I didn’t actually know much about Rapa Nui before I read this book, apart from knowing of the existence of the moai and a vague idea that their civilisation committed “ecocide”, stripping their island of too many resources for it to recover and impoverishing their local environment for good. Hunt and Lipo strongly suggest otherwise, talking about the evidence of clever farming techniques designed to get the best out of the soil, and discussing the actual culprit for the devastation (invasive species brought by boat). I didn’t know about lithic mulching before, for instance, a method of covering soil with broken-up rock in order to allow the elements to leach minerals out of it and into the soil.
Hunt and Lipo discuss the moai as well, of course, discussing their purpose and how they were moved into place, but as part of the bigger context of the society on Rapa Nui and the challenges they had to deal with. I found it an enjoyable and evidence-based approach to a topic I didn’t know much about before — bravo.