The Collapse of Easter Island

By Avery Sturm


Although the evidence found on Easter Island gives off a thriving culture, the island experienced: deforestation, a rapid increase in population, and a greedy society, soon leading to the disappearance of the island's resources and the empire's overall decline.

Get To Know Easter Island

  • Original name of Easter Island is Rapa Nui (Big Rapa) because of it's simularity to Rapa Iti island.
  • First settlers were Polynesians possibly from the nearby Marquesas Islands around 1200 A.D.
  • Name of island changed when Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen founded it on Easter Sunday in 1722.
  • Island was recognized for its remarkable human face statues (Moai) carved into rock by the Rapa Nui people, then attempted to be torn down when the civilization was declining.
  • Is known as the most inhabitable piece of land in the world as it lacks the needed geographic features for a thriving civilization.

What made this island fall?


When the Polynesians first settled on Easter Island it was covered with millions of palm trees. Though, when Jacob Roggeveen got to the island there were only small shrubs. This is because the trees were the societies most valuable resource that the island provided. They used the trees to make canoes, weapons, and simple machines to transport and build the Moai heads. The people believed in hard labor and the more trees they cut down the more heads they could build, representing power in their civilization. Along with this, European visitors brought along Polynesian rats. These rats ate seeds the trees needed in order to continue to grow or repopulate. Deforestation meant a change in the people's diet which led to famine because the ground was too weak for crops.

Increase in population

As people began to settle on Easter Island, everyone was using what the island could provide. On this small island, it was important that the people organized a system where everyone could get the resources they needed. Although, as the population began to increase, the resources decreased. With no trees to build canoes with to fish, the ground becoming too weak for crops, and the trees no longer growing, the population began to decrease from famine and disease. The people of Easter Island could clearly not organize a proper system to scatter the resources on the island evenly and responsibly. It also shows that the people were oblivious to how they were impacting the environment.

Greedy Society

The resources on Easter Island were clearly limited, although the Rapa Nui people seemed to only care about their needs. The people were greedy about their resources and did not take consideration for their environment. Knowing how greedy the people were begins to clear up how the island fell out of power. After building hundreds of Moai heads, the civilization thought they looked powerful, little did they know this would destroy them. By cutting down trees to build these statues, not working on crops, and not fishing for daily meals, they were not thriving. If the people were not greedy for their needs and desires, the environment could have been saved along with their civilization.


Source #1: Diamond, Jared M. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. Print.

Source #2: Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 2000. Global Issues In Context. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.

Source #3: Hunt, Terry. "Rethinking the Fall of Easter Island." American Scientist. American Scientist, Sept.-Oct. 2006. Web. 06 Mar. 2014.

This website was a helpful source where I was able to located the information I needed to support my conclusion of Easter Island's collapse. The information was published in September-October in 2006 from a larger issue/piece. This is a current date for information on an event way back in the past. This article is extremely relevant to my topic. This article is about the official reason for the collapse of Easter Island, or ideas on how the ideas have come in conclusion. The publisher is reliable because he has written other pieces and mentions other authors such as Jared Diamond with even more authority. The content in this article is not biased but having an opinion along with many others. Although they are supported with evidence to make the purpose clear. The overall purpose of this literature is to help people understand how and why Easter Island fell. It explains an overall conclusion that the people of the island destroyed their own environment. With that, I support his opinion and his evidence he includes.

Source #4: Clark, Liesl. "Pioneers of Easter Island." PBS. PBS, 15 Feb. 2000. Web. 06 Mar. 2014.

This website is creditable because it passes all of the CRAAP tests. The specific article I chose was published February 15th, 2000, which is pretty recent information for my topic. The information in the article discusses the possible reasons for Easter Islands collapse and many examples of data/dates. The author of this content is reliable because he has written about other similar topics. Also, the publisher is PBS who are known for their reliable information and authors. The purpose of this context is to break down how Easter Island Collapsed.