Easter Islanders’ Weapons Were Deliberately Not Lethal
Researchers say the weapons of Rapa Nui were actually lousy battle tools, and the islanders wanted it that way.
Few stone monuments are as recognizable as the moai of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and few cautionary tales are as widely repeated as the sorry fate of the Polynesian society that crafted the monumental stone sentinels. The drive to create these enigmatic and enormous monuments resulted in widespread deforestation, the story goes, which in turn led to systematic warfare over increasingly scarce resources and, ultimately, complete societal and economic collapse before the arrival of the first Europeans in 1722. (Read more: How did islanders move the moai?)
But now the most common—and most unremarkable—artifacts on the island are shifting the debate about whether the Rapanui virtually wiped themselves out in a frenzy of organized violence before European contact. (Take a photographic tour of Rapa Nui.)
By 1877, only 110 Rapanui were alive on the island,