I really love the great example of historic research. OK, I also love the fact that it’s all about the Easter Island statues that I’ve always found fascinating, but mostly I love it as an example of historical research. I find that most people don’t have a clear idea in their head what research actually is. While the concrete steps they took through archeology are a little different than you would use for historical research where there are records, the ideas about research expressed are refreshingly solid.
I especially appreciated:
This step wasn’t really the end result of what they were doing, but they first examined everything they could about the area and its history. They looked at facts and theories and what people who said things had facts that actually had to back them up.
They do a great job of this because they started as believers in the conventional wisdom. Whenever you do research you need to have a question or a prospective answer that they could prove or disprove.
They dug, literally in this case, looking for both things that backed up what they were saying and things that didn’t. They acknowledged that things they expected to find that they weren’t. So, and this is one of the important bits, they didn’t try to explain away why they didn’t find what they were looking for, they didn’t just assume what they were looking for existed somewhere, they didn’t extrapolate. They tried to find a new theory that fit the evidence they had.
4. They didn’t assume people in the past were exactly the same as us.
I’m always amazed at how many people look at the past and assume they looked at things the same way we do or they are stupid. These researchers’s original hypothesis was shown to have more to do with 21st century concerns than evidence on the ground. That happens a lot, people doing research start with a mind set or a place where they want to end up so only look at evidence one way. It often leads people to ignore evidence. These researched didn’t. They kept looking for answers and were able to come up with a completely different story that actually was supported by evidence. That’s what a real researcher does. Also, their new theory shows once again that people in the past weren’t stupid.
5. Hands On Experimentation
They also did a little hands on experimentation to see if part of their theory actually worked. I’m all for that. The easiest way to tell what it’s like to do something is, after gathering all the information you can, to try it yourself.