Now Lipo, Hunt, and several colleagues have turned their attention to the question of why certain locations were chosen for the statues and platforms.
If their purpose was symbolic or ritualistic, one would expect them to be placed prominently, on hilltops, for instance, where everyone could see them.
Three individuals lived prior to European contact, and two lived after.
"We found no evidence of gene flow between the inhabitants of Easter Island and South America," said Fehren-Schmitz. There's a lot of evidence that seems plausible, so we were convinced we would find direct evidence of pre-European contact with South America, but it wasn't there." Questions surrounding Pacific islanders' contact with South Americans are hotly debated among anthropologists.
Our study presents quantitative spatial modeling clearly showing that are associated with freshwater sources in a way that they aren't associated with other resources." According to co-author Hunt, the data collected thus far indicates that the early inhabitants of the island survived for more than 500 years by building strong communities around their limited resources and fostering a strong sharing economy.
It was the arrival of European colonialists that disrupted their way of life and contributed to their social collapse.
Evidence from historical accounts of European visitors to the island verified this was also true at the time the early inhabitants lived.
Lipo and Broadman meticulously mapped out where those fresh water sources were located all around the island, and wherever they found fresh water pockets along the coast, they also found .
New research by Lars Fehren-Schmitz, associate professor of anthropology, sheds light on those questions.
(Top photo by Terry Hunt; photo of Fehren-Schmitz by Carolyn Lagattuta.)Easter Island is a place of mystery that has captured the public imagination.