Monday, 22 June 2009

The collapse of civilisation on Easter Island

You were proud of what you had created. The statues of your ancestors watching over you, connecting you to the earth’s great power.

You worshipped them and remembered how the great ancestor Hotu Matu’a stepped ashore from his endless journey across the South Pacific to an island forested with giant palms for syrup and wine, and deep seas teaming with porpoise. You prospered. Each new family cleared more land and you began to carve the magnificent Moai with powerful jutting chins and magic coral eyes.

With rope and wood, you helped the Moai walk across the island to stand in line with the stars.

But you had felled so many trees the rains made the soil thin. You grew hungry. Your connection to the earth’s power was weakening. The only answer: bigger Maoi. Day and night you carved, but it was not enough. The last crop failed.

You looked across the blasted island; no tree remained; no boat to fish or to use to escape.

They found you by chance in 1722 on Easter Sunday, calling it a redemption. But Easter Island offered no second chance. Life had spiralled into violence and hunger and despair. That is how you came to topple each other’s Moai and eat your own kin.