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Chile Easter Island

Easter Island (Rapa Nui: Rapa Nui; Spanish: Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania. The island is most famous for its nearly 1,000 extant monumental statues, called moai, which were created by the early Rapa Nui people. In 1995, UNESCO named Easter Island a World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park.

Chile Easter Island

Experts disagree on when the island's Polynesian inhabitants first reached the island. While many in the research community cited evidence that they arrived around the year 800, a 2007 study found compelling evidence that they arrived closer to 1200.[3][4] The inhabitants created a thriving and industrious culture, as evidenced by the island's numerous enormous stone moai and other artifacts. But land clearing for cultivation and the introduction of the Polynesian rat led to gradual deforestation.[3] By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population was estimated to be 2,000 to 3,000. European diseases, Peruvian slave raiding expeditions in the 1860s, and emigration to other islands such as Tahiti further depleted the population, reducing it to a low of 111 native inhabitants in 1877.[5]

Chile annexed Easter Island in 1888. In 1966, the Rapa Nui were granted Chilean citizenship. In 2007 the island gained the constitutional status of "special territory" (Spanish: territorio especial). Administratively, it belongs to the Valparaíso Region, constituting a single commune (Isla de Pascua) of the Province of Isla de Pascua.[6] The 2017 Chilean census registered 7,750 people on the island, of whom 3,512 (45%) considered themselves Rapa Nui.[7]

Easter Island is one of the world's remotest inhabited islands.[8] The nearest inhabited land (around 50 residents in 2013) is Pitcairn Island, 2,075 kilometres (1,289 mi) away;[9] the nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea, on the island of Mangareva, 2,606 km (1,619 mi) away; the nearest continental point lies in central Chile, 3,512 km (2,182 mi) away.

The name "Easter Island" was given by the island's first recorded European visitor, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who encountered it on Easter Sunday (5 April), 1722, while searching for "Davis Land".[10] Roggeveen named it Paasch-Eyland (18th-century Dutch for "Easter Island").[11][12] The island's official Spanish name, Isla de Pascua, also means "Easter Island".

The current Polynesian name of the island, Rapa Nui ("Big Rapa"), was coined after the slave raids of the early 1860s, and refers to the island's topographic resemblance to the island of Rapa in the Bass Islands of the Austral Islands group.[13] Norwegian ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl argued that Rapa was Easter Island's original name and that Rapa Iti was named by refugees from it.[14]

The phrase Te pito o te henua has been said to be the island's original name since French ethnologist Alphonse Pinart gave it the romantic translation "the Navel of the World" in his Voyage à l'Île de Pâques, published in 1877.[15] William Churchill (1912) inquired about the phrase and was told that there were three te pito o te henua, these being the three capes (land's ends) of the island. The phrase appears to have been used in the same sense as the designation "Land's End" at the tip of Cornwall. He was unable to elicit a Polynesian name for the island and concluded that there may not have been one.[16]

According to Barthel (1974), oral tradition has it that the island was first named Te pito o te kainga a Hau Maka, "The little piece of land of Hau Maka".[17] But there are two words pronounced pito in Rapa Nui, one meaning "end" and one "navel", and the phrase can thus also mean "The Navel of the World". Another name, Mata ki te rangi, means "Eyes looking to the sky".[18]

Felipe González de Ahedo named it Isla de San Carlos ("Saint Charles's Island", the patron saint of Charles III of Spain) or Isla de David (probably the phantom island of Davis Land; sometimes translated as "Davis's Island"[19]) in 1770.[20]

Estimated dates of initial settlement of Easter Island have ranged from 300 to 1200 CE, though the current best estimate for colonization is in the 12th century CE. Easter Island colonization likely coincided with the arrival of the first settlers in Hawaii. Rectifications in radiocarbon dating have changed almost all of the previously posited early settlement dates in Polynesia. Ongoing archaeological studies provide this late date: "Radiocarbon dates for the earliest stratigraphic layers at Anakena, Easter Island, and analysis of previous radiocarbon dates imply that the island was colonized late, about 1200 CE. Significant ecological impacts and major cultural investments in monumental architecture and statuary thus began soon after initial settlement."[22][23]

According to oral tradition, the first settlement was at Anakena. Researchers have noted that the Caleta Anakena landing point provides the island's best shelter from prevailing swells as well as a sandy beach for canoe landings and launchings, so it is a likely early place of settlement. However radiocarbon dating concludes that other sites preceded Anakena by many years, especially the Tahai by several centuries.

According to oral traditions recorded by missionaries in the 1860s, the island originally had a strong class system: an ariki, or high chief, wielded great power over nine other clans and their respective chiefs. The high chief was the eldest descendant through first-born lines of the island's legendary founder, Hotu Matu'a. The most visible element in the culture was the production of massive moai statues that some believe represented deified ancestors. According to National Geographic, "Most scholars suspect that the moai were created to honor ancestors, chiefs, or other important personages, However, no written and little oral history exists on the island, so it's impossible to be certain."[30]

By that time, 21 species of trees and all species of land birds became extinct through some combination of over-harvesting, over-hunting, rat predation, and climate change. The island was largely deforested, and it did not have any trees taller than 3 m (9.8 ft). Loss of large trees meant that residents were no longer able to build seaworthy vessels, significantly diminishing their fishing abilities. According to this version of the history, the trees were used as rollers to move the statues to their place of erection from the quarry at Rano Raraku.[33] Deforestation also caused erosion which caused a sharp decline in agricultural production.[3] This was exacerbated by the loss of land birds and the collapse in seabird populations as a source of food. By the 18th century, islanders were largely sustained by farming, with domestic chickens as the primary source of protein.[34]

Diamond and West's version of the history is highly controversial. A study headed by Douglas Owsley published in 1994 asserted that there is little archaeological evidence of pre-European societal collapse. Bone pathology and osteometric data from islanders of that period clearly suggest few fatalities can be attributed directly to violence.[37] Research by Binghamton University anthropologists Robert DiNapoli and Carl Lipo in 2021 determined that the island experienced steady population growth from its initial settlement until European contact in 1722. The island never had more than a few thousand people prior to European contact, and their numbers were increasing rather than dwindling.[38][39]

In another work,[41] Hunt and Lipo discuss more evidence against the ecocide theory. In addition to focusing on the settlement chronology, they note that the island has an abnormally low amount of evidence of warfare compared to other Polynesian islands, only relatively small-scale intergroup conflict. There are no fortifications, and the attributed obsidian mata'a "weapons" show rather evidence of having been used in agriculture, and indeed, match up with agricultural tools long recognized among artifacts of other Polynesian peoples. Evidence of violence among skeletal remains of pre-European native skeletons is minimal, with only 2,5 of crania showing evidence of antemortem fractures, citing Oswley 1994: "most skeletal injuries appear to have been nonlethal. Few fatalities were directly attributable to violence. The physical evidence suggests that the frequency of warfare and lethal events was exaggerated in folklore." They likewise note that despite folklore, clear evidence of cannibalism among skeletal remains is entirely lacking. They note that in the search for an ecocide theory, the far more obvious answer has long been known, and cite Metraux 1957 as evidence that "The historic slave-trading, epidemic diseaes, intensive sheep ranching, and tragic population collapse - indeed the genocide of the Rapanui People - is well documented, and has been recognized for a long time." They conclude that when it comes to the science, "It does not matter whether Rapa Nui offers a parable for today's urgent environmental problems."

On 10 April 1786, French Admiral Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse anchored at Hanga Roa at the start of a circumnavigation of the Pacific. He made a detailed map of the bay, including his anchorage points, as well as a more generalised map of the island, plus some illustrations.[43]

A series of devastating events killed or removed most of the population in the 1860s. In December 1862, Peruvian slave raiders struck. Violent abductions continued for several months, eventually capturing around 1,500 men and women, half of the island's population.[44] Among those captured were the island's paramount chief, his heir, and those who knew how to read and write the rongorongo script, the only Polynesian script to have been found to date, although debate exists about whether this is proto-writing or true writing. 041b061a72


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