Everyone loves unresolved ancient mysteries. What caused the disappearance of Ninth Legion of the Roman Empire? What were the tunnels excavated below the Moon's pyramid in the area of today's Mexico? What Happened to Civilization on Easter Island?
The last question is one of the most tangible unexplained mysteries. The island, known for its moa figurines – with those obscene stone statues of human faces – was once the home of successful civilization, about a thousand years ago. Since it is one of the most isolated islands in the world, it is little known about the culture of Rapa Nui, which suddenly disappeared from this island in the 1860s.
Numerous hypotheses have been put forward to try to explain this population's arm, such as illness, overcrowding, or severe internal conflict situations. The most popular idea is that the people who inhabited the island committed ecocids – they devastated the natural environment to such an extent that it became uninhabitable and lost. Now, the new study says that probably is not true either.
The theory of ecocids says that the islands originally originated from the area of today's Polynesia, and came to Easter Island canoes and settled it around 1200th. When Europeans first met people of Rapa Nui in the early 18th century, the forests were heavily torn off.
This tree was mainly used for the construction of canoes for the purpose of fishing the fish. But when they were left without natural resources, they had to give up the construction of new canoes and could no longer rely on fishing. They have started to rely more on earthly food sources, but uncontrolled agriculture has led to significant soil erosion. This has caused an agricultural collapse, and without any food, people of Rapa Nui have vanished.
However, a research team from the University of Bristol, in cooperation with the University of Hawaii and the University of Binghamton, believes the evidence for this ecological disaster is too indirect
Analyzing the chemical composition of botanical, human and faunal residues found at various archaeological sites of Rapa Nui, "we were able to portray a deeper picture of what the ancient islanders ate and in this process they met their agricultural methods," said Catrine Jarman, Studies and PhD degrees at the University of Bristol, for IFLScience.
The team found that at least half the protein in the diet of people with Rapa Nui always came from sea sources. As explained in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology it suggests that they never stopped fishing.
"We also learned that what they got from land resources came from highly modified soils, meaning they enriched soils to grow crops," said co-author Carl Lipo, anthropology professor at Binghamton University.
This means that people of Rapa Nui were very familiar with the agricultural technologies at the time, indicating that there was no agricultural collapse.
"These new results represent an exciting demonstration of the kind of evidence hidden in our costumes," added Catrine Jarman.
"It also has wider implications because it allows us to reconsider the ways in which prehistoric populations interact with their surroundings without reliance on modern historical sources."
So what happened on the Easter Island, if it was not ecocide? At this point, we can only guess.
It is worth pointing out that environmental degradation is still a solid way to ensure the decline of civilization. Right now, when it comes to climate change, the whole world is beginning to ecocide.
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