"A fascinating new chapter of the unwitting but tragic decimation of the native Rapa Nui populations, brought about unwittingly by cultural contact rather than the decline of their own society."
The authors present a believable case to counter what has become the accepted narrative about Easter Island. The book is engaging even as it rescues Rapanui culture from being reduced to a cautionary environmental tale.
-- Archaeology Magazine, July/August 2011
Archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo in "The Statues That Walked," a fascinating entry in the pop-science genre of Everything You Know Is Wrong.
-- The Wall Street Journal, Charles, C. Mann
Shattering the conventional wisdom, Hunt and Lipo's ironclad case for a radically different understanding of the story of this most mysterious place is scientific discovery at its very best.
-- The Guardian
Recent discoveries suggest that the inhabitants of Easter Island were actually devoted stewards of their island's natural resources. Archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo describe how they solved the mystery of the society's collapse.
-- Scientific American
"Hunt and Lipo make a major contribution to global history. They decipher the tangled skeins of Easter Island’s history with cutting edge scholarship and vivid writing. Their meticulous research tells a tale not of ecological armageddon, as so commonly believed, but of brilliant human achievement under difficult, isolated circumstances. This important book revolutionizes our understanding of ancient Polynesia and is a must-buy for anyone visiting this extraordinary place." (Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara and author of The Great Warming)
“The Statues that Walked
is an important book. Finally, a fair and balanced account of the deeper human and environmental histories of Easter Island by people who not only know the records intimately but also helped produce them. In the midst of an ocean of sensationalist accounts of these histories, The Statues that Walked
rights many wrongs.” (Donald K. Grayson, Professor, Department of Anthropology and Quaternary Research Center, University of Washington and author of The Great Basin: A Natural Prehistory)
"A great read and a genuinely exciting account of how the science of archaeology is done at its best—head and shoulders above the storytelling in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel
, and this is saying a lot." (John Edward Terrell, Professor and Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology, Field Museum of Natural History)
“A revolutionary perspective of the most intriguing society on earth. Hunt and Lipo unite old and new research findings in a coherent, surprising account of the real reason for the collapse of Easter Island’s populations – it was not
greed and shortsightedness. And, incidentally, a compelling account of what purpose those statues served and how they were moved.” (Daniel Simberloff, Nancy Gore Hunger Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Tennessee)
“There is more plausible information about the island, its people, and its remarkable stone monuments between the covers of this book than in all the many volumes written before. This is a must-read for all those interested in scientific sleuthing at its best.” (David A. Burney, Director of Conservation, National Tropical Botanical Garden, and author of Back to the Future in the Caves of Kaua`i: A Scientist’s Adventures in the Dark.)
"A must read...Hunt and Lipo have harnessed the power of science to show the true history of Easter Island--which is more compelling and amazing than doomsday theorists have led us to believe.” (Patricia A. McAnany, Kenan Eminent Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
From the Author
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Easter Island holds a truly remarkable place in human history. The island boasts an archaeological record like nowhere else on earth, including a large number of megalithic statues or moai on large constructed stone platforms or ahu. Despite the prominence of this archaeological record it is unknown exactly how or why ancient Polynesians moved more than 25 million pounds of stone in this particular island. The environment of Easter Island does not obvious provide an obvious explanation for the massive investment in statue construction and movement. Easter Island is located in the vast the southeastern Pacific; its nearest neighbors are nearly 2,000 miles away. And Easter Island is small; the island is approximately 171 sq-km, -- about the size of Catalina Island, California. Easter Island is also environmentally-impoverished and lacks regular rainfall, permanent streams, and a tropical climate. The limited climatic record for the island shows that rainfall can fluctuate dramatically, and devastating droughts would have been a significant problem in the island's past.
In this way, the prehistory of Easter Island presents us with a paradox. On an extremely isolated island with limited resources and uncertain fluctuations in climate and agricultural productivity, the pre-contact population of Easter Island invested huge amounts of effort into monumental architecture and statuary. In fact, the per capita investments in the Easter Island monuments likely stand as the greatest anywhere in the ancient world. These remarkable achievements, however, are set against a backdrop of limited resources and dramatic environmental variability.