Easter Island people used sharpened stones as tools, not weapons | Science News


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Easter Island people used sharpened stones as tools, not weapons

Obsidian artifacts challenge notion that warfare led to collapse of Rapa Nui civilization

3:30pm, February 18, 2016
obsidian tools

SPEAR NOT  A new analysis of obsidian artifacts from Easter Island indicates that these finds served as tools for planting and other daily activities. Some researchers have portrayed these implements as spearpoints that were used by warring island groups before Europeans arrived in the 1700s.

Sharpened stones previously viewed as spear points wielded by warring Easter Islanders actually served as general-purpose tools, researchers say.

Early European visitors to Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, wrote in the late 1700s that the islanders carried spears topped with sharp, triangular pieces of glassy lava, or obsidian. In the past 20 years, some researchers have suggested that fighting among spear-bearing groups — following the leveling of resource-rich palm forests around 1550 — destroyed Rapa Nui civilization before Europeans arrived.

But the Rapa Nui probably used the alleged spearpoints in a variety of ways that had nothing to do with killing each other, say archaeologist Carl Lipo of Binghamton University in New York and his colleagues. These sharp rocks, known as mata’a, would have been useful for

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