Archaeology Magazine

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Was There Warfare on Easter Island?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Easter Island Obsidian Artifacts BINGHAMTON, NY—A new analysis of triangular obsidian objects found on Easter Island suggests they were not used as weapons, as previously believed, but had a wide variety of non-lethal uses. Thousands of the artifacts, known as ma'ta, have been found on the island, and they have often been used to support the idea that widespread violence among the islanders led to the collapse of prehistoric society. Now a team led by Binghamton University archaeologist Carl Lipo has examined more than 400 of the artifacts and found that they would have made for sub-par spear points. "What people traditionally think about the island as being this island of catastrophe and collapse just isn't true in a prehistoric sense," said Lipo in a Binghamton University press release. "Populations were successful and lived sustainably on the island up until European contact." Lipo believes ma'ta were actually used as agricultural implements, and perhaps for tattooing, and that Easter Island did not begin to decline until after European contact. To read more about archaeology in the Pacific, go to "Letter From Hawaii: Inside Kauai's Past."

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