‘Their is a common belief that when European colonisers reached Easter Island, the native society was in spiralling decline following the collapse of its native culture.
But research has now found the local people were building their iconic monuments in the 18th century, contrary to the theory it ground to a halt in 1600.
By the time Europeans arrived on the island in 1770, the society was still functioning well.
However, the introduction of the Europeans saw it enter rapid decline as disease, murder, slavery and other conflicts ravaged the nation.
‘The general thinking has been that the society that Europeans saw when they first showed up was one that had collapsed,’ said Robert DiNapoli, at the University of Oregon’s Department of Anthropology who led the analysis.
‘Our conclusion is that monument-building and investment were still important parts of their lives when these visitors arrived.’
Rapa Nui is believed to have been settled in the 13th century by Polynesian seafarers.
And for hundreds of years they survived and flourished, despite limited resources.
The research took radiocarbon data from 11 sites on the island and compared it with contemporary records of European settlers.’