Rapa Nui Obsidian Discovery: Did the Islanders sail to America?

It has lengthy been thought that the individuals of Rapa Nui (popularly referred to as Easter Island) lived a largely remoted existence, lower off from different lands by the huge and treacherous ocean. Nonetheless a brand new discovery on the islands means that the islanders had been involved with their continental neighbors.

The primary settlers of Rapa Nui a thousand years in the past left behind historical meals stays on obsidian blades, and the evaluation paints an interesting image. Examination of the starch grains clinging to those obsidian blades signifies that the earliest inhabitants of the island indulged not solely within the indigenous crops of Polynesia but in addition in meals native to South America, situated roughly 2,300 miles (3700 km) away.

Obsidian Cutlery

The research, printed in PLOS One, has been performed by archaeologists from numerous Chilean establishments on the archaeological web site of Anakena, which represents Rapa Nui’s earliest recognized settlement from round 1000 to 1300 AD. Proof means that common contact was maintained between early Polynesians and South People relationship again a millennium, whereby the previous would journey to South America and work together with the inhabitants, earlier than voyaging again.

The obsidian blades discovered on Rapa Nui (PLOS ONE)

The obsidian blades found on Rapa Nui (PLOS ONE)

Of their investigation into the early years of the Rapa Nui settlement, researchers undertook a complete evaluation of historical meals sources. Whereas prior research had targeted on animal stays, resembling fish, dolphins, seals, chickens, and rats consumed by the early settlers, plant stays had acquired much less consideration.

The researchers examined 20 obsidian blades unearthed beneath the ahu at Anakena in 1987, revealing traces of 46 starch grains, although solely 21 grains might be definitively recognized. They cumulatively represented eight plant species: breadfruit, cassava (often known as yuca or manioc), taro, purple yam, candy potato, Tahitian apple, achira, and ginger.

Some blades even confirmed proof of a number of plant species, suggesting their versatile use for numerous duties resembling reducing, peeling, grating, or different types of meals processing, in line with a press launch.

Whereas the presence of yam and taro starch grains was anticipated, as they’d been beforehand recognized on Rapa Nui, the invention of breadfruit and Tahitian apple was novel, as neither plant had been beforehand documented on the island. The identification of ginger marks the primary incidence of this spice in Distant Oceania, in line with the researchers.

Traces of ginger identified on the obsidian blades, the first evidence of the plant in Remote Oceania (PLOS ONE)

Traces of ginger recognized on the obsidian blades, the primary proof of the plant in Distant Oceania (PLOS ONE)

Breadfruit and Tahitian apple are essential crops in Polynesian agriculture, doubtless launched by the earliest Polynesian settlers by way of canoe. Ginger however could have served medicinal and culinary functions within the early island society.

Of explicit curiosity are cassava, candy potato, and achira, all of which originate from South America. The presence of candy potato remnants on the deepest layers of the excavation suggests their early introduction to the island, in line with a press launch.

Corroborating the Oral Historical past

These findings strongly corroborate the oral histories of the Rapu Nui individuals, which recount quite a few voyages to South America. It’s proposed that these early settlers engaged in repeated journeys, bringing again novel foodstuffs that might form the island’s agricultural panorama for generations to come back.

“Our outcomes present that, by the point that folks had been residing on the Anakena web site, they already had voyaged to the South American coast and been involved with South American peoples. We argue that Polynesian (Pacific) voyagers reached the coast of the American continent and interacted with native American populations and, at some later level, returned to the Pacific islands with some American crops that had been then cultivated on totally different islands alongside conventional Pacific crops,” mentioned Andrea Seelenfreund, an archaeologist on the Academy of Christian Humanism College in Chile and one of many research authors, instructed Stay Science in an e-mail.

Rapa Nui, situated within the southeastern Pacific, is famend for its iconic moai statues, erected on stone platforms often called ahus. The island, shaped from three volcanoes, noticed its settlers crafting the moai from volcanic ash.

Whereas Dutch explorers launched Rapa Nui to the broader world in 1722, the island had been inhabited for hundreds of years. Nonetheless, the exact timeline and origins of its settlement stay considerably enigmatic, with consultants debating whether or not the preliminary settlers hailed from Polynesia, South America, or each. Oral traditions of the Rapa Nui individuals recount no less than one voyage to South America throughout the island’s early settlement part.

“Now we have to remember the fact that lengthy distance ocean voyaging was a extremely developed talent by Pacific Island individuals,” Seelenfreund concluded.

High picture: The foodstuffs discovered on the obsidian blades at Anakena in Rapa Nui counsel the islanders made the voyage to South America and returned. Supply: F.C.G. / Adobe Inventory.

By Sahir Pandey

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