Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mata'a: "Weapons of Mass Destruction?"

Often in lectures, I bring up the point that some researchers have argued that the stemmed obsidian tools of Rapa Nui (see one below) were used as so-called "lethal weapons.”  This notion is part of the “Collapse” story that Diamond has made popular.  The argument goes that since these obsidian (sharp!) tools are found laying around the island (lots!) they must the leftovers from scenes of great battles in prehistory (the horror!).  In my classes, I often jokingly say that these researchers treat these treat these stone tools as the smoking gun.. the “Weapons of Mass Destruction.”  The thing is… these kinds of claims are actually being made.  And worse, they are being made by people who study ACTUAL WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. You know... the kinds that kill people, not the “rocks on a stick” kind.  Check out this paper from two reseachers (Rasmussen and Hafez) at the Naval Post Graduate School, Defense Threat Reduction Agency. No, really… Check it out. 

“Terrorist Innovations in Weapons of Mass of Effect: Preconditions, Causes, and Predictive Indicators.”

If the Defense Department is confusing rocks on sticks with weapons of mass destruction, we are in big trouble. 

Figure 1: Rock on stick sans stick.

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