...In their new book, The Statues that Walked: Unravelling the Mystery of Easter Island, to be published in June, Dr Lipo and Professor Hunt present their evidence that Polynesian colonists arrived in 1200, up to 800 years later than the conventional theory claims, and immediately modified the environment with slash-and-burn agriculture.
The effect this had on the giant palm forest was magnified by the rats that arrived with them. The rodent population, feeding extensively on palm seeds, exploded.
Dr Lipo argues that deforestation didn't make things much worse for humans. Rapa Nui was no tropical paradise. It's an old volcanic island and many of the nutrients in the soil had already been washed away. Burning the giant palms actually helped, but the settlers soon turned to a technique called stone mulching, in which freshly broken volcanic rocks are planted in the poor soil to add nutrients and cut down on erosion.
The same people who used rock mulching and greeted the Dutch could have moved the moai from Rano Raraku, the quarry where they were carved, to the shore, he says. The statues seem designed to allow small groups of men to move them by rocking them, as you would a refrigerator.
Similar suggestions have been made in the past, but experiments indicated that the moai would have been worn away by the time they got to the coast. Dr Lipo, aided by anthropologist Sergio Rapu, the island's first native governor under Chilean rule, thinks he has found a way around this, with more rocking and less shuffling.
Defenders of the old theory are not taking this lying down. The British archaeologist Paul Bahn and his co-author John Flenley are bringing out a third edition of The Enigmas of Easter Island with a response to the upstarts. "They're ignoring the oral tradition and just cherry-picking the data they like," he said ...
via Has the mystery of Easter Island finally been solved? - Science, News - The Independent.