WHEN EUROPEANS FIRST REACHED RAPA Nui, or Easter Island, on Easter Day, 1722, they were awed to find around 1,000 imposing stone moai, or monoliths, carved in the shape of human beings. The statues overlooked a barren landscape. While archaeological evidence shows that Rapa Nui was once lushly forested, by the time Europeans reached the island, it had been clear-cut, devastated by human overuse, ecological change, or a bloody civil war. The population, which had once likely numbered in the tens of thousands, had been reduced to 3,000 at most.
Read more at Atlas Obscura. Featured image: Antonio Sánchez, Unsplash.