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Estimated dates of initial settlement of Easter Island have ranged from 300 to 1200 AD thought the current best estimation for colonization is in the 12th century AD.
Easter Island colonization likely coincided with the arrival of the first settlers in Hawaii.
However, land clearing for cultivation and the introduction of the Polynesian rat led to gradual deforestation.
By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island's population was estimated to be 2,000–3,000.
This was an attempt by competing groups to destroy the socio-spiritual power, or mana, represented by statues, making sure to break them in the fall to ensure they were dead and without power.
None were left standing by the time of the arrival of the French missionaries in the 1860s.
Similar sacred zones with statuary (marae and ahu) in East Polynesia demonstrates homology with most of Eastern Polynesia. By the 15th century, two confederations, hanau, of social groupings, mata, existed, based on lineage.
The western and northern portion of the island belonged to the Tu'u, which included the royal Miru, with the royal center at Anakena, though Tahai and Te Peu served as earlier capitals.
Tahiti, further depleted the population, reducing it to a low of 111 native inhabitants in 1877. In 1966, the Rapa Nui were granted Chilean citizenship.
William Churchill (1912) inquired about the phrase and was told that there were three te pito o te henua, these being the three capes (land's ends) of the island.