Easter Island settled later than previously thought
Polynesian emigrants may not have arrived on Easter Island until AD 1200, settling the island between 200 and 800 years later than previously thought. Therefore, the entire cultural history of Easter Island must be revised, say Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Carl Lipo of California State University at Long Beach. The researchers conclude this from new radiocarbon dating from a dig site at Anakena on the north coast of the island.
Hunt and Lipo had examined the undisturbed strata of Easter Island's only sand dune. In addition to artefacts from the first inhabitants, they also found charcoal and plant remains from around 1200 AD in the more than three meter thick sediments.
Previous investigations had partly used marine sediments and deposits from lakes to determine the age, but these can subsequently be falsified in such a way that they indicate an age that is too old. Until now, it was assumed that there were two waves of settlement and a slowly growing population, which only had a far-reaching impact on the island's ecosystems with the clearing of the forests centuries after the arrival of the first people. It was previously thought that the islanders only created the huge stone sculptures long after the conquest.
Easter Island is located in the Pacific Ocean about 3700 kilometers west of the coast of South America and 2250 kilometers from the nearest island inhabited today. When Dutch sailors arrived on Easter Island in 1722, they found a starving people living in a barren, barren landscape among large stone sculptures.