This paper discusses changes in Rapa Nui subsistence patterns over time and the social implications of those changes. As revealed by the archaeological record, the symbols of status and power shifted over time.

In the early settlement phase, dated to around AD 800-1100, power and status appears to have been tied to activities directed towards the sea. The majority of the bones found in early cultural deposits on the island were derived from fish whose habitats range from 500-1000 meters offshore (Martinsson-Wallin and Crockford 2001). There were also many bones from sea mammals such as spinner dolphin (delfinidae).