European explorers reached the island in 1722 and found less than 2000 people living in a marginal existence cave. The island had gigantic statues of carved stone which is evidence that a sophisticated civilization had once lived there. This island lacked trees but earlier in history it didn"t. Scientists determined that the island was once prosperous supporting a society of 6000 to 30 000 people. This society exceeded their carrying capacity by overusing resources and cutting down trees. Scientists used many ways to determine the islands fate. John flenley a british scientist, excavated sediments from the bottoms of the islands volcanic crater lakes, examining ancient grains of pollen to reconstruct changes in vegetation over time. They discovered that when polynesians first arrived at the island, it was covered with palm tree related to the tall thick-trunked chilean wine palm. These palms would provide fuelwood, building material, canoes, fruit, fibre and logs to move stone statues.