Friday, November 24, 2006

Rats Killed Easter!

The problem with writing the copy for the 3D children's atlas that I am working on is that I am petrified of making factual errors.

When I started this project, I bought four children's atlases. As I've steadily dug through them, I've come across dozens of mistakes. Some of them are mind-boggling, like the one with text claiming that the Equator is in Central America. Others have less conspicuous flaws, such as overlooking the existence of Qatar.

Anyway, being a compulsive fact-checker while learning every minute detail about a region adds up to one thing and one thing only.

Missing deadlines.

But there's not much I can do about that, so let's talk about something more interesting. Like Easter Island.

And rats.

The big mystery of Easter Island is not where the big heads came from or why they were carved. Every continent has their mysterious architectural masterpieces. Did aliens make the Great Pyramids? How did the stelae get to Axum? Oh, surely aliens. I'm good with that.

But why didn't the aliens whisk those poor Easter Islanders off to Chile when all their trees died?

I'd always believed the catastrophic deforestation theories about Easter Island, and the study I just read by Terry L. Hunt doesn't argue the deforestation point.

But it places the blame somewhere unexpected. Previously, blame had been placed on the common criminal: Mankind. But not Hunt. He blames something else.

Rats. Rats came in by ship from Europe, ate the vegetation and tree seeds, and caused deforestation. Erosion of soil, no farming, no veggies, no canoes, no way off the island. Cannibalism. Rat-eating. Dog-eating. No wonder they tipped their big stone heads over. I'd have been pissed too.


scarfalonius said...

Psst...Hunt says it was the first Polynesian settlers, not Europeans, who brought the rats over. It's not clear if the rats stowed away or were considered a food source by the Polynesians. Europeans were notorious for introducing rats wherever they went, but it looks like they're off the hook on this one.

Doesn't mean aliens from outer space weren't involved, which, you know, is a relief.

Marie Javins said...

Oops! I am guilty of assuming that everyone blames Europeans. Or Americans. And of skimming.