Easter Island, an unimaginably remote volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean, produced one of the most fascinating and yet least understood prehistoric cultures, a people who vanished but left behind the giant statues known around the world. Who were these people and where did they come from? Why, and equally intriguingly, how did they erect the giant stone statues found all over the island?
Paul Bahn and John Flenley tackle these and a host of other questions, introducing us, along the way, to the bizarre birdman cult found in the island's art, and the only recently deciphered Rongorongo script engraved on wooden panels. The Enigmas of Easter Island combines a wealth of new archaeological evidence, intriguing folk memories and the records of Captain Cook and other early explorers, to reveal how the island's decline may stem from ecological catastrophe. The result is a fascinating portrait of a civilization that still retains many of its mysteries. This book provides a wealth of new material, including much information only recently discovered and not available in any other book for general readers.
One of the most mysterious places on the planet, Easter Island has been an object of intense fascination since rediscovered by European explorers. Attractively illustrated with numerous photographs throughout the book, The Enigmas of Easter Island is the finest volume ever written on this inscrutable and tantalizing isle, the latest word on one of the world's great conundrums.
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From Publishers Weekly:
Paul Bahn is one of the leading writers and broadcasters on archaeology for a popular audience. He is the author of the standard introduction to cave art, Images of the Ice Age, The Bluffer's Guide to Archaeology, and the popular Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction. John Flenley is currently Professor of Geography at Massey University in New Zealand. A world authority on the ecology of tropical rainforests, he was the first to publish evidence that Easter Island was once forested.
Theorists have invoked everything from restless spirits to extraterrestrials and anti-gravity to explain Easter Island's giant stone statues. The reality, according to this comprehensive reconstruction of the island's history, now in its second edition, is more prosaic. The megaliths were carved by humans from the island's soft volcanic stone to commemorate prestigious ancestors, express clan pride and demarcate "a sacred border...between 'home' and 'out there'"-and because on Easter Island there "was little else to do" but carve stone. In addition to the mechanics of sculpting, dragging and erecting the idols, Bahn (Written in Bones; The Cambridge Illustrated History of Archaeology; etc.) and ecologist Flenley cover other aspects of the island's vanished culture, from the remarkable seafaring skills of the Polynesians who settled the island to the prevalence of phallic, vulval and birdman motifs in the islanders' eccentric artistic stylings. Above all, they see Easter Island's saga as a cautionary tale of mankind's "eco-stupidity." As the Polynesians and the rats they brought with them decimated the once verdant forests, the island withered into a treeless desert stalked by famine, violence and possibly cannibalism-a microcosm illustrating the consequences of resource depletion for an all too finite Earth. The authors develop an occasionally cumbersome scholarly apparatus as they delve into the minutiae of archaeology, linguistics, sediment cores and pollen analysis and fence with academic rivals, especially with Kon-Tiki voyager Thor Heyerdahl, whose theory of settlement from South America receives a lengthy, scathing rebuttal. But in dispelling the mythology of Easter Island, they show us a society that is all the more interesting for being recognizably human.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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