Posted by EMIZY (M) » 27 Mar,2016

There is little data to support Heyerdahl.
Archeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg, who is
unconvinced by Heyerdahl's theory, notes that "all
archeological, linguistic, and biological data" point
to Polynesian origins in island Southeast Asia.
Interestingly, though, there are stone walls on
Rapa Nui that resemble Inca workmanship.
Heyerdahl contests that the scientific community
has not addressed the fact that these walls are
distinct in their Andean style. Even Captain Cook
in 1774 noticed the quality of stonework in the
supporting walls near the moai: "The
workmanship is not inferior to the best plain piece
of masonry we have in England. They use no sort
of cement; yet the joints are exceedingly close,
and the stones morticed and tenanted [sic] one
into another, in a very artful manner." Which wall is Incan and which Rapanui? The
similarities in fine stonework have intrigued
scholars. (The Easter Island wall is on the
bottom.) So how to explain the sweet potato and superb
stonework? It may be that the Polynesians sailed
as far as South America in their migratory
explorations, and then, some time later, turned
around and returned to the south Pacific, carrying
the sweet potato with them. Or perhaps there
were visits from Peruvians who brought the sweet
potato and their skilled understanding of stone
masonry with them. Undisputed is the fact that
the sweet potato was, for the Rapanui people, "the
underpinning of Rapanui culture. Literally, it was,
according to Van Tilburg, "fuel for moai building."
From at least 1000 to 1680, Rapa Nui's population
increased significantly. Some estimate the
population reached a high of 9,000 by 1550. Moai
carving and transport were in full swing from 1400
to 1600, just 122 years before first contact with
European visitors to the island.
In those 122 years, Rapa Nui underwent radical
change. Core sampling from the island has
revealed a slice of Rapa Nui history that speaks of
deforestation, soil depletion, and erosion. From
this devastating ecological scenario it is not hard
to imagine the resulting overpopulation, food
shortages, and ultimate collapse of Rapa Nui
society. Evidence of cannibalism at that time is
present on the island, though very scant. Van
Tilburg cautiously asserts, "The archeological
evidence for cannibalism is present on a few
sites. Analysis of this evidence is only preliminary
in most cases, making it premature to comment
on the scope and intensity of the practice as a
cultural phenomenon."
By the 1870s, when a census was taken, the
population of Rapa Nui had fallen to just over 100
people. It has now returned to more than 3,000.
Most scholars point to the cultural drive to
complete the colossal stone projects on Rapa Nui
as the key cause of depletion of the island's
resources. But it wasn't the only one. Palm
forests disappeared, cleared for agriculture as well
as for moving moai. Van Tilburg comments, "The
price they paid for the way they chose to
articulate their spiritual and political ideas was an
island world which came to be, in many ways, but
a shadow of its former natural self."
The world that the Europeans first observed when
they arrived on Rapa Nui in 1722 has puzzled us
for centuries. What was the meaning of the
massive stone human statues on the island? How
did they transport and erect these multi-ton
statues? And, finally, how did the original
inhabitants arrive on this remote island?

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