Rapa Nui, Easter Island, is home to the enigmatic Moai, stone monoliths who have been watching the island's landscape for hundreds of years. Its existence is a wonder and its meaning a mystery.
Rapa Nui's former sculptors worked at the request of the elite ruling class to sculpt nearly 1,000 Moai because the community believed that the statues could produce agricultural fertility and thus essential food supplies, according to a new study by Jo Anne Van Tilburg. , director of the Easter Island Statue Project, published in November at the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Van Tilburg and his team, who worked with geo-archaeologist and soil expert Sarah Sherwood, believe they have found scientific evidence of this long-hypothetical significance, thanks to the study of two Moai excavated over five years ago at Rano Raraku quarry on the east side. parents.
Van Tilburg's most recent analysis focused on two of the monoliths in the inner Rano Raraku quarry, which is the source of 95% of the island's more than 1,000 Moai. Laboratory tests of soil samples from the same area show evidence of foods such as bananas, taro and sweet potatoes. The researcher said in announcement, which analysis showed that in addition to serving as a quarry and sculpture site for statues, Rano Raraku was also the site of a productive agricultural area.
The soils on Rano Raraku are the richest on the island, according to Sherwood. Together with a source of freshwater, it appears that quarrying has helped to increase soil fertility and food production in the immediate vicinity. The soils of the quarry are rich in clay created by the wear of lapilli tuff – the local rock – while workers extract the deepest rocks and carve the Moai.
According to Sherwood, the ancient indigenous peoples of Rapa Nui were very intuitive about what to grow by planting multiple crops in the same area, which can help maintain soil fertility.
"This study radically alters the idea that all the standing statues in Rano Raraku were simply awaiting transportation outside the quarry," said Van Tilburg. “These and probably other upright Moai in Rano Raraku were kept in place to ensure the sacred nature of the quarry itself. The Moai were central to the idea of fertility and their presence here stimulated agricultural food production. ”
Quarry statues are estimated to have been built from 1510 to 1645. Activity in this part of the quarry probably began in 1455. Most of Moai's production ceased in the early 1700s due to western contact.
This is the first study to reveal the quarry as a complex landscape and to make a definitive statement linking soil fertility, agriculture, quarry and the sacred nature of the Moai.
Located in Chile, Easter Island is one of the most mysterious places on our planet. Two thousand years ago, it was home to a Polynesian civilization that left on the island a large number of giant moal remains that scientists believe personalize the ancestors of the region's former residents.
Civilization practically disappeared from the island before the arrival of the first settlers. Since then, its disappearance has led to doubts, but according to the theories most widely accepted by the scientific community, their extinction may be related to lack of resources or wars between groups.
In August, the Chilean government announced that it should rename Easter Island, nicknamed it Rapa Nui Island, which means “Big Island” and is its ancestral name.
Easter Island was the name given by the Dutch explorer Jakob Roggeveen (1659-1729) – officially the first European to set foot on the island – who, as he arrived in the region on Easter Sunday, decided to give it that name.
In 1995, UNESCO designated Easter Island as a World Heritage Site.