Thursday saw the publication of an article entitled ‘Secret to long life lies on Easter Island’ which makes the claim that the people who built the moai of Rapa Nui are a long lost people. The article itself is basically a fluff piece about a potential anti-agaptic, but the comments about the people of Rapa Nui just indicative of both a laziness on the part of the Herald when it comes to these kinds of reports, as well as disturbingly in the vein of Doutré and Heyerdahl.
I wrote a letter in reply to the article. It did not see print but I reproduce it below anyway.
In a recent article ‘Secret to long life lies on Easter Island’ the builders of the large stone statutes, more properly known as ‘moai,’ of Rapa Nui are referred to as a ‘lost statue-building people’ and later as a ‘lost people.’ This is a fairly ridiculous claim, given that the people living on Rapa Nui today are themselves very same people who built the moai; I’m fairly sure they do not consider themselves a lost people or that they feel somehow divorced from their ancestors.
Given the Herald’s recent publication of an inaccurate article alleging that there was a pre-Maori civilisation in New Zealand can I recommend a little more editorial oversight on matters such as these? We owe a duty to all peoples to present their history as accurately as possible. Claims like “There was a pre-Maori civilisation in New Zealand” and “The moai where built by a long lost people” are simply not justified, given that they go against the wealth of anthropological, ethnological, linguistic and archaeological data which is readily and easily accessible to anyone who wants to check the facts.