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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.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
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!
11 of 11 people found this review helpful