Easter Island

The Lost Forest


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“The miracle of Easter Island lies in this audacity that drove the inhabitants of a small island, devoid of resources, to erect against the horizon of the Pacific Ocean, monuments worthy of a great people.”

Alfred Métraux


This fact, seen by Alfred Métraux to be a miracle, was for a long time regarded as one of the great enigmas of Easter Island. Indeed, the first navigators and explorers discovered an island almost completely devoid of forest cover, yet whose littoral was decorated with monumental statues.



Over the years, almost a thousand statues have been found, a large number of which had been transported from their place of construction to the island shoreline where they were erected on stone platforms. The largest of these statues measured thirty-two feet tall and its weight exceeded 20 tonnes. One half-finished statue, found lying in a quarry, measured seventy-two feet long and its weight was judged at more than a hundred tonnes.

How had the islanders dwelling here proceeded to fashion and raise such impressive monuments when they had no wood ? This resource would have been essential for the manufacture of rope, winches and structures crucial to the transport and the erection of their large statues, the so-called Moai.



Recent research revealing the presence of fossilized pollen in the island’s soil now clearly shows that the land had been thickly forested from a very ancient era on until shortly before the arrival of the first visitors. So the elements necessary for erection of the great statues had indeed been available at the time they were erected. 

This mystery being solved, a new mystery became manifest, since it was now necessary to understand the causes of the disappearance of the island’s forest itself.



While satisfactory explanations have been found to several of the great enigmas concerning Easter Island, the disappearance of the island’s forest cover has given rise to a polemic wherein two completely opposing theses clash.

Indeed, according to a thesis that is often evoked, Easter Island is the prototypical example illustrating the serious consequences of the overexploitation of natural resources by man. According to this thesis, the deforestation of the island, noted by the first explorers, was due to the negligence of the Pascuenses themselves. This latter group, applying no forethought, were said to have cut down all the trees essential to their survival for domestic purposes or even more foolishly, for constructing, transporting and setting up their famous Moai. The disappearance of the trees thus ineluctably led to the decline of their civilization and the near disappearance of the Pascuenses.

According to another thesis, also often evoked, the deforestation of the island was instead due to a climatic incident, that is to say a phase of intense cooling or a long period of dryness. Indeed, although the vegetation of the island had in the beginning appreciably been the same one as that which partly covers the other islands of Polynesia, Easter Island, being located much more to the south, is periodically subject to very cold southern winds and does not enjoy the benefits of substantial rainfall. Thus, the vegetation, very abundant in the past, was however undoubtedly at many times very close to its thresold of survival.


Combining the conclusion of new scientific discoveries and ancient facts concerning Easter Island and Polynesia, the author brings new light to bear on this fascinating mystery.

Dimensions: 7 1/2 X 5 1/2 in.

174 pages,  28 photos black and white.

First Edition: 17 mars 2008

ISBN: 978-2-9810449-2-7

Copywrite: Jean Hervé Daude