Easter Island (Rapa Nui) with its strange statues, known as moai, remains one of the great archaeological mysteries. As with most ancient enigmas, various writers have tried to link Easter Island with either Atlantis, Mu or extraterrestrials.
I cannot subscribe to such silliness and would not normally include Easter Island in this Encyclopedia, but in recognition of the level of general interest in the subject I have included a link(a) to the serious archaeological work that continues on the island. This study is now in its fifth season and is directed by Dr. Jo Anne Van Tilburg. One aspect of the work was to demonstrate that many of the Easter Island ‘heads’ have buried bodies, often, until now, with hidden petroglyphs. A recent (June 2015) blog(g) has proposed that some of the markings represent tattoos.
*The other great Easter Island mystery is the rongorongo script found there. All attempts to decipher it have failed. An extensive article by Jacob Mikanowski offering insights into the history of the island and its script and the many efforts to decode it is available online(q) . David Pratt has also compared rongorongo with ancient Chinese and Indus Valley scripts(r) . Pratt has written a number of papers on various aspects of Easter Island(s).*
A new suggestion has recently emerged linking Easter Island and the ongoing discoveries at Göbekli Tepe in Turkey(b). This dates back to early 2010 and has now been given greater prominence in Robert Schoch’s recent book, Forgotten Civilization. On a lighter note, when Robert Schoch, suggested a link between Göbekli Tepe and Eastern Island(m), in spite of the eleven millennia time difference, it was no surprise that Jason Colavito scornfully dismissed the idea(n).
Pre-Colonial contacts between Easter Island and South America have recenty been supported by DNA evidence(f). This would appear to be contradicted by a 2017 study by a team from the University of California -Santa Cruz, which appears to rule out pre-European contact with South Americans! Details are published in the October 12th edition of Current Biology.(p)
Another Easter Island mystery(i) is its rongorongo script, which like the Phaistos Disk has produced a number of ‘claims’ of successful decipherment(c)(d).
The Milwaukee Journal of June 17th 1923 had a headline that announced the disappearance of Easter Island(e), proving that you really can’t believe everything you read! Coincidentally 1923 also gave us an early attempt(h) to link Easter Island with Atlantis.
For a long time it has been thought that warfare had wiped out much of its early population. This has now been debunked by a new study, led by Binghamton University anthropology professor Carl Lipo and published in the Feb. 2016 edition of the journal Antiquity(j). Shortly afterwards, a further study suggested that a more complex explanation for the early social collapse on the island has been put forward by Dr. Valentí Rull, who is a senior researcher of the Spanish National Research Council in Barcelona(k).
A further report(o) from Lipo highlighted further the complexity underlying the societal disintegration that took place on the island. Lipo outlined the commonly held explanation as follows; “One of the resources that they supposedly used up was trees that were growing on the island. Those trees provided canoes and, as a result of the lack of canoes, they could no longer fish. So they started to rely more and more on land food. As they relied on land food, productivity went down because of soil erosion, which led to crop failures…Painting the picture of this sort of catastrophe. That’s the traditional narrative.” Lipo’s studies has employed new technologies that have disproved these popular ideas and obviously forced a radical rethink.
There is a brief Smithsonian video clip available(l) which deals with the cutting and transportation of the moai.
(e) http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19230617&id=9f1EAAAAIBAJ&sjid=XyEEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5420,3683626 (inaccessible Sept. 2016)
(m) http://www.robertschoch.com/articles/schochgobeklitepenewdawnsept2010.pdf (offline Sept. 2017) See Sept/Oct 2010 edition of New Dawn Magazine (Issue 122)