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)
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.
I'm not a big reader (or listener) of non-fiction books (though I'm big on National Geographic, Smithsonian, Science magazines), but I found this book kept me as fascinated as a great novel - not a dry text book style non-fiction book, but rather one that gives life to history. I enjoyed this very much and it has led to many discussions.
I originally picked this book up to get a more thorough understanding of the history of the statues that exist on Easter Island and what I received was so much more. The authors take you on a journey of understanding the inhabitants of this small island, their challenges, and what life was like with finite resources. You leave understanding why they created the statues in such mass, how they moved them, and what life was like after they were visited by various expeditions.
It was an eye opening listen that I'm glad I endured. Be prepared for a bit of social psychology, physics, and history all rolled into this one.
I remember watching shows on Easter Island but this book was fantastic as far as the history of the island and how they carved the stones and moved them. It was a great learning experience for me.
Who doesn't think Easter Island is cool? OK, I have a BA and MA in history and am just fascinated by this stuff. The mystery of physical artifacts such as the giant statues on Easter Island are a soft spot for me. So, I picked this up and enjoyed it.
The book is ultimately a fairly dry account of the findings of Terry Hunt and a team of graduate students who did some archeology on the Island a few years back. In addition, Hunt does some synthesis of older works including that of Thor Heyerdahl. Of course Heyerdahl was trying to show that ancient South American's brought statue moving technology to Polynesia... Never the less, well written and engaging.
The high point of the story is the myth of the statues walking. It turns out that they were made to walk with a little help of a team of islanders and then modified to stay in place once moved. Hunt's chapters on how the 9 to 19 ton statues moved from the quarry to their posts on platforms around the island is really interesting. Other explorations of how grass grew - not so much. Never the less, this is a complete history of the island and it's people based on the most current study. Well researched, well written and clearly articulated. I enjoyed this book, though I am not sure a non "history geek" would be riveted. If you are interested, this is a relatively short study. If you are not a fan of non-fiction, this is not a good book to experiment with.
The interesting people that inhabited Easter Island.
Wish I could.
Great history lesson for one and all.
A book of really interesting and well supported theories, that counter the prevailing theories about what happened to the statue builders of Easter Island. It also provides insight into Polynesian culture and its adaptability in difficult circumstances.
Easter Island was always a mysterious place I've wanted to see. Now that I'm getting older, it is officially a bucket list item. While still an exotic destination, this book has taken all the mystery away. Everything (the statues, the people, the deforestation) solved. Great to read about and glad to finally have answers but while all very interesting it lessens the appeal of one of my favorite places. A little mystery is good.
I don't have too much to say on this one without spoiling it, so I will sum it up with a quote from Commander Barclay of the HMS Topaz from the book. It is regarding the consequence of Europeans arriving on the shores of Easter Island.
"It is a sad fact that in these islands as in North America, wherever the white man establishes himself, the aborigines perish."
No matter how benign their intent, makes me wonder what would happen to us should aliens ever come to Earth.
Mysterious Polynesian People
Engineering of Rapanui people: how they curved and moved the statues are amazing.
Not really, there were too many examples of archeological surveys in other areas.
Archeological survey does not always reveal truth, because sometimes it is based on hypothesis.
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