Rapanui - Global History I- Derlugian, Ragazzi The Fall of...

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Global History I- Derlugian, Ragazzi The Fall of the Stone Statues On Easter Day, 1722, a group of European explorers stepped onto the shores of a small island. A small number of natives greeted them; the majority of the island’s population had died out, leaving behind hundreds of towering black stone figures—a few balancing another boulder, some standing alone, each gazing sternly across the ocean. The human power needed to create even one of these monoliths must have been staggering, yet by the time the explorers set foot on the island, their civilization was floundering through its last throes. The causes of death were civil warfare and ecological self-destruction, which tore the population of Rapa-nui apart. Political stability fragmented and collapsed under the chiefs and the two populations of the island—the ruling Long Ears and the subordinate Short Ears—fought in a conflict that eventually consumed their society. But why did this war happen? How did the chiefs, who had at one point enough control to command the building of seemingly inhuman monuments, lose so much power? The sources of any chief’s power are generally grouped into three parts: military, ideology, and economy (Earle 6). These intertwine to create the foundation upon which political power rests. Thus, the failure of the Easter Island must have stemmed from a failure of one or all of these facets. As we will see, the collapse of the economy coupled with the abuse of ideological power led to a Short Ear rebellion and drastic ecological fallout, ultimately bringing about the fall of the Rapa-nui. The economic structure on Rapa-nui was simple. However, economic resources were limited. Because of its geographical isolation, trade between Rapa-nui and other civilizations was
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restricted; thus, its resources and food supply were largely comprised of agricultural produce grown on the island (taros, sweet potatoes) and fish. However, chiefs delegated farming to strictly Long Ears, and the priests subsequently rationed out the produced food to the rest of the tribes. This led to a Long Ear monopoly on the staple finance of Rapa-nui’s economy, providing the “mechanisms for amassing power” (Earle 79). The bottleneck effect that this created lead to increased friction between the two populations by giving Long Ear rulers the leverage to command Short Ear workers in whatever way they wished. Furthermore, priests placed taboos on
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Rapanui - Global History I- Derlugian, Ragazzi The Fall of...

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