Posts Tagged With: archaeology

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign, Easter Island

Ahu Tongariki, the largest collection of standing moai on Easter Island.

Ever since Dutch explorer Admiral Jacob Roggeveen landed at a small island in the South Pacific on Easter Sunday 1722 and encountered a landscape filled with giant stone statues, the world has wondered about Easter Island: Where did the statues come from? How and why were they made? And, most puzzling, how were these behemoths—some weighing as much as 75 tons—moved.

In 2004, I flew to Easter Island and spent ten days there with University of Hawaii Professor Terry Hunt and his archaeology students, who were digging at Anakena Beach—site of the first Polynesian settlement on the island. Since then and as a result of his findings, Hunt has taken academic dynamite to the old myths and blown them apart.

The original theories went like this: The first settlement was in 700 AD, after which the population mushroomed to 10,000 or more, and the islanders destroyed their environment, cutting down all the trees to roll the massive statues—called moai—into place. Famine, warfare and even cannibalism followed. It was a classic example of wasted resources leading to societal collapse, one that the world should take note of.

According to Hunt’s research, that’s all wrong.

Carbon dating of bones and other items from his dig now puts the first settlement closer to 1200 AD, and new evidence shows the population reached a maximum of 3,000, which was all the 64-square-mile island could handle because its ecosystem was depleted even before the first settlers arrived.

So did the islanders—now known as Rapanui—cut down their trees? The island was originally covered with thick forests of Jubea palm trees, and the Rapanui did cut down some of them to build shelter, says Hunt, but not to move moai. The real culprits were Polynesian rats that had arrived with the settlers, possibly as stowaways on the canoes. They multiplied rapidly, and their favorite food? The seeds of the Jubea palms. Without seeds, no new trees could grow.

Also, says Hunt, there is no evidence of warfare: no remains of fortress-like buildings or weapons of war. And all anecdotal evidence points to a peaceful people who understood that in order to co-exist in an inhospitable environment—with no lakes or streams, poor soil conditions and inconsistent rainfall—they would have to get along or perish.

Next time: the moai—why they were carved. And did they, as the local folklore says, really walk from the quarry to their current locations?

Categories: culture, Easter Island, History, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Travels in Turkey: Ephesus

Ephesus (pronounced ef uh sis), on the western coast of Turkey, is an archaeological time warp and the best preserved ancient city in the world. Once Greek, then Roman, changing hands according to the dominant empire of the time. A place where John the Baptist swayed audiences in its grand coliseum. Where slaves or peasants or hired help carried Cleopatra in her sedan chair along the length of its main thoroughfare. And where today, visitors from all over the world come to tread the same ancient streets, gazing at Hercules’ Gate and the magnificent Celsus Library façade and the Temple of Hadrian and even the public latrines, where slaves warmed up the cold marble before their masters sat.

One of the great Greek cities of Asia minor, Ephesus was originally founded by Ionian Greeks around 1000 BC at the mouth of the now silted Kayster river. The city flourished during the 7th and 6th centuries BC and again from the 4th century BC when it came under the authority of Alexander the Great and his Hellenistic successor Lysinachus. Under Roman rule Ephesus became the principle port and commercial center on the Aegean Sea, and the city was also a key to the development of Christianity.

Our guide told us that Roman men who wanted to get away in the evening would say to their wives, “I’m going to the library, dear.” Once at the library, however, they entered the tunnel that led to the brothel next door. Those sneaky Roman men.

Check out my Ephesus photo gallery at!i=803384905&k=gAKoM.

Do you have an Ephesus story?

Categories: Photography, Stock Photography, Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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