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Intriguing Unsolved Mysteries

September 19, 2011

Easter Island's Moais

The two chapters Twilight on Easter Island and The Last People Alive: Pitcairn and Henderson Island from Collapse by Jared Diamond made me very inquisitive about unsolved mysteries around the world. In Twilight on Easter Island Diamond delves into the mysterious lonesome island in the middle of the Pacific 1,300 miles from its nearest land neighbor.  I would feel a tad bit worried as Diamond was traveling so far away from other land, it makes me think of a scary movie setting; traveling to the a faraway island with a unknown history of what happened to the island’s previous inhabitants.  The line Diamond uses at the end of the chapter to describe Easter’s location was very powerful: “Polynesian Easter Island was as isolated in the Pacific Ocean as the Earth is today in space.”  Questions like how the islanders erected their statues or reached the island in the first place have multiple potential answers thanks to today’s modern technology. It is hard to believe that such a flourishing population with “estimates range from a low of 6,000 to a high of 30,000 people” had a sequence of events that ended with such a catastrophe. It does make sense that back in the inhabitants time period that they didn’t know that overfishing, deforestation, and other things of that nature would lead to their demise.

                It is hard to imagine what people would think of for explanations for Easter’s amazing statues and remnants of human existence if it weren’t for technology to tell us that there were such things as giant palms and numerous extinct bird species that once resided on the island. Also through archeological work the divided territories and settlements offer an idea of what the former culture was like. But the questions Diamond brings up such as: “I have often asked myself, “What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?” Like modern loggers, did he shout “Jobs, not trees!”?”” I think it is especially amazing that Diamond went through such depths finding out the smallest of details about Easter when the culture has been gone for so long now.  Easter Island is a fascinating mystery but not everyone would jump on exploring it compared to something newer. Another interesting part from reading this excerpt was after I looked up what the moais I was surprised to see such familiar statues; I had always assumed they were from some Polynesian island or even Hawaii.  I had no idea this commonly seen figurine was the soul of Easter, it clearly does not get enough acknowledgement that they are Easter Island’s trademark.

                Though much shorter the chapter on the Pitcairn and Henderson Islands was also very intriguing. Diamond explains the catastrophe for this population occurred from the environmentally triggered collapse of their extremely important trade partner. There were no known effects of climate change or environmental damage that could contribute to their demise. Compared to Easter, the Pitcairn and Henderson seemed to be a little more evolved, which makes sense since they inhabited the island many years after Easters. The example “Islanders confronted a problem that seems insoluble to us: how to survive on a raised limestone reef without any metal, without stones other than limestone, and without imports of any type.” Shows they had to be resourceful to continue their survival. Overall both chapters from Diamond’s book were very interesting to me and made me think of all the other unsolved wonders there are in the world and if we will ever have a real explanation for them. It is encouraging though that there will always be a mystery for the explorer-type people to try to get to the bottom to and that the world is not as figured out as some may assume.

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