Easter Island has been used as a famous example of what can happen to a culture when it exhausts its resources (as seen in Jared Diamond’s Collapse). Recently, though, that idea has come into question.
Did the original settlers of Easter Island (the Rapanui) really die off due to their obsessive deforestation and cult-like competition to erect the large Moai sculptures? Or did they actually settle there much later, succumbing to other factors?
The newest research blames the infestation of a polynesian rat for the rapid deforestation of the island, where it would have quickly multiplied to a population of millions of seed-eating pests.
A lack of resources probably had something to do with the Rapanui population crash, but likely wasn’t the only factor. The poetic example of a native people living outside their natural means and suffering the consequences might be due to collapse itself.
(via Discover Magazine)