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Island at the End of the World: The Turbulent History of Easter Island [Paperback]

By Steven Roger Fischer, Bill Willits, Jingying Zhao (Editor), W. H. Auden (Introduction by), Nancy Goodwin (Editor), Honey Naylor (Contributor), Becky Freeman & B. Teissier (Editor)
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Item Number 303919  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   304
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   0.84 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2006
Publisher   Reaktion Books
ISBN  1861892829  
EAN  9781861892829  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
On a long stretch of green coast in the South Pacific, hundreds of enormous, impassive stone heads stand guard against the ravages of time, war, and disease that have attempted over the centuries to conquer Easter Island. Steven Roger Fischer offers the first English-language history of Easter Island in "Island at the End of the World," a fascinating chronicle of adversity, triumph, and the enduring monumentality of the island's stone guards.
A small canoe with Polynesians brought the first humans to Easter Island in 700 CE, and when boat travel in the South Pacific drastically decreased around 1500, the Easter Islanders were forced to adapt in order to survive their isolation. Adaptation, Fischer asserts, was a continuous thread in the life of Easter Island: the first European visitors, who viewed the awe-inspiring monolithic busts in 1722, set off hundreds of years of violent warfare, trade, and disease--from the smallpox, wars, and Great Death that decimated the island to the late nineteenth-century Catholic missionaries who tried to "save" it to a despotic Frenchman who declared sole claim of the island and was soon killed by the remaining 111 islanders. The rituals, leaders, and religions of the Easter Islanders evolved with all of these events, and Fischer is just as attentive to the island's cultural developments as he is to its foreign invasions.
Bringing his history into the modern era, Fischer examines the colonization and annexation of Easter Island by Chile, including the Rapanui people's push for civil rights in 1964 and 1965, by which they gained full citizenship and freedom of movement on the island. As travel to and interest in the island rapidly expand, "Island at the End of the World" is an essential history of this mysterious site.

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More About Steven Roger Fischer, Bill Willits, Jingying Zhao, W. H. Auden, Nancy Goodwin, Honey Naylor, Becky Freeman & B. Teissier

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Steven Roger Fischer is director of the Institute of Polynesian Languages and Literatures in Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author of A History of Language, A History of Writing, and A History of Reading, all available from Reaktion Books.

Steven Roger Fischer currently resides in Auckland. Steven Roger Fischer has an academic affiliation as follows - Institute of Polynesian Languages and Literatures, Auckland.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Easter Island in person  Nov 4, 2007
An excellent detailed history of Easter Island and the Rapanui people confirmed by the decendents we were priveledged to show us the Island. It goes well beyond the facinating stone figures to the why and how of their constuction, destruction and restoration to the tradgedies of the natives existence up to the recent past.
TRUST BUT VERIFY  Aug 28, 2005
As the author of "The Complete Guide to Easter Island" and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Easter Island Foundation, I believe I can state, with all due modesty, that I am duly qualified to evaluate Steven Roger Fischer's "Island at the End of the World" -- and my general view is that this is a valuable resource anyone interested in Easter Island should have on her or her bookshelf. Until now, the history of Easter Island has been featured as chapters in larger works or in highly abbreviated form. Worse, the history of Easter Island histories has been rife with inaccuracies that are largely the product of scholars and writers regurgitating past errors without any attempt to verify facts or to take the latest information in account. Nor is there any shortage of misinformation about Easter Island (and a lot fewer mysteries than most people understand), so it's good to see such a comprehensive work devoted to the subject.

Having said this, I must nevertheless express some reservations about a few things Fischer included because they are factually inaccurate or represent poor judgment on his part and may reflect other, more serious errors. In other words, while I wouldn't go to far as to say one or two blunders are representative of the whole work, the fact that they exist (and the fact that the book covers such extensive territory, where more arcane and obscure information may be buried in the wealth of data), is cause for some concern.

1) The Chincha Islands / guano mines story (page 89). It just won't die. It's one of many myths about Easter Island -- that Peruvian slave raids in 1862 brought Easter Islanders to mine guano on the Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru. Yes, Peruvian slavers captured hundreds of islanders and took them to work as indentured servants for rich Peruvian land owners -- but this was on coastal Peru, not the Chincha Islands, and certainly not in the guano mines. It's a legend that appears countlessly in Easter Island literature and has been resoundingly debunked by island researcher Grant McCall, who conducted extensive genealogical research into the matter and has revealed repeatedly that there is no evidence whatsoever to substantiate the claim that islanders were ever on the Chincha Islands. Amidst the many horrific things Europeans did to the early Easter Islanders, this legend is far from incredible. But it's simply not true. Of course, legends deserve their space in history, but Fischer fails to adequately qualify his statements in this regard. It's surprising. Wrong and surprising.

2) Fischer repeatedly refers to the Easter Island palm as "Jubaea chilensis" (the Chilean Wine Palm) -- see, for example, page 8 -- when in fact the Easter Island palm has its own name and scientific classification: "Paschalococos disperta" (a/k/a the Feather Palm). John Dransfield of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England, designated the Easter Island palm thus to specifically distinguish it from the Chilean Wine Palm. While there is some evidence to suggest these two palms were similar in size and possibly appearance, they are nevertheless distinct species. (Surviving, empty endocarps or seeds have been found on Easter Island -- and they are clearly not the same species as the endocarps of the Chilean Wine Palm; this was part of the basis upon which Dransfield developed a separate classification for the Easter Island palm.) Oddly enough, Fischer even cites the scientific literature in which Dransfield's classification is made but nevertheless fails to refer to the Easter Island palm correctly. Again, surprising. Wrong and surprising.

While a more detailed follow-up would be undeniably meritorious, these are but two points worth making initially. They may sound like picayune points, yes -- but, when it comes to Easter Island, it is my firm belief that there's more than enough misinformation out there already -- between the ridiculous "ancient astronaut" nonsense to the now defunct diffusionist theories of Heyerdahl. Therefore, the closer we can get to an accurate understanding of Easter Island, the better.

I would like to be able to recommend Fischer's "Island at the End of the World" without reservation but I can't. I do recommend it, however -- but with the qualification that should accompany anything written about Easter Island (including my own book): Trust but verify.

Another reviewer has mentioned that "Originally the island was forested and may have sopported [sic] larger mammals and other beasts". While the former is undeniably true, the latter is not. No evidence whatsoever has emerged to substantiate the notion that any land mammals or "other beasts" were on Easter Island before the colonists from eastern Polynesia arrived (unless by "other beasts" one means migratory sea birds!). And though the colonists may have brought with them the dog and the pig when they left their homeland, neither of these evidently survived the long ocean voyage to Easter Island. The chicken did, however -- and, together with the Polynesian rat, these represented the only land animals on Easter Island until the early European explorers arrived in the 18th century.
Most recent account of the island  Aug 19, 2005
This concise account of Easter Islan history presents some new scholarhsip and rehashes the same stories of the islands remarkable facts and people. Easter Island is known for its isolation and its statues, as well as its startling degree of population decline. Easter Island was discovered, forgotten and then rediscovered. Its people originally arrived on canoes as part of the Polynesian expansion and colonization of the Pacific. Originally the island was forested and may have sopported larger mammals and other beasts, however in short time the trees were cut down and only chickens, brought by the polynesians, remained. The population embarked on the construction of the great stone statues, and then proceeded to fight endless wars. The art of canoe building was forgotten. When Europeans arrived diseases decimated the population untill few remained. The few that did remain were interviewed about their naitonal myths but no information could be found on the giant stone structures, that the people then living seemed in no position to be able to create with the tools they had.

A good book.

Seth J. Frantzman

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