Excerpt from sciencerecorder.com
A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that harsh environmental conditions were the main source of population decline for the native Polynesians of Easter Island, potentially ending a long-standing debate over the exact cause.
Researchers of the study, led by Dr. Thegn Ladefoged of the University of Auckland in New Zealand, analyzed obsidian artifacts recovered from a number of habitation sites on the island to assess the regional land-use of the local inhabitants, known as the Rapa Nui.
The team found a shift in human uses of different parts of the island, suggesting an attempt to adapt to changing natural environmental conditions. Because of this, the researchers believe that natural barriers and climate extremes may have negatively impacted the islanders enough to lead to population declines.
“The results of our research were really quite surprising to me,” said Ladefoged, according to The Huffington Post. “In short, our research does not support the suggestion that societal collapse occurred prior to European contact due to physical erosion and productivity decline, but it does indicate that use of less optimal environmental regions changed prior to European contact.”