Interrelation of Prehistoric Wells, Groundwater Resources, and Statues on Easter Island Imply Intrinsic Understanding of Natural Landscape by Rapanui People
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Commonly overlooked in the numerous narratives of Easter Island's mystery is the most critical resource to human beings: freshwater. Recent field research on the Island focused on sea ramps and puna (archaeological well features) that may have allowed the prehistoric Rapanui people to obtain this essential resource. A drone with a high-resolution camera and a Trimble GPS unit were used to create 3-dimensional reconstructions of the sea ramps and puna; and an extensive on-site survey of the coastline was conducted to identify traces of freshwater at the marine interface. These two data sets were geographically compared with previously mapped locations ofmoai (statues) and ahu (statue platforms). The puna are found within 50 meters of a moai or ahu presentation. Additionally, in these areas fresh, potable groundwater seeps into the sea. This correlation of puna, potable water, and ahu with moai suggests a connection between resource use and moai placement, challenging previous beliefs that moai were merely 70-ton manifestations of ancestor worship. For a culture that has been previously portrayed as an example of "ecocide," the Rapanui may actually provide a template for the modem world of how to live in equilibrium with the environment and its resources. In the face of current global resource shortages, including freshwater, their prehistoric population and resource management strategies should not be viewed as a cautionary guide, but as a lesson to avoid our own demise.