Discussion of Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed drew criticism from several bloggers here: Lex, Shannon, as well as a more positive take on his earlier Guns, Germs & Steel by Michael Hiteshew, who voices an appreciation shared by many of us who were more critical of this later, apocalyptic work.
A&L, that great aggregator, has linked to an article by Terry L. Hunt, Rethinking the Fall of Easter Island, that finds Diamond’s assumptions quite wrong. We are pleased when we see a scientist, in Arnold’s words, “turn back on himself” – not because we want their assumptions to be wrong but because we respect those who are willing to listen to what the evidence says, to approach their projects with sympathies but not closed minds. So, Hunt tells us:
When I first went to Rapa Nui to conduct archaeological research, I expected to help confirm this story. Instead, I found evidence that just didn’t fit the underlying timeline. As I looked more closely at data from earlier archaeological excavations and at some similar work on other Pacific islands, I realized that much of what was claimed about Rapa Nui’s prehistory was speculation. I am now convinced that self-induced environmental collapse simply does not explain the fall of the Rapanui.