Rat Meat and Rock Gardens. What Really Happened on Easter Island?

by Owen James Burke

cookedrat

Artwork: Robert Krulwich/NPR

It has been largely maintained in the history books that slash-and-burn farming in coordination with overpopulation turned the once lush landscape into a barren, nearly fruitless solitary rock, but new research from University of Hawaii Anthropologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo points to other reasons, namely Polynesian rats, which may have stowed away on canoes. Once on land, it’s likely that they proliferated to the millions, and because their diet consists of palm roots, they would have eaten their way through the island in no time.

rattrees

Artwork: Robert Krulwich/NPR

While many consider Easter Island a story of failure, Hunt and Lipo see it as a story of success in the face of adversity. With plants and native animal populations declining, the inhabitants turned to rat meat, and built gardens using minerals from smashed rocks to sustain vegetation. It may not be success in the common sense, but in any sense it is surely a testament to resilience and endurance.

Read more on NPR — OJB

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