Welcome to our second episode in season 2 of 80 Days: an exploration podcast. Today we will be exploring the fascinating history and culture of Easter Island.
Named by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, on Easter Sunday in 1722, the island is best known for the 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, which were built by the early Rapa Nui people. The island is one of the most isolated in the world, lying more than 1,289 miles from its nearest inhabited neighbour, and almost 2,200 miles from the closest continental point, in Chile. The tiny volcanic island consists of just 163.6 km2 or 63.2 sq mi, making it roughly twice the size of Manhattan. The native population, the Rapa Nui, have endured famines, disease, population collapse, civil war, slave raids and colonial power struggles, and the island was most recently annexed by Chile in 1888. Today, Easter Island is home to around 6,000 people, the majority of whom are descended from the original Rapa Nui settlers.
Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne@anbeirneach in Switzerland. (Theme music byThomas O’Boyle) Our guest contributor this week is Dr Mara Mulrooney (Bishop Museum, Honolulu).
[01:20] Intro – a seriously isolated island
[05:17] Dr Mara Mulrooney – on polynesian explorers
[14:42] The mystery – where did all the people go?
[18:08] Moai – giant stone heads
[27:50] The other explanations for the mystery
[36:53] “Discovery” – Roggeveen, Dutch idiot
[42:32] Was there a Civil War…?
[46:30] Birdman Cult
[53:38] Catholics, slavery, smallpox and Joseph Byrne
[1:07:44] Dutrou Bornier – A bad man
[1:13:55] Salmond and his sheep and Chile takes over
[1:21:11] Mana and the Routledge archaeological expedition
[1:29:23] Thor Heyerdahl expedition
[1:32:15] Pinochet’s law is like Pinochet’s love
[1:37:07] Modern day
If an almost 2 hour podcast doesn’t sufficiently wet your knowledge whistle as it were, feel free to get into some of the bits and pieces from around the internet that we used for background research.
But before that please feast your eyes on the ill-advised result of Mark’s Moai instagram photoshoot.
And now you can check out some of the main reference links for the podcast!
- Polynesian navigators and their mad skills (YouTube)
- Jacob Rogeveen the “discoverer” of Easter Island, except of course for the thousands of people that lived there.
- Robert Krulwich of Radiolab on where all the people went from Easter Island
- Jared Diamond Article on Easter Island in an early article
- Jared Diamonds book “Collapse” which is a bit blamey…
- Blogpost on Dutrou-Bornier (from Osterinsel.de)
- A little bit of Easter Island… right in the centre of London (British Museum)
- Some traditional music (from FestPac2016 in Guam)
- Account of the signing of the agreement with Chile
- “Mystery of Easter Island” by Katherine Routledge
- “Island at the End of the World” – The Turbulent History of Easter Island
- Pinochet welcome song from Rapa Nui (YouTube)
- Space shuttle in Rapa Nui (LA Times)
- Check out the bio on our guest expert Dr Mara Mulrooney. You can also listen to a complete talk by her about her research into Rapa Nui’s archaeology
- BBC Documentary: “Easter Island: Mysteries of a Lost World”
- Thor Heyerdahl documentary
- Stuff You Should Know Easter Island population collapse podcast
- On Top of the World, a podcast for/by history teachers has an episode on the topic of deforestation
- For the academically inclined, a lot of interesting resources and scholarly articles on the Island can be found on the Easter Island Foundation website (www.islandheritage.org), including this interesting article about the role of earthquakes in toppling some of the Moai, this one on the timeline of settlement (Mulrooney et al.). Also useful are Van Tilburg’s account of the Mana expedition (in the 1910s) and Hunt and Lipo’s article “Revisiting Rapa Nui ‘ecocide‘”
Thanks this week to backers Nick Ison and Alec Richman. And a massive thank you, as always to our sponsor Hairy Baby, makers of the funniest Irish-themed clothing. Remember to get a 10% discount off anything you buy on their website (www.hairybaby.com) by using our special promo code, read out during the episode. We recommend the 80 Days official tee.