Easter Island has stuck with us for more than one reason. Sure, the buried statues are quite impressive in their own rights, but there are other interesting things about the place. For example, the population entirely disappeared at some point, after what most believed to be a bloody and destructive civil war. But according to new research from the Binghamton University, the Easter Island Rapa Nui were not familiar with warfare.
Mata’a and previous suppositions
For a long time it was believed that the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island died off after an extensive and bloody civil war. This was mostly assumed because of large caches of what appeared to be spear tips made out of obsidian.
These over 400 sharp, triangle-shaped pieces of obsidian are referred to as mata’a, and they were believed to be the main weapons used by the Rapa Nui to fight in the supposed civil war after they began running out of resources.
Upon further examination, however, the mata’a don’t really seem to have been designed for war. When compared to any other obsidian or metal weapon, it’s quite obvious to notice that the triangular obsidian pieces weren’t designed for damage.
Instead, it would appear that they were designed for functionality. The lead researcher behind the study, anthropology professor Carl Lipo, says that the mata’a were in fact some sort of all-purpose tools for the Rapa Nui people.
Now that they know what to look for, it’s obvious how poor of a weapon mata’a would have made. Instead, evidence was found that indeed they were used for cutting – only not humans. The mata’a were used in farming, cooking, and pretty much every other activity that involves a sharp cutting utensil – except for war.
But this leaves us with the question of what actually happened to the Rapa Nui people if they didn’t starve to death or killed each other over resources?
What really happened
According to the study, the Rapa Nui didn’t actually even experience warfare or large scale combat. This means that the previous suppositions according to which the civilization vanished because of in-fighting couldn’t actually be true.
Instead, they seem to have shared the same “tragic” fate as many other ancient civilizations – contact with Europe. Instead of wiping themselves out through a civil war as it was assumed, the Rapa Nui were most likely either taken as slaves or integrated into pre-historic European communities once they made their way to the island.
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