The Mystery of Easter Island


"This really was a germ warfare"



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"This really was a germ warfare"

Dr Paul Rainbird,University of Wales, Lampeter
Final assault

The real killer of the original Easter Islanders came across the ocean. After 1722, it became popular for explorers to visit Easter Island, bringing their own diseases. Syphilis appears in the bones of the native people for the first time. But the final blow came in 1862 when slave traders landed from Peru and took away 1,500 people, a third of the population. Transported to South America, within one year all but 15 were dead. They were brought back to their homes. Little did the Islanders know with what they had returned. A smallpox epidemic left only 111 alive by 1877.



Against the guns and germs of the modern world, what chance had the birdmen stood? Jo Anne van Tilburg regards their story as one of triumph over adversity, a hymn to the human spirit. Others like anthropologist Charlie Love point to a testing ground for the development of remote societies, one that reached equilibrium at a bloody end. The mystery of Easter Island is also a story of terrible folly.


inhabitants

residents

hypothesis

educated guess

disproved

proved false

flourished

grew

abundant

plentiful

iconic

famous

disputes

arguments/argues against

fragments

pieces

totem

symbol/important object

immortal

incapable of dying

scarce

rare/not enough

emaciated

shockingly skinny

felling

destroying

parable

story

rapidly

quickly

deforestation

(cutting down huge numbers of trees)

erosion

wearing away

severely

very badly/angrily

self-inflicted

self-injured

catastrophe

terrible event

diminishing

reducing

assault

attack

syphilis

(sexually transmitted disease)

epidemic

widespread disease

triumph

win/victory

adversity

trouble

hymn

religious song

anthropologist

(person who studies people)

equilibrium

steadiness/balance

folly

stupidity





BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2013.


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