Top positive review
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A revisionist account
on 24 October 2011
Easter Island or Rapa Nui, with its massive stone carvings (moai), has long been a place of fascination. The prevailing account of its prehistory, offered by Jared Diamond among others, has been that the island's first inhabitants wiped themselves out, committing 'ecocide' by cutting down all the island's trees, spending precious time and resources carving and transporting moai, and fighting wars among themselves.
Hunt and Lipo, an archaeologist and anthropologist respectively, challenge this narrative by using archaeological, anthropological, and documentary evidence to interrogate a number of assumptions. They argue instead that 'rather than a case of abject failure, Rapa Nui is an unlikely story of success'. Collapse, they argue, only came after European contact.
The archaeological evidence offered by the authors is compelling and they build a convincing case, although I was more doubtful about some of the arguments taken from sociobiology. As a layperson I found the book clear, readable, and enjoyable. Hunt and Lipo paint a fascinating picture of the island's prehistory, and I also enjoyed their descriptions of archaeological research and reasoning. Throughout the emphasis is on the collaborative nature of their findings and the contributions of past visitors to the island.
The kindle edition of the book contains a few formatting errors and the tables have been slightly mangled in the conversion; it does include the book's photographs and diagrams, although some of these aren't terribly clear.