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Plant microfossil analysis of deposits from Te Niu, Rapa Nui, demonstrates forest disruption c. AD 1300 and subsequent dryland multi-cropping

by Mark Horrocks last modified 2010-12-04 09:49 AM

Wozniak JA, Horrocks M, Cummings L. 2010. In: Wallin P, Martinsson-Wallin H (eds) The Gotland Papers: Selected Papers from the VII International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific. Gotland University Press. Pp 111-124.


Plant microfossil analysis was recently carried out on 12 soil samples associated with a variety of landscape features at three locations (100-250 m a.s.l.) on the northwest coast of Easter Island at Te Niu. These results, along with earlier microfossil analyses of 7 soil samples from Te Niu, indicate burning of palm-dominated forest and the development of a mixed-crop, dryland production system. Charcoal and obsidian associated with the soil samples provide a radiocarbon and obsidian hydration timeframe.

The original Te Niu forest was cleared probably between AD 1300 and 1450, with coastal forest cut initially and upslope forest a century or more later. Starch grain, pollen and phytolith evidence indicates cultivation of four introduced crops: common yam (Dioscorea alata), sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), taro (Colocasia esculenta) and bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria). The results show the potential for this type of analysis in providing direct evidence of crop type and range elsewhere on Easter Island.

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