Easter Island May Not Have Collapsed Due to War After All

Obsidian artifacts were likely just general tools, not weapons
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2016 9:12 AM CST
Easter Island May Not Have Collapsed Due to War After All
Some of the massive Moai statues on Easter Island, a South Pacific speck of volcanic rock so isolated the locals call it "Te Pito O Te Henua," or "The Navel of the World."   (AP Photo/Explora en Rapa Nui)

The ancient civilization of Rapa Nui, more commonly called Easter Island and a part of modern-day Chile, has long been thought to have been brought to its knees before Europeans arrived by violent infighting as precious resources ran out. But now anthropologists from Binghamton University in New York are publishing a new analysis of the obsidian artifacts assumed to be spearheads, and they conclude that the tools were in fact of a general nature—say, to process plants or even tattoo skin—rather than tools of war.

Using a technique called morphometrics to analyze photos of 400 "mata'a" for shape variability, they found that the tools simply weren't designed to deal damage in the way that weapons must. "When you look at the shape of these things, they just don't look like weapons at all," the lead researcher says in a press release. "When there are actually objects used for warfare, they're very systematic in their shape. They have to do their job really well. Not doing well is risking death. You would cut somebody {with a mata'a], but they certainly wouldn't be lethal in any way." He adds that the so-called "collapse narrative" is more a European interpretation and not an archaeological event, reports Phys.org. (Teeth solve this Easter Island mystery.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.