Restoring Prehistoric Landscapes on Easter Island

Wildlife & Ecosystems

Restoring Prehistoric Landscapes on Easter Island

What did the ancient world of the people of Easter Island look like? Earthwatchers helped researchers unearth and recreate it.

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

In modern times, erosion accelerated, while previously successful technologies have been forgotten and abandoned.

Volunteers explored whether or not ancient agricultural practices could help contemporary residents of Easter Island better manage their agricultural needs.

The massive stone sculptures (moai) that dot this remote Polynesian island have perplexed explorers for centuries. Usually facing the vast, open ocean, the statues offer mute testimony to a nearly vanished civilization. These famous giants are not the entire story of Easter Island, however. Prior to disastrous changes here in the 17th century, the islanders enjoyed a millennium of peace and prosperity, secured through innovative farming techniques.

Easter Island has suffered from heavy soil erosion in recent centuries, making agriculture difficult. Traditionally, the inhabitants mitigated this problem with an efficient agricultural system based on rock gardens. In modern times, however, erosion has accelerated as these previously successful technologies have been all but forgotten.

Famous stone moai on Easter Island, believed to represent the spirits of ancestors and powerful chiefs

Earthwatchers discovered the sophisticated agriculture practices used by an ancient civilization.

On this expedition, Earthwatchers helped researchers examine the role of prehistoric rock mulching and rock placement in gardens and agricultural systems as ways of creating a sustainable agricultural system. They also helped conduct experiments to assess whether and how this prehistoric technology could be reintroduced on the island today.

About the research area

Easter Island, Chile, South America

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:

The Scientists


Haoa Cardinali
Virginia Department of Historic Resources & Coordinator of National Monuments, Easter Island

ABOUT Sonia Haoa Cardinali

Earthwatch researcher Sonia Haoa Cardinali was born on Easter Island; she is the island's coordinator of national monuments and a leader in the preservation of its heritage.


Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


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