The monumental statues of Easter Island, both so magisterial and so forlorn, gazing out in their imposing rows over the island’s barren landscape, have been the source of great mystery ever since the island was first discovered by Europeans on Easter Sunday 1722. How could the ancient people who inhabited this tiny speck of land, the most remote in the vast expanse of the Pacific islands, have built such monumental works?
No such astonishing numbers of massive statues are found anywhere else in the Pacific. How could the islanders possibly have moved so many multi-ton monoliths from the quarry inland, where they were carved, to their posts along the coastline? And most intriguing and vexing of all, if the island once boasted a culture developed and sophisticated enough to have produced such marvelous edifices, what happened to that culture? Why was the island the Europeans encountered a sparsely populated wasteland?
The prevailing accounts of the island’s history tell a story of self-inflicted devastation: a glaring case of eco-suicide. The island was dominated by a powerful chiefdom that promulgated a cult of statue making, exercising a ruthless hold on the island’s people and rapaciously destroying the environment, cutting down a lush palm forest that once blanketed the island in order to construct contraptions for moving more and more statues, which grew larger and larger. As the population swelled in order to sustain the statue cult, growing well beyond the island’s agricultural capacity, a vicious cycle of warfare broke out between opposing groups, and the culture ultimately suffered a dramatic collapse.
When Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo began carrying out archaeological studies on the island in 2001, they fully expected to find evidence supporting these accounts. Instead, revelation after revelation uncovered a very different truth.
©2011 Terry Hunt and Carl Weber (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"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)
"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)
"A great read and a genuinely exciting account of how the science of archaeology is done at its best." (John Edward Terrell, Professor and Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology, Field Museum of Natural History)
This book summarizes recent archeological and anthropological research, some of it quite surprising, into the history of Easter Island or Rapa Nui. The large majority of the book is dedicated to explaining on how the Polynesians who settled Rapa Nui managed to survive in a very precarious ecosystem; a major emphasis is given to persuasively discrediting Jared Diamond's assertion that the behavior of the Rapa Nui is emblematic of the willful self-destructive patterns of a population whose behavior causes its own economic and cultural collapse.
Only a few chapters are dedicated to the statues themselves, relating mostly to how the statues could have been carved and moved by the islanders, and these are quite interesting. However, explanations as to WHY the islanders carved such an abundance of the statues, what they were supposed to represent, why they were placed where they were, etc., were unsatisfying, to put it mildly.
The authors' discussion on the reason for the statues almost exclusively revolves around a theory relating to status accumulation and population control in a limited environment, seeming to suggest, as far as I understand it, that the men were kept busy building and moving statues in order to limit their opportunities to father children and keep them from fighting with each other (not consciously, mind you, but as a function of population dynamics). I can't help but find this argument patronizing in the extreme and totally inadequate in explaining the astonishing creativity and energy of these island people.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
Before listening to this quite enjoyable book, I knew nothing about Easter Island (except there are big statues there), so I cannot really comment on this as opposed to other scholarly approaches to the history and archeology of the area. I can say that I found this to be very informative and well-narrated.
The authors take on not only the mysteries of the island, but also the preconceptions about the inhabitants and the ecology that other scientists have brought to the study. It makes perfect sense to me that a society may not have to develop in the same way Europeans did to be considered "enlightened" cultures.
Glad I bought this during a recent sale!
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I became interested in Easter Island and the South Pacific many years ago after reading Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. In fact, it is a book I pull out and read every five years or so since about 1950. Easter Island is a small island in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1500 miles from any neighbor. The Island is called Rapa Nui by its inhabitants. It is famous for its 900+ enormous stone statues called Moai which dot the landscape.
The authors are two archaeologist, Terry Hunt from the University of Hawaii and Carl Lipo from California State University Long Beach. They have lived on the Island for many years bringing graduate students to work on scientific exploration and archaeological digs. They describe the first colonists to the island in 1200 A.D. of 30 to 100 Polynesians. The climate of the island wasn’t conducive to their growth. Rats that came to the island with the colonists decimated the large palm trees. The authors claim it was the rats rather than over use of the land that led to the devastation of the land. They claim the building of the statues helped maintain social networks that allowed a small closely related population to stay alive and work cohesively. They found that the large statues protected the soil from erosion and regulated the temperature changes over the day and night. In addition, the cracked surfaces of the stone on open ground added essential mineral nutrients to the ground. They also build small walled gardens, called manavai, that protected crops from the wind. They also present their hypothesis of how the statues were moved to their final location. The visits by Europeans brought disease, violence and slavery to the Island.
The book is well written and researched. The authors present a different hypothesis to the environmental conditions of the island. Unlike prior authors they have conducted extensive, long term scientific exploration and analysis to the mysteries of the island. I found the book most interesting and it was easy for the lay person to read.
Joe Barrett does an excellent job narrating the book. Barrett is a theatre actor and award winning audiobook narrator.
I am a glass artist, working from my studio at home. Audio books keep my mind stimulated while my hands are busy.
always needed to know how the ancients moved and erected monumental structures and sculptures- simply and convincingly explained here. The history of the Easter Island people gave me a fresh view of our western history, harsh reality.
Audible addict since 2003. High School librarian who has found her bliss!
The statues of Easter Island are an amazing mystery that have fascinated me ever since I read Thor Heyerdahl's works as a teenager. While this books does not attempt to answer the question of why they were created (the title is a bit misleading), it does present new theories of how they were created and transported. It also gives a view of the culture that is much more positive than that presented by Jared Diamond. A very good listen!
The most enjoyable were the clear and convincing arguments for what really transpired on the island, and the realization that the island's history is vastly different than what was believed until very recent times.
The most enjoyable part of the story was the authors reasoning for purpose of statue building and how that played an important role in the island's delicate ecosystem.
Very clear and well read. Excellent preformance.
Also fascinating were the lessons that can be drawn from the island's history, which can provide valuable insight into present day global issues of diminishing resources.
Intriguing, Insightful, Illuminating
Jared Diamond's Collapse, and Guns, Germs and Steel. Both these books are referenced in The Statues That Walked, and like them, this book discusses cutting edge information pertaining to one of the world's most intriguing mysteries. Beyond that, this book actually clarifies and updates some of Diamond's information in Collapse by revealing new discoveries that were not known at the time of his writings.
Joe Barret brings a sense of relaxed, personal, first-hand familiarity with the subject. He translates a highly-technical topic into a very accessible listen for laymen and armchair archaeologists alike.
The haze of mystery and speculation to dispelled by scientific pragmatism.
One of the strengths of this book is that it shows how scientific and anthropological fallacies are often constructed out of incomplete data, untested hypotheses and romanticized speculations.
Auto Repair shop owner. I love Yoga, and playing my Fender Stratocaster. I Walk my dogs twice a day.
Is a tiny island in the South Pacific and when I mentioned I was reading this book at lunch one of my co-workers said; "oh that is the island they clear cut the trees so they could farm." I said the authors have another theory and that theory makes more sense than man kills his environment on purpose.
I was surprised at the theory about the cost of war. I was interested in how the different explorers went about their expeditions hundreds of years ago. I was shocked to learn the islanders where thief's stealing any thing and everything including the hat off your head.
It was insightful to learn how the South Pacific people viewed what we would consider normal morality. Meaning that happily traded sex much to the delight of the earlier explorers. Of course one of the trades we made was VD.
Learning about the different ways the Islanders farmed by breaking up rocks to fertilize the ground and prevent erosion from the trade winds was another tidbit that adds to the whole.
Last but not least the architecture of the statues and how they moved the really big ones (some up to and over 75 tons) is still got people scratching their heads. The walked part is a catchy title for a book that encompasses much more than statues and the enigma they hold.
Academic AND Interesting!
I learned a lot of different things: it was well well-read, and easy to come back to in the car.
This book was written and narrated very well. Not only did I learn new things (like lithic mulching), but was entertained while doing so. the book builds a case for the author's findings, so more than one mystery gets solved.
Report Inappropriate Content