Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is one of the world’s most isolated places, 1,500 miles from the nearest populated island in the Pacific. It contains almost no vegetation. When the Westerners visited the island, they were amazed at the gigantic statues that had been erected–almost a thousand of them–lined up, gazing out at the sea. Some of them weigh as much as 75 tons. But what amazed them even more was that the 3,000 islanders didn’t seem to know where these gigantic stone figures had COME FROM.
In the July 30-31 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Charles C. Mann asks the question we all want to know the answer to: "How could so few people with so little technology have carved and transported such a profusion of monster statuary?" Rapa Nui is so remote that researchers believe it must have been settled by a small group of adventurers who arrived in boats. Ecologists think the island originally had 16 million palm trees. How could so few people have cut down so much so fast?
They didn’t–the boats they arrived in also contained RATS. Polynesian rat populations can double in 47 days, and Rapa Nui would quickly have had between two and three million of them. Rats love to eat tree seeds and tree sprouts. They quickly gnawed down the palms. Soon the human population was down to a few thousand inhabitants, who had no memory of the days when their ancestors created their magnificent statues.
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