Episode 5 – Easter Island

This episode expands on our Easter Island subject guide, and critiques how most textbooks deal with its history. This remote locale is famous for its mysterious moai, the massive stone heads which have become iconic for the hubris of its inhabitants. Flenley and Bahn, along with Jared Diamond, suggest the island was deforested in order to build these statues, leading to starvation and cannibalism. However, Hunt and Lipo argue that the island was deforested by a far less intimidating creature, and present a much more hopeful narrative from Easter Island’s past. Recommended books are:

Dave – Kirch, On the Road of the Winds

Matt – Matsuda, Pacific Worlds

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4 thoughts on “Episode 5 – Easter Island

    • Dave says:

      So glad you liked it! I was pretty stunned after reading Hunt and Lipo’s book – the podcast felt like the right place to sound-off about it.

  1. Ingrid says:

    Great podcast, I really enjoyed it. I had only read the classic hypothesis about the island and its deforestation. It was good to hear the alternative hypothesis on the introduction of this rat to the island. Completely plausible when you think about invasive ecology, coupled with all the other evidence presented. I will share with my colleagues in Chile! Will check on the species of palm tree, very likely of the genus Jubea, since Jubea chilensis is native to the continental Chile at the same latitude as Rapa Nui. Great information!

    • Dave says:

      It was definitely jubaea chilensis! The theory apparently originated with archaeologists in Hawaii who discovered all the indigenous trees went extinct below a certain elevation – it turned out that elevation was roughly the uppermost habitat of the Polynesian rat. Thanks so much for sharing!

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