The monumental statues of Easter Island, both so magisterial and so forlorn, gazing out in their imposing rows over the island’s barren landscape, have been the source of great mystery ever since the island was first discovered by Europeans on Easter Sunday 1722. How could the ancient people who inhabited this tiny speck of land, the most remote in the vast expanse of the Pacific islands, have built such monumental works?
No such astonishing numbers of massive statues are found anywhere else in the Pacific. How could the islanders possibly have moved so many multi-ton monoliths from the quarry inland, where they were carved, to their posts along the coastline? And most intriguing and vexing of all, if the island once boasted a culture developed and sophisticated enough to have produced such marvelous edifices, what happened to that culture? Why was the island the Europeans encountered a sparsely populated wasteland?
The prevailing accounts of the island’s history tell a story of self-inflicted devastation: a glaring case of eco-suicide. The island was dominated by a powerful chiefdom that promulgated a cult of statue making, exercising a ruthless hold on the island’s people and rapaciously destroying the environment, cutting down a lush palm forest that once blanketed the island in order to construct contraptions for moving more and more statues, which grew larger and larger. As the population swelled in order to sustain the statue cult, growing well beyond the island’s agricultural capacity, a vicious cycle of warfare broke out between opposing groups, and the culture ultimately suffered a dramatic collapse.
When Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo began carrying out archaeological studies on the island in 2001, they fully expected to find evidence supporting these accounts. Instead, revelation after revelation uncovered a very different truth.
©2011 Terry Hunt and Carl Weber (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"Hunt and Lipo make a major contribution to global history. They decipher the tangled skeins of Easter Island’s history with cutting edge scholarship and vivid writing. Their meticulous research tells a tale not of ecological armageddon, as so commonly believed, but of brilliant human achievement under difficult, isolated circumstances. This important book revolutionizes our understanding of ancient Polynesia and is a must-buy for anyone visiting this extraordinary place." (Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara)
"Finally, a fair and balanced account of the deeper human and environmental histories of Easter Island by people who not only know the records intimately but also helped produce them. In the midst of an ocean of sensationalist accounts of these histories, The Statues that Walked rights many wrongs." (Donald K. Grayson, Professor, Department of Anthropology and Quaternary Research Center, University of Washington)
"A great read and a genuinely exciting account of how the science of archaeology is done at its best." (John Edward Terrell, Professor and Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology, Field Museum of Natural History)
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"Love Those Mysterious Islands!"
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!
"The "Mystery of Easter Island" remains raveled"
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.
"The process of solving a great mystery"
The description of this book is not very good. Here's the story: there's an island, it's isolated from those near it. It's devoid of trees. It has no reefs, so there are few fish to catch. There are no large animals to hunt. It's only 64 square miles large. Oh yeah, and somehow and for some reason the indigenous people didn't die out but managed to make over 900 multi-ton statues of human faces and move them from a quarry in the middle of the island to the shores, all facing inward. So what happened?
This book, written by two scientists who have studied Easter Island for many years, take you through the evidence in the soil, the remains and the artifacts and tackle one individual mystery after another until your perception of this small island and these amazing people has completely altered. It's a little clerical, a little less storytelling than scientific analysis, but it's an amazing read. The thought process and the way these people look at the real data and come to completely new conclusions that in hindsight make such sense, is the way people should confront the problems in their own lives.
Also, it's such a good story of history and pre-history that you should definitely add it to your cart.
"the secret revealed"
always needed to know how the ancients moved and erected monumental structures and sculptures- simply and convincingly explained here. The history of the Easter Island people gave me a fresh view of our western history, harsh reality.
Academic AND Interesting!
I learned a lot of different things: it was well well-read, and easy to come back to in the car.
"Enlightening AND entertaining."
This book was written and narrated very well. Not only did I learn new things (like lithic mulching), but was entertained while doing so. the book builds a case for the author's findings, so more than one mystery gets solved.
"Archaeology Comes Alive"
Intriguing, Insightful, Illuminating
Jared Diamond's Collapse, and Guns, Germs and Steel. Both these books are referenced in The Statues That Walked, and like them, this book discusses cutting edge information pertaining to one of the world's most intriguing mysteries. Beyond that, this book actually clarifies and updates some of Diamond's information in Collapse by revealing new discoveries that were not known at the time of his writings.
Joe Barret brings a sense of relaxed, personal, first-hand familiarity with the subject. He translates a highly-technical topic into a very accessible listen for laymen and armchair archaeologists alike.
The haze of mystery and speculation to dispelled by scientific pragmatism.
One of the strengths of this book is that it shows how scientific and anthropological fallacies are often constructed out of incomplete data, untested hypotheses and romanticized speculations.
Is a tiny island in the South Pacific and when I mentioned I was reading this book at lunch one of my co-workers said; "oh that is the island they clear cut the trees so they could farm." I said the authors have another theory and that theory makes more sense than man kills his environment on purpose.
I was surprised at the theory about the cost of war. I was interested in how the different explorers went about their expeditions hundreds of years ago. I was shocked to learn the islanders where thief's stealing any thing and everything including the hat off your head.
It was insightful to learn how the South Pacific people viewed what we would consider normal morality. Meaning that happily traded sex much to the delight of the earlier explorers. Of course one of the trades we made was VD.
Learning about the different ways the Islanders farmed by breaking up rocks to fertilize the ground and prevent erosion from the trade winds was another tidbit that adds to the whole.
Last but not least the architecture of the statues and how they moved the really big ones (some up to and over 75 tons) is still got people scratching their heads. The walked part is a catchy title for a book that encompasses much more than statues and the enigma they hold.
"I want to visit them!"
Learning how they were moved.
This was a very enlightening account of what has been learned about the statutes.
The statues of Easter Island are an amazing mystery that have fascinated me ever since I read Thor Heyerdahl's works as a teenager. While this books does not attempt to answer the question of why they were created (the title is a bit misleading), it does present new theories of how they were created and transported. It also gives a view of the culture that is much more positive than that presented by Jared Diamond. A very good listen!
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