Easter Island discovery: all options remain open

According to the current paradigm, the remote and enigmatic Easter Island, in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, is thought to have been discovered and settled by Polynesian sailors between about 800 and 1200 CE. However, recent studies using the latest genomic, anthropological and paleoecological techniques have revived constroversy about a potential Amerindian discovery before Polynesian settlement.

The whole story can be read in a recent revision published in the journal Quaternary, where all the existing hypotheses on Easter Island discovery and settlement are reviewed and evaluated in light of the existing archaeological, anthropological, historical and paleoecological evidence. The reference and the abstract of this review are provided at following.

Reference: Rull, V. 2019. Human Discovery and Settlement of the Remote Easter Island (SE Pacific). Quaternary 2, 15.

Abstract. The discovery and settlement of the tiny and remote Easter Island (Rapa Nui) has been a classical controversy for decades. Present-day aboriginal people and their culture are undoubtedly of Polynesian origin, but it has been debated whether Native Americans discovered the island before the Polynesian settlement. Until recently, the paradigm was that Easter Island was discovered and settled just once by Polynesians in their millennial-scale eastward migration across the Pacific. However, the evidence for cultivation and consumption of an American plant—the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas)—on the island before the European contact (1722 CE), even prior to the Europe-America contact (1492 CE), revived controversy. This paper reviews the classical archaeological, ethnological and paleoecological literature on the subject and summarizes the information into four main hypotheses to explain the sweet potato enigma: the long-distance dispersal hypothesis, the back-and-forth hypothesis, the Heyerdahl hypothesis, and the newcomers hypothesis. These hypotheses are evaluated in light of the more recent evidence (last decade), including molecular DNA phylogeny and phylogeography of humans and associated plants and animals, physical anthropology (craniometry and dietary analysis), and new paleoecological findings. It is concluded that, with the available evidence, none of the former hypotheses may be rejected and, therefore, all possibilities remain open. For future work, it is recommended to use the multiple working hypotheses framework and the strong inference method of hypothesis testing, rather than the ruling theory approach, very common in Easter Island research.

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Posted in My publications, Quaternary Journal

Pre-order the book on Pantepui biodiversity

The book entitled “Biodiversity of Pantepui: the Pristine Lost World of the Neotropical Guiana Highlands” (Eds., V. Rull, T. Vegas-Vilarrúbia, O. Huber and J.C. Señaris) has been finished and is now in production by Elsevier/Academic Press. Pre-orders with a 15% discount can be placed following this link. The expected date of release is July 1, 2019. Click here for a video of the unique Pantepui landscape.

The book provides the most updated and comprehensive knowledge on the composition, origin and evolution of the biota of the Pantepui biogeographical province. It synthesizes historical information and recent discoveries, covering the main biogeographic patterns and evolutionary trends. Written by international experts on the biodiversity, biogeography, evolution and conservation of this pristine land, this book explores the environmental and biogeographical factors, along with the characteristics that make Pantepui a unique natural laboratory to study the origin and evolution of Neotropical biodiversity using only natural drivers.

The book covers organisms living in Pantepui, including vascular plants, mosses, algae, aquatic insects, butterflies, land snails, scorpions, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, with later sections delving into the potential effects of global warming and current conservational efforts to combat these threats. This book will be an important resource for researchers, ecologists and conservationists who not only want to understand the biodiversity and history of this pristine land, but also help to help conserve and protect it from environmental and human damages.


Rull, V., Vegas-Vilarrúbia, T., Huber, O. & Señaris, J.C. 2019. Biodiversity of Pantepui: the Pristine Lost World of the Neotropical Guiana Highlands. Elsevier/Academic Press, Cambridge. ISBN 9780128155912.

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Palynology and Vegetation History – new book

A new book has been published in the Frontiers Research Topic series entitled “Palynology and Vegetation History“, to commemorate the centenary of the first quantitative pollen diagram, produced by the Swedish geologist Lennart von Post, the founder of paleoecological palynology. The book has been edited by Valentí Rull (ICTJA-CSIC, Spain), Encarni Montoya (ICTA-CSIC, Spain), Thomas Giesecke (Georg-August Univ. Göttingen, Germany) and Jesse Morris (Univ. Utah, USA) and consists of 18 papers by 91 contributors from Africa, North and South America, Europe and Oceania.

The main aim of the book is to provide a thorough view of the use of palynology in aspects such as the reconstruction of Quaternary vegetation and environmental changes, the role of natural and anthropogenic drivers in the development of the Quaternary vegetation, the shaping of present-day ecological and biogeographical patterns, the potential application of this knowledge in biodiversity conservation and landscape restoration and the development of new methods of pollen analysis and data management. The Research Topic is subdivided into four main conceptual parts, namely (1) modern analog studies; (2) land cover estimates from pollen data; (3) vegetation dynamics reconstructions from Europe, North and South America, Africa and Oceania; and (4) large-scale reviews and meta-analyses. Hopefully, this Research Topic will serve to appraise the state of the art of modern palynology and highlight the usefulness of this discipline in long-term ecological research.


Rull, V., Montoya, E., Giesecke, T., Morris, J. L. (2019). Palynology and Vegetation History. Frontiers Media, Lausanne, 286 p. ISBN 978-2-88945-687-1.

The book can be freely downloaded here

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The third issue of the journal Quaternary has been published

The third issue of the first volume (2018) of the open-access journal Quaternary has been released. Clich here to see the contents in the official journal webpage or download the Table of Contents in pdf.

To receive quarterly updates of the journal’s table of contents, subscribe to the e-mail alerts in the journal website.

Click here to submit a manuscript and here to propose a special issue.

Aims and scopeEditorial BoardAuthor’s instructions

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What if the ‘Anthropocene’ is not formalised as new geological epoch?

In the coming years, the Anthropocene Working Group (AWG) will submit its proposal on the ‘Anthropocene’ as a new geological epoch to the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS). If approved, the proposal will be send to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) for ratification. If ratified, the current Holocene epoch will be officially terminated. The ‘Anthropocene’ is a broadly used term and concept and, for many, its official acceptance is only a matter of time. However, the AWG proposal, in its present state, seems to not fully meet the ICS requirements for a new geological epoch.

In a recent paper published in Quaternary, I ask what could happen if the current ‘Anthropocene’ proposal is not formalised by the ICS/IUGS. The possible stratigraphic alternatives are evaluated on the basis of the more recent literature and the personal opinions of distinguished AWG and ICS members. The eventual impact on environmental sciences and on non-scientific sectors, where the ‘Anthropocene’ seems already firmly rooted and de facto accepted as a new geological epoch, are also discussed.


Rull, V. 2018. What if the ‘Anthropocene’ is not formalized as a new geological series/epoch? Quaternary, 1: 24, doi 10.3390/quat1030024.

Posted in anthropocene, My publications

Second issue of the new open-access journal Quaternary

The second issue the recently created open-access jorunal Quaternary has just been released. This issue contains ten papers: an editorial on Quaternary highlights, a paleoinsight and eight research papers. Five of these research papers belong to the special issue ‘Advances in Quaternary Studies: the Contribution of the Mammalian Fossil Record‘ and three are part of the special issue entitled ‘Special External Effects on Fluvial System Evolution‘.

The journal covers all aspects of Quaternary science, embracing the whole range of scientific fields related to geological, geographical, biological, physical, chemical, environmental and human sciences. There are no limits on space, figures and color (see the author’s instructions). More details are available in the journal website, where the inaugural editorial paper can be read and downloaded.

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