The mystery of the collapse of Rapa Nui

There are various theories about it. One of them is ecocide. But new clues emerge that contradict this scenario. Does the mystery of the collapse of Rapa Nui have a solution? It is believed that the Polynesian culture of Easter Island (Chile) overpopulated the island. But it is now thought to have been a small, stable population for centuries.

The evidence for this conclusion is a recently documented inventory of ingenious “rock gardens.” There the islanders grew highly nutritious sweet potatoes. It is a staple of their diet. The gardens covered only enough area to support a few thousand people.

The mystery of the collapse of Rapa Nui remains unsolved.
The mystery of the collapse of Rapa Nui remains unsolved.

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rock gardens

“This shows that the population could never have been as large as some of the previous estimates.” Lead author Dylan Davis of the Columbia Climate School said this in a statement. «The lesson is the opposite of the collapse theory. “People were able to be very resilient in the face of limited resources by modifying the environment in a way that helped them.”

Easter Island is possibly the most remote inhabited place on Earth. And it may have been the last to be colonized by humans. The closest continental mass is central Chile, almost 3,500 kilometers to the east. About 5,100 kilometers to the west are the tropical Cook Islands. It is believed that the settlers arrived from there around the year 1200 AD.

The settlers used a technique called rock gardening. They scattered rocks on low surfaces protected from salt spray and wind. In the interstices between the rocks, they planted sweet potatoes. The rocks disrupt winds that dry the atmosphere and create turbulent airflow. Some islanders still use the gardens.

The rock gardens are a clue that would help to know the truth.
The rock gardens are a clue that would help to know the truth.


Due to the enormous moai, it is considered that the population must have been very large. The first Europeans only found 3000 thousand inhabitants. In the new study, the extent of the rock gardens was calculated using mathematical models and technology. They only occupy a total of about 188 hectares. If the entire diet was based on sweet potatoes, these gardens could have supported about 2,000 people. If marine food sources are added, it would increase to 3,000 people. What the Europeans found.

The mystery of the collapse of Rapa Nui is still not completely solved. Every so often a theory refutes the previous one. Perhaps one day the definitive clue will appear to understand its origins and the outcome of its story.

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