Birdman And The Destruction Of The Moai On Easter Island
“History teaches us many things. Most importantly, the things that made us who and what we are.” Robert Bonvill
When Jacob Roggeveen arrives on Easter Island he finds few trees, a couple of thousand people and nine hundred statues.
Both he and later Captain Cook surmise that there must have been a much larger population at one time to have built all these giant statues. The statues are lying on the ground in disarray and the natives ignore them.
The statues you see standing up now have been restored.
The story goes that at some point in the island’s history, the art and the increasing population were depleting the natural resources. There were too many trees being cut down. Without trees you have no canoes to get fish.There are no fishing nets to be made without the mulberry trees. Rats were overrunning the island and eating the seeds and fruit.
Speculation is that the people were starving, fighting and blamed their idols.
They threw them down or lay them down and started killing each other. There is evidence of cannibalism.
The natives that were there when the Europeans came, follow a Birdman Cult, Tangata-Manu. The Rano Kau area has been considered sacred since ancient times. It is here in the fifteenth or sixteenth century that the Orongo ceremonial village is built for the new order.
After the fall of the Moai carving era society, new gods replaced the old ones while a struggle for power came to light. In order to settle this in a non-violent way, the Birdman Cult competition was established to help decide who would lead the Rapa Nui each year. They competed in a yearly Hunger Games-style race to retrieve an egg from an island in shark-infested waters with many deaths. The supreme deity of the Birdman Cult was the fertility god Make-Make.
There are petroglyphs that show the fish, marine life and canoes near Papa Vaku. Many Birdman petroglyphs were found near the Orongo village.
Over the next 150 years the remaining Rapa Nui culture shrunk to 150 people due mostly to European diseases.
The fate of the Rapa Nui on Easter Island is often used to illustrate how humans destroy their communities with environmental destruction and warfare. They had a highly developed civilization for about six hundred years and then they destroyed the environment and it ended in catastrophe.
We don’t know what is true and what isn’t, but the Moai stand as a reminder of the demise of an ancient culture.
As we deplete our natural resources, do we go the way of the Rapa Nui or do we hold ourselves accountable for our global excess?