Easter Island Version – completed with it?

Guest “Why smash Malthusian myths? Because it’s fun and easy! ”By David Middleton

You know the story …

In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island exterminated their forest and drove out their plants and animals
Endangered and saw their complex society turn into chaos and cannibalism. Do we follow?
their leadership?

Jared Diamond, 2005

While it’s true that Easter Islanders cleared their island, forensic historians have now determined that by converting the forest to farmland and innovatively adapting to prolonged Little Ice Age droughts, they avoided collapse.

BingUNews

Resilience Instead of Breakdown: What the Easter Island Myth Goes Wrong

By Jennifer Micale
JULY 08, 2021

You probably know this story or some version of it: On Easter Island, people cut down every tree, perhaps to create fields for agriculture or to erect giant statues in honor of their clans. This foolish decision resulted in a catastrophic collapse, of which only a few thousand remained to allow the first European boats to land on their remote shores in 1722.

But did the demographic collapse really happen at the core of the Easter Island myth? According to a new study by anthropologists Robert DiNapoli and Carl Lipo of Binghamton University, the answer is no.

Her research “Approximate Bayesian Computation of Radiocarbon and Paleoenvironmental Record Shows Resilience of the Population on Rapa Nui (Easter Island)” was recently published in the journal Nature Communications. Co-authors are Enrico Crema from the University of Cambridge, Timothy Rieth from the International Archaeological Research Institute and Terry Hunt from the University of Arizona.

Easter Island, or Rapa Nui in the native language, has long been a focus of research on questions of environmental collapse. To clarify these questions, however, the researchers first need to reconstruct the island’s population figures to determine whether such a collapse has occurred and, if so, to what extent.

“For Rapa Nui, much of the scientific and popular discussion about the island has centered around the idea that there was a demographic breakdown and that it was temporally correlated with climate and environmental changes,” said DiNapoli, a postdoctoral fellow in environmental research and anthropology.

Sometime after the settlement between the 12th and 13th centuries AD, the once forested island was stripped of trees; most often, scientists point out the human-induced deforestation for agriculture and the introduction of invasive species such as rats. These environmental changes, it is argued, would have reduced the island’s carrying capacity and resulted in a demographic decline.

In addition, around 1500 there was a climatic shift in the Southern Oscillation Index; this shift resulted in a drier climate on Rapa Nui.

[…]

In short, there is no evidence that the islanders used the now-vanished palm trees as food, a key point in many of the breakdown myths. Recent research shows that deforestation was prolonged rather than catastrophic erosion; the trees were eventually replaced by stone-mulched gardens, which increased agricultural productivity. During periods of drought, people may have relied on freshwater coastal seepage.

Construction of the moai statues, believed by some to be a contributing factor in the collapse, continued even after the arrival of Europeans.

In short, the island never had more than a few thousand people before European contact, and their numbers were increasing rather than decreasing, as their research shows.

“These resilience strategies worked very well, even though the climate was getting drier,” said Lipo. “They are a really good argument for resilience and sustainability.”

Bury the myth

Then why does the popular narrative of the collapse of Easter Island persist? It probably has less to do with the old Rapa Nui than it does with ourselves, Lipo explained.

The concept that changes in the environment affect human population began in the 1960s, Lipo said. Over time, this focus became more intense as researchers began to view changes in the environment as the main driver of cultural change and transformation.

However, this correlation could be due to modern concerns about industrialization-related pollution and climate change, rather than archaeological evidence. Environmental changes, according to Lipo, occur on different time scales and in different orders of magnitude. How human communities respond to these changes varies.

[…]

Binghamton University

This piece is priceless …

Then why does the popular narrative of the collapse of Easter Island persist? It probably has less to do with the old Rapa Nui than it does with ourselves, Lipo explained.

The concept that changes in the environment affect human population began in the 1960s, Lipo said. Over time, this focus became more intense as researchers began to view changes in the environment as the main driver of cultural change and transformation.

However, this correlation could be due to modern concerns about industrialization-related pollution and climate change, rather than archaeological evidence.

Binghamton University

However, future forensic historians (archaeologists and anthropologists) will be right when they discover that our society has collapsed because we decimated our reliable and affordable energy infrastructure to build many useless statues due to “modern concerns about those caused by industrialization Pollution and Climate Change ”. . “

Myth destroyed …

The full text of the paper is available … Approximate Bayesian calculation of radiocarbon and paleo-environmental records shows resilience of the population on Rapa Nui, Easter Island.

discussion

If we evaluate the uncertainties of the Rapa Nui data and the people involved in the analysis steps, the current evidence suggests that the island has been around 800 cal BP since the first human settlement until the time after arriving in Europe. The “wobbles” in the observed SPD curve all fall within the simulation range and result from details of the calibration curve combined with sampling errors and, more importantly, non-real paleodemographic signals. Given these facts, we cannot confidently distinguish between the four hypotheses. However, all adapted models are consistent with a logistic growth pattern that is only marginally influenced by changes in climate and forest cover. The broad HPDs of the environmental parameters suggest a number of possible positive or negative effects, but none of the values ​​appear to be strong enough to cause major population declines (Fig. 3). Given the comparatively small number of radiocarbon dates, we cannot determine whether our inability to differentiate between the competing models is the result of the small sample size, the small “effect size” in models 2-4 (ie the absolute deviation of βpalm and βSOI of 0) or a combination of both factors. Nonetheless, none of the fitted models support the idea of ​​population collapse before contact (Fig. 3). Hence, our results suggest that the Rapa Nui populations were resilient when deforestation or increasing SOI had an impact on the island. These results are independently supported by recent research showing that monument construction continued steadily even after the arrival of Europeans57,77. In addition, research now shows that deforestation was a lengthy process, did not result in catastrophic erosion, and that land cover was quickly replaced by stony mulch gardens that increased agricultural productivity66,67,80,81,82,83,84, 85. Although some claim that deforestation resulted in food loss29,68, there is no evidence that palm trees were a significant source of food for islanders66,86. Therefore, it is more likely that the loss of the palm forest represented an expansion of the cultivation possibilities and contributed positively to the initial growth and general resilience of the population. In conclusion, there is no empirical support to suggest that deforestation had a major negative impact on the human population of Rapa Nui.

Our results also have implications for the effects of climate change on the island. Rull71,73 recently claimed that climate-related droughts caused large-scale social disruption that resulted in the cessation of monument construction and migration from coastal settlements within the island to the crater lake at Rano Kau. Similar to previous analyzes of the pace of monument construction around the island57, the vast majority of our 14C data comes from coastal settlements and shows no decline in activity or supports claims of major climate-related disruption from drought. While climatic disturbances appear to have dried up the crater lake at Rano Raraku72, recent research suggests that Rapa Nui populations have adapted to these changes by relying primarily on coastal groundwater sources87,88,89.

DiNapoli et al., 2021

Turns out the Malthusian myth of the demographic and environmental collapse of Easter Island was just a bunch of Rapa Hooey!

reference

DiNapoli, RJ, Crema, ER, Lipo, CP et al. Approximate Bayesian calculations of radiocarbon and paleo environmental records show the resilience of the population on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Nat Commun 12, 3939 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-24252-z

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