Paul G. Bahn


This paper arose in part from my own interest in the persistent popularity of the phenomenon of cannibalism as an explanation in Archaeology (e.g. see Bahn 1990; 1991; 1992), and In part from Steven Fischer's report in the invaluable Rapa Nui Journal (1992) of an alleged visit to Easter Island by a French vessel in 1845. In what must be one of the most ridiculous yarns ever spun about the island, it was claimed that the crew was attacked by cannibals, and "Mr Ollivier ... had, on various parts of his body, the teeth marks of those cruel islanders, who had begun to eat him alive."

This led me to wonder what, if any, hard evidence lies behind the claim, found throughout the literature on Easter Island, that its occupants were cannibals at some point in their history.