and not the other way around. The statue cult was not the cause of deforestation. It is not unrealistic, therefore, to speculate about an ideal and sustainable situation in which the island could have had both a flourishing statue cult and renewable forests, and where the islanders could have continued to make seaworthy canoes and eat yellowfin tuna. The limited demands placed on the forest by the statue cult invites such speculation, but unfortunately history tells a different story. The untimely end of the moai cult made room for the birdman cult, which may have coexisted with the statue cult for some time and gained predominance later. In any case, it continued to provide the island with cultural enrichment. The living conditions on the island were simpler, the houses were austere and the diet was plain but sufficiently nutritious. From the journals kept by visitors to the island, the picture emerges of a healthy, active and apparently happy people. The Europeans who called at Easter Island were warmly received and generously given what the island had to offer: chicken, bananas and sweet potatoes. It is debatable whether the birdman cult ever attained the heights achieved by its predecessor, the statue cult. It was less complex in character and tied to a specific time and



The Survival of Easter Island

place. Presumably it claimed lives every year, its victims perishing either during the swim to the offshore islets or on the steep climb to and from the shore (see Chapter 5). But the birdman cult, with its minimal demands on natural resources, was in fact better suited to the island’s more impoverished environment. Bahn and Flenley therefore refer to it as a religious cult that was attuned to its surroundings. In their view, it was ‘a form of nature worship’.20 The birdman cult seems to me to be inferior, in terms of quality, to the moai cult, particularly if we take the wooden statuettes to be part of the latter cult. I doubt that Easter Island would ever have obtained the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site if it had not had the statue cult. That status aside, however, it must be concluded that in terms of sustainability, the birdman cult provided a stable, tenable environment. A new balance had arisen between culture and nature that could have gone on for a long time were it not for outside intervention. Nature and culture interact in manifold ways. Natural conditions certainly limit the possibilities of a culture and perhaps even encourage a certain kind of culture, but they do not define that culture. The creative human spirit can deal in a variety of ways with the same ecological preconditions. For example, water has been a challenging and formative force in Dutch culture. This was no different in Polynesia or on Easter Island. The islanders had to make do with what was available, but there was nothing that forced them to develop a spectacular statue cult. Even the fact of dwindling resources did not force them to adopt the birdman cult; it merely made it impossible to continue the statue cult. Despite the various ways in which nature and culture interact, no culture can come into being without drawing on natural resources and blighting the purity of nature. The word culture, after all, is derived from the Latin cultura, which in turn stems from the verb colere, ‘to till, farm, cultivate’. There is, however, no direct and proportionate connection between the quality of a culture and the degree of environmental blight. Sustainability and quality are largely autonomous concepts. People can harm nature intentionally or unintentionally, and they can destroy a great deal of nature without building up much culture. By the same token, humans have the tendency to stretch the ecological boundaries to the limits, particularly when developing a rich and highly complex culture. The saying ‘nature disappears when culture appears’ is often a painfully accurate description of human history, but it is not an immutable law. Humanity’s record in this area is a reason for pessimism, whereas the lack of strict causality provides grounds for hope.

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

The Power of a Word The revised edition of Ponting’s book A Green History of the World, published in 2007, features on its cover a grand-sounding subtitle:  The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations. Times had changed. In the meantime, Diamond had written a best-seller titled Collapse, and Ponting (and his publisher) were presumably hoping to jump on the bandwagon by linking his account (unaltered in the case of Easter Island) to the more trendy terminology. Perhaps Ponting was right in thinking that Diamond had borrowed his catchword, because Ponting had coined the term ‘collapse’ in this green context as early as 1991. Still, how can the ever-increasing popularity of collapse theories be explained? Aside from commercial motives, I have encountered two justifications for using the term ‘collapse’. First of all, there is the notion that, despite the dramatic overtones of the word, it describes the facts more accurately than any other term. This is debatable, however.21 Consider, for example, the heterogeneous histories brought together in Diamond’s book: even though they are all accounts of degradation and decline, they do not fulfil the criteria of a collapse. The term ‘collapse’ was more likely chosen for another reason: its efficacy as a wake-up call. Drama and hyperbole attract attention and are thought to be more effective at getting a message across. A call to arms – ‘stop overexploitation, or the whole of civilization might collapse’ – is considered more likely to lead to a solution than a polite reminder that we are headed in the wrong direction. The second motive is understandable in a world with so much background noise that one often has to yell to be heard. Often it is not the message itself, but its packaging, that determines its success. At any rate, the use of exaggeration and catchphrases is part of rhetorical tradition. One knowingly bends the truth a bit if the seriousness of the message seems to justify it. This explains the ease with which Diamond’s stories were unquestioningly adopted and even embellished. As the chemist and environmental scientist Josée van Eijndhoven noted in her inaug­ ural address at Erasmus University in Rotterdam:  ‘. . . it has regularly happened in the past that the tide could not be turned in time, so that environmental problems have led a number of times to the end of a civilization (Diamond, 2006). Everyone knows the example of Easter Island, where deforestation ushered in the end of human habitation.’ Her meaning is clear: if we do not solve the worldwide problems of climate change and the decline in biodiversity, our planet as a whole will see ‘the end of human habitation’.22



The Survival of Easter Island

No Toothbrush Justifications for introducing more drama into the story can easily be found. ‘It’s too late in the day to tone down our rhetoric; something must be done before it’s too late,’ and, ‘We must get the message across and take immediate action,’ are frequently expressed sentiments. These are noble motives, to be sure, but the links between drama and persuasion are ephemeral and those between persuasion and action somewhat tenuous. It is wrong to think that drama – or indeed melodrama – will incite people to take appropriate action and thus bring us closer to a solution. After the initial fright of hearing an alarm bell, a certain paralysis can set in, and people may even become deaf to the message. They are more likely to leap into action if there is a concrete plan that is proportionate to the urgency of the message. This last point – a good balance between the gravity of the situation and the measures proposed to alleviate it – is extremely important. Announcing that the world can expect large-scale disaster and then suggesting the use of low-energy light bulbs, as Al Gore did at the end of his compelling film An Inconvenient Truth (2006), is not an example of ‘proportion’. It made many well-intentioned viewers feel at once guilty and powerless. Years ago, social psychologists provided experimental proof of this mechanism.23 Leon Festinger carried out an experiment in which two groups of patients with some degree of tooth decay were told that they were in danger of losing all their teeth. He also told them that their overall health would be damaged if they continued to eat so many sugary products. One group was told that brushing their teeth would help; the other group was sent home with no concrete advice. Those in the ‘toothbrushing group’ did in fact brush their teeth more often and even cut back on their sugar consumption. The second group did nothing, and when questioned about it, appeared to have ‘forgotten’ (or indeed repressed) much of the original  – surely uncomplicated  – message. Festinger explained their behaviour as a psychological solution to a dilemma:  having heard an alarming message and perhaps feeling guilty about their inaction, they repress the message so as not to experience ‘cognitive dissonance’. The lack of a suitable plan of action – the ‘no toothbrush’ option – therefore makes us fear the worst for the presumed efficacy of the melodramatic message of collapse. In fact, both reasons for using the word ‘collapse’ – as either a ‘true story’ or an ‘alarm bell’ – feed into commercial interests, which makes the choice and persistence of the term ‘collapse’ even more understandable.

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

Bury the Notion? Should the reconstruction of the history of Easter Island and similar situations lead us to conclude that the whole idea of a collapse caused by the overexploitation of natural resources could best be buried and forgotten? The biologist Don Melnick was drawn to this radical conclusion, and his ideas received widespread publicity. Melnick, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation at Columbia University, said in an interview in Time (18 August 2002): ‘We need to bury the notion that the biological world is going to collapse and we’re all going to be extinct.’24 I think Melnick is correct with regard to the collapse of complex systems as a result of overexploitation, but I’m referring to a collapse as defined at the beginning of Chapter 6: a rapid and sweeping decline in population and the crumbling of important structures to the extent that society no longer functions – not merely a temporary dip or the disappearance of only one element of society. Stretching a concept to the point where ‘collapse’ is used to describe any degradation of a system is an undesirable corruption of language. It is, moreover, ethically dubious to attract attention to a problem by dramatizing its seriousness, only to dismiss criticism as mere ‘semantics’. We should reserve such terms for events worthy of the name. Are there cases of true collapse? To answer this question, it is necessary to take a good look at complex ecosystems and human cultures. If we focus on types of ecosystems, we can certainly find examples of rapid collapse, but usually involving a single species. One of the most striking examples is the collapse of the cod stocks off the east coast of Canada in the early 1990s. Substantial overexploitation of these rich fishing grounds initially provided enormous catches, but ultimately led to diminishing yields and concerns for the future of fishing. Fishermen, government authorities and conservationists were consulted, and a sustainable quota was established, but the cod took no notice of it. The population collapsed, and by 1993 the cod had disappeared as a commercially viable fish.25 Only very recently have there been signs of recovery.26 There is no satisfactory explanation for the protracted failure of stocks to recover; fisheries biologists are still struggling to understand this phenomenon.27 The mechanisms that play a role in the collapse of populations are becoming clearer to us, however. Often it is a case of exceeding threshold values, whereby a gradual decline quickly accelerates into an irreversible drop in population. This is the explanation given for the extinction of the North American passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius), for instance (see Figure 9.2). This beautifully coloured pigeon was once the most numerous



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 9.2.   The North American passenger pigeon.

species of bird on the continent, but at the end of the nineteenth century it was so avidly hunted that the population fell below a critical level. The passenger pigeon was a very social land bird that practised communal breeding, so the decrease in numbers led to a drastic decline in breeding success, and the population plummeted to the point of extinction. Human beings played a large part in this process, for one of the last wild passenger pigeons was shot on 24 March 1900 near Sargents in Pike County, Ohio. The marksman was fourteen-year-old Press Clay Southworth, out on a Sunday afternoon hunting expedition with his father. Joel Greenberg recently argued  – in a study that reads like a thriller  – that the state of Indiana has the dubious distinction of being the place where the last wild pigeon was shot down. This happened on 3 April 1902, according to the convincing evidence Greenberg gathered. In the following years, pigeons

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

were occasionally spotted  – President Theodore Roosevelt, for example, saw several wild pigeons flying near his country house in Virginia in May 1907 – but there was no tangible evidence that the pigeon still existed in the wild. Twelve years later, the last passenger pigeon in captivity died at the Cincinnati Zoo. A collapse – and in this case, worldwide extinction – has seldom been documented in such detail.28 These accounts of the genuine collapse of the cod and the passenger pigeon involve a single species that disappeared either locally or globally, but for our purposes it is important to consider the effects of degradation at the level of entire ecosystems. Here the matter becomes more complicated. The disappearance of the cod caused a sharp increase in the numbers of its prey, such as shrimp and the snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio). Even though the ecosystem underwent a permanent change – disruption, if you will – the disappearance of this one species did not cause a total collapse.29 The ecosystem continues to exist, albeit in an altered and generally diminished state. In the case of the passenger pigeon, it even seems that the disappearance of this species was soundlessly absorbed by the ecosystem of which this species was a part, probably through many small and barely perceptible changes and adjustments. This has happened with other species too. In Northwest Europe, the great auk (Pinguinus impennis) disappeared from the world stage in the mid-nineteenth century – owing to human intervention – seemingly without any ecological repercussions. This flightless bird undoubtedly had its own ecological niche, but when it died out, its place was effortlessly filled by remaining species.

Impoverished State At times, however, there is a chain reaction with unforeseen consequences. In relatively simple water ecosystems  – such as small lakes containing bream, algae and ambush predators such as pike – an increase in algae can be brought about by the eutrophication (a process in which water receives excess nutrients) caused by humans. The resulting opacity of the water reduces visibility and makes things difficult for pike, which lie in wait until they see their prey, such as bream. The bream, on the other hand, benefit from this situation. Bream can further reduce the numbers of ambush predators by stirring up the mud, thus clouding the water and leading to increased phosphate levels, which result in more algal growth and yet more murkiness. Positive feedback can cause disruption to the entire ecosystem.30 The original system undergoes serious impoverishment, but qualitatively low-value systems can continue to function in this state for a long time.



The Survival of Easter Island

Researchers now warn against the threat of similar destabilization in the Antarctic Ocean owing to the overfishing of krill: shrimp-like crustaceans that are an important source of food for whales, for example.31 On land, the effect is usually more subtle and less abrupt.32 A comprehensive study of American wildlife reserves has shown that the disappearance – owing to human intervention – of such top predators as the bear and the wolf weaken the ecosystem, directly and indirectly, resulting in impoverishment.33 In the case of wolves, the effect can be as follows. When wolves disappear, their prey, the deer, increase greatly in number. This leads to overgrazing, which causes the disappearance of so much wood that beavers run into difficulties. When the beavers begin to build fewer dams, the watery areas dry up, leading to the disappearance of organisms such as dragonflies, which profit from the beavers’ waterworks. The absence of wolves also allows smaller predators, such as feral cats, to move into an area and kill the ground breeders. A new balance eventually emerges. In this case, the disappearance of one species gradually brings the system into an impoverished state, which nowadays is known in ecological circles as an ‘alternative state’.34 When the sharp decline in population affects a number of species, it is even easier for thresholds to be exceeded, causing ecosystems to degrade quickly and drastically, though not entirely. These are cases of qualitative impoverishment. The relative wealth of the ecosystem before the disappearance of top predators allows an attractive nature reserve to go on existing. Most visitors will be unaware of the impoverishment of the ecosystem, because, for one reason, they are ignorant of the previous situation. Moreover, some of these changes are viewed as positive, because they lead to the greater visibility of species such as deer. A lack of awareness can also be attributed to the fact that a rich, complete ecosystem is a rather abstract concept to most people.35 In conclusion, as a rule, negative influences cause impoverishment and change in the relationship between species. The system as a whole enters an alternative state, but even highly impoverished systems can be sustainable. In addition to field studies, much theoretical work has been done in an effort to outline the consequences of ecosystem degradation over the course of time. These studies have focused not only on the effects of the disappearance of one or more species, but also on the consequences of pollution and eutrophication. It emerges from these simulations and model studies that after a lengthy period of environmental stress and deterioration, systems can gradually lose their resistance and resilience, causing a sudden loss of balance that leads to an unstable phase before the system continues

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

at a lower level of complexity – that is, the ‘alternative state’ – and eventually achieves some measure of balance.36 The transition – the phase of instability – may be either rapid or gradual. As a rule, the consequences of the decline or disappearance of species higher up the food chain are more drastic than if the same fate were to befall an organism lower down the chain. Ecologically speaking, some species are more expendable than others. Many species seem to be interchangeable to some extent, as far as their role in the ecosystem is concerned. Within ecosystems, certain roles must be fulfilled, but there is no set cast of characters. The script of the drama is unfinished: not only does nature improvise, but it is usually forced by humankind to do so. Thus we see a reorganization of the ecological network more often than a collapse of some of its parts, let alone a collapse of the whole. Such reordering safeguards the continuity of the ecosystem, albeit on another qualitative level. Human appreciation of that level is time-bound and subjective. We do not take the quality of our environment to be a direct measure of the ecological significance of species and ecosystems. The profusion of small species living in the soil is often overlooked, yet they are vital if the soil is to function well. Highly visible species sometimes receive more than their fair share of attention. For example, there has been a lot of commotion about the giant panda, which is in danger of extinction, but no one talks about the disappearance of the passenger pigeon or of the unknown and unloved Easter Island church owl, which died out soon after human settlement of the island. And how many visitors to Iceland or the Orkney Islands mourn the loss there of the great auk? This flightless bird, sometimes called the penguin of Europe, met an inglorious end in the mid-nineteenth century, when its disappearance from Newfoundland finally marked its disappearance from the face of the earth. At least the dodo – another extinct bird, which was wiped out in the seventeenth century – was immortalized by painters of that period, allowing it to become an icon of extinct species. All in all, the influence of human beings on complex ecosystems has almost never resulted in the collapse of an entire system. What we do see, however, are changes in the composition of the flora and fauna and sometimes the disappearance of certain species.37 It is the quality of systems that is at stake, not their sustainability.

Complex Societies The disappearance of ancient civilizations poses questions that have vexed scholars for centuries. It is the decline of complex societies in particular – the



The Survival of Easter Island

Incas, the Indus Valley civilization, the Roman Empire – that intrigues historians. In his 1988 book, Tainter described a number of cultures, including that of the ancient city of Harappa, whose ‘disappearance’ seemed so complete that he used the word ‘collapse’ to describe it.38 Yet in the case of this and other ancient civilizations, it often proves difficult to explain how and why they disappeared. What actually disappeared? The culture? The people? In any case, it was seldom both. Usually a remnant population survived, or a foreign enemy took over, but what happened before that is difficult to say, and the pace of change was not always rapid. Ponting and later Diamond introduced a completely new element to the discussion by suggesting that in many cases overexploitation of the natural environment had played an important role. Indeed, they argued convincingly that the overexploitation of natural resources was a significant factor that could not be ignored in any historical account. Their work led to a useful and necessary broadening of archaeological and historical horizons.39 However, in their efforts to stimulate the responsible use of natural resources, they grossly exaggerated the consequences of environmental abuse and overexploitation.40 Easter Island is not the only society whose history has been coloured by such hyperbole.41 In addition, some proponents of collapse have suggested that the harm done to nature was the result of a conscious choice. Diamond calls it ‘choosing to fail’, but this is almost never the case  – first, because there are often unintended or accidental factors in play that could not have been foreseen, and second, because people generally adapt to changing circumstances. Diamond and other researchers who focus on material evidence have seriously underestimated both cultural resilience and human adaptability. The system is impoverished but continues to function, and people can apparently still be happy in their new, qualitatively lower circumstances, partly out of ignorance (when impoverishment takes place so slowly that it is barely noticeable) and partly out of indifference (people do not always feel strongly about the disappearance of a species). This is a lesson – perhaps the lesson – that can be learned from the pre-modern history of Easter Island.42 Reality proves to be more complicated, and the curves on the historical graph bear only a superficial resemblance to the models devised by the Club of Rome. In my opinion, a substantial number of theoretical articles on Easter Island have presented and analysed a complete collapse that could never have taken place.43 Not one of these studies has attempted to make use of the available data on levels of food production and the amount of agricultural land, or on the growth rates of pre-modern populations. This

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

does not mean that such models are of no practical value. Indeed, they are helpful in formulating questions and discovering new perspectives. A good example of the latter is given by Marco Janssen, Timothy Kohler and Martin Scheffer,44 who asked themselves why people persist in doing things that are foolish or even reckless long after the disadvantages have become obvious. Why do they fail to make even a belated attempt to adapt? This question derives from their (mistaken) image of a collapse on Easter Island, but that is beside the point. What is important is their introduction of the concept of the ‘sunk-cost effect’, which refers to the effect of previous investments (so-called sunken costs) on future actions. People tend to let their decisions be influenced by costs already incurred (previous investments of money, time or goods) rather than let their actions be guided by the expected future returns that a change in their behaviour might bring: the greater the past investment, the greater the tendency to persist in an endeavour. This is a variant of what was previously referred to as the ‘Concorde fallacy’. There was endless investment in the Concorde aircraft, even after it had become clear that it would never be a commercial success. To call a halt to its development would have seemed like throwing money away. Even though stopping production immediately would have been the most economical solution, no one dared to do it. Janssen, Kohler and Scheffer attempted to use this theory to explain a collapse caused by the overexploitation of renewable resources. Would we also see the sunk-cost effect? For their purposes, they defined ‘collapse’ as a sudden drop in popu­ lation; they did not take into account the crumbling of institutions or other social factors. Their simulations show that there is a real chance of a drastic decline in population and that this possibility is strongly dependent on the investments made. Theirs is a fascinating and relevant study, though perhaps not directly relevant to the alleged collapse of Easter Island. The sunk-cost theory might explain the moai in the quarry, if indeed production of the stone statues went on for far longer than was sensible. Did the islanders persist in this because they had already invested so much time and effort in it? Does this mean that no culture has ever truly collapsed? What about the events that took place on Easter Island in the second half of the nineteenth century? Within just a couple of years in the dark period after the Peruvian slave raids, the population was nearly wiped out, society was disrupted and cultural traditions were lost. This was a ‘true’ collapse, but it must be blamed mainly on the smallpox virus, which had been brought unintentionally from South America and to which the Easter Islanders had no resistance. The introduction of disease can have a devastating effect on



The Survival of Easter Island

small, isolated cultures, of which Easter Island is a tragic example. The original cultures of the ‘new world’, in both North and South America, were also vulnerable to germs from the old world. It was those germs, introduced unwittingly, that finally accomplished what the European conquerors had been unable to achieve with force: the collapse of many original Indian civilizations.45 But this viral defeat does not provide any proof of the central thesis of Ponting’s ‘green history’, since these collapses did not come about through overexploitation of the environment. Ecosystems can undergo qualitative degradation, with some species disappearing completely while others increase in number. In the case of extinction, human beings generally play a major role, either directly or indirectly. To be sure, complex systems can make a transition to an ‘alternative state’, whereby they experience a loss of quality but remain reasonably stable in their new mode. It is not sustainability but quality that is at stake. Cultures can also become impoverished, but the overexploitation of natural resources seldom leads to a collapse. In the past, collapses have been caused by unintentionally introduced diseases, but this is unlikely to occur nowadays. Today, the Asian tiger mosquito, which was unintentionally imported into Europe, poses a serious health risk, but it will not bring about a total collapse. The greatest threat to the planet as a whole is likewise impoverishment and loss of quality. The earth can be viewed as one big network of complex systems and is itself part of a very complex cosmic system. Globalization enables us to compensate for and even mask some of our losses. The disappearance of cod, for example, has been compensated for to some extent by the rise in Southeast Asia of farmed pangasius, a type of fish that is now widely available. Clearly, this course cannot be followed forever, because even farmed fish can exceed the limits of sustainability, and the pangasius is already facing such problems.46 Because the quality of the whole is dependent on its constituent parts, we must pay more attention to the fragility of the complex systems of planet Earth.

Easter Island Today Today approximately 6,000 people live on Easter Island,47 and every year at least ten times that many visit the island as tourists. They do not come for the white beaches and the palm trees, which are in short supply, but for the statues and the archaeological sites. Sometimes they come simply so that they can say they’ve been there. And their numbers are increasing, certainly now that there are regular flights to Easter Island from both Chile

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

and Tahiti. What is the result of the intensification and globalization of its contacts with the outside world? After these daily invasions, will anything remain of Easter Island’s culture and nature? Should these dynamic changes be encouraged? Can development be sustained, or should the island be turned into one big open-air museum? Since the advent of modern connections to the outside world, Easter Island is no longer an autonomous system, and in almost no area is it self-supporting. Sweet potatoes, bananas and several other crops are cultivated there, but not enough to feed the population and the tourists in the way to which they have become accustomed. Fish, however, can be caught in sufficient numbers to meet the island’s needs. Other foods, fuel and consumer goods are imported via Chile, so that the stability of the islanders’ existence is no longer dependent on limited local resources, and overstepping the bounds of sustainability has no direct effect on their lives. They live from the proceeds of tourism and from the financial aid that Chile gives them in the form of tax exemptions. Only in recent years have the authorities begun to invest in improvements. Limited powers have been granted to local authorities, and the infrastructure has undergone some modernization, such as the construction of a road between Hanga Roa and Anakena. Such efforts at governance have improved relations with Chile, but these are still far from friendly. There are frequent calls for independence.48 The islanders do not feel any affinity with Chile; they consider themselves Polynesian and not Latin American. Recent instances of Chile’s disinterest and heartless governance are still fresh in people’s minds. It was not so long ago that the indigenous people were treated like prisoners on their own island and required to present a pass from the Chilean authorities even to leave their own village. Many of Chile’s new initiatives – such as plans to build a casino and a prison – have met with suspicion and resistance (see Figure 9.3). A casino would supposedly rake in money from rich tourists, and the prison would create jobs, as well as providing a secure place for detainees. But the few criminals on Easter Island are hardly in need of full prison facilities, and few islanders support the idea of importing prisoners from elsewhere. Both plans have been shelved for the time being. A simmering conflict about property rights erupted in late 2010. When the island was annexed to Chile, the people were driven off their land and forced to move to Hanga Roa. Now their descendants are demanding restitution. In confrontations with the authorities, islanders have been wounded, and there is still no solution in sight. The level of education of the older Easter Islanders is low. The island has an elementary school and a secondary school. Further education must be



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 9.3.   Protest against Chile’s plans to build a prison on Easter Island, 2007. Photo: author.

sought elsewhere, usually in Chile or the United States. Those who cannot keep up with the higher standards (or are homesick) end up coming back, whereas students who complete their studies abroad usually do not return. Either way, the island does not benefit. The Easter Island Foundation is trying to improve this situation with the limited means at its disposal. In recent years, unskilled Chilean workers, mainly men, have been coming to the island. Their lack of education makes it difficult for them to find a place in modern Chilean society, with its free-market orientation, so they seek their fortune elsewhere. On Easter Island, they form an underclass hired by labour subcontractors for such work as road repairs  – an ironic reversal of history. The island does not have good employment opportunities for the more highly educated. Tourism is by far the greatest source of income, but the tourists generally come for a short time and spend little on the island. Greater numbers of tourists would overtax the physical and ecological infrastructure: the water supply and waste disposal, for example, are becoming more problematic every day. Groundwater is now being used, but this is in limited supply. It does not seem wise, therefore, to expand the tiny beer brewery in order to produce beer for export.49 The islanders are

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

connected with the world by the Internet. Tourists can access the Internet at an Internet café or in the increasingly luxurious hotels that have WiFi. The island’s electricity comes from a small power station that is subject to occasional outages. Little is left of the original flora and fauna, not only because many species died out shortly after the arrival of the first settlers, but also because many plants and animals have been imported in the last century and a half. These imports have given rise to a rather wide variety of vegetation, including banana trees, eucalyptus, ficus, coconut palms, orange-coloured coral trees and splendid bougainvillaea. In terms of biodiversity, the situation has been stable for some years, and reintroduced plants have led to a slight improvement. Opinions are mixed as to whether such artificial growth is desirable. The island is still rocky and grassy, but it looks considerably less barren than it did when Roggeveen laid eyes on it. The Corporación Nacional Forestal (CONAF, the Chilean state forestry commission) has been trying in recent years to achieve ‘historically correct’ reforestation by cultivating such typical Easter Island trees as the paper mulberry and the portia tree. The project moves ahead slowly, in part because the flora and fauna suffer from the many horses and dogs running free on the island. The horses have been used since the late nineteenth century for riding and as beasts of burden, a role they have largely relinquished to the more than three thousand cars and scooters that are driven (but mostly just parked) on the island. There is no adequate system of refuse disposal. Taking it to Chile for processing is considered too expensive, and sorting it for recycling or burning too complicated, so it is simply dumped. The old landfill site has been bulldozed to some extent, but at the new site everything lies exposed on the surface: old refrigerators, plastic bottles and other debris and even dead dogs. Easter Island increasingly cherishes its cultural past, certainly now that this has become the basis of its livelihood and raison d’être. The annual summer festival (Tapati Rapa Nui) is held in late January or early February and attracts approximately one-quarter of the annual number of tourists. Over the years, it has grown into a spectacular two-week festival, in which modern motifs and historical elements intermingle, often with little regard for authenticity but with great commercial savvy (see Figure 9.4). This is a general pattern in modern Easter Island culture.50 The cultural and commercial offerings include everything from outright fakes to original artefacts that have been preserved and cherished for centuries. There is still plenty of room for stories, enigmas and myths, and this gives the island its special charm. The older islanders relate with relish that even Thor Heyerdahl believed their tall tales.



The Survival of Easter Island

Figure 9.4.   Moai products for tourists, autumn 2007. Photo: author.

The greatest cultural treasures on the island are the remains of the statue cult, the birdman cult and the accompanying rock carvings. Numerous archaeological monuments – statues and platforms, as well as the houses in the religious centre of Orongo – have been restored in recent years with the help of foreign funds and expertise. The Museo Sebastián Englert – which boasts a modest collection of artefacts, a dedicated staff and a good library  – also functions as a cultural and educational centre. Its regular visitors include classes of schoolchildren coming to learn about the island’s history.

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

The Catholic Church still plays a major role on the island. In the large church, masses are celebrated in both Spanish and Rapanui. Those who attend the Rapanui services can enjoy Polynesian singing. The islanders are known as good singers, a fact testified to long ago by the Spanish. Rongorongo symbols appear above and beside the church door, as well as on the priest’s liturgical vestments. Elsewhere, too, Catholic and pagan symbols intermingle, as seen in the depictions of Makemake that decorate the outside walls of the chapels. The Catholic Church has learned that here it is better to integrate and Christianize such symbols than to try and banish them with force.

The Future In view of their history, one might be inclined to let the Easter Islanders determine their own future as much as possible, yet they are more dependent than ever on the outside world. Easter Island relies primarily on the mother country, Chile, so the Chilean authorities should be the first to consult the islanders and draw up a sensible development plan – sensible in ecological, democratic and cultural respects, and aimed at improving and strengthening the resilience and sustainability of its nature and culture. On the basis of my experiences and my involvement with the island, I would like to make a few well-intended suggestions. The island’s environment seems to be fairly stable in its present state, but an isolated island of this size remains vulnerable to further environmental degradation. For this reason, in line with CONAF’s plans for reforestation, thought must be given to ecologically sound approaches to waste disposal, transport, energy and the water supply. Only recently has an attempt been made to tackle these problems.51 The environmental sanitary interventions of any potential plans are the least controversial, apart from the regulation of the sharp rise in automobile ownership. The lack of good roads is given as a reason for buying the kind of robust four-wheel-drive, off-road vehicles that have become worldwide status symbols. More accessible roads, sun panels and electric scooters could replace – or stem the tide of – this growing fleet of vehicles. The pressure exerted on the environment by the population (including the tourists) should be brought into line with sustainability levels; otherwise, more foreign resources will be necessary to combat further degradation and loss of quality. This might mean limiting the number of tourists, a measure that has proved necessary on the Galápagos Islands. It also seems reasonable to tax tourists more and to make sure that the expenditure of this



The Survival of Easter Island

extra income is transparent. To raise the level of schooling and strengthen the power of local democracy, the government might consider giving financial aid to islanders studying abroad, on the condition that they return to the island to work for at least five years after obtaining their degrees. A broadening of employment opportunities might be sought in the development of new industries – activities that are not site-specific and require few natural resources, such as the ICT sector. The great ecological and cultural-historical importance of the island has been acknowledged, both nationally, by the Chilean authorities, and internationally, by the 195 member nations of UNESCO. This has resulted in a double status. Since 1935, a large part of the island has been a national park, the Parque Nacional Rapa Nui, which is under the administrative control of Chile’s CONAF. In 1996, the island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This exceptional double status brings with it obligations, also on the part of the international community, to ensure the preservation and further restoration of the island’s archaeological treasures. The countries that have had encounters with Easter Island in the past have sometimes had a decidedly negative influence on its history. This is most true, of course, of the countries that were responsible for carrying off hundreds of islanders in 1862 and 1863 and the tragic aftermath of those events. But it also applies to the American whalers who in the eighteenth century opened fire on the islanders from the safety of their ships, and certainly to the Dutch, the first Europeans to visit the island, who, shortly after coming ashore, caused a shooting incident that led to a dozen casualties. As far as I know, none of those nations has ever apologized for these deeply regrettable incidents, though such an apology, while appreciated as a politically correct gesture on the home stage, would hardly do Easter Island any good. An initiative that would be of use to the island, however – and one to which I would gladly lend my support – is an effort on the part of European museums to collaborate with Easter Island’s new Museo Sebastián Englert in Hanga Roa. In recent years, I have been surprised, time and again, at the great numbers of artefacts produced by this small island that have ended up in dozens of museums around the world, often in depots rather than on display, as is the case with many collections. The best specimens of the skilful woodcarving of the moai tangata or the moko miro, for example, are not on Easter Island, but in the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, the British Museum in London, the Musée de l’Homme in Paris and the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, to mention only a few museums in Western Europe.52 In cooperation with the

The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny

Chilean authorities, an initiative originating in Leiden aims to set up a European–Easter Island collaborative project for the purpose of sharing expertise and lending objects. This would provide the small staff of the new museum in Hanga Roa with better opportunities and greater financial means to display their cultural heritage in a way that benefits their own community. Treating the past with respect will contribute to the quality and strength of the social fabric, thereby enhancing the island’s appeal to future generations. Easter Island needs sustainability that is not achieved at the expense of its wonderful culture and natural beauty.



ahoù ahu Ahu Akivi

clothing made of tree bark a platform for one or more moai a group of seven inland moai at the foot of Terevaka, the highest volcano Ahu Nau Nau pukao-bearing moai near Anakena Aku-Aku /akuaku the spirit or soul of the deceased ana kai tangata ‘cave of the people-eater’; the name of a cave on the coast by Mataveri ariki/aree or areke a clan leader ariki mau a great clan leader, a king ‘atua one of the gods ‘Atua the Rapanui name for the Christian God, used after Christianization CONADI the Corporación Nacional de Desarrollo Indígena (the Chilean government’s indigenous development corporation) CONAF the Corporación Nacional Forestal (the Chilean state forestry commission) Copeca the name of a straw doll observed and recorded by the Spanish in 1750 cowrie small shells, such as the speckled dragon’s-head cowrie Dago the name (recorded by the Dutch) of a specific moai gecoy figs geracona a calabash (gourd) in which water was stored Gotomoara the name (recorded by the English) of a specific moai guano the faeces and urine of seabirds (colony breeders), which is mined as fertilizer 201



Hanau Eepe Hanau Momoko hare moa

the clan of the ‘Long Ears’ the clan of the ‘Short Ears’ a stone structure, presumably for housing chickens hare paenga a house in the form of an oval, upturned boat henua ‘land’ or ‘earth’; presumably the oldest Polynesian name for Easter Island Hiva a mythological island Hoa Hakananai’a the ‘Stolen Friend’, the name of the moai in the British Museum Ho﻾ku﻽le’a the name of the canoe with which Ben Finney sailed from Mangareva to Easter Island Hotu Matu’a the king and leader of the first settlers ivi atua priest Kanakas Polynesian word for South Sea islanders kio peasant/farmer komari vulva Kon-Tiki the Inca name of a legendary sun king; name of Heyerdahl’s raft in 1947 Kote Riku the name of one of the moai restored by Bill Mulloy at Tahai kuhane the spirit of living beings Makemake the creator god makoi the portia tree mamoe a generic name for sheep (corruption of the Namoi Valley in New South Wales, where the first Easter Island sheep came from) mana good fortune, good luck Manu Motu Motiro Hiva ‘bird island on the way to Hiva’; nickname of the island of Sala y Gómez manutara sooty tern maori tangata stonecutters, sculptors Marapoti the name (recorded by the English) of a specific moai mata Easter Island clan mata’a obsidian spearhead matatoa warrior Matta Matta the name (recorded by the English) of a specific moai maute the paper mulberry miro wood moai a stone statue


moai kava kava moai tangata anga

an ancestral wooden statuette the workmen who transported and erected moai moi a grave moko a lizard moko miro a curved lizard-like figure with human and avian characteristics motu an island Motu Iti ‘small island’; an islet just south of Easter Island Motu Nui ‘large island’; an islet just south of Easter Island nga’atu totora reed paenga a stone platform for a house paoa a wooden stick or staff with a carved knob at the top Papa Vaka ‘lava canoe’, an area on Easter Island with many rock carvings related to fishing Paro the name of the largest moai (nearly 10 metres in height) that ever stood on Easter Island pipi horeko a stone structure, perhaps a landmark, a place of burial or the demarcation of a clan’s territory pora a small surfboard made of totora reed poro a platform of round stones in front of an ahu; a place where notables were buried Pou Hakanononga the name of the moai in the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels pukao a moai headdress made of red scoria purau wild hibiscus rapa a double-bladed paddle used in ritual dances Rapa ‘rock’; the name of one of the Austral Islands in French Polynesia Rapa Nui ‘Big Rapa’, Easter Island’s name since 1862 Rapanui the (Polynesian) language of Easter Island rei miro a wooden ornament shaped like a crescent moon with a human head at either end rongorongo the pictographic script of Easter Island tangata manu the birdman; also the wooden statuettes representing the birdman tapa beaten bark of the paper mulberry Taurico the name (recorded by the Dutch) of a specific moai




tavake Te Pito Te Henua toki toromiro Tukuturi tupa umu Uri A Urenga Vairoa

vaka tangata va﻾rua

the red-tailed tropicbird ‘navel of the earth’ a basalt chisel a small mimosa-like tree the name of the kneeling moai at the Rano Raraku quarry a stone structure topped with a white stone, sepulchral monument small ovens half-submerged in the ground free-standing, inland moai whose orientation enabled the islanders to determine the winter and summer solstices ‘large body of water’ or ‘he who comes from far over the sea’; one of the middle names of Henk de Velde’s son, who was born on Easter Island fishermen a generic Polynesian term for spirit or soul


1  Easter Island as an Icon 1

Clive Ponting, A Green History of the World (London:  Sinclair-Stevenson Limited, 1991). The Dutch translation appeared in 1992. In 2007, Ponting published a revised version with a subtitle that emphatically places the book in the realm of popular collapse literature: A New Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilisations (London: Vintage, 2007). The chapter on Easter Island was not revised; the quote from Roggeveen’s diary is on p.  1. I  will continue to use ‘collapse’ occasionally because of its connection to the now well-known body of collapse literature. 2 See Joseph A. Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). 3 Its Dutch name is the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. 4 Jared Diamond, ‘Easter’s End’, Discover Magazine (August 1995)  (http://; Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (London: Allen Lane, Penguin, 2005); Paul Bahn and John Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island (London: Thames and Hudson, 1992). 5 Jacob Roggeveen, Dagverhaal der ontdekkings-reis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen met de schepen Den Arend, Thienhoven en De Afrikaansche Galei in de jaren 1721 en 1722 (Middelburg: De gebroeders Abrahams, 1838). A scholarly edition of the diary was published in 1911 by F. E. Baron Mulert, and it is that edition from which the passages quoted here were taken. 6 F. E. Baron Mulert, De reis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen ter ontdekking van het Zuidland (1721–1722) (The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1911), p. 125. 7 Patrick C. McCoy, ‘Easter Island’, in J. D. Jennings, ed., The Prehistory of Polynesia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979), pp. 135–66. 8 Alfred Métraux, Easter Island:  A  Stone-Age Civilization of the Pacific (London: Andre Deutsch, 1957). 9 Thor Heyerdahl ,Aku-Aku:  Het mysterie van Paaseiland (Lochem:  De Tijdstroom, 1957); Thor Heyerdahl, De Kon-Tiki expeditie:  8000 kilometer per vlot over de Oceaan (Amsterdam:  Scheltens & Giltay, 1960). These books appeared in English as Thor Heyerdahl, Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter



Notes to Pages 5–10 Island (London:  George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1958); Thor Heyerdahl, The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas, translated by F. H. Lyon (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1950). 10 B. J. Nebel and R. T. Wright, Environmental Science, 7th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice Hall, 2000), pp. 4–5; Scott Brennan and Jay Withgott, Environment:  The Science Behind the Stories (San Francisco, London: Benjamin Cummings/Pearson, 2005), pp. 8–9. 11 Jan J. Boersema, Hoe groen is het goede leven? Over vooruitgang en het natuurlijk milieu in onze westerse cultuur (Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit, 2002).

2  From the East or the West? 1

Three sources name someone other than Jacob Roggeveen as the first visitor. The first is the account of Hugh Cuming, who visited the island in 1827. He writes: ‘On 15th of Nov. made sail with a fine breeze from the S.E. for the Island de Pasqua of the Spaniards who discovered it about 200 years since and now generaly [sic] known by the name of Easter Island’. If Cuming was referring here to a visit that took place around 1627, then the name Isla de Pascua cannot be correct, since that is a Spanish translation of the name Roggeveen gave the island in 1722. Cuming’s account can be found in Rhys Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861:  Observations by Early Visitors Before the Slave Raids (Los Osos, CA:  Easter Island Foundation, 2008), p. 96. The second report was written by the Englishman J. Linton Palmer, a ship’s surgeon who visited the island in 1868 on the HMS Topaze. He writes in his account:  ‘The look of these people has been commented on by all visitors. Mendaña (1566) says, some were almost white, and had red hair’ (J. Linton Palmer, ‘A Visit to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in 1868’, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 40 [1870], pp. 167–81, esp. p. 170). Finally, there is the German translation of a Russian book which refers to ‘Spanischen Chroniken’ (Spanish Chronicles) that contain an account of a visit to Easter Island in 1566. The same person is recorded as the discoverer, Alvaro Mendaña de Neyra, known for naming the Solomon Islands. See Fjodor Petrowitsch Krendeljow and Aleksandr Michailowitsch Kondratow, Die Geheimnisse der Osterinsel (Leipzig, B. G. Teubner Verlagsgesellschaft, 1990), p. 193. I have not been able to find these ‘Spanish Chronicles’, nor is Mendaña de Neyra’s visit to the island confirmed in any of the ‘official’ Easter Island literature, such as Miriam Estensen’s (2006) book on the Spanish voyages to the southern continent. Doubt was already cast on this observation in the nineteenth century. See William J. Thompson, Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island (Washington, DC: Report of the National Museum, 1891), p. 447. 2 On Behrens’s account and its editions, see Zuzanna Jakubowska, ‘Behrens’ narrative of the discovery of Easter Island: Two editions, two personalities, two realities’, Rapa Nui Journal 26:1 (2012), pp. 21–30. 3 For an overview of earlier journeys to this unknown continent, see R. H. Major, ed., Early Voyages to Terra Australis, Now Called Australia (London: Hakluyt

Notes to Pages 10–15

4 5


7 8

9 10


Society, 1859/2007) (reprint Whitefish, MT:  Kessinger Publishing’s Legacy Reprints, 2007). See Roelof van Gelder’s biography of Jacob Roggeveen, Naar het aards paradijs (Amsterdam:  Balans, 2012), which I  gratefully made use of when revising this book. The spelling varies from source to source, as was usual in those days. The names of the ships, for example, are given variously as Arend and Arent, Thienhoven and Tienhoven, and Africaansche Galey/Galei. I  adhere to the spelling given by Roggeveen himself at the beginning of his journal (see F. E. Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, gehouden op het schip Tienhoven tijdens de ontdekkingsreis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen, 1721–1722 [Middelburg: J. C. and W. Altorffer, 1911], p. 51), even though it differs from the spelling on the title page of the 1838 edition. See ‘Account of the Observations of Captain William Dampier on the Coast of New Holland, in 1687–88, Being an Extract from His “New Voyage Round the World” ’, in R.  H. Major 1859/2010, pp.  99–107, and in Leslie R. Marchant, An Island unto Itself:  William Dampier and New Holland (Carlisle, WA:  Hesperian Press, 1988), p.  62. Edward Davis and a certain Lionel Wafer, a ship’s surgeon on Davis’s ship The Batchelor’s Delight, told the story to Dampier, who in turn told it to other European seamen. See F. E. Baron Mulert, De reis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen ter ontdekking van het Zuidland (1721–1722) (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1911), pp. 116–17; and Scheepsjournaal, p. 94. Baron Mulert, De reis, p. 124. Don Felipe González’s journal was published in the Hakluyt series:  Bolton Glanvill Corney, ed., The Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González in the Ship of the Line San Lorenzo with the Frigate Santa Rosalia in Company to Easter Island in 1770–1771 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1903). This edition also contains two shorter journals, one probably written by Don Francisco Antonio de Aguera y Infanzon, first mate on the Santa Rosalia (pp. 85–111), and the other possibly by Don Juan Hervé, first mate on the San Lorenzo (pp. 115–28). Considering their uncertain authorship, these accounts are hereafter treated as a single source. He, too, was evidently unfamiliar with the ‘Spanish Chronicles’, which supposedly report the discovery made by his fellow countryman Mendaña in 1566. Bolton Glanvill Corney, ed., The Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González in the Ship of the Line San Lorenzo with the Frigate Santa Rosalia in Company to Easter Island in 1770–1771, transcribed, translated, and edited by Bolton Glanvill Corney, second series. No XIII (London: Hakluyt Society, 1903), p. 96. Michael E. Hoare, ed., The Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster, 1772–1775, 4 vols. (London: Hakluyt Society, 1982). Volume III (1772–5), p. 457, contains Forster’s detailed description of Cook’s intestinal ailment; see also Nicholas Thomas, Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook (New York: Walker and Company, 2003), p. 222. On the tension between the Forsters and Cook, see Helen Wallis, ‘Publication of Cook’s Journals: Some New Sources and Assessments’, Pacific Studies 1:2 (1978), pp. 163–94.



Notes to Pages 15–20 12 J. C. Beaglehole, ed., The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery, vol. 2: Voyage of the Resolution and Adventure 1772–1775 (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, for Hakluyt Society, 1961), pp. 359–60. The English were not the first to compile a list of words in Rapanui, the language of Easter Island. The journal of the Spanish expedition contains a longer vocabulary list, but it is not comparative and no connections are made with other languages. 13 Beaglehole, The Journals of Captain James Cook, p. 356. The Tahitian’s name is something of a mystery. In the journal he is called ‘Odiddy’, in the logbook he is referred to as ‘Hitihiti’ and ‘originally Mahine’, and in the caption below William Hodges’s drawing of him he is called ‘O-Hedidee’. 14 Patrick V. Kirch, On the Roads of the Winds:  An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands Before European Contact (Berkeley, CA:  University of California Press, 2002), pp. 13–14. 15 J. Dunmore, ed., The Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse 1785–1788, 2 vols. (London: Hakluyt Society, 1994–5), vol. 1, p. ix. 16 Paul Bahn and John Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island (London: Thames and Hudson, 1992), p. 38. 17 C. Ralling, The Kon-Tiki Man (London: BBC Books, 1990). 18 Thor Heyerdahl, American Indians in the Pacific:  The Theory Behind the Kon-Tiki Expedition (London:  George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1952); Thor Heyerdahl, Sea Routes to Polynesia:  American Indians and Early Asiatics in the Pacific (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1968). 19 At the 2007 conference of the Easter Island Foundation, I asked Heyerdahl’s personal assistant, who had helped him during the last years of his life, whether Thor had ever expressed doubts to him about his own theory. His answer was ‘never’. 20 C. Renfrew, Before Civilization: The Radiocarbon Revolution and Prehistoric Europe (London: Penguin, 1973). 21 The principle was discovered and developed by the American Willard Libby in 1949; for this discovery, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960. 22 Marylyn L. Fogel et al., ‘Biochemical Record of Ancient Humans’, Organic Geochemistry 27:5/6 (1997), pp. 275–87. 23 Erica Hagelberg, ‘Ancient DNA Studies’, Evolutionary Anthropology 2:6 (1994/95), pp. 199–207. On the microarray, see Jörg D. Hoheisel, ‘Microarray technology: beyond transcript profiling and genotype analysis’, Nature Reviews Genetics 7 (2006), pp. 200–10. 24 Christopher M. Stevenson, ‘The Hydration Dating of Easter Island Obsidians’, Clava 4 (1988), pp. 83–93; Christopher M. Stevenson and Steven W. Novak, ‘Obsidian Hydration Dating by Infrared Spectroscopy: Method and Calibration’, Journal of Archaeological Science 38 (2011), pp. 1716–26. 25 Atholl Anderson and Yosihiko Sinoto, ‘New Radiocarbon Ages of Colonization Sites in East Polynesia’, Asian Perspectives, 41:2 (2002), pp. 242–57; Helene Martinsson-Wallin and Susan J. Crockford, ‘Early Settlement of Rapa Nui’, Asian Perspectives, 40:2 (2002), pp. 244–78; Christopher M. Stevenson, Thomas L. Jackson, Andreas Mieth, Hans-Rudolf Bork and

Notes to Pages 20–24 Thegn N. Ladefoged, ‘Prehistoric and Early Historic Agriculture at Maunga Orito, Easter Island (Rapa Nui), Chile’, Antiquity 80 (2006), pp. 919–36, esp. pp. 331–2. 26 William S. Ayres, ‘Radiocarbon Dates from Easter Island’, Journal of the Polynesian Society LXXX (1971), pp. 497–504. Doubt was soon cast on the earliest datings published by the Norwegian archaeological expedition led by Thor Heyerdahl; see J. Golson, ‘Thor Heyerdahl and the Prehistory of Easter Island’, Oceania 36:1 (1965), pp. 38–83. 27 Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, ‘Late Colonization of Easter Island’, Science 311 (2006), pp. 1603–6. 28 For an account of these early datings and the discussion surrounding them, see Paul Bahn and John Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island, 3rd ed. (Rapa Nui: Rapa Nui Press, 2011), pp. 127, 129 and esp. pp. 263–6. 29 Erica Hagelberg, Sylvia Quevedo, Daniel Turbon, and J. B. Clegg, ‘DNA from Ancient Easter Islanders’, Nature 369 (1994), pp. 25–6. 30 The name Rapa Nui did not come into use until after 1862. Its first mention, in a letter from the priest Honoré Laval of Mangareva, dates from 1863. See Steven Roger Fischer, ‘The Naming of Rapanui’, in Steven Roger Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies: Contributions to the History of Rapanui in Memory of William T.  Mulloy (Oxford:  Oxbow, 1993), pp. 63–6. Hyppolyte Roussel informs us that when he was living on the island – for a couple of years, starting in 1866 – the name Rapa Nui was unknown there. See Georgia Lee, Ann M. Altman and Frank Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island 1864–1877: The Reports of Eugène Eyraud, Hippolyte Roussel, Pierre Loti and Alphonse Pinart (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2004), p. 38. 31 See Barry V. Rolett, ‘Voyaging and Interaction in Ancient Polynesia’, Asian Perspectives 41:2 (2002), pp. 182–94; Douglas Kennett, Atholl Anderson, Matthew Prebble, Eric Conte and John Southon, ‘Prehistoric Human Impacts on Rapa, French Polynesia’, Antiquity 80 (2006), pp. 340–54. 32 C. H.  M. Heeren-Palm, Polynesische migratie (Amsterdam:  University of Amsterdam, 1955); K. R. Howe, Voyages of the Ancestors: The Discovery and Settlement of the Pacific, edited by Vaka Moana (Honolulu:  University of Hawai’i Press, 2007). 33 Geoffrey Irwin, The Prehistoric Exploration and Colonization of the Pacific (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 43–4. 34 Andrew Sharp, Ancient Voyagers in the Pacific (Harmondsworth, Middlesex:  Penguin Books Ltd, 1957); John Edward Terrell, Colonization of the Pacific Islands, Paper given at the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Nashville, 1997; Ben R. Finney, ‘Tracking Polynesian Seafarers’, Science 317 (2007), pp. 1873–4. 35 Ian D. Goodwin, Stuart A. Browning and Atholl J. Anderson, ‘Climate Windows for Polynesian Voyaging to New Zealand and Easter Island’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 111:41 (2014), pp. 14716–21. 36 Ben R. Finney and Bernard Kilonsky, ‘Closing and Opening the Polynesian Triangle:  Ho﻾ku﻽le‘a’s Voyage to Rapa Nui’, in Christopher M. Stevenson, Georgia Lee and Frank J. Morin, eds., Pacific 2000 Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific (Los Osos, CA: Easter



Notes to Pages 24–26

37 38




42 43



Island Foundation, 2001), pp. 353–63; Ben R. Finney, ‘Voyage to Polynesia’s Land’s End’, Antiquity 75 (2001), pp. 172–81. Ben R. Finney, ‘Voyaging’, in J. D. Jennings, ed., The Prehistory of Polynesia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979), pp. 323–51. David Lewis, We the Navigators (Canberra:  Australian National University Press, 1972); Geoffrey Irwin, The Navigational Methods and Exploration Strategies of the First Settlers of the Pacific Ocean (http://www.transitofvenus, 2004, p. 196. In the 1950s, the Norwegian expedition dated sweet potato remains on Easter Island to the period before the advent of European visitors, which means that it must have arrived in Polynesia long before the year 1100; otherwise the Polynesians could not have taken the sweet potato with them to Easter Island. See Paul Rosendahl and D. E. Yen, ‘Fossil Sweet Potato Remains from Hawai’i’, Journal of the Polynesian Society 80 (1971), pp. 379–85. For a good overview of recent (but no longer the most recent) research, see Patrick V. Kirch and Jennifer G. Kahn, ‘Advances in Polynesian Prehistory: A Review and Assessment of the Past Decade (1993–2004)’, Journal of Archaeological Research 15 (2007), pp. 191–238. Erica Hagelberg et  al., ‘Molecular Genetic Evidence for the Human Settlement of the Pacific:  Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA, y-Chromosome and HLA Markers’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B:3 54 (1999), pp. 141–52; Manfred Kayser et al., ‘Melanesian and Asian Origins of Polynesians:  mtDNA and y Chromosome Gradients Across the Pacific’, Molecular Biology and Evolution, 23:11 (2006), pp. 2234–44. John Edward Terrell, ‘Recalibrating Polynesian Prehistory’, PNAS 108:5 (2011), pp. 1753–4. Alice A. Storey et al., ‘Radiocarbon and DNA Evidence for a Pre-Columbian Introduction of Polynesian Chickens to Chile’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 104:  25 (2007), pp. 10335–9. J.  Gongora et  al. ‘Indo-European and Asian origins for Chilean and Pacific chickens revealed by mtDNA’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 105:30 (2008), pp. 10308–13. Alice A. Storey et al., ‘Pre-Columbian chickens of the Americas: a critical review of the hypotheses and evidence for their origins’, Rapa Nui Journal 25:2 (2011), pp.  5–19. See also Ian G.  Barber, ‘A fast yam to Polynesia: New thinking on the problem of the American sweet potato in Oceania’, Rapa Nui Journal 26:1 (2012), pp. 31–42. Luc Baudouin and Patricia Lebrun, ‘Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) DNA Studies Support the Hypothesis of an Ancient Austronesian Migration from Southeast Asia to America’, Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 56 (2008), pp. 257–62. For a pre-2012 summary of the discussion, see Andrew Lawler, ‘Beyond Kon-Tiki: Did Polynesians Sail to South America?’ Science 328 (2010), pp. 1344–7; and Terry Jones et al., eds., Pre-Columbian Contacts with the New World (Lanham, MD: AltaMira [Rowman and Littlefield], 2011). Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas et  al., ‘Two Ancient Human Genomes Reveal Polynesian Ancestry Among the Indigenous Botocudos of Brasil’, Current Biology 24:21 (2014), pp. 1035–7.

Notes to Pages 26–32 46 J. Victor Moreno-Mayer et al., ‘Genome-wide Ancestry Patterns in Rapanui Suggest Pre-European Admixture with Native Americans’, Current Biology 24 (2014), pp. 2518–25; Chris Tyler-Smith, ‘Human Genetics: Pre-Columbian Pacific Contact’, Current Biology 24:21 (2014), pp. 1038–40. 47 B. A. Lie et al., ‘Molecular Genetic Studies of Natives on Easter Island: Evidence of an Early European and Amerindian Contribution to the Polynesian Gene Pool’, Tissue Antigens 69:1 (2006), pp. 10–18.

3  The Green Past 1 Steven Roger Fischer and Charles M. Love, ‘Rapanui:  The Geological Parameters’, in Steven Roger Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies: Contributions to the History of Rapanui in Memory of William T. Mulloy (Oxford: Oxbow, 1993), pp. 1–6. 2 P. E. Baker, F. Buckley and J. G. Holland, ‘Petrology and Geochemistry of Easter Island’, Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 44 (1974), pp. 85–110. 3 Hiva is the legendary Polynesian homeland of the Easter Islanders; the name has religious connotations. Rapanui is the language spoken on Easter Island. 4 The great frigatebird (Fregata minor), or Makohe in Rapanui, breeds in small numbers and can sometimes be seen migrating along the coast. The sooty tern, Manutara in Rapanui, is now officially called Onychoprion fuscatus (formerly Sterna fuscata). Both birds are easily recognizable in the numerous rock carvings: the great frigatebird by its long curved bill and the sooty tern by its deeply forked tail. 5 The recorded distances to Easter Island sometimes vary by hundreds of kilometres. The same disparity is seen in records of its altitudes and surface area. Even serious sources cannot agree on the distance to Pitcairn Island and the coast of Chile. For example, Wikipedia gives 2,075 and 3,600 kilometres to Pitcairn and Chile, respectively; Shawn McLaughlin’s The Complete Guide to Easter Island, 2nd ed. (Los Osos, CA:  Easter Island Foundation, 2007), gives 2,000 and 3,700 kilometres; Jared Diamond, in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive (London:  Allen Lane, Penguin, 2005), gives only miles (1,300 and 2,300); and Paul Bahn and John Flenley, in Easter Island, Earth Island (London:  Thames and Hudson, 1992), give 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometres) and 2,340 miles (3,747 kilometres). Ten years later, Flenley and Bahn, The Enigmas of Easter Island:  Island on the Edge (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2002)  mention 2,092 kilometres and 3,599 kilometres. My information came from the LAN Chile pilot who flew our plane to Easter Island in 2007; at least his distances are in nice round figures. The recorded heights of the volcanoes also differ greatly:  Terevaka varies from 500 to 536 metres, Poike from 370 to 430 metres, and Rano Kau from 300 to 330 metres. These figures are, in any case, rather more accurate than the figures recorded for the surface area of Easter Island. Flenley and his colleagues (‘The Late Quaternary Vegetational and Climatic History of Easter Island’, Journal of Quaternary Science 6 (1991): 85–115 ), gives an improbable 117 km2 (p. 85).



Notes to Pages 32–34 6 A good summary of the many names given to Easter Island is found in Steven Roger Fischer, ‘The Naming of Rapanui’, in Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies, pp.  63–6. Fischer cites Anakena (recorded in 1862)  as the first documented name of the island. 7 Taxonomy, the classification of living organisms, uses a number of categories (which are frequently adjusted) to classify plants and animals. Fungi, for example, are no longer considered plants; they now comprise a separate kingdom. With regard to land plants, the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group published in the 1990s a new classification system, based on chloroplast DNA. The main division is now between mosses and vascular plants, with vascular plants divided into ferns and seed plants, and seed plants into gymnosperms (conifers and palm ferns) and angiosperms (flowering plants). 8 John R. Flenley and Sarah M. King, ‘Late Quaternary Pollen Records from Easter Island’, Nature 307 (1984), pp. 47–50. The method presupposes an undisturbed soil profile. Unfortunately, the soil archive of Rano Kau has been compromised by the drainage of water from the crater lake. 9 Flenley et  al., ‘The Late Quaternary Vegetational and Climatic History of Easter Island’. 10 See Thor Heyerdahl, Easter Island: The Mystery Solved (New York: Random House, 1989), p. 246, for a photo of the sample taken by Heyerdahl, following the instructions of Olof Selling, during the Norwegian expedition of 1955–6. 11 Flenley and King, ‘Late Quaternary Pollen Records from Easter Island’, p. 47. 12 F. E. Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, gehouden op het schip Tienhoven tijdens de ontdekkingsreis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen, 1721–1722 (Middelburg: J. C. and W. Altorffer, 1911), p. 91. 13 John Dransfield et al., ‘A Recently Extinct Palm from Easter Island’, Nature 312 (1984), pp. 750–2. Doreen Bowdery, ‘An enigma revisited: identification of palm phytoliths extracted from the 1983 Rapa Nui, Rano Kao2 core’, Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 2 December 2014, published online: doi:10.1007/ s00334-014-0503-x. 14 See Catherine Orliac, ‘Types of Wood Used in Rapanui Carving’, in Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies, pp. 201–5. The toromiro has been extinct in the wild since 1960. George Forster, who stated in his travel account that he saw woods of mimosa and poplar-like trees, thought that the mimosa was the only species from which the islanders could make clubs. Nicholas Thomas and Oliver Berghof, eds., A Voyage Round the World, 2 vols., after the narrative published by George Forster in 1777. Honolulu Hawai’i: University of Hawai’i Press, vol. I, p. 306. 15 Catherine Orliac, ‘The Woody Vegetation of Easter Island Between the Early 14th and the Mid-17th Centuries ad’, in Christopher M. Stevenson and William S. Ayres, eds., Easter Island Archaeology (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2000), pp. 211–20. 16 They were, however, able to determine that these plants belonged to a number of different species. The list drawn up by the Orliacs lacked the species Lycium carolinianum, a variant of boxthorn known as Christmas berry, and Caesalpinia bonduc (L.) Roxb., known as grey nicker – two shrub-like plants recorded as native to Easter Island in previous studies. The pollen grains of these species are easily damaged by insects; some authors consider them entomophilous

Notes to Pages 34–40 (Flenley and King, ‘Late Quaternary Pollen Records from Easter Island’, p. 49). 17 Bolton Glanvill Corney, ed., The Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González in the Ship of the Line San Lorenzo with the Frigate Santa Rosalia in Company to Easter Island in 1770–1771, transcribed, translated and edited by Bolton Glanvill Corney, second series. No. XIII (London: Hakluyt Society), p. 101. 18 David A. Burnley, ‘Tropical Islands as Paleoecological Laboratories: Gauging the Consequences of Human Arrival’, Human Ecology 25:3 (1997), pp. 437–57. 19 Michael E. Hoare, ed., The Resolution Journal, vol. 4 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1982), p. 776. The species in question is Paspalum undulatum (inscribed on the drawing), whose modern name is Paspalum forsterianum Fluegge. 20 Carl Skottsberg, ed., The Natural History of Juan Fernández and Easter Island, 3 vols. (Uppsala: Almquist and Wiksells Boktryckeri AB, 1920–56). Shortly after its appearance, this publication was summarized in W. B. Turrill, ‘Recent Researches on the Botany of Juan Fernández and Easter Island’, Kew Bulletin 13:1 (1958), pp. 89–95. 21 Flenley and King, ‘Late Quaternary Pollen Records from Easter Island’. The crater lakes are difficult to date, however, as Flenley noticed in the course of his research. See Kevin Butler, Christine A. Prior and John R. Flenley, ‘Anomalous Radiocarbon Dates from Easter Island’, Radiocarbon 46:1 (2004), pp. 395–405. 22 M. Prebble and J. L. Dowe, ‘The Late Quaternary Decline and Extinction of Palms on Oceanic Pacific Islands’, Quaternary Science Reviews 27 (2008), pp. 2546–67. They identify at least eighteen species that are now extinct. 23 H. A. Rehder, The Marine Mollusks of Easter Island (Isla de Pascua) and Sala y Gómez, Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology number 287 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute 1980); William A. Newman and Brian A. Foster, “The Rapanuian Faunal District (Easter Island and Sala y Gómez):  In Search of Ancient Archipelagos,” Bulletin of Marine Science 33:3 (1983), pp. 633–44. 24 Newman and Foster, ‘The Rapanuian Faunal District’. 25 David W. Steadman, C. P. Vargas and F. C. Cristino, ‘Stratigraphy, Chronology, and Cultural Context of an Early Faunal Assemblage from Easter Island’, Asian Perspectives 33 (1994), pp. 59–77. 26 Hoare, Resolution Journal, vol. 3, p. 466. 27 For an overview, see Dennis K. Hubbard and Michel Garcia, ‘The Corals and Coral Reefs of Easter Island – A Preliminary Look’, in John Loret and John T. Tanacredi, Easter Island: Scientific Exploration into the World’s Environmental Problems in Microcosm (Dordrecht:  Kluwer Academic/Plenum, 2003), pp. 53–77. 28 See, among others, Christopher B. Boyko, ‘The Endemic Marine Invertebrates of Easter Island:  How Many Species and for How Long?’ in Loret and Tanacredi, Easter Island, pp. 155–75. 29 John E. Randall, ‘Pascua caudilinea, a New Genus and Species of Gobiid Fish (Pesciformes:  Gobiidae) from Easter Island’, Zoological Studies 44:1 (2005), pp. 19–25.



Notes to Pages 40–42 30 L. B. Holthuis, ‘Some New Species of Scyllaridae’, Proceedings Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (C)70 (1967), pp. 305–8. 31 David W. Steadman, ‘Extinction of Birds in Eastern Polynesia: A Review of the Record, and Comparisons with Other Pacific Island Groups’, Journal of Archaeological Science 16 (1989), pp. 177–205; David W. Steadman, ‘Prehistoric Extinctions of Pacific Island Birds:  Biodiversity Meets Zooarchaeology’, Science 267 (1995), pp. 1123–31; David W. Steadman, ‘Extinctions of Polynesian Birds: Reciprocal Impacts of Birds and People’, in Patrick V. Kirch and Terry L. Hunt, eds., Historical Ecology in the Pacific Islands: Prehistoric Environmental and Landscape Change (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 1997), pp. 51–79; Donald K. Grayson, ‘The Archaeological Record of Human Impacts on Animal Populations’, Journal of World Prehistory 15:1 (2001), pp. 1–67. 32 Steadman, ‘Extinction of Birds in Eastern Polynesia’; Steadman, ‘Prehistoric Extinctions of Pacific Island Birds’. 33 Thomas Elmqvist, ‘Pollinator Extinction in the Pacific Islands’, Conservation Biology 14:5 (2000), pp. 1237–9. 34 Gail S. Carr, ‘Historic and Prehistoric Avian Records from Easter Island’, Pacific Science 34 (1980), pp. 19–20; Steadman, Vargas and Cristino, ‘Stratigraphy, Chronology, and Cultural Context of an Early Faunal Assemblage from Easter Island’; A. Jaramillo, M. T. J. Johnson, C. J. Rothfels and R. A. Johnson, ‘The Native and Exotic Avifauna of Easter Island: Then and Now (La avifauna nativa y exótica de Isla de Pascua: antes y ahora)’, Boletín Chileno de Ornitología 14:1 (2008), pp. 8–21. Already available in 2002 in Duke University papers: http:// 35 Steadman, ‘Prehistoric Extinctions of Pacific Island Birds’. 36 Hoare, Resolution Journal, vol. 3, p. 475. The terns in question are listed in a footnote as the blue noddy (Procelsterna cerulea), the white tern (Gygis alba/ sterna candida) and the sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscatus). Remains of bones from these three species have been found (Carr, ‘Historic and Prehistoric Avian Records from Easter Island‘). Only the sooty tern is known to have bred there all that time. 37 Per Milberg and Tommy Tyrberg, ‘Naive Birds and Noble Savages – a Review of Man-Caused Prehistoric Extinctions of Island Birds’, Ecography 16 (1993), pp. 229–50; Carr, ‘Historic and Prehistoric Avian Records from Easter Island’, pp. 19–20. 38 For several years now, bird-watching excursions have been organized to see this rare species of petrel ( For a complete list of the twenty-one species of birds that have bred on the island in recent years, see 39 A. W. Johnson, W. R. Millie and G. Moffett, ‘Notes on the Birds of Easter Island’, Ibis (1970), pp. 112, 532–8; Y. A. Vilina, A. Larrea and J. E. Gibbons, ‘First Record of the Bristle-Thighed Curlew, Numenius tahitiensis’, in Easter Island, Chile, Wader Study Group Bulletin 66 (1992), pp. 43–4. 40 See Tom Harrisson, ‘Easter Island:  A  Last Outpost’, Orynx 11 (1971), pp. 111–16. Harrisson mentions a Chilean tinamou (Nothoprocta perdicaria), a partridge-like bird introduced in 1885, along with the red-breasted

Notes to Pages 42–44 blackbird (Leistes militaris), which did not do well on Easter Island. The common diuca finch (Diuca diuca), the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) and a small, buzzard-like bird of prey, the chimango caracara (Milvago chimango) – three species that can now be spotted all over the island – were introduced in 1928. 41 S. S. Barnes, Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith and Terry L. Hunt, ‘Ancient DNA of the Pacific Rat (Rattus exulans) from Rapa Nui (Easter Island)’, Journal of Archaeological Science 33 (2006), pp. 1536–40. 42 More specifically, the overview notes a species of green Hymenoptera, a species of fly, a species of worm, a species of water beetle and a species of land snail. They are named in the studies included in Skottsberg, Natural History of Juan Fernández and Easter Island, vol. 3, pp.  219–54 (snails), pp.  309–13 (Hymenoptera), pp. 461–77 (beetles, worms) and pp. 634–80 (flies). 43 Maric Hammer, ‘A Few Oribatid Mites from Easter Island’, Pacific Insects 12:2 (1970), pp. 279–89. 44 Patrick V. Kirch, Carl C. Christensen and David W. Steadman, ‘Subfossil Land Snails from Easter Island, Including Hotumatua anakenana, New Genus and Species (Pulmonata: Achatinellidae)’, Pacific Science 63:1 (2009), pp. 105–22. 45 See Charles Perrings, Harald Mooney and Mark Williamson, eds., Bioinvasions and Globalization, Ecology, Economics, Management, and Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Wouter van der Weijden, Rob Leewis and Pieter Bol, Biological Globalisation – Bio-invasions and Their Impacts on Nature, the Economy and Public Health (Netherlands: KNNV, 2007). 46 In the Netherlands, this appears to be the case with the rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri), an exotic escapee that has now settled permanently in the wild, seemingly without harming the indigenous species; see Wil L. M. Tamis, ‘Exoten:  verrijking voor Nederlandse biodiversiteit’, Landschap 25:3 (2008), pp. 134–5; Willem C. van Esch and Wil L. M. Tamis, ‘De exotische Halsbandparkiet bereid op Hollandse wijze’, Limosa 81 (2008), pp. 27–9; A. van Kleunen, L. van den Bremer, R. Lensink and P. Wiersma, ‘De Halsbandparkiet, Monniksparkiet en Grote Alexanderparkiet in Nederland:  risicoanalyse en beheer’, Sovon-onderzoeksrapport, Nijmegen:  Sovon Vogelonderzoek Nederland. This situation might change, owing to the species’ rapid increase in numbers. 47 In his account, Carl Behrens left open the possibility that other animals, including pigs, might have been found deeper inland:  ‘Because the inhabitants recognized the pigs, which they saw on our ships’ (‘Denn die Einwohner kannten die Schweine, die sie auf unsern Schiffen sahen’). This is a remarkable piece of information, since none of the other journals mentions the presence of pigs on the Dutch ships. See Carl Friedrich Behrens, Der wohlversuchte Südländer: Reise um die Welt 1721/22 (Leipzig, F. A. Brockhaus, 1925), p. 67. 48 Donald K. Grayson, ‘The Archaeological Record of Human Impacts on Animal Populations’, Journal of World Prehistory 15:1 (2001), pp. 1–67. 49 John Perlin, A Forest Journey:  The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991).



Notes to Pages 45–48

4  Culture Appears, Nature Disappears 1 Clarence J. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore:  Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967). 2 Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years (London: Chatto and Windus, 1997; London: Vintage, 1998). 3 F. E.  Baron Mulert, De reis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen ter ontdekking van het Zuidland (1721–1722) (The Hague:  Martinus Nijhoff, 1911), p.  119:  ‘met agterlating van 10  à 12 dooden, behalven de gequeste’. Cornelis Bouman reports nine to ten deaths; F. E.  Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, gehouden op het schip Tienhoven tijdens de ontdekkingsreis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen, 1721–1722 (Middelburg: J. C. and W. Altorffer, 1911), p. 88. 4 Rhys Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861: Observations by Early Visitors Before the Slave Raids (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2008). 5 H. E. Maude, Slavers in Paradise. The Peruvian Labour Trade in Polynesia, 1862–1864, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press; Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1981). 6 Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, ‘Late Colonization of Easter Island’, Science 311 (2006), pp. 1603–6. 7 Patrick C. McCoy, ‘Excavation of a Rectangular House on the East Rim of Rano Kau Volcano, Easter Island’, Archaeology and Physical Anthropology in Oceania 8 (1973), pp. 51–67. A piece of charcoal from a portia tree (Thespesia populnea) was found near the house; it has been roughly dated to ad 770 using radiocarbon dating, while the floor of the house has been dated to 1150 ± 72 using the method of age determination known as obsidian–hydration–rind dating. 8 See William S. Ayres, ‘Radiocarbon Dates from Easter Island’, Journal Polynesian Society 80:4 (1971), pp. 497–504. Improvements in dating methods have brought about a certain amount of ‘rejuvenation’ in the datings of the earliest signs of habitation. Whereas it was previously assumed that the first inhabitants arrived around ad 400, this is now thought to have happened several centuries later, certainly not long before ad 900 and presumably even later. The datings display a large spread (see the preceding note). The early datings involve artefacts or pieces of charcoal or bone and are not supported by other signs of permanent habitation. See Arne Skjølsvold, ‘The Dating of Rapanui Monolithic Sculpture’, in Steven Roger Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies:  Contributions to the History of Rapanui in Memory of William T. Mulloy (Oxford: Oxbow, 1993), pp. 89–95; and John Flenley and Paul Bahn, The Enigmas of Easter Island: Island on the Edge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 77. 9 Helene Martinsson-Wallin and Susan J. Crockford, ‘Early Settlement of Rapa Nui’, Asian Perspectives 40/2 (2002), pp. 244–78. 10 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p.  89:  ‘alsof men een Groenlandsche sloep ten onderste boven ziet leggen’.

Notes to Pages 48–52 11 J. C. Beaglehole, ed., The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery, vol. 2:  Voyage of the Resolution and Adventure 1772–1775 (Cambridge: Hakluyt Society at the University Press, 1961), p. 352. 12 J. Dunmore, ed., The Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse 1785–1788 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1994–5), vol. 1 (1994), p. 64. 13 The Dutch speak of ‘rushes or long grass’ (‘biesen off lang gras’) (Roggeveen) or ‘straw’ (‘stroo’) (Bouman), which is connected with a ‘certain plant called ‘piet’ (‘seeker gewas, Piet genaemd’). The Spanish, with their knowledge of South America, recognized the totora reed. Bolton Glanvill Corney, ed., The Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González in the Ship of the Line San Lorenzo with the Frigate Santa Rosalia in Company to Easter Island, 1770–1771 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1903), p. 102. 14 See the drawing of this storage bin in Christopher M. Stevenson, Thegn N. Ladefoged, Sonia Haoa and Alejandra Guerra Terra, ‘Managed Agricultural Production in the Vaitea Region of Rapa Nui, Chile’ (presented as a paper in 2004), in Christopher M. Stevenson, José M. Ramírez, Frank J. Morin and Norma Barbacci, eds., The Reñaca Papers, Sixth International Conference on Rapa Nui and the Pacific (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2005), pp. 125–36. 15 Baron Mulert, De reis, p. 124: ‘een stoep, om in de avond-koelte daer te sitten en te praaten’. 16 Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Hoa Hakananai’a, British Museum Objects in Focus Series (London: British Museum Press, 2004), pp. 36–9. 17 Mieth and Bork describe an umu on Poike with a diameter of 2.7 metres and a depth of 1.7 metres, but that was exceptionally large; see Andreas Mieth and Hans-Rudolf Bork, Easter Island–Rapa Nui: Scientific Pathways to Secrets of the Past (Kiel: Schmidt und Klaunig, 2004), p. 79. 18 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p. 91: ‘Se wisten de [h]‌oenders seer aardigh klaar te maken in cuylen, daar se kieselsteenen in hadden, die se met eenige ruyghte, daar se brant in staken, gloeyende maakte en de [h]oenders, nadat se in breed gras bewonden waren, op den heete steenen leyde en dekte de kuyl dan met drooge ruyghte wederom toe, soodat se die in seer korten tijd klaar hadden en van sommige van de onse gegeten wierden, die verklaarde, dat se wel smaakte en ook wel ter dege goed waren.’ 19 Forster speaks in the modern vein of ‘2 barbecued fowl’; Michael E. Hoare, ed., The Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster 1772–1775 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1982), vol. 3, p. 467. 20 At this time, there might still have been a few Easter Island coconut palms. Bouman writes:  ‘of yams, bananas and small coconut palms we saw little, and no other trees or crops’ (‘De jannes en backovens en kleyne kokosnootenboomen sagen wy weynigh en anders geen geboomte’). See Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p. 91: ‘callebassen, daar zy water in hadden’. 21 Corney, Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 109. 22 Robert Langdon, ‘Manioc, a Long Concealed Key to the Enigma of Easter Island’, Geographical Journal 154:3 (1988), pp. 324–36; Robert Langdon, ‘New Light on Easter Island Prehistory in a “Censored” Spanish Report of 1770’, Journal of Pacific History 30: 1 (1995), pp. 112–20. His assertions are based on



Notes to Pages 52–54 González’s journal and the translation it contains of the Spanish word yuca, which supposedly means manioc and not, as previously assumed, taro. It is known that taro was also cultivated on Easter Island, yet the Spanish failed to mention it. For strong arguments against Langdon’s view on manioc, see Paul Bahn and John Flenley, ‘Reply to Robert Langdon’, Rapa Nui Journal 8:1 (1994), pp. 11–12. 23 Hans-Rudolf Bork and Andreas Mieth, ‘The Key Role of Jubaea Palm Trees in the History of Rapa Nui: A Provocative Interpretation’, Rapa Nui Journal 17:2 (2003), pp. 119–22; Daniel Mann et  al., ‘Drought, Vegetation Change, and Human History on Rapa Nui (Isla de Pascua, Easter Island)’, Quaternary Research 69 (2008), pp. 16–28. 24 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p. 91: ‘Zy sneden de bananes met een scherp swart steentjen rontom de tak en drayde die dan verder af.’ 25 Eugène Eyraud, quoted in Georgia Lee, Ann M. Altman and Frank Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island 1864–1877 (Los Osos, CA:  Easter Island Foundation, Bearsville Press, 2004), p. 23. 26 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, pp. 90–1: ‘swaarder’. 27 M. Horrocks and J. A. Wozniak, ‘Plant Microfossil Analysis Reveals Disturbed Forest and a Mixed-Crop, Dryland Production System at Te Nui, Easter Island’, Journal of Archaeological Science 35 (2008), pp. 126–42; Geertrui Louwagie, Christopher M. Stevenson and Roger Langohr, ‘The Impact of Moderate to Marginal Land Suitability on Prehistoric Agricultural Production and Models of Adaptive Strategies for Easter Island (Rapa Nui, Chile)’, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 25 (2005), pp. 290–317. 28 Judging from how large, notable houses are positioned with respect to the gardens, Stevenson and colleagues suspect a mixed system in which some enclosed gardens belonged to persons of higher rank. See Stevenson et  al., ‘Managed Agricultural Production’. 29 Beaglehole, Journals of Captain James Cook, vol. 2, p. 357, n. 1. 30 Hippolyte Roussel, quoted in Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 48. 31 Christopher M. Stevenson and Sonia Haoa, ‘Prehistoric Gardening Systems and Agricultural Intensification in the La Pérouse Area of Easter Island’, in Christopher M. Stevenson, Georgia Lee and Frank J. Morin, eds., Easter Island in Pacific Context:  South Seas Symposium. Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Easter Island and East Polynesia (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 1998), pp. 205–17; Christopher M. Stevenson, Joan A. Wozniak and Sonia Haoa, ‘Prehistoric Agricultural Production on Easter Island’, Antiquity, 73 (1999), pp. 801–12; Joan A. Wozniak, ‘Landscapes of Food Production on Easter Island; Successful Subsistence Strategies’, in Christopher M. Stevenson, Georgia Lee and Frank J. Morin, eds., Pacific 2000 Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2001), pp. 91–101. 32 Nicholas Thomas and Oliver Berghof, eds., A Voyage Round the World: George Forster, 2  vols., after the narrative published by George Forster in 1777 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2000), vol. 1, p. 311.

Notes to Pages 54–57 33 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p. 90: ‘kostgronden, vierkantigh met voren in goede ordre afgedeelt’. 34 Corney, Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 101. 35 Dunmore, Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, vol. 1, p.  63; J. Linton Palmer seconded that assessment during his visit in 1868, saying that they could feed their families with only a couple of days of work:  J. Linton Palmer, ‘A Visit to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in 1868’, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 40 (1870), pp. 167–81, esp. p. 171. 36 Baron Mulert, De reis, p. 125. 37 Hoare, ed., Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster, vol. 3, p. 457; see also C. Holmes, ed., Captain Cook’s Second Voyage: The Journals of Lieutenants Elliot and Pickersgill (London: Caliban, 1984), p. 27. 38 Thomas and Berghof, eds., Voyage Round the World, vol. 1, p. 308. 39 See Nancy J. Pollock, ‘Traditional Foods of Rapanui’, in Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies, pp. 153–7. 40 Beaglehole, Journals of Captain James Cook, p. 349. 41 Hippolyte Roussel, quoted in Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 49. 42 David W. Steadman, C. P. Vargas and F. C. Cristino, ‘Stratigraphy, Chronology, and Cultural Context of an Early Faunal Assemblage from Easter Island’, Asian Perspectives 33 (1994), pp. 59–77. 43 Johann Forster bartered with fish, for example, and was given fish to eat. Hoare, ed., Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster, vol. 3, pp. 470, 473. 44 See Amy S. Commendador, John V. Dudgeon, Bruce P. Finney, Benjamin T. Fuller and Kelley S. Esh, ‘A Stable Isotope (δ13C and δ15 N) Perspective on Human Diet on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) ca. ad 1400–1900’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 152 (2013), pp. 173–85. 45 Caroline Polet, ‘Starvation or Not? Analysis of Skeletons of the Rapanui People (18th–19th Centuries)’, contribution to the International Conference ‘Easter Island: Collapse or Transformation? A State of the Art,’ Brussels, 9–10 November 2012. 46 Thor Heyerdahl and Edwin N. Ferdon, eds., Miscellaneous Papers: Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and the East Pacific, vol. 2, Monographs of the School of American Research and the Kon-Tiki Museum, Oslo, no. 24, part 2 (Stockholm), pp. 255, 333. 47 Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861, p. 20. 48 Eugène Eyraud, quoted in Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 22. 49 J. Linton Palmer, ‘A Visit to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui in 1868’, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 40 (1870), pp. 167–81, esp. pp. 169, 173. I do not know whether the nets Palmer reportedly took along still survive in museums. 50 Wilhelm Geiseler, Geiseler’s Easter Island Report: An 1880s Anthropological Account, introduction, annotations and notes by William Ayres, Asian and Pacific Archaeology Series Number 12 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1995), p. 159.



Notes to Pages 57–61 51 Wilhelm Geiseler, Die Oster-Insel. Eine Stätte prähistorischer Kultur in der Südsee. Bericht über die ethnologische Untersuchung der Oster-Insel (Rapanui) an den Chef der Kaiserlichen Admiralität (Berlin: E. S. Mittler und Sohn, 1883). 52 The net is preserved in the National Museum in Washington, DC. See Flenley and Bahn, Enigmas of Easter Island, p. 99. It was brought there by William J. Thomson; a description and photographs of it are included in his 1891 book Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, Report of the National Museum (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891; reprint Chile: Rapa Nui Press, 2007), p. 460, plates XIII and LX. 53 Eugène Eyraud, quoted in Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 24. 54 Corney, Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 99. 55 W. Wilfried Schuhmacher, ‘Postcontact Change in the Rapanui Language’, in Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies, pp. 169–71. 56 Eugène Eyraud, quoted in Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 22. 57 William Liller, ‘The Megalithic Astronomy of Easter Island: Orientations of Ahu and Moai’, Archaeoastronomy 13 (1989), pp. 21–48; William Liller, ‘The Archaeoastronomy of Easter Island’, in Phyllis M. Lugger, ed., Asteroids to Quasars:  A  Symposium Honouring William Liller (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1991); William Liller, ‘The Monuments in the Archaeoastronomy of Rapanui’, in Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies, pp. 122–7. 58 Arthur Mitchell, Additional Note on Easter Island, on the Discovery of Carved Planks of Toro-Miro Wood, by Lieut. Colin M. Dundas, R.N., communicated by Arthur Mitchell, M.D., Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scotl., 1871. The ‘note’ states that the tablets were taken by the Chilean captain Don Ignacio L. Garra and that ‘the natives know nothing of their contents, nor have they the least idea of their use’. 59 Geiseler, Die Oster-Insel, p. 1. 60 Shawn McLaughlin, The Complete Guide to Easter Island, 2nd ed. (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2007), pp. 127–31. 61 William J. Thomson, Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, Report of the National Museum (Washington, DC:  Government Printing Office, 1891; reprint Chile:  Rapa Nui Press, 2007); Thomas S. Barthel, Grundlagen zur Entzifferung der Osterinselschrift (Hamburg: Cram, De Gruyter, 1958); Steven Roger Fischer, Rongorongo: The Easter Island Script. History, Traditions, Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997). 62 Paul Bahn, ‘Cracking the Easter Island Code’, New Scientist 150 (1995), pp. 36–9. In Bahn’s view, Fischer’s work was made even more difficult because he was denied access to the two tablets preserved in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. 63 M. de Laat, Words out of Wood: Proposals for the Decipherment of the Easter Island Script (Delft: Eburon Academic, 2009). 64 Marc van Oostendorp, ‘Een IT-specialist op Paaseiland. Nederlander publiceert een studie over een geheimzinnig schrift’, Onze Taal 10 (2010), pp. 280–3.

Notes to Pages 61–64 65 The story of the first encounter with an Easter Islander, as described by Bouman, is inscribed on an exterior glass wall of the Zeeuws Provinciaal Museum in Middelburg. 66 Thor Heyerdahl and Edwin N. Ferdon, Jr., eds., Archaeology of Easter Island (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1961), vol. 1, pp. 282–3. 67 Baron Mulert, De Reis, p. 116: ‘twee blaeuwe snoeren coraelen’. 68 The German Carl Friedrich Behrens was also present at this meeting and described it in nearly identical terms. It is therefore all the more tragic that this man was among the victims of the shooting incident. Carl Friedrich Behrens, Der wohlversuchte Südländer: Reise um die Welt 1721/22 (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1925), pp. 63–4, 66. 69 Hoare, ed., Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster, vol. 3, p. 473. 70 Het Waare en Nauwkeurige Journael, p. 10: ‘De mannen waren twaalf voeten lang, konnende een Europiaan gemakkelyk tusschen hunne benen doorgaan’; ‘Dewyl ik vrees, dat de meetinge niet naar de Wiskonst, maar wel na de giskonst geschied is’. 71 Baron Mulert, De reis, p.  121:  ‘Gelijk ons consteerde door het kraken van een groote en harde noot, welkers schelp dicker en vaster was, dan onse persijk-steenen’. 72 Palmer, ‘Visit to Easter Island’, pp. 167–81, esp. p. 171. 73 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p. 84: ‘een sikje na de turkse manier’. 74 Carl Friedrich Behrens, Histoire de l’Expédition de trois vaisseaux, enyoyés par la Compagnie des Indes occidentales des Provinces unies aux Terres Australes, en 1721 (The Hague: Compagnie des Indes Occidentales des Provinces-Unies, 1739), vol. 1, pp. 135–36. The story is highly abridged and edited in the 1925 edition. 75 The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford has a beautiful feather headdress brought by the Forsters from Easter Island. I do not know if the materials have been analysed. Viewed from some distance, it seemed to me to be made largely of chicken feathers, but the black feathers of the great frigatebird are mentioned more often in the literature. The ornament is illustrated in Thomas and Berghof, eds., Voyage Round the World, vol. 1, p. 305. According to the caption, the edge is made of ‘coconut fibre’. If that is true, the Easter Island coconut palm probably disappeared not long before 1774 or was still present in small numbers at that time. 76 Corney, Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 95. 77 Corney, Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p.  98. Francisco Antonio Aguera Infanzón (the helmsman) mentions the ‘rostros feısimos’ (‘hideous masks’) that the islanders tattooed on their backs. His account appears in Francisco Mellén Blanco, Manuscritos y documentos españoles para la historia de la isla de Pascua: La expedición del Capitán D. Felipe González de Haedo a la isla de David (Madrid: Bibliotheca Cehopu, 1986), p. 156. 78 Behrens, Histoire de l’Expédition, p. 65. 79 Baron Mulert, De reis, p. 121: ‘dikke witte wortel’. 80 Baron Mulert, De reis, p.  121:  ‘’t welck een vreemde vertooning tot lagchen maekt’.



Notes to Pages 64–69 81 The statues, too, are clumsily depicted. In their journals, the French do not hide their disapproval of such sloppiness. Their own prints are much more accurate, but they give the statues’ heads European traits. The drawings frequently made after Hodges’s prints – executed by artists such as J. Caldwell and circulated as ‘after Hodges’ – are even more inaccurate. 82 Eugène Eyraud, quoted in Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 18. 83 Baron Mulert, De reis, p. 118: ‘groote begeerlijkheyd tot alles wat sy saegen’. 84 Baron Mulert, De reis, p. 118. 85 For example, note the account of Captain Abel Aubert Dupetit-Thouars, who called at the island in 1838; see Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861, p. 71. 86 Behrens, Histoire de l’Expédition, p. 68: ‘Sie setzten sich vor uns nieder und entkleideten sich. Sie lachten dabei und waren sehr freundlich. Andere Weiber riefen von ferne aus ihren Häusern und winkten mit den Händen, wir sollten zu ihnen kommen.’ 87 This passage appears in Baron Mulert, De reis, p.  123. It reveals the active role played by the men of Easter Island. The note mentions Baron Mulert’s source: ‘Hist. De l’Exped. T. V., pag. 134,133’, or the Histoire de l’Expédition des Trois Vaisseaux, a French translation, printed in The Hague, of Behrens’s journal of 1739. 88 Corney, Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 97. Corney’s translation reads: ‘the women go to the length of offering with inviting demonstrations all the homage that an impassioned man can desire’. 89 Thomas and Berghof, eds., Voyage Round the World, vol. 1, p. 308. 90 Dunmore, ed., Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, vol. 1, p. 66. 91 B. A. Lie et al., ‘Molecular Genetic Studies of Natives on Easter Island: Evidence of an Early European and Amerindian Contribution to the Polynesian Gene Pool’, Tissue Antigens 69:1 (2006), pp. 10–18. 92 Douglas W. Owsley, George W. Gill and Stephen D. Ousley, ‘Biological Effects of European Contact on Easter Island’, in Clark Spencer Larsen and George R. Milner, eds., In the Wake of Contact: Biological Responses to Conquest (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994), pp. 161–77. 93 See Alfred Métraux, Ethnology of Easter Island, Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 160 (Honolulu, 1940; reprinted 1971); see pp. 130–1 for a list of ‘cosmic’ copulations and their results. 94 See, for instance, the splendid collection of figures in Stephen-Chauvet, L’Île de Pâques et ses Mystères (Paris: Aux éditions ‘Tel’, 1934), figs. 90–4. 95 Baron Mulert, De reis, p.  121:  ‘Wat de godsdienst deser menschen betreft, daervan heeft men geen volkomen kennis, wegens de kortheyd van ons verblijff, konnen bekomen.’ 96 This can be detected in the studies by Barthel and Heine-Geldern, for example. See Thomas S. Barthel, ‘Wer waren die ersten Siedler auf der Osterinsel?’, Ethnologica (New Series), vol. 2 (Cologne:  W. Fröhlich, E.  J. Brill, 1960), pp. 232–40; Robert Heine-Geldern, ‘Politische Zweiteilung, Exogamie und Kriegsursachen auf der Osterinsel’, Ethnologica (New Series), vol. 2 (Cologne: W. Fröhlich, E. J. Brill, 1960), pp. 241–73.

Notes to Pages 69–73 97 Thomson, Te Pito Te Henua, pp. 528–32. 98 Sebastián Englert, La Tierra de Hotu Matu’a: Historia, Etnologia y Lengua de la Isla de Pascua (San Francisco/Santiago: Padre las Casas, 1948), p. 157. 99 Mara A. Mulrooney, Thegn N. Ladefoged, Christopher M. Stevenson and Sonia Haoa, ‘The Myth of a.d. 1680: New Evidence from Hanga Ho’onu Rapa Nui (Easter Island)’, Rapa Nui Journal 23:2 (2009), pp. 94–105. 100 Patrick V. Kirch, The Evolution of Polynesian Chiefdoms (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); Patrick V. Kirch, ed., Island Societies:  Archaeological Approaches to Evolution and Transformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Patrick V. Kirch, On the Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands Before European Contact (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), pp. 246–301. 101 Hoare, ed., Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster, vol. 3, p. 472. 102 Baron Mulert, De reis, p. 124: ‘Koninck off Overste’. 103 Dunmore, ed., Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, vol. 1, p. 63. 104 Paul Bahn and John Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island (London: Thames and Hudson, 1992), p. 200. 105 Hippolyte Roussel, quoted in Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, pp. 40, 53. 106 Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 42. 107 This is confirmed by what the anthropologists were told by the old islanders at the beginning of the twentieth century. See Alfred Métraux, Ethnology of Easter Island, Bernice P.  Bishop Museum Bulletin 160 (Honolulu, 1940; reprint 1971). 108 William S. Ayres, ‘Easter Island Fishing’, Asian Perspectives 22:1 (1981), pp. 61–92. 109 For an overview of the motifs and their meaning, see Georgia Lee, Easter Island Rock Art:  Ideological Symbols as Evidence of Socio-Political Change, Ph.D.  dissertation, UCLA, 1986 (Ann Arbor:  UMI dissertation information service). 110 Georgia Lee, ‘The Birdman Motif of Easter Island’, Journal of New World Archaeology 7:1 (1986), pp. 39–49. 111 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, pp.  86–7:  ‘ons volk ook getuygde . . . dat sy daar geen eenigh man met eenige wapenen hadden gesien’. 112 This print, the ‘earliest known depiction of Easter Island’ (according to Bahn and Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island, p. 139; and Bahn and Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island, 3rd ed., p. 200), is either a distortion of reality or depicts another island. See also Paul G. Bahn, ‘A Brief History of Rapanui Archaeology up to 1956’, in Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies, pp.  73–8. The print is reproduced on p. 73 as taken from Jacob Roggeveen, Tweejaarige Reyze rondom de Wereld, Dordrecht 1728, even though Jacob Roggeveen was certainly not the author of this travel account. The printmaker was Matthijs Balen (1684–1766), a draughtsman and etcher from Dordrecht, where the Tweejaarige Reyze was printed. Balen had no firsthand information about Easter Island. The print gradually took on a life of its own.



Notes to Pages 74–75 113 In 1816, a Russian expedition led by Otto von Kotzebue was pelted so heavily with stones that those on board could not even come ashore. See Otto von Kotzebue, Zu Eisbergen und Palmenstränden 1815–1818:  Mit der ‘Rurik’ um die Welt (Lenningen: Detlef Brennecke, 1821), p. 82; Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861, p. 31. 114 Thomas and Berghof, eds., Voyage Round the World, p. 303. 115 Ahoù is the name overheard by Johann Forster for clothing made of the paper mulberry. See Hoare, ed., Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster, vol. 3, p. 470. 116 Damien Flas, ‘The Mata’a Typology, Technology and Function’, paper presented at the Collapse Conference, 8–9 November 2012, Brussels. In Flas’s opinion, there is nothing to suggest an increase in production in the pre-European period. 117 Dunmore, ed., Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, vol. 1, p. 60. 118 George W. Gill and Douglas W. Owsley, ‘Human Osteology of Rapanui’, in Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies, p. 58. 119 Douglas W. Owsley, George W. Gill and Stephen D. Ousley, ‘Biological Effects of European Contact on Easter Island’, in Clark Spencer Larsen and George R. Milner, eds., In the Wake of Contact:  Biological Responses to Conquest (New  York:  Wiley-Liss, 1994), p.  165. At the 2007 Easter Island conference in Gotland (Sweden), Gill reported that there was no osteological evidence of warfare on any significant scale, either in the pre-European period or afterwards. Even so, there were certainly victims of violence on Easter Island, as there are in every society. 120 Hippolyte Roussel, quoted in Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, pp. 42–3. 121 Even though it was said that Eyraud did not get along with the islanders as well as his successor, Roussel, did, his accounts are generally somewhat more positive than Roussel’s. The latter even claims to understand the natives well enough to declare that ‘it would be madness to look for true affection in the heart of an Easter Islander’; see Hippolyte Roussel, quoted in Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 52. 122 Dunmore, ed., Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, vol. 1, pp. 61–2. 123 Antonio González-Martin, Clara García-Moro, Miguel Hernández and Pedro Moral, ‘Inbreeding and Surnames:  A  Projection into Easter Island’s Past’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 129 (2006), pp. 435–45. 124 Vincent H. Stefan, ‘Craniometric Variation and Homogeneity in Prehistoric/Protohistoric Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Regional Populations’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 110 (1999), pp. 407–19; Vincent H. Stefan, ‘Assessing Intrasample Variation: Analysis of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Museum Cranial Collections Example’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 124 (2004), pp. 45–58; Thomas A.  Furgeson and George W.  Gill, ‘Regional Variation of Discrete Cranial Traits in Prehistoric Easter Island’, in Stevenson et  al., eds., The Reñaca Papers, pp. 191–200.

Notes to Pages 76–79

5 Makemake, Moai and the Tangata Manu 1 The Dutch anthropologist André Droogers gives a very broad definition of culture as ‘the human ability to lend meaning to reality, and everything that is thought up and done with that ability’ (‘het menselijk vermogen om betekenis te geven aan de werkelijkheid, en alles wat met dat vermogen bedacht en gedaan wordt’); André Droogers, Zingeving als spel. Over religie macht en speelse spiritualiteit. Een gids voor vrije zinzoekers (Almere:  Parthenon, 2010), p. 16. 2 See William S.  Ayres, The Cultural Context of Easter Island Religious Structures, Ph.D. dissertation, Tulane University, 1973. 3 During an online election held in 2007, the statues of Easter Island stood an excellent chance of becoming one of the new ‘seven wonders of the world’, but ended up in eighth place. Chauvinism reigned during the final election, and the larger countries such as Brazil and India ended up ahead of Easter Island (see, a result that the Easter Islanders expected all along. 4 Georgia Lee, Easter Island Rock Art:  Ideological Symbols as Evidence of Socio-Political Change, Ph.D.  dissertation, UCLA, 1986 (UMI dissertation information service, Ann Arbor), p. 161, table 3. 5 Bolton Glanvill Corney, ed., The Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González in the Ship of the Line San Lorenzo with the Frigate Santa Rosalia in Company to Easter Island in 1770–1771 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1903), p. 100. 6 Wilhelm Geiseler, Geiseler’s Easter Island Report: An 1880s Anthropological Account, introduction, annotations and notes by William Ayres, translated by William Ayres and Gabriella Ayres, Asian and Pacific Archaeology Series Number 12 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1995), p. 61. 7 Katherine Scoresby Routledge, The Mystery of Easter Island:  The Story of an Expedition (London:  Hazell, Watson and Viney, 1919). Makemake is mentioned on p. 260 in conjunction with Orongo and the egg hunt. 8 Annette Bierbach and Horst Cain, Religion and Language of Easter Island: An Ethnolinguistic Analysis of Religious Key Words of Rapa Nui in Their Austronesian Context (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 1996), t­ ables 1–5. 9 Annette Bierbach and Horst Cain, ‘Makemake from Hiva to Rapanui:  An Attempt to Shed New Light on the Old Topic of the Origin of Rapa Nui Culture’, Baessler-Archiv Beiträge zur Völkerkunde, Neue Folge Band XXXVI (1988), vol. 2, pp. 399–454. 10 Jordi Fuentes, Diccionario y Gramática de la Lengua de la Isla de Pascua. Pascuense-Castellano, Castellano-Pascuense (Santiago, Chile: Editorial Andrés Bello, 1960). 11 According to Bierbach and Cain, ‘Makemake from Hiva to Rapanui’, p. 2. 12 Thor Heyerdahl, Aku-Aku:  The Secret of Easter Island (Chicago:  Rand McNally, 1958). 13 Bierbach and Cain, ‘Makemake from Hiva to Rapanui’, pp. 5–6, 16–22. 14 Georgia Lee, Ann M. Altman and Frank Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island 1864–1877:  The Reports of Eugène Eyraud, Hippolyte Roussel, Pierre



Notes to Pages 79–83 Loti and Alphonse Pinart, translated by Ann M. Altman (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2004), pp. 20, 21; J. Linton Palmer, ‘A Visit to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, in 1868’, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 14: 2 (1869–70), pp. 108–20 (this is a shorter version and discussion of Palmer’s paper, which appeared in full in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 40 [1870], pp. 167–81); Alfred Métraux, Ethnology of Easter Island, Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 160 (Honolulu, 1940; reprinted 1971), p. 115. 15 Therefore, they do not constitute ‘clear evidence’ of the hunger prevailing on the island, as assumed by Jared Diamond (‘Easter’s End’. Discover Magazine, 9 [1995], pp. 62–9 [], who in those years was not yet burdened with so much anthropological baggage, nor can they be imputed with ‘suggesting that the people were starving’, as John Loret maintains. See John Loret and John T. Tanacredi, Easter Island:  Scientific Exploration into the World’s Environmental Problems in Microcosm (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic / Plenum, 2003), p. 27. 16 Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 69. This is a clear indication that small stone statues appeared in and around the houses and played a role in family devotions. 17 Palmer, ‘A Visit to Easter Island’, vol. 40, esp. p. 172. 18 Francina A.  M. Forment, Dirk Huyge and H. Valladas, ‘AMS 14C age Determinations of Rapanui (Easter Island) Wood Sculpture:  moai kavakava ET 48.63 from Brussels’, Antiquity 75 (2001), pp. 529–32. 19 See Nicholas Thomas and Oliver Berghof, eds., A Voyage Round the World: George Forster, 2 vols., after the narrative published by George Forster in 1777 (Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press, 2000), vol. 1, p. 313. 20 Forment, Huyge and Valladas, ‘AMS 14C age Determinations of Rapanui’, pp. 529–32. 21 Corney, Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 95. 22 Alfred Métraux, ‘Ethnology of Easter Island’, Bernice P.  Bishop Museum Bulletin 160 (Honolulu, Hawai’i, 1940); reprinted in 1971, p. 174. 23 F. E. Baron Mulert, De reis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen ter ontdekking van het Zuidland (1721–1722) (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1911), p. 121. 24 Baron Mulert, De reis, pp. 121–2. 25 Corney, Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, pp. 94–5. 26 J. C. Beaglehole, ed., The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery (Cambridge:  published by Cambridge University Press for the Hakluyt Society, 1961), vol. 2, p. 358. 27 J. Dunmore, ed., The Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse 1785–1788 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1994), I, p. 63. 28 Beaglehole, ed., Journals of Captain James Cook, vol. 2, p. 347. 29 Easter Island Statue Project (EISP): 30 Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Power and Symbol: The Stylistic Analysis of Easter Island Monolithic Sculpture, Ph.D. dissertation, UCLA, 1986 (printed by the UMI dissertation service, Ann Arbor). 31 Nicolas Cauwe, Rano Raraku:  Unfinished or Unfinishable Moai?, a paper presented at the Eighth International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific, Santa Rosa, July 2012.

Notes to Pages 84–90 32 Van Tilburg, Power and Symbol, pp.  579–93. The curators at the Fonck Museum in Viña del Mar maintain that they have the only statue that was taken with the permission of the Easter Islanders. 33 Thomas S. Barthel, ‘Female Stone Figures on Easter Island’, Journal of the Polynesian Society 67 (1958), p. 3. 34 An exhibition dedicated to the statues’ iconic status was held in London in 2010, after which it travelled in 2011 to Middlesborough, the birthplace of James Cook, to the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo and finally to Easter Island, to be shown at the Museo Antropológico Sebastián Englert (http://canninghouse .com/content/culture/events). 35 Beaglehole, ed., Journals of Captain James Cook, vol. 2, p. 357. 36 Helene Martinsson-Wallin, Ahu – The Ceremonial Stone Structures of Easter Island: Analyses of Variation and Interpretation of Meanings (Uppsala: Societas Archaeologica Upsaliensis, 1994). 37 Originally published in German as Erinnerungen an die Zukunft: Ungelöste Rätsel der Vergangenheit (Berlin: Econ Verlag, 1968). 38 Thor Heyerdahl and Edwin N. Ferdon, eds., Archaeology of Easter Island, 2 vols. Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and the East Pacific, vol. 1:  Monographs of the School of American Research and the Museum of New Mexico, no. 24, part 1 (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1961), pp. 366–72; Pavel Pavel made some improvements to the tilt-and-swivel method, enabling the experiment to be carried out successfully with fewer people. See Thor Heyerdahl, Arne Skjøldsvold and Pavel Pavel, ‘The “Walking” Moai of Easter Island’, in Occasional Papers (Oslo: The Kon-Tiki Museum, 1989), vol. 1, pp. 36–64. 39 Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, The Statues That Walked (New York: Free Press, 2011). 40 William Mulloy, ‘A Speculative Reconstruction of Techniques of Carving, Transporting and Erecting Easter Island Statues’, Archaeology and Physical Anthropology in Oceania 5:1 (1970), pp. 1–23, esp. p. 9. 41 Carl P. Lipo and Terry L. Hunt, ‘Mapping Prehistoric Statue Roads on Easter Island’, Antiquity 79 (2005), pp. 1–11. 42 Schiller’s calculations were carried out under the auspices of the Easter Island Statue Project: 43 Corney, Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 94. 44 Beaglehole, ed., Journals of Captain James Cook, vol. 2, p. 358. 45 Baron Mulert, De reis, p. 121: ‘vervolgens op hunne hielen nedersittende met gebogen hoofde, brengen sy ’t platte der handen te saamen, beweegende die op en nederwaards’. 46 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p. 86: ‘Sagen verscheyde hooghtens op ’t lant, na de wyse der heydenen.’ 47 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p. 89: ‘se daar op handen en voeten moesten uyten in cruypen en deze openingh zijn noordoost, soodat, wanneer zy smorgens uyt hun woninge comen, hunne godtheyt op soodanigen wyse vereeren en dienen, want al haare openinge correspondeeren op hare hooghtens’. 48 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p. 85: ‘Hij ging deswege met zyn armen en hooft op de tafel leggen; scheen daarover een oratie aan zijn godtheyt te doen,



Notes to Pages 90–93 gelijk klaar genoeg uyt syn beweginge was te sien en verhefte hooft en handen menighmaal na den hemel, gebruykte veel woorden met een verheffende stem, zijnde aldus wel een half uur besigh en wanneer hy daarmee eyndigde, begon hy te springen en te singen.’ 49 Carl Friedrich Behrens, Der wohlversuchte Südländer: Reise um die Welt 1721/22 (Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus, 1925), p. 65: ‘die Einwohner gegen den Aufgang der Sonne zu Boden warfen und einige hundert Feuer angelegt hatten, die wohl ein Morgenopfer für ihre Götzen bedeuten sollten’. 50 T.d.H., Het Waare en Nauwkeurige Journael der Reize, gedaan door drie Schepen, etc. (Amsterdam:  Johannes van Septeren, 1727), p.  11. ‘De naam van het grootste Af-Godenbeelt was TAURICO, en van het andere DAGO, Immers deze woorden riepen zy hunne gewaande Goden toe. Dewelke zy met danssen, juichen, omlopen, ja met klappen in de handen, schier op die wyze deden, op welke wyze, na Mozes verhaal, de Kinderen Israëls deden, wanneer die zig door den dienst van het goude Kalf bezondigde.’ 51 T.d.H., Het Waare en Nauwkeurige Journael der Reize, p. 11: ‘Cananiers, die onder anderen den Dagon dienden’. 52 T.d.H., Het Waare en Nauwkeurige Journael der Reize, p.  11:  ‘Dog dat dese Pheniciers en groote menschen nakomelingen van voormelde verdrevene volkeren zouden geweest en door den Oceaan na die Eilanden vertrokken zyn, is een stellinge, die niemand vermetel staande kan houden, ofte ook ontkennen.’ 53 Corney, Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 95. 54 Beaglehole, ed., Journals of Captain James Cook, vol. 2, pp. 358–9. 55 Thomas and Berghof, eds., Voyage Round the World, vol. 1, p. 306. 56 See, for instance, the illustration in Thor Heyerdahl, Easter Island:  The Mystery Solved (New York: Random House, 1989), p. 55. 57 Dunmore, ed., Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, vol. 1, p. 62. 58 It is likely that the quarry, too, had cultic significance. See Colin Richards et al., ‘Road My Body Goes: Re-creating Ancestors from Stone at the Great Moai Quarry of Rano Raraku, Rapa Nui (Easter Island)’, World Archaeology, 43; 2) (2011), pp. 191–210. 59 The age of the moai is difficult to determine without taking into consideration other factors. The dating of the stone material must be supported by the dating of organic material found in close proximity to it, and one must also be certain that the latter comes from the same period. See http://archive; and J.  Warren Beck et  al., in Loret and Tanacredi, Scientific Exploration, p. 109. In 1994, Jo Anne Van Tilburg published a table that clearly shows the spread and the uncertainty of the datings. The information was taken from the work of William Ayres. See Jo Anne Van Tilburg, Easter Island:  Archaeology, Ecology and Culture (London: British Museum Press and Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), p. 49. 60 Andreas Mieth and Hans-Rudolf Bork even put the number of trees at sixteen million; see Easter Island–Rapa Nui Scientific Pathways to Secrets of the Past (Kiel, Schmidt und Klaunig, 2004), p. 51; see also Andreas Mieth, ‘Degradation

Notes to Pages 93–98 of Resources and Successful Land-Use Management on Prehistoric Rapa Nui: The Two Sides of the Same Coin’, a paper presented at the conference ‘Easter Island: Collapse or Transformation? A State of the Art’ (Brussels: Royal Museums of Art and History, 9–10 November 2012). 61 Michael E. Hoare, ed., The Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster 1772–1775 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1982), vol. 3, p. 465. 62 These reports were compiled and published by Rhys Richards in Easter Island 1793–1861:  Observations by Early Visitors Before the Slave Raids (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2008). 63 Richards. Easter Island, p. 19. 64 Eleanor Roosevelt Seagraves, ed., Delano’s Voyages of Commerce and Discovery:  Amasa Delano in China, the Pacific Islands, Australia, and South America, 1789–1807, foreword by William T. La Moy (Stockbridge, MA: Berkshire House, [1817]/1994), pp. 269–70. 65 The print is reproduced in, for example, H. E. Maude, Slavers in Paradise. The Peruvian Labour Trade in Polynesia, 1862–1864, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1981; Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1981), p. 4. 66 Abel Aubert Dupetit-Thouars, Voyage autour du monde sur la frigate La Vénus, pendant les années 1836–1839, Gide, 1840–1843, 4 vols. vol. 2: L’Île de Pâques (Paris, 1841), pp. 221–34; see also Richards, Easter Island, p. 70. 67 Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, pp. 3–33. 68 Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 56. 69 Palmer, ‘A Visit to Easter Island’, vol. 40, pp. 167–81, esp. pp. 175, 177. 70 Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 66. 71 Paul Bahn, ‘Were the Statues Toppled Down?’, a paper presented at the conference ‘Easter Island:  Collapse or Transformation? A  State of the Art’ (Brussels: Royal Museums of Art and History, 9–10 November 2012). 72 Christopher M. Stevenson, ‘The Socio-political Structure of the Southern Coastal Area of Easter Island: ad 1300–1864’, in Patrick V. Kirch, ed., Island Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 69–77. 73 Métraux, Ethnology of Easter Island, p. 133. 74 T. Dye and David W. Steadman, ‘Polynesian Ancestors and Their Animal World, American Scientist 78 (1990), pp. 207–15. 75 Leonard J. Barrow, ‘The Birdman in Art and Mythology in Marginal Polynesia  – Easter Island, Hawai’i, and New Zealand’, in Christopher M. Stevenson, Georgia Lee and F. J. Morin, eds., Easter Island in Pacific Context. South Seas Symposium. Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Easter Island and East Polynesia (Los Osos, CA:  Easter Island Foundation, 1998), pp. 346–51. 76 Katherine Scoresby Routledge, ‘Survey of the Village and Carved Rocks of Orongo, Easter Island, by the Mana Expedition’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 50 (1920), pp. 425–51. 77 Lee, Easter Island Rock Art, p. 199. 78 The 1994 film Rapa Nui portrays this spectacular ritual, including the tragic outcome for some of the contestants. The protagonists, two rivals, are involved in a dramatic contest. Shortly before the end, the egg carried by



Notes to Pages 98–103 the frontrunner breaks, and he arrives at the top of the cliff in one piece, but empty-handed. 79 Hippolyte Roussel in Lee, Altman and Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island, pp. 42–3. 80 Katherine Scoresby Routledge, ‘The Bird Cult of Easter Island’, Folklore 28 (1917), pp. 337–55. 81 Routledge, ‘Survey of the Village and Carved Rocks of Orongo’. 82 Lee, Easter Island Rock Art, p. 161, table 3. 83 H.-M. Esen-Bauer, Untersuchungen über den Vogelmann-Kult auf der Osterinsel (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1983). 84 Paul Bahn and John Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island (London: Thames and Hudson, 1992), p. 195. 85 For a new view on the dorsal design on the moai, see Mike Pitts, H. Miles, H. Pagi and G. Earl, ‘The Story of Hoa Hakananai’a’, British Archaeology (2013), pp.  24–31; Mike Pitts, ‘Hoa Hakananai’a, an Easter Island Statue Now in the British Museum, Photographed in 1868’, Rapa Nui Journal 28:1 (2014), pp.  39–48; Mike Pitts, ‘More on Hoa Hakananai’a:  Paint, Petroglyphs, and a Sledge, and the Independent Value of Archaeological and Historical Evidence’, Rapa Nui Journal 28:2 (2014), pp.  49–54. For critical comments and discussion, see Jo Anne Van Tilburg, ‘Comment on M. Pitts’ Hoa Hakananai’a, an Easter Island Statue Now in the British Museum, Photographed in 1868’, Rapa Nui Journal 28:1 (2014), pp. 49–52; Georgia Lee, Paul Horley and Paul Bahn, ‘Comments on Historical Images of the Moai Hoa Hakananai’a’, Rapa Nui Journal 28:1 (2014), pp. 53–9. The whole story of Hoa Hakananai’a was at the heart of a 2014 documentary, Treasures Decoded: Easter Island Heads, filmed and directed by Andy Webb and released by Blink Films. 86 Bahn and Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island, p. 218.

6  Resilience and Sustainability 1 Clive Ponting did not define collapse, but Joseph Tainter and Jared Diamond did. Tainter described collapse as a ‘rapid, significant loss of an established level of sociopolitical complexity’; see Joseph A. Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1988), p.  4. Diamond speaks of ‘a drastic decrease in human population size and/or political/economic/social complexity, over a considerable area, for an extended time’; see Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive (London: Penguin, 2005), p. 3. In Diamond’s view, the decrease occurs quickly and the effects are long-lasting. 2 This issue is still current fifty years later. See Conor Mark Jameson’s Silent Spring Revisited (London: Bloomsbury, 2012). 3 Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (New York, Ballantine, 1968), Prologue. 4 Jay W. Forrester, World Dynamics (Cambridge, MA: Wright Allen Press, 1971). 5 Dennis H. Meadows, Donella L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers and William W. Behrens, The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind (New York: Universe, 1972).

Notes to Pages 103–106 6 This refers to a collapse caused by overexploitation of the environment. There are many older theories and studies of the collapse of societies imputed to numerous other reasons. See J. P. Barbier, Vanished Civilizations from the Ancients to Easter Island (Paris/New  York:  Assouline, 2001); Joseph A. Tainter, ‘Sustainability, and the Environment: How Authors Choose to Fail or Succeed’, Reviews in Anthropology 37:4 (2008), pp. 342–71. 7 The plaque contains this inscription: ‘His love and dedication to Rapa Nui – like his work – were great. By researching and restoring the living faces, he showed his love for Rapa Nui. By restoring the past of his beloved island he also changed its future. William Mulloy 1917–1978’. 8 Steven Roger Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies: Contributions to the History of Rapanui in Memory of William T. Mulloy (Oxford: Oxbow, 1993). 9 The passages are quoted from William T. Mulloy, ‘Contemplate the Navel of the World (Sobre el Ombligo del Mundo),’ Américas, 26:4 (1974), pp. 29–31. 10 See H. M. Wormington, ‘Obituary William Thomas Mulloy, 1917–1978’, American Antiquity 44:3 (1979), pp. 513–16 and the list included here of Mulloy’s publications. 11 Mara A. Mulrooney, Thegn N. Ladefoged, Christopher M. Stevenson and Sonia Haoa, ‘The Myth of a.d. 1680: New Evidence from Hanga Ho’onu Rapa Nui (Easter Island)’, Rapa Nui Journal 23:2 (2009), pp. 94–105. 12 William Arens, The Man-Eating Myth:  Anthropology and Anthropophagy (Oxford/New  York:  Oxford University Press, 1979); P. R. Sanday, Divine Hunger: Cannibalism as a Cultural System (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Francis Barker, Peter Hulme and Margaret Iversen, Cannibalism and the Colonial World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). 13 Mulloy quoted this passage from Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, prologue. 14 At the conference held by the Easter Island Foundation in Santa Rosa, CA in 2012, I spoke with Brigid Mulloy, the daughter of Bill Mulloy, and she thought this explanation very likely, based on her own recollections. 15 Patrick C. McCoy, ‘Easter Island’, in J. D. Jennings, ed., The Prehistory of Polynesia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979), pp. 135–66. 16 J-Y. Cousteau, ‘Die Osterinsel’, in Umweltlesebuch, vol. 2: Saurer Regen und andere Katastrophen (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1983). 17 Claus Stortenbeker, ‘Op weg naar het Paaseiland? De mens en zijn natuurlijk milieu’, in Commissie Lange Termijn Milieubeleid (CLTM), Het Milieu: denkbeelden voor de 21ste eeuw (Zeist: Kerckebosch BV, 1990), pp. 309–34. 18 Stortenbeker, ‘Op weg naar het Paaseiland?’, p.  309:  ‘groeide aan tot 10 of 20.000 zielen’; ‘een samenleving met een uiteindelijk zeer rigide religieuze structuur en met vreemde riten’; ‘kunstenaars die grote en vreemde beelden maakten’. 19 Stortenbeker, ‘Op weg naar het Paaseiland?’, p. 309: ‘De boeren kwamen in opstand, moorden de priesters en kunstenaars uit en raakten vervolgens in een chaotische burgeroorlog verwikkeld. Toen Roggeveen het winderige, kale eiland ontdekte waren er nog slechts enkele duizenden inwoners over, die elkaar vanuit holen op leven en dood bevochten. Vijftig jaar later trof Captain Cook nog maar een paar honderd half verhongerde overlevenden aan’; ‘een ecologische en een culturele catastrophe’.



Notes to Pages 106–109 20 Clive Ponting, A Green History of the World (London:  Sinclair-Stevenson, 1991), p. 1. 21 Paul Bahn and John Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island (London: Thames and Hudson, 1992), p. 215. 22 Donella H. Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis L. Meadows, The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2004). 23 Jared Diamond, ‘Easter’s End’, Discover Magazine, August 1995 (; Jared Diamond, ‘Eco­ logical Collapses of Pre-industrial Societies’, The Tanner Lectures on Human Values’ (Stanford, CA:  Stanford University Press, 2000), pp. 22–4, 391–406; Jared Diamond, ‘Twilight at Easter’, New York Review of Books LI:5 (25 March 2004), pp. 6–10; Diamond, Collapse. 24 Examples of scientific publications include James A. Brander, ‘Easter Island: Resource Depletion and Collapse’, in Encyclopedia of Energy, vol. 1 (Amsterdam: Elsevier Amsterdam, 2004, pp. 871–80); Marco A. Janssen and Marten Scheffer, ‘Overexploitation of Renewable Resources by Ancient Societies and the Role of Sunk-Cost Effects’, Ecology and Society 9:1 (2004):6, online at; and K. D. Morrison (2006). For examples of textbooks, see B. J. Nebel and R. T. Wright, Environmental Science, 7th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000), pp. 4–5; Scott Brennan and Jay Withgott, Environment. The Science Behind the Stories (London:  Benjamin Cummings / San Francisco:  Pearson, 2005), pp.  8–9. Government documents include United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2007/2008 (New  York:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2007–8), p.  21. Examples of novels include Jennifer Vanderbes, Easter Island (London:  Abacus, 2003); and, juvenile literature, C.  Butner, Avontuur in de stille Zuidzee. Het geheim van Paaseiland (Alkmaar: Uitgeverij Kluitman, n.d.); and Walt Disney, Oom Dagobert en het mysterie van het Paaseiland (Antwerp: De Geillustreerde Pers, Standaard Uitgeverij, 1986/1995). An example of a cartoon is Larry Gonick and Alice Outwater, The Cartoon Guide to the Environment (New  York:  Harper Perennial, 1996); and for an example of a film, see Rapa Nui (1994). 25 Diamond, Collapse, p. 118. 26 William S. Ayres, ‘Easter Island Fishing’, Asian Perspectives, 22:1 (1981), pp. 61–92; William S. Ayres, ‘Easter Island Subsistence’, Journal de la Société des Océanistes, XLI:80 (1985), pp. 103–24; Paul Bahn and John Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island, 3rd ed. (Rapa Nui: Rapa Nui Press, 2011), pp. 254–9. 27 Andreas Mieth, Hans-Rudolf Bork and Ingo Feeser, ‘Prehistoric and Recent Land Use Effects on Poike Peninsula, Easter Island (Rapa Nui)’, Rapa Nui Journal 16:2 (2002), pp. 89–95; Andreas Mieth and Hans-Rudolf Bork, ‘Diminution and Degradation of Environmental Resources by Prehistoric Land Use on Poike Peninsula, Easter Island (Rapa Nui)’, Rapa Nui Journal 17:1 (2003), pp. 34–41; Andreas Mieth and Hans-Rudolf Bork, ‘History, Origin and Extent of Soil Erosion on Easter Island (Rapa Nui)’, Catena 63 (2005), pp. 244–60. 28 On stress, see Caroline Polet, ‘Indicateurs de stress dans un échantillon d’anciens Pascuans’, Antropo 11 (2006), pp. 261–70; on traces of violence, see

Notes to Pages 109–114 George W. Gill and Douglas W. Owsley, ‘Human Osteology of Rapanui’, in Fischer, ed., Easter Island Studies, p. 58. 29 George W. Gill, ‘Skeletal Remains from Ahu Nau Nau:  Land of the Royal Miru’, in Christopher M. Stevenson and William S. Ayres, eds., Easter Island Archaeology: Research on Early Rapanui Culture (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2000), pp. 109–24, esp. p. 116. 30 Polet, ‘Indicateurs de stress’, pp. 261–70. 31 Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, ‘Chronology, Deforestation, and “Collapse”: Evidence vs. Faith in Rapa Nui Prehistory’, Rapa Nui Journal, 21:2 (2007), pp. 85–97. 32 Bahn and Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island (1992), p.  213; Diamond, Collapse, p. 91. 33 Alfred Métraux, Easter Island: A Stone-Age Civilization of the Pacific, translated by Michael Bullock (London: Book Club Associates, 1957). 34 Diamond, Collapse, p. 90. 35 Diamond names quite a few  – Claudio Cristino, Patricia Vargas, Edmundo Edwards, Chris Stevenson and Jo Anne Van Tilburg  – and concludes his observations on the number of inhabitants as follows: ‘having seen the evidence for intensive prehistoric agriculture on Easter, I find Claudio’s and Edmundo’s “high” estimates of 15,000 or more people unsurprising’ (Diamond, Collapse, p.  91). Jo Anne Van Tilburg (1994) writes:  ‘On the basis of an agricultural carrying capacity estimate and present archaeological indications, a peak population of between 7,000 and 9,000 is conjectured to have been reached by c. ad 1550’. Van Tilburg, Easter Island. Archaeology, Ecology and Culture (London: British Museum Press / Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), p. 52. 36 Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, ‘Late Colonization of Easter Island’, Science 311 (2006), pp. 1603–6. 37 Peter Boomgaard, Children of the Colonial State:  Population Growth and Economic Development in Java, 1795–1880 (Amsterdam:  Free University Press, 1987); Peter Boomgaard, ‘South East Asia:  An Environmental History’, ABC-CLIO 8 (2007), pp. 116–18. See also Linda Newson, Conquest and Pestilence in the Early Spanish Philippines (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2009). 38 See N. McArthur, Island Populations of the Pacific (Canberra:  Australian National University Press, 1967); and John Caldwell, Bruce Missingham and Jeff Marck, The Population of Oceania in the Second Millennium (Canberra:  Australian National University, 2001). They insist on an annual rate of growth for several Melanesian islands, including Papua New Guinea, of 0.05 per cent until the eighteenth century, increasing to 0.1 per cent after the introduction of the sweet potato (p. 20). Newson, Conquest and Pestilence, gives similar figures. 39 George W. Gill and Douglas W. Owsley, ‘Human Osteology of Rapanui’, in Fischer, ed., Easter Island Stories, pp. 56–62. 40 H. E. Maude, Slavers in Paradise:  The Peruvian Labour Trade in Polynesia, 1862–1864, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press; Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1981), p. 13.



Notes to Pages 114–118 41 See Bahn and Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island, 3rd ed. (2011), pp. 309–26; see also Anthony Cole and John Flenley, ‘Modelling Human Population Change on Easter Island Far-from-Equilibrium’, Quaternary International 184 (2008), 150–65. 42 See, for example, Susan B. Hanley, ‘Fertility, Mortality and Life Expectancy in Pre-modern Japan’, Population Studies 28:1 (1974), pp. 127–42; Patrick V. Kirch, ‘Microcosmic Histories:  Island Perspectives on “Global” Change’, American Anthropologist, New Series 99:1 (1997), pp. 30–42. 43 Mildred Dickeman, ‘Demographic Consequences of Infanticide in Man’, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 6 (1975), pp. 107–37. 44 Patrick V. Kirch, ‘Microcosmic Histories:  Island Perspectives on “Global” Change’, American Anthropologist, New Series 99:1 (1997), pp. 30–42, describes this phenomenon with regard to the island of Tikopia. 45 Kirch, 1997, ‘Microcosmic Histories’, p. 38. 46 On this subject, see also Elinor Ostrom, ‘Coping with Tragedies of the Commons’, Annual Review of Political Science 2:1 (1999), pp. 493–535. 47 Russel Hopfenberg, ‘Human Carrying Capacity Is Determined by Food Availability’, Population and Environment 25:2 (2003), pp. 109–17; Charlotte T. Lee and Shripad Tuljapurkar, ‘Population and Prehistory I: Food-dependent Population Growth in Constant Environments’, Theoretical Population Biology 73 (2008), pp. 473–82. 48 Nancy J. Pollock, ‘Traditional Foods of Rapanui’, in Fischer, ed., Easter Island Stories, pp. 153–7. 49 Marjolein Blokland, Paaseiland:  het meest mysterieuze eiland ter wereld. Een onderzoek naar de voeding, de hoeveelheid bewoners en de draagkracht van het eiland, undergraduate thesis, Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences (FALW), Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 2009. I  have also made use of data collected by Gertrui Louwagie for the caloric values and yields given here; see G. Louwagie, Palaeo-environment Reconstruction and Evaluation Based on Land Characteristics on Archaeological Sites. Case study I: Verrebroek ‘Dok’ and Doel ‘Deurganckdok’ (Belgium, Province of East-Flanders). Case study II:  Easter Island (Chile), Ph.D. thesis, Ghent University, Faculty of Sciences, 2004. 50 Online at 51 Lee and Tuljapurkar, ‘Population and Prehistory I’, pp. 473–82. 52 Caroline Polet, ‘Starvation or Not? Analysis of Skeletons of the Rapanui People (18th–19th Centuries)’, paper presented at the conference ‘Easter Island:  Collapse or Transformation? A  State of the Art’ (Brussels:  Royal Museums of Art and History, 9–10 November 2012). 53 Her findings concur with the results recently published by Amy S. Commendador, John V. Dudgeon, Bruce P. Finney, Benjamin T. Fuller and Kelley S. Esh, ‘A Stable Isotope (δ13C and δ15 N) Perspective on Human Diet on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) ca. ad 1400–1900’, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 152 (2013), pp. 173–85. 54 Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, ‘Cultural Elaboration and Environmental Uncertainty in Polynesia’, in Christopher M. Stevenson, Georgia Lee and Frank J. Morin, eds., Pacific 2000 Proceedings of the Fifth International

Notes to Pages 118–120 Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific (Los Osos, CA:  Easter Island Foundation, 2000), pp. 103–15. 55 Mara A. Mulrooney, ‘An Island-wide Assessment of the Chronology of Settlement and Land Use on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Based on Radiocarbon Data’, Journal of Archaeological Science 40 (2013), pp. 4377–99. 56 Diamond, Collapse, p. 114. 57 In his 1995 article ‘Easter’s End’ (Discover 9, pp.  62–9; online at, Diamond says ‘wiped out their forest’. 58 It is thought that approximately two-thirds of the island was forested. Depending on their density, this means a couple of million trees. Some estimates are as high as sixteen million. See Andreas Mieth and Hans-Rudolf Bork, ‘The Dynamics of Soil, Landscape and Culture on Easter Island’, in John R. McNeill and Verena Winiwarter, eds., Soils and Societies: Perspectives from Environmental History (Strond, Isle of Harris: White Horse Press, 2006), pp. 273–321. 59 See also John Dransfield, John R. Flenley, Sarah M. King, D. D. Harkness and Sergio Rapu, ‘A Recently Extinct Palm from Easter Island’, Nature 312 (1984), pp. 750–52, photograph on p. 750. 60 Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, ‘Late Colonization of Easter Island’, Science 311 (2006), pp. 1603–6; Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, ‘Ecological Catastrophe, Collapse, and the Myth of “Ecocide” on Rapa Nui (Easter Island)’, in Patricia A. McAnany and Norman Yoffee, eds., Questioning Collapse:  Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability and the Aftermath of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 21–44. 61 Evidence of this was provided by none other than Jared Diamond; see Jared Diamond, ‘Rats as Agents of Extermination’, Nature 318 (1985), pp. 602–3; see also J. S. Athens, H. D. Tuggle, J. V. Ward and D. J. Welch, ‘Avifaunal Extinctions, Vegetation Change, and Polynesian Impacts in Prehistoric Hawai’i’, Archaeology in Oceania 37 (2002), pp. 57–78; D. R. Towns, I. A. E. Atkinson and C. H. Daugherty, ‘Have the Harmful Effects of Introduced Rats Been Exaggerated?’ Biological Invasions 8 (2006), pp. 863–91; Terry L. Hunt, ‘Rethinking Easter Island’s Ecological Catastrophe’, Journal of Archaeological Science 34 (2007), pp. 485–502; Hector E. Pérez, Aaron B. Shiels, Halina M. Zaleski and Donald R. Drake, ‘Germination After Simulated Rat Damage in Seeds of Two Endemic Hawaiian Palm Species’, Journal of Tropical Ecology 24 (2008), pp. 555–8. 62 Dransfield estimates it as four hundred to five hundred years; see John Dransfield, ‘Palms:  Paschalococos Disperta’, Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia 2008, Others have even postulated the improbable age of two thousand years; see John R. Flenley and Paul Bahn, ‘Conflicting Views of Easter Island’, Rapa Nui Journal 21:1 (2007), pp. 11–13. Such extreme longevity was immediately seconded by Jared Diamond in defence of his original standpoint; see Jared Diamond, ‘Easter Island Revisited’, Science 317 (2007), pp. 1692–4.



Notes to Pages 121–124 63 Andreas Mieth and Hans-Rudolf Bork, ‘Humans, climate or introduced rats – which is to blame for the woodland destruction on prehistoric Rapa Nui (Easter Island)?’, Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (2010), pp. 417–26; Bahn and Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island, 3rd ed. (2011), pp. 258–9.

7 Foreigners 1 R. H. Major, ed., Early Voyages to Terra Australis, Now Called Australia:  A  Collection of Documents, and Extracts from Early Manuscript Maps, Illustrative of the History of Discovery on the Coasts of That Vast Island, from the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century to the Time of Captain Cook (London:  Hakluyt Society, 1859; reprinted Whitefish MT:  Kessinger Publishing’s Legacy Reprints, 2007). 2 Wouter van der Weijden, Rob Leewis and Pieter Bol, Biological Globalisation – Bio-invasions and Their Impacts On Nature, the Economy and Public Health (The Netherlands: KNNV, 2007). 3 Alan Moorehead, The Fatal Impact: An Account of the Invasion of the South Pacific (NewYork: Dell, 1966). 4 Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years (London: Chatto and Windus, 1997; London: Vintage, 1998). 5 Major, ed., Early Voyages, pp. 99–107; see also Baron Mulert’s introduction in De Reis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen ter ontdekking van het Zuidland (1721–1722) (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1911), pp. XVII–XVIII. 6 Baron Mulert, De reis, pp. 115–16: ‘Raad van de Hoofden der drie in compagnie seylende Schepen’. 7 F. E. Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, gehouden op het schip Tienhoven tijdens de ontdekkingsreis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen, 1721–1722 (Middelburg: J. C. and W. Altorffer, 1911), p. 90: ‘een half stuk Haarlemmerstreep van 5 à 6 stuyvers de elle’. 8 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p.  5:  ‘Neurenburger waar’. This is an understatement, according to the list of goods given by Ruud Paesie, who describes the fleet’s outfitting in detail in his article ‘De Uitrusting van de expeditievloot van Jacob Roggeveen naar het “onbekende Zuidland” (1721–1722)’, Tijdschrift voor zeegeschiedenis 25 (2006), pp. 138–63. 9 The story is told in detail in R.  Van Gelder, Naar het aards paradijs. Het rusteloze leven van Jacob Roggeveen, ontdekker van Paaseiland (1659–1729) (Amsterdam: Balans, 2012), pp. 234–5. 10 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p. 5: ‘alsmede de gages van het scheepsvolk van Batavia tot aan de havens dezer landen te betalen’. 11 S. Olivier, ‘Een beeldje van Paaseiland in Ouddorp (ZH)’, De Motte (Journal of the Historical Society of Goeree Overflakkee) 78–9 (1980), pp.  7–9; S. Olivier, ‘Een beeldje van Paaseiland in Ouddorp’, Westerheem 4 (1995), pp. 156–7. I suspect that the statuette was brought to the Netherlands in 1960 by a person on board the Dutch naval ship HMS Groningen (see Chapter 8). 12 Baron Mulert, De reis, p. 119: ‘’t is tijd, ’t is tijd, geeft vuur, waerop als in een oogenblik, meer dan dertig snaphaenen zijn gelost’.

Notes to Pages 125–130 13 Baron Mulert, Scheepsjournaal, p. 89: ‘bloodaard’. 14 Bolton Glanvill Corney, ed., The Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González in the Ship of the Line San Lorenzo with the Frigate Santa Rosalia in Company to Easter Island in 1770–1771 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1903), p. 104. 15 Corney, ed., Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 99. 16 Corney, ed., Voyage of Captain Don Felipe González, p. 96. 17 Ton Lemaire, De Indiaan in ons Bewustzijn: de ontmoeting van de Oude met de Nieuwe Wereld (Baarn NL: Ambo, 1986), p. 77ff. 18 See J. Dunmore, ed., The Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse 1785–1788 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1994–5), vol. 1, p. 101. 19 Sparrman published his travel account in 1783 in Swedish. It was translated into English in 1786 and revised a number of times. In later editions Sparrman added his commentary to the journals of the 1786 French expedition. 20 Dunmore, ed., Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, vol. 1, p. 56. 21 Joppien and Smith include both the originals and the engravings; see Rüdiger Joppien and Bernard Smith, The Art of Captain Cook’s Voyages, vol. 2: The Voyage of the Resolution and Adventure 1772–1775, with a Descriptive Catalogue of All Known Original Drawings and Paintings of People, Places, Artefacts and Events and Original Engravings Associated with the Voyage, published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 198–200. 22 Dunmore, ed., Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, vol. 1, p. 67. 23 Dunmore, ed., Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, vol. 1, p. 59: ‘We were bringing them goats, ewes, pigs; we had seeds for orange and lemon trees, cotton and maize and broadly of everything that was likely to succeed on this island.’ 24 Rhys Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861: Observations by Early Visitors Before the Slave Raids (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2008), pp. 19, 21. 25 John Myers, The Life, Voyages and Travels of Captain John Myers (London: Longman Hurst, 1817), pp. 116–17. 26 Thor Heyerdahl and Edwin N. Ferdon, Jr., eds., Archaeology of Easter Island, vol. 1 (London:  George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1961), pp. 282–3. Anders Sparrman states that the islanders showed little interest in glass beads, ‘for such baubles were at once flung away with contempt’; see Anders Sparrman, A Voyage Round the World with Captain James Cook in H.M.S. Resolution, translated by Huldine Beamish and Averil Mackenzie-Grieve (London: Robert Hale Ltd, 1953), p. 115. 27 B. A. Lie et al., ‘Molecular Genetic Studies of Natives on Easter Island: Evidence of an Early European and Amerindian Contribution to the Polynesian Gene Pool’, Tissue Antigens 69:1 (2006), pp. 10–18. 28 Douglas W. Owsley, George W. Gill and Stephen D. Ousley, ‘Biological Effects of European Contact on Easter Island’, in Clark Spencer Larsen and George R. Milner, eds., In the Wake of Contact: Biological Responses to Conquest (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994), pp. 161–77. 29 See Georgia Lee and Paul Horley, ‘The Paintings of Ana Kai Tangata Cave, Easter Island (Rapa Nui)’, Rapa Nui Journal 27:2 (2013), pp. 11–32, esp. p. 26.



Notes to Pages 130–136 30 A complete list of ships that called at Easter Island in the first two centuries after Roggeveen’s visit appears in Grant McCall, ‘Rapanui and Outsiders: The Early Days’, in B. Illius and M. Laubscher, eds., Circumpacifica, vol. 2: Ozeanien, Miszellen, Festschrift für Thomas S. Barthel (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1990), pp. 165–225. 31 Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861. 32 Urey Lisiansky, A Voyage Round the World in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 Performed by Order of His Imperial Majesty Alexander the First, Emperor of Russia, in the Ship Neva (London:  John Booth & Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown, 1814; reprint Bibliotheca Australiana Series #42 (Amsterdam: N. Israël; New York: Da Capo Press, 1968). 33 Glynn Barratt, Russia and the South Pacific 1696–1840, vol. 2: Southern and Eastern Polynesia (Vancouver:  University of British Columbia Press, 1988), pp. 82–91. 34 Otto von Kotzebue, A Voyage of Discovery into the South Sea and Beering’s Straits, for the Purpose of Exploring a North-East Passage, Undertaken in the Years 1815–1818, at the Expense of His Highness the Chancellor of the Empire, Count Romanoff, in the Ship Rurick, Under the Command of the Lieutenant in the Russian Imperial Navy, Otto von Kotzebue, 3  vols. (London:  Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1821; reprint Bibliotheca Australiana Series #19 [Amsterdam:  N.  Israël; New  York:  Da Capo Press, 1967], vol. 3), pp. 19–20. 35 J. A. Moerenhout, Travels to the Islands of the Pacific Ocean:  Containing New Documents on the Physical and Political Geography, the Language, the Literature, the Religion, the Customs, the Habits and the Dress of Their Inhabitants; and Some General Considerations of Their Commerce, Their History and Their Government Since Most Ancient Times to the Present, translated by Arthur R. Borden, Jr. (Lanham/London: United Press of America, 1837/1993), p. 427. 36 Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861, pp. 24–5; Moerenhout, Travels to the Islands of the Pacific Ocean, pp. 427–8. 37 See, for instance, Arthur Japin, The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi, translated by Ina Rilke (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000). 38 Otto von Kotzebue, Zu Eisbergen und Palmenstränden 1815–1818:  Mit der ‘Rurik’ um die Welt (Lenningen:  Detlef Brennecke, Edition Erdmann, 1821/2004), p. 81: ‘und von lauter Affen umringt’. 39 Barratt, Russia and the South Pacific, pp. 44–5. 40 Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861, p. 33. 41 Published in the Sydney Gazette of 9 June 1821. 42 Moerenhout, Travels to the Islands of the Pacific Ocean, p. 428. 43 The quoted sentence was taken from the logbook of the Vesper, a boat from New London, Connecticut, which put in at Easter Island in 1849. See Richards, Easter Island 1793–1861, p. 83. 44 In the Journal of the Polynesian Society 100 (1991), pp. 303–16. 45 See Gregory T. Cushman, Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World:  A  Global Ecological History (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Notes to Pages 136–145 46 Hanns Ebenstein, Trespassers on Easter Island:  Explorers, Whaler, Slavers, Adventurers, Missionaries, Scientists and Tourists, from 1722 to the Present Time (Key West, FL: Ketch and Yawl Press, 2001), p. 28. 47 Claudio Véliz, Historia de la Marina Mercante de Chile (Santiago: Universidad de Chile, 1961), p. 150. 48 Grant McCall, ‘European Impact on Easter Island:  Response, Recruitment and the Polynesian Experience in Peru’, Journal of Pacific History 11:2 (1976), pp. 90–105. 49 H. E. Maude, Slavers in Paradise:  The Peruvian Labour Trade in Polynesia, 1862–1864, Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press; Canberra: Australian National University Press, 1981), pp. 17–18. 50 Maude, Slavers in Paradise, p. 18. 51 James Cowan, Suwarrow Gold and Other Stories of the Great South Sea (London: Jonathan Cape, 1936), p. 55. 52 Letter from Gill of 1 July 1863 addressed to the London Missionary Society: Rev. W. Wyatt Gill, Jottings from the Pacific (London: Religious Tract Society, 1885). 53 Grant McCall, ‘A Report from Rapa Nui’, Rapa Nui Journal 15:1 (2001), pp. 3–4. 54 Cushman, Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World, pp. 89–90. 55 Cushman, Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World, p. 90. 56 Maude, Slavers in Paradise, p. 149. 57 Georgia Lee, Ann M. Altman and Frank Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island 1864–1877:  The Reports of Eugène Eyraud, Hippolyte Roussel, Pierre Loti and Alphonse Pinart, translated by Ann M. Altman (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2004) p. 46. 58 Lee, Altman and Morin, Early Visitors to Easter Island, pp. 63–103, esp. p. 93; see also Pierre Loti (1872), L’Île de Pâques: Journal d’un Aspirant de La Flore (Easter Island, Chile:  Rapanui Press, 2007), p.  71:  ‘The paths leading there are covered with bones, and here and there one still encounters complete skeletons covered with little stones’ (‘Les sentiers qui y mènent sont couverts d’ossements, et, par-ci par-là, on rencontre encore des squelettes entiers recouverts de cailloux’). 59 Alphonse Pinart, ‘Exploration de L’Île de Pâques’, Bulletin de la Société de Géographie (Paris) 16 (1878), pp. 193–213. 60 See Lee, Altman and Morin, Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 129. See also Chapter 8, p. 156, and note 14 (p. 241). 61 Lee, Altman and Morin, Early Visitors to Easter Island, p.  16 (Eyraud) and p. 57 (Roussel).

8  Christianization, Sheep Breeding and Research 1 Its full name was the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of the Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. This religious institute was founded in 1805. Its brothers and priests were known



Notes to Pages 145–156


3 4 5



8 9


11 12 13

as Picpus Fathers, after its first house in rue de Picpus in Paris. It was active mainly in South America. Georgia Lee, Ann M. Altman and Frank Morin, eds., Early Visitors to Easter Island 1864–1877:  The Reports of Eugène Eyraud, Hippolyte Roussel, Pierre Loti and Alphonse Pinart, translated by Ann M. Altman (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2004). Eyraud’s account is on pp. 3–33 (quotation on p. 31). Lee, Altman and Morin, Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 33. Lee, Altman and Morin, Early Visitors to Easter Island, pp. 33–60. Roussel’s account covers the years 1866–9. This story can be found in a number of publications; see, for instance, Katherine Scoresby Routledge, The Mystery of Easter Island: The Story of an Expedition (London: Hazell, Watson and Viney, 1919), p. 206; Alfred Métraux, Easter Island:  A  Stone-Age Civilization of the Pacific, translated by Michael Bullock (London: Book Club Associates, 1957), p. 55. His success at persuading them to leave  – so soon after the Peruvian slave raids – supports Grant McCall’s theory that workers were recruited largely on a volunteer basis. The miserable conditions and hostile atmosphere on the island, combined with their ignorance of the conditions elsewhere, explains the islanders’ willingness to leave. Pierre Loti says the population was then between three hundred and four hundred. See Pierre Loti, L’Île de Pâques:  Journal d’un Aspirant de La Flore (Easter Island, Chile: Rapanui Press, 2007), p. 34. The same story was recorded by a Russian visitor in 1871; see D. D. Tumarkin and I. K. Fedorova, ‘Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay and Easter Island’, Pacific Studies 13 (1990), pp. 103–17. Alphonse Pinart, ‘Exploration de L’Île de Pâques’, Bulletin de la Société de Géographie (Paris) 16 (1978), pp. 193–213. Much of this story, including the estimate of the damages claimed by Jaussen, can be found in Hanns Ebenstein, Trespassers on Easter Island:  Explorers, Whaler, Slavers, Adventurers, Missionaries, Scientists and Tourists, from 1722 to the Present Time (Key West, FL: Ketch and Yawl Press, 2001), pp. 37–46. Material from the Catholic Archdiocese of Papeete, sent via the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau (PMB), Australian National University, Canberra, letters PBM 1080 reel 10 and PBM 1081 reel 1 item 7; see also P.  Amerigo Cools (compiler), La Mission Catholique de L’Île de Pâques: rapport de Mgr Tepano Jaussen sur la destruction de la mission; les huit lettres du P. Gaspar Zuhmbohm (Rome: Vatican, 1976). This story is included in, for instance, Grant McCall, Rapanui Tradition and Survival on Easter Island, 2nd ed. (Honolulu:  University of Hawai’i Press, 1994), p. 63. Lee, Altman and Morin, Early Visitors to Easter Island, p. 58. The museum’s collection is easy to access digitally. There are photographs and descriptions of the objects, and the information can be found via the catalogue on the museum’s website. The artefacts that actually come from Easter Island (forty-two) are dated according to the year in which they were acquired. Everything dates from the period after Geiseler’s visit (1883–8), and nearly everything came via Germany. A total of nine people were involved as

Notes to Pages 156–164 intermediaries, but the large majority of the objects (twenty-five) were supplied by J. Weisser, the draughtsman–collector who took part in Geiseler’s expedition. The description of the artefacts, which is rather general and dated, relies heavily on Alfred Métraux, Ethnology of Easter Island (Honolulu:  Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 160, 1940; reprint 1971). They include a number of curious objects, such as a jar containing ‘edible soil’, a ‘tern’s egg’ and a skull without a jawbone. The catalogue states that the skull was acquired via J. Weisser and gives the following explanation: ‘It is quite possible that the skull was found near an old ahu and taken by a collector.’ This is indeed possible. Evidently, the author of that text did not know that the collector and trader were one and the same person, namely Weisser. 14 Alphonse Pinart, ‘Exploration de L’Île de Pâques’, Bulletin de la Société de Géographie (Paris) 16, pp.  193–213. Translated in Lee, Altman and Morin, Early Visitors to Easter Island, pp.  105–35. The translation gives slightly different figures for the height of the average woman and the number of inhabitants. 15 Wilhelm Geiseler, Die Oster-Insel:  Eine Stätte prähistorischer Kultur in der Südsee. Bericht über die ethnologische Untersuchung der Oster-Insel (Rapanui) an den Chef der Kaiserlichen Admiralität (Berlin:  E. S.  Mittler und Sohn, 1883); the artefacts are described on pp.  48–54. His report also appeared in English:  Wilhelm Geiseler, Geiseler’s Easter Island Report:  An 1880s Anthropological Account, introduction, annotations and notes by William Ayres, translated by William Ayres and Gabriella Ayres (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1995). 16 Geiseler, Die Oster-Insel, p. 31: ‘Sie haben wenig Religion.’ 17 Routledge’s book includes a photograph of an old woman with earlobes pierced in the traditional way. See Katherine Scoresby Routledge, The Mystery of Easter Island:  The Story of an Expedition (London:  Hazell, Watson and Viney, 1919; reprinted Kempton, IL:  Adventures Unlimited Press, 1998), fig. 90. 18 William J. Thomson, Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, Report of the National Museum (Washington, DC:  Government Printing Office, 1891; reprint Chile: Rapa Nui Press, 2007). 19 Thomson, Te Pito Te Henua, p. 461. 20 Thomson, Te Pito Te Henua, pl. XIX. 21 Thomson, Te Pito Te Henua. The legend of the Long Ears and the Short Ears is on pp. 428–32 and the tablets and their translations on pp. 513–26. 22 Jo Anne Van Tilburg has written a wonderful biography of Routledge: Among Stone Giants: The Life of Katherine Routledge and Her Remarkable Expedition to Easter Island (New  York:  Scribner, 2003). Jennifer Vanderbes wrote a novel featuring Routledge that appeared that same year:  Easter Island (London: Abacus, 2003). 23 Routledge, The Mystery of Easter Island. 24 Routledge, The Mystery of Easter Island, p. 125. 25 Henry Balfour also made important scientific contributions. See, for example, Henry Balfour, ‘Some Ethnological Suggestions in Regard to Easter Island, or Rapanui’, Folklore 28:4 (1917), pp. 356–81.



Notes to Pages 164–169 26 Routledge, The Mystery of Easter Island, pp. 225–6. If we assume that Porotu was sixty at the time of this visit and twenty when he buried Ko Tori, then the latter could have died around 1880. It is strange that Geiseler did not mention his name or existence, nor did he hear any stories about him. If Ko Tori was in fact the last living cannibal, the memory of him would still have been fresh in Geiseler’s day. This is true a fortiori for the accounts written by the missionaries, who, if the dating is correct, must have been on the island when Ko Tori was still alive. 27 Routledge, The Mystery of Easter Island, p. 388. 28 Alfred Métraux, Easter Island. A Stone-Age Civilization of the Pacific, translated by Michael Bullock (London: Book Club Associates 1957), p. 11. 29 Métraux, Easter Island. The photographs appear between pp. 126 and 127. 30 Métraux, Ethnology of Easter Island. 31 Métraux, Easter Island, p.  13. The criticism of Heyerdahl’s theories can be found on pp. 224–33. 32 Padre Sebastián Englert, La Tierra de Hotu Matu’a:  Historia, Etnología y Lengua de la Isla de Pascua (Santiago de Chile: Padre las Casas/Imprenta San Francisco, 1948). 33 Henri Lavachery, Les Pétroglyphes de l’Île de Pâques (Antwerp: De Sikkel, 1939). 34 In 1934, even before the return of the Franco–Belgian expedition, Stephen-Chauvet produced a beautifully illustrated book with depictions and photographs of all the objects and drawings (nearly 200)  known to him from Easter Island. The descriptions reveal that these objects were already dispersed around the world by this time. The account is not complete, for one reason because it does not include the objects purchased by Leiden that were in storage; Dr Stephen-Chauvet, L’Île de Pâques et ses Mystères:  La première étude réunissant TOUS les documents connus sur cette île mystérieuse (Paris: Aux éditions ‘Tel’, 1934). 35 For the collection in Brussels, see, among others, Francina A. M. Forment, De vele en de kleine eilanden – Paaseiland, catalogue of objects from Polynesia and Micronesia, exhibited in the Mercator room, Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels, 1982. 36 These extensive publications appeared in the 1960s:  Thor Heyerdahl and Edwin N. Ferdon, Jr., eds., Archaeology of Easter Island: Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and the East Pacific, vol. 1: Archaeology of Easter Island. Monographs of the School of American Research and the Museum of New Mexico, no. 24, part 1 (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1961); Thor Heyerdahl and Edwin. N. Ferdon, Jr., eds., Archaeology of Easter Island: Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and the East Pacific, vol. 2: Miscellaneous Papers, Monographs of the School of American Research and the Kon-Tiki Museum (Oslo, Norway), no. 24, part 2 (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1965). Studies by Mulloy were published in the period 1968–79, as was a posthumous anthology:  William Mulloy, The Easter Island Bulletins of William Mulloy (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 1997). 37 In particular, Thor Heyerdahl, The Kon-Tiki Expedition:  By Raft Across the South Seas (London:  George Allen and Unwin Ltd, 1950); and Thor

Notes to Pages 169–176 Heyerdahl, Aku-Aku:  The Secret of Easter Island (Chicago:  Rand McNally, 1958). This last book, which appeared much earlier than the scientific studies, strongly coloured the picture of the island in those days. Finally, a beautifully illustrated and comprehensive work is Thor Heyerdahl, Easter Island:  The Mystery Solved (New York: Random House, 1989). 38 Thor Heyerdahl, Aku-Aku:  The Secret of Easter Island (London:  Allen and Unwin, 1958), esp. chapter VIII: ‘In the Secret Caves of Easter Island’. 39 See Helen Evans Reid, A World Away: A Canadian Adventure on Easter Island (Toronto:  Ryerson Press, 1965), p.  6; Peter Beighton, ‘Easter Island People’, Geographical Journal 132:3 (1966), pp. 347–57. 40 Reid, A World Away, p. 163. 41 The information on this visit comes from my interview with Paul Roos and B. (Binie) Veldkamp, the widow of Bert Veldkamp, The Hague, 2009. On this occasion, Mrs Veldkamp also showed me some of her Easter Island woodcarvings. In 2012, I talked about this Dutch visit with Brigid Mulloy, daughter of the archaeologist Bill Mulloy, who had lived with her parents on the island for a while. She showed me some letters, photographs and objects from that time. 42 Letter from B.  Veldkamp of 1 June 1985 to the editorial staff of the NRC Handelsblad. Personal archive of Mrs B. Veldkamp, The Hague. A sister ship had put in at Hong Kong in those months, but the HMS Groningen had been ordered to remain at sea all that time. 43 Henk de Velde, Navel der aarde (Harderwijk: Albatros, 1987), p. 78. In later pieces on this modern connection between the Netherlands and Easter Island, the son is called Stefan. 44 The book has an appendix about the language of Easter Island that was written by the Scandinavist Jan ten Holt. De Velde’s book is more than just a travel account. It presumes to be a reliable scientific source, but it does not always live up to this claim.

9  The Earth and Easter Island: Doom and Destiny 1 Ton Lemaire, De val van Prometheus: Over de keerzijden van de vooruitgang (Amsterdam: Ambo, 2010), p. 154. 2 Lemaire, De val van Prometheus, p. 350, n. 34. 3 Rosalind L. Hunter-Anderson, ‘Human vs. Climatic Impacts at Rapa Nui, or Did the People Really Cut Down All Those Trees?’, in Christopher M. Stevenson, Georgia Lee and F. J. Morin, eds., Easter Island in Pacific Context. South Seas Symposium. Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Easter Island and East Polynesia (Los Osos, CA:  Easter Island Foundation, 1998), pp. 85–99. 4 Catherine Orliac and Michel Orliac, ‘The Disappearance of Easter Island’s Forest:  Over-exploitation or Climate Catastrophe?’, in Stevenson, Lee and Morin, eds., Easter Island in Pacific Context, pp. 129–34. 5 Patrick D. Nunn, ‘Environmental Catastrophe in the Pacific Islands Around a.d. 1300’, Geoarchaeology:  An International Journal, 15:7 (2000),



Notes to Pages 176–178

6 7

8 9 10






pp. 715–40; Patrick D. Nunn and James M. R. Britton, ‘Human-Environment Relationships in the Pacific Islands Around a.d. 1300’, Environment and History 7:1 (2001), pp. 3–22. Patrick D. Nunn, ‘Nature-Society Interaction in the Pacific Islands’, Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 85:4 (2003), pp. 219–29. Bjørn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). Jan J. Boersema, Hoe groen is het goede leven? Over vooruitgang en het natuurlijk milieu in onze westerse cultuur (Amsterdam:  Vrije Universiteit, 2002): mentioned by Don Garden in his book Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific: An Environmental History (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2005). Paul Rainbird, ‘A Message for Our Future? The Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Eco-disaster and Pacific Island Environments’, World Archaeology 33:3 (2002), pp. 436–51. Benny Peiser, ‘From Genocide to Ecocide: The Rape of Rapa Nui’, Energy and Environment 16:2/3 (2005), pp. 513–39. Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, ‘Late Colonization of Easter Island’, Science 311 (2006), pp. 1603–6; Terry L. Hunt, ‘Rethinking Easter Island’s Ecological Catastrophe’, Journal of Archaeological Science 34 (2007), pp. 485–502; Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, ‘Chronology, Deforestation, and “Collapse:” Evidence vs. Faith in Rapa Nui Prehistory’, Rapa Nui Journal 21:2 (2007), pp. 85–97. I. A. E. Atkinson, ‘The Spread of Commensal Species of Rattus to Oceanic Islands and Their Effects on Island Avifaunas’, in P. J. Moors, ed., Conservation of Island Birds (Cambridge:  ICBP Technical Publication, 1985), pp. 35–81; Jared Diamond, ‘Rats as Agents of Extermination’, Nature 318 (1985), pp. 602–03; for an overview, see Ronald R. Drake and Terry L. Hunt, ‘Invasive Rodents on Islands:  Integrating Historical and Contemporary Ecology’, Biological Invasions 11 (2009), pp. 1483–7. Andreas Mieth and Hans-Rudolf Bork, ‘Humans, climate or introduced rats – which is to blame for the woodland destruction on prehistoric Rapa Nui (Easter Island)?’, Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (2010), pp. 417–26. Their analysis supports late settlement, because all the ‘slashing and burning’ took place roughly between 1200 and 1550. The 2007 conference was held in Visby, Gotland, Sweden. In addition to my presentation, Easter Island:  If No Collapse, What Then? Cultural Adaptations to a Changing Environment, there was a very perceptive and convincing presentation by Thegn Ladefoged et al., Empirical Assessment of a Pre-European Societal Collapse on Rapa Nui, see Conf/Conference2007.nsf/dokument/54D2D47C25DB37A6C12571DA002AC 4D1!OpenDocument. John R. Flenley and Paul Bahn, ‘Conflicting Views of Easter Island’, Rapa Nui Journal 21:1 (2007), pp. 11–13. This is discussed at length in Paul Bahn and John Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island, 3rd ed. (Rapa Nui: Rapa Nui Press, 2011). Joseph A.Tainter, The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Joseph A. Tainter, ‘Collapse, Sustainability, and

Notes to Pages 178–187 the Environment:  How Authors Choose to Fail or Succeed’, Reviews in Anthropology 37:4 (2008), pp. 342–71. 16 Mara A. Mulrooney, Thegn N. Ladefoged, Christopher M. Stevenson and Sonia Haoa, ‘The Myth of A.D. 1680: New evidence from Hanga Ho’onu Rapa Nui (Easter Island)’, Rapa Nui Journal 23:2 (2009), pp. 94–105. 17 David W. Steadman, ‘Extinction of Birds in Eastern Polynesia: A Review of the Record, and Comparisons with Other Pacific Island Groups’, Journal of Archaeological Science 16 (1989), pp. 177–205; David W. Steadman, ‘Prehistoric Extinctions of Pacific Island Birds:  Biodiversity Meets Zooarchaeology’, Science 267 (1995), pp. 1123–31. 18 John Terborgh, ‘Why We Must Bring Back the Wolf’, New  York Review of Books, 15 July 2010, pp. 35–7. 19 See Christopher M. Stevenson, Sonia Haoa, Thegn N. Ladefoged, Mara A. Mulrooney, Peter M. Vitousek and Oliver A. Chadwick, ‘Evaluating Rapa Nui Prehistoric Terrestrial Resource Degradation’, Rapa Nui Journal 24:2 (2010), pp. 16–17. 20 Paul Bahn and John Flenley, Easter Island, Earth Island (London: Thames and Hudson, 1992), p. 218. 21 See, among others, Patricia A. McAnany and Norman Yoffee, eds., Questioning Collapse:  Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability and the Aftermath of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). 22 Josée van Eijndhoven, De ondraaglijke zwaarte van de mens, inaugural address given upon acceptance of the position of Professor of Sustainable Management at Erasmus University in Rotterdam (2009), p. 10. 23 L. Festinger and J. M. Carlsmith, ‘Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 58:2 (1959), pp. 203–10. 24 The Time article ‘Too Green for Their Own Good’ by Andrew Goldstein, with the quotation from Melnick, is included in Michael L. McKinney, ed., Outlooks: Readings for Environmental Literacy (London: Jones and Bartlett, 2004), p. 105. 25 The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Series, 5  vols., Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Current State and Trends, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2005). 26 Ray Hilborn and Emilie Litzinger, ‘Causes of Decline and Potential for Recovery of Atlantic Cod Populations’, Open Fish Science Journal 2 (2009), pp. 32–8. 27 Alida Bundy and L. Paul Flanning, ‘Can Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) Recover? Exploring Trophic Explanations for the Non-recovery of the Cod Stock on the Eastern Scotian Shelf, Canada’, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 62:7 (2005), pp. 1474–89. Jeffrey A. Hutchings and Robert W. Rangeley, ‘Correlates of Recovery for Canadian Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua)’, Canadian Journal of Zoology 89:5 (2011), pp. 386–400. 28 A. W.  Schorger, The Passenger Pigeon:  Its Natural History and Extinction (Madison:  University of Wisconsin Press, 1955); Tim R. Halliday, ‘The extinction of the passenger pigeon Ectopistes migratorius and its relevance to contemporary conservation’, Biological Conservation 17 (1980),



Notes to Pages 187–190 pp. 157–62; Andrew D. Blechman, Pigeons:  The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird (New York: Grove Press, 2006), p. 117; Joel Greenberg, A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014), esp. pp. 168–73. 29 Bundy and Flanning, “Can Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua) Recover?’ 30 See, among others, Peter Tydeman, ‘Integraal Waterbeheerproject het Nannewijd:  na 10 jaar de balans opgemaakt. Overzicht en analyse van monitoringresultaten uit de periode 1991–2004’, Rapport Wetterskip Fryslân, 2005: 31 Quirin Schiermeier, ‘Ecologists Fear Antarctic Krill Crisis’, Nature 467 (2010), p. 15. 32 See, among others, Jeremy B. C. Jackson et al., ‘Historical Overfishing and the Recent Collapse of Coastal Ecosytems’, Science 293 (2001), pp. 629–37; Johan van de Koppel, Daphne van der Wal, Jan P. Bakker and Peter M. J. Herman, ‘Self-Organization and Vegetation Collapse in Salt-Marsh Ecosytems’, American Naturalist 165:1 (2005), pp. E1–E12. 33 William D. Newmark, ‘A Land-bridge Island Perspective on Mammalian Extinctions in Western North American Parks’, Nature 325 (1987), pp. 430–2; Caroline Fraser, Rewilding the World:  Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution (Tomball, TX: Metropolitan, 2010). 34 Terborgh, ‘Why We Must Bring Back the Wolf’, pp. 35–7. 35 Jim Sterba, Nature Wars:  The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds (New York: Crown, 2012). 36 Marten Scheffer, Steve Carpenter, Jonathan A. Foley, Carl Folke and Brian Walker, ‘Catastrophic Shifts in Ecosytems’, Nature 413 (2001), pp. 591–6; Marten Scheffer et al., ‘Anticipating Critical Transitions’, Science 338 (2012), pp. 344–8. 37 Such far-reaching human influence has been apparent since the Pleistocene. See P. S. Martin and H. E. Wright, eds., Pleistocene Extinction: The Search for a Cause (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967); T. Flannery, The Eternal Frontier:  An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001). 38 Tainter, Collapse of Complex Societies, 1988. 39 For a recent example, see Brian Dermody, Sol Invictus:  Holocene Climate Change and Its Impact in the Roman Mediterranean, dissertation, Utrecht University, 2014. 40 The extent to which there was impoverishment, insufficient food production and a drop in population is currently being investigated by an interdisciplinary research team. See Christopher M. Stevenson, Sonia Haoa, Thegn N. Ladefoged, Mara A. Mulrooney, Peter M. Vitousek and Oliver A. Chadwick, ‘Evaluating Rapa Nui Prehistoric Terrestrial Resource Degradation’, Rapa Nui Journal 24:2 (2010), pp.  16–17. For recent results, see Christopher M. Stevenson, Cedric O. Puleston, Peter M. Vitousek, Oliver A. Chedwick, Sonia Haoa, and Thegn N. Ladefoged, ‘Variation in Rapa Nui (Easter Island) land use indicates production and population peaks prior to European contact’, PNAS (2015)

Notes to Pages 190–195 41 See McAnany and Yoffee, eds., Questioning Collapse. 42 There are many variants of the tendency to see Easter Island as an example to the entire world, whereby the threat of climate change is the modern variant of deforestation: ‘The Easter Island story is a case study in the consequences of failure to manage shared ecological resources. Climate change is becoming a 21st-century variant of that story on a global scale’; see United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2007/2008 Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007–8), p.  21. The comparison would be valid if we think of ‘consequences’ not as collapse but as qualitative degradation. 43 James A. Brander and M. S. Taylor, ‘The Simple Economics of Easter Island:  A  Ricardo-Malthus Model of Renewable Resource Use’, American Economic Review 88:1 (1998), pp. 119–38; R. Reuveny and C. S. Decker, ‘Easter Island: Historical Anecdote or Warning for the Future?’ Ecological Economics 35 (2000), pp. 271–87; Jon D. Erickson and John M. Gowdy, ‘Resource Use, Institutions, and Sustainability:  A  Tale of Two Pacific Island Cultures’, Land Economics 76:3 (2000), pp. 345–54; David H. Good and Rafael Reuveny, ‘The Fate of Easter Island:  The Limits of Resource Management Institutions’, Ecological Economics 58 (2006), pp. 473–90; Marco A. Janssen, Timothy A. Kohler and Marten Scheffer, ‘Sunk-Cost Effects and Vulnerability to Collapse in Ancient Societies’, Current Anthropology 44:5 (2003), pp. 722–8. 44 Janssen, Kohler and Scheffer, ‘Sunk-Cost Effects and Vulnerability to Collapse in Ancient Societies’; Marco A. Janssen and Marten Scheffer, ‘Overexploitation of Renewable Resources by Ancient Societies and the Role of Sunk-Cost Effects’, Ecology and Society 9:1 (2004), pp. 6–20; online at http:// 45 See Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years (London: Chatto and Windus, 1997; London: Vintage, 1998). 46 V. T.  T. Loc, S. R. Bush and L. X. Sinh, ‘Assessment of Value Chains for Promoting Sustainable Fisheries Development in the Mekong Basin: Cases of Pangasius in Vietnam and Cambodia’, Vietnam Economic Management Review 26:5–6 (2009), pp. 32–42; W. S. Lakra and A. K. Singh, ‘Risk Analysis and Sustainability of Pangasianodon hypophthalmus Culture in India’, Genetics & Biodiversity 15:1 (2010), pp. 34–7. 47 A great deal of information about the island, both historical and current, is to be found in Shawn McLaughlin, The Complete Guide to Easter Island, 3rd ed. (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2011). 48 See Rapa Nui Journal 24:2 (2010), pp. 75–6. 49 See Rapa Nui Journal 24:2 (2010), p. 76. 50 For a detailed description of the summer festival and current developments in art and culture, see Debbie van den Berg, Uitvoerende kunsten en toerisme op Paaseiland. Cultureel of Commercieel?, undergraduate thesis, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Leiden University, 2004. See also Georgia Lee, Rapa Nui, Island of Memory (Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation, 2006), pp. 98–104.



Notes to Pages 195–198 51 See Petra Campbell, ‘Waste Management in Easter Island’, Rapa Nui Journal 24:2 (2010), pp. 72–3. 52 The Easter Islanders frequently suggest that some of the artefacts should be returned to the island. See the 2014 documentary Treasures Decoded Easter Island Heads, produced by Blink Films, UK, in which Valentino Riroroku Tuki, an Easter Islander requests the return of the statue Hoa Hakananai’a, now in the British Museum.


Easter Island, Early Accounts General Accounts Dumont D’Urville, M. 1834–5. Voyage pittoresque Autour du Monde. Resume général des voyages de découvertes de Magellan, Tasman, Dampier, Anson, Byron, Wallis, Carteret, Bougainville, Cook, Laperouse . . . etc. 2 tomes. Paris: Tenré. Foerster, Rolf 2012. Rapa Nui, primeras expeditions europeas. Rapa Nui:  Rapa Nui Press. Kerr, Robert 1811–24. General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea and Land, from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time. 14 vols. Edinburgh: William Blackwood & London: T. Cadell (Included in the Gutenberg project).   Vol. X, Early Circumnavigations, or Voyages Round the World, 1824: http://www   Vol. XI, Chapter XIII, Voyage Round the World, by Commodore Roggewein, in 1721–1723, 1824: Lee, Georgia, Ann M. Altman and Frank Morin, eds. 2004. Early Visitors to Easter Island 1864–1877. The Reports of Eugène Eyraud, Hippolyte Roussel, Pierre Loti and Alphonse Pinart. Translated by Ann M. Altman. Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation. Major, R. H., ed. 1859. Early Voyages to Terra Australis, Now Called Australia: a Collection of Documents, and Extracts from Early Manuscript Maps, Illustrative of the History of Discovery on the Coasts of that Vast Island, from the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century to the Time of Captain Cook. Edited, with an introduction by R. H. Major. First Series Part I, no 25, London: Hakluyt Society. Reprinted in 2007 by Kessinger Publishing’s Legacy Reprints, Whitefish MT. Nederlandsche reizen, tot bevordering van den koophandel, na de meest afgelegene gewesten des aardkloots. Doormengd met vreemde Lotgevallen, en menigvuldige Gevaaren, die de Nederlandsche reizigers hebben doorstaan. Met Plaaten, 14 delen 1784–1787, Te Amsterdam by Petrus Conradi Te Harlingen



Bibliography by V. van der Plaats. (Volume 13, 1787, includes the story of the Tweejaarige Reyze Rondom de Wereld.) Richards, Rhys 2008. Easter Island 1793–1861: Observations by Early Visitors: Before the Slave Raids. Los Osos, CA: Easter Island Foundation. Valentijn, François 1724–6. Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indiën, vervattende Een Naaukeurige en Uitvoerige Verhandelinge van Nederlands Mogentheyd In die Gewesten, benevens Eene wydluftige Beschryvinge der Moluccos, Amboina, Banda, Timor, en Solor, Java, Bantam, Batavia. Te Dordrecht, by Joannes van Braam / Te Amsterdam, Gerard onder de Linden (Reprint:  Franeker:  Van Wijnen, 2002–4, Volume 3, 1726, has a short account of Roggeveen’s journey).

Expedition of Jacob Roggeveen 1721–1722 Behrens, Carl Friedrich 1728. Reise nach den unbekandten Süd-Ländern und rund um die Welt / Nebst vielen von ihm angemerckten Seltenheiten und zugestoßenen wunderlichen Begebenheiten. Unbey eine wahrhaffte Nachricht von der Insul und Historie des Robinson Crusoe. In einem Send-Schreiben an einem guten Freund mit Poetischer Feder entworffen. Frankfurt und Leipzig. ethodToCall=showHit&curPos=2&identifier=-1_FT_172312802&tab=showAv ailabilityActive.  1732. Nader onderzoek door Karel Fredrik Behrens. En bericht van zyne reyze naar de Zuid-Landen gedaan, in dienst van de E:  WEST-INDISCHE, COMPAGNIE, in den Jare 1721 enz. Thans volgens eigen ondervinding, ten beste opgedragen aan de E: OOST-INDISCHE COMPAGNIE van Hollandt. t’Amsterdam, gedrukt voor den Autheur.  1737. Reise durch die Süd-Länder und um die Welt / worinnen enthalten die Beschreibung von der Canarischen und Saltz-Insuln, Brasilien, der Straß Magellanus und Lamer-Küste, Chili, und neuentdeckten Insuln gegen Süden ic. Dergleichen, von den Moluckischen Insuln und verschiedenen Plätzen in Asia und Africa, Als auch von ihren Einwohnern, Lebens-Art, Policey, Handel, Wandel und Gottesdienst ic. gehandelt wird. Nebst einer accuraten Charte der ganßen Welt und andern kupffern. Frankfurt und Leipzig. A second print:  Behrens, Carl Friederich 1739. Der wohlversuchte Süd-Länder, das ist:  ausführliche Reise-Beschreibung um die Welt, Worinnen von denen Kanarischen und Saltz-Insuln, Brasilien, der Straβ Magellanus und LamerKüste, Chili, und neu-entdeckten Insuln gegen Süden, ic. Deβgleichen von den Moluckischen Insuln und verschiedenen Plätzen in Asia und Africa, als auch ihren Inwohnern, Lebens-Art, Policey, Handel Wandel und Gottesdienst gehandelt wird. Nebst einer accuraten Charte der ganβen Welt, und andern Kupffern entworffen von Carl Friederich Behrens. Leipzig, auf Kosten des Autoris, zu finden bey Joh. Georg Monath. Translation in French: Histoire de l’Expédition des Trois Vaisseaux, envoyés par la Compagnie des Indes Occidentales des Provinces Unies aux Terres Australes en MDCCXXI. Par Monsieur de B. 2 tom. Aux dépens de la Compagnie. La Haye, 1739.

Bibliography Translations into Nederduitsch (Amsterdam, 1759)  and into English (London: Hakluyt Society, 1903). Behrens, Carl Friedrich 1923. Der wohlversuchte Südländer. Reise um die Welt 1721/22 Nach den Originalausgaben bearbeitet von Dr.  Hans Plischke. Leipzig:  F.A. Brockhaus (2 Auflage 1925). Mulert, F. E. baron 1911. De reis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen ter ontdekking van het Zuidland 1721–1722. Werken uitgegeven door de Linschoten Vereeniging IV, ’s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff.  1911. Scheepsjournaal, gehouden op het schip Tienhoven tijdens de ontdekkingsreis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen, 1721–1722. Archief, uitgegeven door het Zeeuwsch genootschap der wetenschappen. Middelburg: J. C. & W. Altorffer (journal of Cornelis Bouman). Roggeveen, Jacob 1838. Dagverhaal der ontdekkings-reis van Mr. Jacob Roggeveen met de schepen Den Arend, Thienhoven en De Afrikaansche Galei in de jaren 1721 en 1722. Met toestemming van zijne excellentie den minister van koloniën uitgegeven door het Zeeuwsch genootschap der wetenschappen. Middelburg: De gebroeders Abrahams. T. d. H. 1727. Kort en nauwkeurig verhaal van de reize, door drie Schepen in ‘t Jaar 1721 gedaan. Te Amsterdam, bij weduwe Jacob van Egmont, boekdrukster en verkoopster op de Reguliersbreestraat in de nieuwe drukkerij. T. d. H. 1727. Kort en nauwkeurig verhaal van de reize, door drie Schepen in ‘t Jaar 1721. gedaan, op ordre van de Ed. Heeren Bewindhebberen van de West-Indische Compagnie in Holland, om eenige tot nog toe onbekende Landen, omtrent de ZUID-ZEE gelegen, op te zoeken. Waar in alles wat haar op de Reize, van haar uitgaan tot haar terugkomste toe, is wedervaren, wordt aangetoont; alsmede veele wonderlyke manieren, gewoontens, en zeden der ontdekte volken, etc. Tweede Druk, verbetert. Te Amsterdam, By Johannes van Septeren, Boekverkooper op de Leydsestraat, tusschen de Heere- en Keysersgragt. T. d. H. 1727. Het Waare en Nauwkeurige Journael der Reize, gedaan door drie Schepen, op ordre van de Ed. Heeren Bewindhebberen van de West-Indische Compagnie, om eenige tot nog toe onbekende Landen, omtrent de ZUID-ZEE geleegen, op te soeken. Waar in alles wat haar op de Reize is wedervaren, wert verhaalt en aangetoont; als ook de wonderlyke manieren, gewoontens, en zeden der ontdekte volkeren, en hoe dese Reizigers op eene wonderlyke wyze te Batavia zyn aangekomen etc. Den Derden Druk, van veele Drukfeilen verbetert, op nieuws nagesien door een ooggetuyge van dese Reize, en met nodige Aantekeningen vermeerdert. Te Amsterdam, by Johannes van Septeren, Boekverkooper op de Leydsestraat, tusschen de Heere en Keysersgragt. Tweejaarige Reyze Rondom de Wereld, Ter nader Ontdekkinge der Onbekende Zuydlanden. Met drie schepen, in het Jaar 1721 ondernomen, door last van de Nederlandsche Westindische Maatschappy, Waar in het wedervaaren en de Rampen op de Reyze verhaald, en de bezeylde en nieuw ontdekte Landen en Eylanden, met der zelver Bewoonders, beschreven worden. Nevens de Reyze van het Oostindisch SCHIP BARNEVELD, Uyt Holland tot aan de Kaap der Goede Hoope, in ’t jaar 1719. BEHELZENDE Een verhaal van de langduurige tegenspoeden en zonderlinge voorvallen op het Eyland Madagascar, by de Woeste Souklaven, Met een Naauwkeurige Beschrijving van de vreemde



Bibliography Gewoontens, Godsdienst en Zeden dier Volkeren. Verçiert met een Nette Reyskaart en Prentverbeeldingen. Te Dordrecht, Gedrukt by Joannes van Braam, Boekverkooper, 1728. Other editions: Dordrecht: Van Braam, 1758; Dordrecht: H. de Koning, 1764; and in Nederlandsche Reizen, 1787.

Expedition of Capitán D. Felipe González 1770 Corney, Bolton Glanvill, ed. 1903. The Voyage of Captain Don Felipe Gonzalez in the Ship of the Line San Lorenzo with the Frigate Santa Rosalia in Company to Easter Island in 1770–1771. Transcribed, translated and edited by Bolton Glanvill Corney, second series. No XIII, London:  Hakluyt Society (Also includes accounts of Francisco Antonio Aguera Infanzón and Juan Hervé). Mellén Blanco, Francisco. 1986. Manuscritos y documentos españoles para la historia de la isla de Pascua. Madrid: Biblioteca Centro de Estudios Históricos de Obras Públicas y Urbanismo (CEHOPU).

Expedition of Captain James Cook 1774 Beaglehole, J. C., ed. 1961. The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyages of Discovery, vol. II:  Voyage of the Resolution and Adventure 1772–1775. Cambridge:  Published for the Hakluyt Society at the University Press (Also includes accounts of William Wales and other members of the crew). Forster, George 1777. A Voyage Round the World, in His Britannic Majesty’s Sloop, Resolution, Commanded by Capt. James Cook, During the Years 1772, 3, 4, and 5. By Georg Forster, F.R.S. Member of the Royal Academy of Madrid, and of the Society for Promoting Natural Knowledge at Berlin, vol. I. London: printed for B. White, J. Robson and P. Elmsly. Forster, Georg 1979. Entdeckungsreise in die Südsee 1772–1775. Neu herausgegeben von Hermann Homann, Stuttgart: K. Thienemanns Verlag.  1983. Reise um die Welt. Herausgegeben und mit einem Nachwort von Gerhard Steiner, Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag. Hoare, Michael E., ed. 1982. The Resolution Journal of Johann Reinhold Forster 1772–1775. 4 vols. London: Hackluyt Society. Holmes, C., ed. 1984. Captains Cook’s Second Voyage: The Journals of Lieutenants Elliot and Pickersgill. London: Caliban. Sparrman, Anders 1953. A Voyage Round the World with Captain James Cook in H.M.S. Resolution. Translated by Huldine Beamish and Averil Mackenzie-Grieve. Introduction and notes by Owen Rutter. Illustrated by C. W. Bacon. London: Robert Hale Limited.  1785–6. A Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope Towards the Antarctic Polar Circle Round the World and to the Country of the Hottentots and the Caffres from the Year 1772–1776. Translated from the original Swedish. With plates. 2 vols. London: G. G. J. Robinson and J. Robinson, Pater-Noster-Row.  1975. A Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope Towards the Antarctic Polar Circle Round the World and to the Country of the Hottentots and the Caffres from

Bibliography the Year 1772–1776. Based on the English editions of 1785–6 published by Robinson, London. Edited by Professor V. S. Forbes. Translation from the Swedish revised by J. and I. Rudner. 2 vols. Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society (Volume I has a few lines on Easter Island, 115–16). Thomas, Nicholas and Oliver Berghof, eds. 2000. A Voyage Round the World. George Forster. 2 vols. After the narrative published by George Forster in 1777. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Thomas, Nicholas, Harriet Guest and Michael Dettelbach, eds. 1996. Observation Made During a Voyage Round the World. Johann Reinhold Forster. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Expedition Comte La Pérouse 1786 Dunmore, J., ed. 1994–5. The Journal of Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse 1785–1788. 2 vols. Translated and edited by John Dunmore. London: Hakluyt Society. Lapérouse, Jean-François de Galaup comte de. 1797. Voyage autour du monde 1785–1788. sur L’Austrolabe et la Boussole. Paris:  De l’Imprimerie de la République (Paris: Éditions La découverte 1987). Lapérouse, Jean-François de. 2008. Voyage autour du monde sur l’Astrolabe et la Boussole (1785–1788). Choix des textes, introduction et notes de Hélène Patris. Edition 2008 actualisée. Paris: La Decouverte / Poche.

Nineteenth Century Accounts Beechey, F. W. 1831. Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Behring’s Strait, to Co-operate with the Polar Expeditions. London. Cools, P. Amerigo (compiler). 1976. La Mission Catholiques de L’Île de Pâques: rapport de Mgr Tepano Jaussen sur la déstruction de la mission; les huit lettres du P. Gaspar Zuhmbohm. Rome: Vatican. Dundas, C. M. 2000. The Easter Island Reports of Lt. Colin M. Dundas, 1870–71. Rapa Nui Journal, 14 (2):37–41. Dupetit-Thouars, Abel Aubert 1840–3. Voyage autour du monde sur la frigate La Vénus, pendant les années 1836–1839, 4 vols. Vol. 2: L’Île de Pâques (Paris: Gide, 1840–3, 1841), pp. 221–34. Geiseler, Wilhelm 1883. Die Oster-Insel. Eine Stätte prähistorischer Kultur in der Südsee. Bericht überdie ethnologische Untersuchung der Oster-Insel (Rapanui. an den Chef der Kaiserlichen Admiralität). Berlin: E. S. Mittler und Sohn.  1995. Geiseler’s Easter Island Report:  An 1880s Anthropological Account. Introduction, annotations and notes by William Ayres. Translated by William Ayres and Gabriella Ayres. Asian and Pacific Archaeology Series Number 12. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Kotzebue, Otto von 1821. A Voyage of Discovery into the South Sea and Beering’s Straits for the Purpose of Exploring a North-East Passage, Undertaken in the Years 1815–1818, at the Expense of His Highness the Chancellor of the Empire Count Romanzoff, in the Ship Rurick, Under the Command of the Lieutenant



Bibliography in the Imperial Navy, Otto Von Kotzebue. Illustrated with numerous plates and maps. 3 vols. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, Paternoster Row (Reprint: Bibliotheca Australiana # 19, N. Israel, Amsterdam/ Da Capo Press, New York, 1967, Volume III, 224–8, on Easter Island).  1821. Entdeckungs-Reise in die Süd-See und nach der Berings-Straβe zur Erforschung einer Nördlichen Durchfahrt. Unternommen in den Jahren 1815, 1816, 1817 und 1818 auf dem Schiffe Rurick. Weimar: Hoffmann.   Zu Eisbergen und Palmenstränden 1815–1818. Mit der ‘Rurik’ um die Welt. Lenningen: Herausgegeben von Detlef Brennecke. Edition Erdmann, no year of publication. Lisiansky, Urey 1814. A Voyage Round the World in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 Performed by Order of His Imperial Majesty Alexander the First, Emperor of Russia, in the Ship Neva. London:  Printed for John Booth, Duke Street, Portland Place and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, Paternoster Row (Reprint: Bibliotheca Australiana # 42, Amsterdam: N. Israel; New York: Da Capo Press, 1968). Loti, Pierre 1872. L’Île de Pâques: Journal d’un Aspirant de La Flore. Reprint: Easter Island, Chile: Rapanui Press, 2007. Moerenhout, J. A. 1837. Travels to the Islands of the Pacific Ocean. Containing New Documents on the Physical and Political Geography, the Language, the Literature, the Religion, the Customs, the Habits and the Dress of Their Inhabitants; and Some General Considerations of Their Commerce, Their History and Their Government Since Most Ancient Times to the Present. Translated by Arthur R. Borden, Jr. Lanham, MD, and London: United Press of America. Myers, John 1817. The Life, Voyages and Travels of Captain John Myers. London: Longman Hurst. Pacific Manuscripts Bureau (PMB). n.d. Material from the Catholic Archdiocese of Papeete. Canberra: Australian National University. Palmer, J. Linton 1869–70. A Visit to Easter Island, or Rapa-Nui. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London 14(2):108–20 (Discussion on Palmer’s paper).   1870. A Visit to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui in 1868. Journal of the Royal Geogaphical. Society of London 40:167–81. Peard, George Extract from an Autograph Journal Kept by Lieut. George Peard, of H.M.S. Blossom, Under the Command of Capt. F. W. Beechey, R.N., F.R.S., &c. in the Year 1825 (Printed from a literatim copy of the original in the British Museum: Addl. MSS. 35141). Pinart, Alphonse 1878. Exploiration de L’Île de Pâques. Bulletin de la Société de Géographie (Paris) 16:193–213. Porter, David 1822. Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean by Captain David Porter in the United States Frigate Essex. 2 vols. New York: Wiley and Halstead (Reprint: Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1986). Roe, M., ed. 2005. The Journal and Letters of Captain Charles Bishop on the North-west Coast of America, in the Pacific and in New South Wales. 1794–1799. Rapa Nui Journal 19(1):61–3. Seagraves, Eleanor Roosevelt, ed. 1994. Delano’s Voyages of Commerce and Discovery. Amasa Delano in China, the Pacific Islands, Australia, and

Bibliography South America, 1789–1807. Foreword by William T. La Moy. Stockbridge. MA.:  Berkshire House (First published in 1817, A Narrative of Voyages and Travels in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, Boston). Thomson, William J. 1891.Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island. Report of the National Museum. Washington, DC:  Government Printing Office (Reprint:  Rapa Nui: Rapa Nui Press, 2007). Tumarkin, D. D. and I. K. Fedorova 1990. Nikolai Miklouho-Maclay and Easter Island. Pacific Studies 13(2):103–17. Von Krusenstern, A. J. 1813. Voyage Round the World in the Years 1803, 1804, 1805, & 1806 by Order of His Imperial Majesty Alexander the First, on Board the Ships Nadeshda and Neva, Under the Command of Captain A.  J. Von Krusenstern, of the Imperial Navy. 2  vols. Translated from the original German by Richard Belgrave Hoppner, Esq. London:  For John Murray, Bookseller to the Admiralty and the Board of Longitude, 50 Albemarle-Street.

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abductions, 131–32. See also Peruvian Slave raids on Más Afuera, 131 Adams, John, 31 Adventure (British whaling ship), 131–32 ahu (stone platforms), 82, 88–89 airstrip, 7, 47, 172 akuaku, 78–79, 92 Aku-Aku (Heyerdahl), 169 alcohol, 133, 153, 157 alternative states, 188–89, 192 water ecosystems and, 187–88 amulets, 80 Ana Kai Tangata (cave), 95 Anakena (Easter Island beach), 21, 30, 71 settlement at, 47 ancestor worship, 82, 92 animals. See birds; extinctions; fish and fishing; land animals; rats; sea animals; sheep breeding annexation by Chile in 1888, 47, 155 by Spain in 1770, 125, 154 anthropologists, 69, 86, 146, 156 Geiseler’s visit to Easter Island in 1882, 157–59 Métraux visit to Easter Island in 1934–35, 165–67 Mulloy and Heyerdahl’s visit to Easter Island in 1950s and 60s, 167–71 Pinart’s visit to Easter Island in 1877, 156–57 Routledge’s visit to Easter Island, 161–65 Thomson’s visit to Easter Island in 1888, 159–61

appearance of Easter Islanders, 61–64, 132, 133, 134, 156, 166 artefacts, 124, 127, 129. See also moai; museums Attenborough, David, 81, 127 auk, 187, 189 Australia, 10, 16, 151, 153 automobiles. See cars Ayres, William, 209, 212, 216, 219, 223, 225, 228, 232 Bahn, Paul, 3, 106, 109, 114 Baker, James, 129 population estimates of, 110 bananas, 44, 52, 133, 135, 217 Banks, Joseph, 126 behaviour of Easter Islanders, 65–66 Cuming on, 134 Behrens, Carl Friedrich, 48, 90, 215 Belgian exploration of Easter Island, 165 Bierbach, Annette, 79 biodiversity, 38, 39, 178, 183, 195 birdman cult, 6, 46, 49, 72, 75, 76, 81, 82, 114, 133, 160, 164, 166, 181–82, 196 ceremonial competition of, 97–98 Eyraud and, 149 petroglyphs and, 98–100 birds, 40–42, 154, 211, 214, 215 bird-watching tourism, 214 extinction and, 40–41, 179 Bishop, Charles, 93, 129 body painting, 63–64 Bork, Hans-Rudolf, 178 Bouman, Cornelis, 48, 54, 73, 123, 125 on statue cult, 89–90 Bounty, 31



Index Brander, Mr John, 151, 152, 154 British exploration of Easter Island, 4, 14–15, 126–27, 154. See also Cook, James; European visitors Bounty mutineers and, 31 British fur traders, 93, 129 British Museum, 50, 80, 127, 161 British whalers, 129, 131–32 burial ceremonies, 78–80, 81, 156 moai and, 90, 91 Cain, Horst, 79 calabash, 52, 116 Callao (Peru), 136, 138, 141, 142 cannibalism, 105, 143, 159, 164, 167, 242 canoes, 17, 176, 179 Cape Roggeveen, 29 Carlos III (King of Spain), 12, 59, 68, 125, 154 cars, 172, 195, 197 Carson, Rachel, 102 casino, plan for, 7, 193 Chariots of the Gods? Was God an Astronaut? (von Däniken), 86 chickens, 44, 181 chicken houses, 50 cooking of, 51 scarcity of in 19th century, 134 Chile, 32, 162, 163, 165 annexation of Easter Island by, 47, 155 commercial flights to Easter Island by, 172 Corporación Nacional Forestal (Chilean state forestry commission) and, 195, 197–98 present day relation with Easter Island and, 192–94 prison and casino plans for Easter Island, 193 Sala y Gómez (Chilean Island), 31 Chincha Islands, 139 Choris, Ludovic, 93, 132 Christianization of Easter Island, 47, 78, 125, 126, 145, 159 Eyraud and, 145–52 present day, 197 chromosomes, 20, 25, 210 church owl, 189 cigarettes, 133, 171 climate change, 114, 175–76, 247 climate of Easter Island, 28, 33, 37, 54 clothing, 63, 126, 134, 159, 166 hat thievery and, 65–66 Club of Rome, 3, 103, 106, 190

coconut palm, 52, 55, 176, 217, 221 cod, 185, 192 Collapse (Diamond), 106, 119 collapse but as qualitative degradation do, 247 collapse theory, 1, 5–6, 101 alternate theories of, 231 alternative states and, 188–89 Club of Rome model of, 103, 106, 190 collapse as term usage, 182–84 collapse defined by Diamond, 230 Mulloy and, 103–5, 173 overexploitation of natural resources and, 190–92 population decline and, 102, 108, 185, 190, 191 resiliency underestimation in, 114, 190 sunk-cost theory and, 191 time span of collapse and, 102 collapse theory refutation, 5–7, 100, 174–75, 189–92 climate change and, 175–76 deforestation and, 108, 115–19, 119, 178 Diamond’s theories and, 119, 190 ecosystem impoverishment and, 185–89 extinctions and, 185–89, 192 food and food production and, 115–19, 190, 226 health and vitality and, 108–9, 115–19 introduced diseases and, 191, 192 overexploitation of natural resources and, 190–92 population estimates and, 109–15, 118, 190, 191 rats and deforestation and, 120–21, 177–78 resilience of Easter Islanders and, 114–15, 190 sustainability and, 178–82 Ton Lemaire and, 174 warfare and, 178 Collapse, Sustainability, and the Environment, How Authors Choose to Fail or Succeed (article, Tainter), 178 Columbus, Christopher, 122 CONADI, 116 CONAF. See Corporación Nacional Forestal (Chilean state forestry commission) Concorde fallacy, 191 Congrégation des Sacré-Coeurs de Picpus, 145, 146, 240

Index Cook, James, 14–15, 53, 70, 126–27, 207 on food and food production, 54, 55 on houses of Easter Island, 48 on moai, 83, 90, 93–94 population estimates of, 110 Copeca, 81 copulation, 60, 68, 222 coral reefs, 37, 40 Corporación Nacional de Desarrollo Indígena. See CONADI Corporación Nacional Forestal (Chilean state forestry commission), 35, 195, 197–98 corpses, treatment of, 78–80 Cousteau, Jacques-Yves, 105 cowrie shells, 40 crab, 39 Crang-a-low (Easter Island King), 132 crater lakes, 30, 33, 37, 117, 168, 213 Creation stories, 60, 68, 82 Crocker, J., 131 culture defined, 76, 225 formative forces in, 45–46 culture of Easter Island, 126. See also birdman cult; moai; religion; statue cult ecological and cultural history phases in, 46–47, 101 foreigner’s effect on, 46, 129–30, 146, 150, 159 future of, 197–99 Peruvian slave raids and, 142–44 Polynesian settlers and, 46 present day, 192–97 Rapa Nui and, 21–22 resilience and cultural adapability in, 114–15 rongorongo tablets and, 59–61 Cuming, Hugh, 134, 206 Dago, 90 Dampier, William, 123 Darwin, Charles, 43 dating methodology, 19, 20, 21, 26, 33, 36, 168 Davis Island, 12 De Haze, 90 De Laat, M., 60–61 De Lesseps, Edmond, 138, 140–42, 155 De Lesseps, Jean-Baptiste Barthélemy, 129

289 De val van Prometheus. See Fall of Prometheus (Lemaire) deforestation, 37, 44, 46, 52, 53, 100, 235 climate change and, 175–76 collapse theory and, 108, 115–19, 178 Diamond’s theories of, 119 drought and, 117 food production and, 115, 116, 117, 118 moai and, 80, 92–93, 94, 95, 181–82 rats and, 120–21, 177–78 reforestation and, 195, 197–98 statue cult and, 181 Delano, Amasa, 93 Diamond, Jared, 3, 6, 7, 45, 106, 119, 174, 182–83, 190, 226 collapse defined by, 230 population decline and, 108, 109, 112, 233 resiliency underestimation by, 114 Tainter article and, 178 diseases. See introduced diseases; smallpox epidemic DNA analysis, 20, 21, 25, 68, 208, 210 Dobson, Edward, 133 Dransfield, John, 33 drawings, 64, 80 by Choris, 93, 132 by Gaspard Duché de Vanchy, 128 by Hodges, 126–27, 221 of Easter Islanders dancing on the deck of La Vénus, 133 of J. Weisser, 158–59 of ritual paddles, 81 drought, 30, 117, 176 Dupetit-Thouars, Abel Aubert, 94, 133, 134–35 Dutch East India Company (VOC), 9–11, 12, 123–24 Dutch exploration of Easter Island, 8–12, 46, 123–25, 129, 154. See also European visitors; Roggeveen, Jacob Groningen expedition, 171 Dutch West India Company (WIC), 9–10, 123–24 Dutrou-Bornier, Jean-Baptiste Onésime, 151–54, 157 earlobes, 64, 132, 134, 156, 159, 166 Easter Island Easter Island today, 197–99 ecological and cultural history phases in, 46–47 future of Easter Island, 197–99 naming of, 125


Index Easter Island  (cont.) original name of (Henua), 32 putting on map of, 135 remoteness of, 31–32, 46 Easter Island conference in 2007, 178 Easter Island Foundation, 130, 194 Easter Island Statue Project (EISP), 83, 226 Easter Island, Earth Island (Bahn and Flenley), 106 Easter, Henry, 132 ecosystems, 185–89, 215 water ecosystems, 118, 187–88 education, 193–94, 196, 198 eggs, 50, 55, 57 Ehrlich, Anne, 103 Ehrlich, Paul, 103, 105 Einstein, Albert, 45 El Gigante (moai), 93 Energy and Environment (journal), 177 Englert, Father Sebastian, 21, 40, 166, 167, 168, 171. See also Museo Sebastián Englert enigma, 7, 93, 195, 217 Enlightenment, 45, 128, 135 Erasmus, Desiderius, 45 erosion, 21, 108, 154 Escolán, Théodulo, 150, 151 eucalyptus, 181, 195 European visitors, 52, 206 Cuming in 1827, 134 Dupetit-Thouars in 1838, 134–35 effects of on Easter Islanders, 122–23, 129–30 food and food production and, 55 genetic profile of Easter Islanders and, 68, 130 on houses of Easter Island, 47–52 Russian expedition in 1816, 132–33 sexual contact and, 66–68 temporary halt of at end of 18th century, 129 wariness of by Easter Islanders, 132 eutrophication, 187 evolution, 34 expeditions, 55, 130, 132, 156, 165. See also anthropologists; British exploration of Easter Island; Dutch exploration of Easter Island; European visitors; French exploration of Easter Island; Heyerdahl, Thor; missionaries; Mulloy, Bill; Spanish exploration of Easter Island; Russian expeditions; whalers

Kon-Tiki expedition (1947), 7, 18, 168 medical expeditions to Easter Island, 169 Pindus expedition (1822), 133 Polynesian, 23–24, 25, 44 extinctions, 43, 44, 179, 185–89, 192 highly visible species and, 189 of birds, 40–41 of cod, 185, 192 passenger pigeon and, 185–87, 189 Eyraud, Eugène, 53, 57, 145–52 on moai, 94 portrait of, 145 Fall of Prometheus (Lemaire), 174 Festinger, Leon, 184 festivals, 195, 248 fields, 52–55, 72, 108, 133 Finney, Ben, 24 fish and fishing, 37–39, 56–57, 71–72, 108, 134, 192, 219 extinction and, 179, 185 present day, 193 Flenley, John, 3, 33, 37, 106, 109, 114 food and food production, 56–57, 108–9, 218, 219. See also bananas; chickens; fish and fishing; sweet potatoes collapse theory and, 115–19, 190 European visitor’s opinion of, 55 Peruvian slave raids and, 143 present day, 193 Forest Journey (Perlin), 44 Forrester, Jay, 103 Forster, George, 54, 62, 126 artefacts taken by, 127 on food and food production, 54, 55 on moai, 91 on statuettes of human figures, 81 population estimates of, 110 Forster, Johann, 39, 41, 61, 70, 126, 127 French exploration of Easter Island, 4, 5, 15–17, 128–29, 154, 165. See also European visitors; Lapérouse, Jean-Francois de Dupetit-Thouars in 1838, 134–35 tupa and, 50 frigatebird, 32, 41, 78, 133, 211, 221 fur trade, 93, 129, 133 future of Easter Island, 173, 197–99 Galápagos Islands, 39, 197 Galen, 45 gardens, 52–55, 133, 218 gecoy (figs), 34

Index Geiseler, Wilhelm, 57, 156, 157–59 genetic profile of Easter Islanders, 26, 68, 130 geography of Easter Island, 28–30, 31, 37 Gill, George, 178 Gill, W. Wyatt, 139 Glacken, Clarence, 45 goatee, 62, 84 González, Don Felipe, 12, 57, 125–26, 154, 207 calabashes and, 52 on moai, 83, 90 population estimates of, 110, 233 Gore, Al, 184 Green History of the World (Ponting), 1, 182, 205 Groenveld, Jacob van, 9 Groningen, HMS visit to Easter Island, 171 growth, 3, 71, 103, 106, 112, 118, 175, 180, 190. See also population of hair, 62 of plants, 53 of trees, 33, 92, 120 growth percentages, 109–15 guano, 136, 139 guano mines, 139 hair, 62, 133 Hanau Eepe. See Long Ears tribe Hanau Momoko. See Short Ears tribe hare moa, 50, 134 hare paenga (house), 48 Hawaii, 28, 38, 87, 92, 164, 235 headdresses, 62–63, 81, 132, 157, 221 health and vitality, 61–62, 115–19, 129, 169 collapse theory and, 108–9 height, 156 Henua (original name of Easter Island, land or earth), 32 Hervé, Juan, 13, 207 Heyerdahl, Thor, 18, 23, 24–25, 35, 167–71, 208 on moai, 86, 87, 168 Hiva (mythological land of origin), 2, 21, 78, 82, 211 Hoa Hakananai’a. See Stolen Friend (moai) Hodges, William, 64, 126–27 Hotu Matu’a (Easter Island chief), 21, 71 houses, 47–52, 156, 159, 216, 218 hare paenga, 48 photo of, 48, 49 population estimates and, 112 wood statues in, 80

291 Hudig, D., 10 human settlement, 21, 25–26, 37, 216 Rapa Nui and, 21–22 hunger, 102, 108–9, 178, 226 Hunt, Terry, 87, 177–78 Hunter-Anderson, Rosalind, 176 Imperial Museum in Berlin, 157 Inconvenient Truth (film), 184 Indian tulip tree, 80 insects, 43, 215 introduced diseases, 47, 68, 122, 130, 145, 150, 176, 191, 192 introduced species, 47, 215, 237 Isla de Pascua, Chile, Easter Island re-naming as, 155 isotopes, 19, 20, 56 Janssen, Marco, 191 Jaussen, Tepano, 149 Jerningham, W. Stafford, 140 Juan Fernández Islands, 32, 131 Judas figure, 81 King, Sara, 37 kings and chiefdoms, 70–71, 75, 100, 143 property and, 53 Kirch, Patrick V, 70 Ko Tori, 164, 242 Kohler, Timothy, 191 komari, 68, 97 Kon-Tiki (Incan sun king), 18 Kon-Tiki expedition, 7, 18, 168 Kon-Tiki Museum (Oslo), 168, 169 Koreta, Queen, 153, 157 kuhane, 39, 78, 79 land animals, 40–43, 128, 215 land snails, 43 Langle, Mr D, 91 language and writing, 57–59. See also Rapanui language rongorongo tablets and, 59–61 Lapérouse, Jean-Francois de, 15–17, 128 on moai, 91, 93 population estimates of, 110 Lee, Georgia, 76, 87, 98, 99, 223, 226 Lejeune, Captain, 145, 146 Lemaire, Ton, 174 Limits to Growth, 103 Lipo, Carl, 87, 177–78 Lisiansky, Urey, 131 population estimates of, 110


Index lizards, 43 lobster, 40 Lomborg, Bjørn, 176 Long Ears tribe, 69, 161 Lost Gods of Easter Island (documentary), 81, 127 Loti, Pierre, 80, 240 on moai, 94 Love, Charles, 87 Mahine, 15, 81, 127, 208 Makemake (creator god), 75, 76–78, 95, 97, 197 Manu Motu Motiro Hiva (bird island on the way to Hiva), 31 manutara. See sooty tern maritime archives, 130 Marquesas Islands, 21, 25, 34, 92, 136, 142, 151, 152 Marutani, Captain, 137 Más Afuera, 131 masked booby, 41 masonry, 85 mata (clans), 70 Mataveri Airport, 172 McCall, Grant, 137, 139, 240 McCoy, Patrick, 5, 47, 105 measles epidemic, 140 medical expeditions to Easter Island, 169 Melnick, Don, 184, 185 Mendaña de Neyra, Alvaro, 206 Mens, Cornelis, 124, 125 Métraux, Alfred, 5, 21, 81, 165–67 population estimates of, 111 Mieth, Andreas, 178 mission, 123, 139, 145, 153, 155, 157 NASA and, 172 of Eyraud, 145–52 missionaries, 47, 69, 70, 166, 224. See also Christianization of Easter Island; Englert, Father Sebastian; Eyraud, Eugène; Roussel, Hippolyte; Zumbohm, Gaspar eyewitnesses to collapse of Easter Island culture, 142–44 on moai, 94 moai, 29, 76, 82, 90, 129, 134, 158, 173 ahu (stone platforms) and pukao, 88–89 ancestor worship and, 92 as burial sites, 90, 91 dating of, 168, 228

deforestation and, 80, 92–93, 94, 95, 181–82 destruction and toppling of, 93–94 features of, 84–85 for tourists, 197 Hodges drawings of, 127 houses near, 49 in museums, 50, 80, 84, 161, 167, 227 long ears of, 64 long fingers on, 81 moai kava kava, 80, 158 Paro (largest moai on ahu), 82 Pou Hakanononga, 167 Rano Raraku quarry and, 83–86 seasons and, 59 sunk-cost theory and, 191 tilt and swivel theory of transport of, 86–87, 168 towing on rollers theory of transport, 87–88 Van Tilburg’s inventory of, 83, 86 volcanic rocks as material for, 83 moai tangata anga (people who work on moai), 71–72, 88, 93 Moerenhout, J.A., 131 moko miro, 43, 80, 198 Morrison, Mr, 165 Motu Iti, 31, 41, 49, 62, 95, 97, 100 Motu Kau Kau (Easter Island sea stack), 31 Motu Nui, 31, 41, 49, 62, 78, 95, 97, 100, 164 mtDNA, 20, 25, 68, 210 mulberry trees, 157 Mulert, F. E. baron, 10 Mulloy, Brigid, 231, 243 Mulloy, William T. (Bill), 103–5, 167–71, 173 Museo Fonck, 84 Museo Sebastián Englert, 120, 167, 196, 198, 221. See also Englert, Father Sebastian museums, 43, 127, 133, 158, 167, 198 in U.S., 161 moai in, 49, 80, 84, 227 myth, 2, 21, 39, 69, 76, 78, 82, 95, 167, 195 myth of 1680, 69, 178 NASA, 47, 172 nature, 1, 2, 3, 7, 21, 24, 30, 75, 79, 101, 179, 181, 182, 188, 189, 190, 193, 197 navel of the earth, 32, 97, 174 necklaces, 132 Norwegian expeditions to Easter Island, 167. See also Heyerdahl, Thor nudity, 61, 62, 63, 66, 70, 73, 135

Index numeracy, 58 Nunn, Patrick, 176 obsidian hydration dating (OHD), 20 octopus, 39 Onésime, King, 153–54 oral tradition of Easter Island, 21, 159 scant evidence of oral history, 68–69 Orliac, Catherine and Michel, 33, 34, 37, 176 ornaments, 62 Orongo (Easter Island village), 49, 98–100 Otaheite (Tahiti), 15, 53 ovens, 51, 97, 217 paenga, 48 Page, Benjamin, 132 paleo-osteology, 178 Palmer, J. Linton, 57, 80 on moai, 94 panda, 189 pangasius, 192 paoa, 133 paper mulberry, 35, 181 reforestation and, 195 Paro (moai), 82 passenger pigeon, 185–87, 189 peasant class, 72 Pecci, Aurelio, 103 Peiser, Benny, 177 Perlin, John, 44, 45 Peruvian slave raids, 47, 136–39, 145, 191, 240 De Lesseps and, 140–42 return journey from, 141–42 Petit-Thouars, du. See Dupetit-Thouars, Abel Aubert petroglyphs, 58, 72, 76, 159, 164, 196, 211 birdman cult and, 98–100 depictions of European ships in, 130 Lavachery on, 167 of sea animals, 39 of sea turtles, 39 vulvas (komari) on, 68 Pickersgill, Richard, 15, 90 pierced earlobes, 64, 132, 134, 156, 159, 166 Pinart, Louis Alphonse, 156–57 Pindus expedition (1822), 133 pipi horeko, 51 Pitcairn Island, 31, 211 Pitt-Rivers Museum, 127 plantations, 53, 54, 136, 139, 152, 157, 179

293 Poike (volcano), 28–29, 53, 108 Poike Ditch, 69 Polet, Caroline, 109 Policarpo Toro, Captain, 155 pollen analysis, 21, 33, 37, 108 polygamy, 75 Polynesian settlers, 21, 25–26, 28, 46, 47, 54 sea exploration and, 23–24 Ponting, Clive, 1, 5–6, 7, 106, 174, 182, 190–92 resiliency underestimation by, 114 Pope Gregory XVI, 145 population, 71, 103, 106, 150, 159, 175, 179 current, 192 estimates in eighteenth-century journals, 109 in 1863, 142 in 1869, 143 in 1877, 143 in 1882, 158 in 1888, 160 in 1900, 154 introduced diseases and, 145 population estimates, 109–15, 118, 190, 191, 233 Population Bomb (Ehrlich), 103, 105 Population Explosion (Ehrlich), 103 pora (surfboard), 36, 62, 97 poro (raised platform), 86, 91, 92 Porotu, 164, 242 portia tree, 33, 35, 80 reforestation and, 195 Pou Hakanononga (moai), 167 pre-modern culture, 75, 104, 106, 114, 118, 144, 175, 177, 180, 190 present day culture, 197–99 priests, 75 prison, plan for, 7, 193 property rights, 53, 193 pukao, 88–89, 94 Puna Pau, 83 purau (wild hibicus), 57 radiocarbon dating, 20–21, 33, 209, 210, 216 Rainbird, Paul, 177 Rano Aroi (crater lake), 28, 37 Rano Kau (volcano), 29, 33, 35 Rano Raraku, 29, 164, 168 Rano Raraku quarry, 83–86, 92, 93 rapa, 80, 98 Rapa Nui, 21–22, 209


Index Rapa Nui (film), 87, 230 Rapa Nui Journal, 178 Rapa Nui National Park, 76 Rapanui language, 52, 57–59, 71, 78, 146, 159, 167, 197, 208, 211 Raroia riff, 18 rats, 42–44, 129, 244 deforestation and, 120–21, 177–78 European, 129, 180 Polynesian, 41, 43, 120, 129, 177, 179 reforestation, 195, 197–98 regeneration, 120, 121, 176, 177 rei miro, 80 religion, 39, 68, 75, 76–82, 159. See also birdman cult; Christianization of Easter Island; Makemake (creator god); moai; statue cult burial ceremonies and, 78–80 defined, 76 eco-religion, 101 religious vocabulary, 78 sexuality and fertility symbols, 68 wood statues in houses and, 80 resilience, 7, 54, 100, 114–15, 144, 190 resources, 184, 191 birdman cult and, 182 collapse theory and, 1, 2, 3, 7, 105, 106 collapse theory refutation and, 190–92 Easter Islanders adaption to dwindling, 143, 144, 179 European visitors as cause of overexploitation, 177 imports from Chile on present day Easter Island, 193 limited amount on Easter Island, 46 need for sustainability for present day Easter Island, 197, 198 period of dwindling (1550–1722), 46 rising environmental concern in 70s and, 103 statue cult and, 181 revolt of July 1914, 163 Rhys, Richard, 130 Ribeyro, Juan Antonio, 140–42 ritual paddles, 80, 81, 98 Robertson, E.W., 137, 138 Roggeveen, Jacob, 2, 3–5, 8–12, 61, 123–25, 206 on Easter Island houses, 48 on food and food production, 51, 54, 55 on moai, 82

on statue cult, 89–90, 94 population estimates of, 109 rongorongo tablets, 68, 82, 157, 159–61, 166, 197 Roos, Paul, 171, 243 Roosendaal, Roelof, 9 Rotherhithe (London borough), 132 Roussel, Hippolyte, 53, 143, 149–50 on moai, 94 Routledge, Katherine, 21, 78, 98, 161–65 Routledge, William Scoresby, 161, 162, 163, 164 Rurik (Russian ship), 132 Russian expeditions, 131, 223 in 1816, 132–33 Sala y Gómez (Chilean Island), 31, 39, 55 San Carlos, 12, 125 Scheffer, Martin, 191 Schiller, Svi, 88 Science (journal), 178 scoria, red, 83, 84 sea animals, 37–40 sea turtles, 39, 78, 79 seabirds, 31–32 seals, 39, 131, 179 Selling, Olof H., 33 sexual contact, 66–68, 130, 133, 162, 171, 222 sexuality and fertility symbols, 58, 68, 100 sharks, 39 sheep breeding, 47, 146, 150, 151–54, 157, 162, 165, 181 shells, 40, 62, 64, 132, 134, 167 cowrie shells, 40 shoes, 166 Short Ears tribe, 69, 161 Silent Spring (Carson), 103 Skeptical Environmentalist (Lomborg), 176 Skottsberg, Carl, 36–37, 43, 108 slash-and-burn cultivation, 52, 175, 178 smallpox epidemic, 140, 142, 143, 150, 191 Society Islands, 17 society, defined, 76 Soldán, Paz, 140 solstices, 59 sooty tern, 32, 95–97, 211, 214 Spanish exploration of Easter Island, 4, 12–14, 125–26, 130, 154, 207. See also European visitors; González, Don Felipe Sparrman, Anders, 110, 126, 237

Index Spee, Admiral von, 163 spirituality. See religion statue cult, 46, 50, 75, 86, 114, 196. See also moai deforestation and, 181–82 Roggeveen and crew on, 89–90 Stolen Friend (moai), 50, 80, 100 Stortenbeker, Claus, 105 stress, 108, 117, 118, 188, 233 sugarcane, 53 sunken costs, 191 Surry (trading vessel), 133 survival, 2, 23, 175. See also resilience of subtropical vegetation, 33 sustainability, 7, 178–82, 179, 192 sweet potatoes, 25–26, 44, 70, 133, 135, 181, 210 European visitor’s opinion of, 55 swimming skills, 62, 131, 134 symbols, 58, 59, 100, 125 rongorongo tablets and, 60, 68, 197 sexuality and fertility symbols, 58, 68, 100 syphilis, 47, 68, 130 Tahiti, 127 Tainter, Joseph, 178, 190 collapse defined by, 230 tangata manu, 133. See birdman cult Tapati Rapa Nui (summer festival), 195 taro, 52, 116, 218 tattoos, 63–64, 134 Taurico, 90, 228 Te Pito te Henua, 32 teeth analysis, 20, 109, 117, 118, 178 Tekena, Atamu, 155 Tepano, Juan, 164, 166 Terevaka (volcano), 28, 88 Terra Australis Incognita, 10 Thienhoven (ship), 10 thievery, 65–66, 126, 133, 163 Thomson, William, 49, 57, 159–61 tidal waves, 29 tobacco, 133, 157, 171 toki (stone picks), 84 Tonga, 16 Tongariki, 29, 86 Topaze, HMS, 50, 57, 59, 94 Tori, Angata, 163 Torometi, 148–49 toromiro trees, 35, 43, 80, 157, 169, 212 recovery of, 181

295 totora reed, 36, 48, 217 tourism and tourists, 40, 172, 197–98 bird watching and, 214 trees and forests, 32–35, 35–37, 212. See also deforestation; vegetation fruit trees, 55 present-day situation, 195 tsunamis, 29 Tuamotuan, 134 tuberculosis, 140, 143, 150 tuff stone, 83, 100 Tuki, Valentino Riroroku, 248 Tukuturi (moai), 84, 100 tuna, 39, 108, 181 tupa, 50, 91, 134 umu. See ovens Umweltlesebuch (Environmental Handbook), 105 UNESCO World Heritage Site, 76, 182, 198 Vaihu, 149, 150, 152 Vainu (present day Vaihu), 149 vaka tangata, 71 Van Tilburg, Jo Anne, 83, 86, 87 Vanchy, Duché de, 128 Vanderbes, Jennifer, 163 Vanikoro, 17, 129 varua, 78 vegetation, 21, 35–37, 44, 47, 150, 154, 180, 189, 195, 212, 217 taxonomy of, 212 Velde, Henk de, 172–73 Velde, Jan Steven Vairoa de, 172 Veriamu, Victoria, 164 View of the Monuments of Easter Island (oil painting, Hodges), 127 Vinapu, 85 violence against Easter Islanders, 46, 124, 129, 133, 135, 198 violence among Easter Islanders. See warfare Viriamo (Easter Islander), 166 viruses, x, 45. See also introduced diseases; smallpox epidemic Vives Solar, J.I., 163 VOC. See Dutch East India Company (VOC) volcanoes, 28–30, 211 obsidian hydration dating (OHD) and, 20 volcanic rocks as moai material, 83 volcanic soil, 53


Index von Däniken, Erich, 86 von Kotzebue, Otto, 131, 132, 223 VU University, Amsterdam, 176 vulvas, 58, 68, 97, 100 Waihoo. See Vaihu warfare, 73–74 lack of evidence of, 129, 178, 224 warriors, 73 water drinking, 14, 30, 97 ecosystems, 118, 187–88, 194 storage of, 52 weapons, 3, 73–74, 105, 129 Weeden, Richard, 133 Weisser, J., 158–59

whalers, 47, 129, 131–32, 133, 134, 198 WIC. See Dutch West India Company (WIC) Williamson, Balfour & Co., 162, 165 wine, 153 wolves, 188 women, 74, 92, 110, 134, 159. See also appearance of Easter Islanders; sexual contact population estimates and, 109, 110 Y chromosomes, 20, 25, 268, 283 yams, 44, 70, 116, 131, 133, 135, 217 Zumbohm, Gaspar, 59, 69, 150, 151, 152 Zwaardencroon, Hendrik, 124