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> Easter Island, Photo Gallery and Info


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Posted: Feb 21 2005, 08:43 PM
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Easter Island - A Stone-Age Civilization of the Pacific

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The inhabitants of this charming and mysterious place called their land:
Te Pito o TeHenua, 'the navel of the world.'

It sits in the South Pacific Ocean 2,300 miles west of South America, 2,500 miles southeast of Tahiti, 4,300 miles south of Hawaii, 3,700 miles north of Antarctica.

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The closest other inhabited island is 1,260 miles away - tiny Pitcairn Island where the mutineers of the H.M.S. Bounty settled in 1790.

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Archaeological evidence indicates discovery of the island by Polynesians at about 400 AD.

In 1722, a Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggeveen, sighted and visited the island. This happened to be on a Sunday, Easter Sunday to be precise, and the name stuck: Easter Island (Isla de Pascua in Spanish).

What he discovered on Easter Island were three distinct groups of people, Dark skinned, Red skinned, and very Pale skinned People with red hair".

The Polynesian name of the island is Rapanui, which is a name given by a Tahitian visitor in the 19th century who says that the island looked like the Tahitian island of 'Rapa,' but bigger, 'Nui.'

Inhabitants are of Polynesian descent, but for decades anthropologists have argued the true origins of these people, some claiming that ancient South-American mariners settled the island first.

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What many early explorers who visited the island found, was a scattered population with almost no culture they could remember and without any links to the outside world.

The Easter islanders were easy prey for 19th century slave traders which depreciated even more their precarious culture, knowledge of the past, and skills of the ancestors.

When we think of Eastern Island we think of of huge stone carved figures -monoliths- that dot the coastline.

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They are called Moai and are carved from island rock.

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The Moai are seen all over the island, and in different shapes, sizes, and stages of completion. Many Moai are left unfinished at the quarry site.

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No one is sure yet as to what purposes did the Moai served, but outside scholarly research together with accumulated local knowledge, shows evidence that the Moai were carved by the ancestors of the present inhabitants.

Ron Fisher in his work Easter Island Brooding Sentinels of Stone, mentions as one explanation for the statues that "two classes of people, the-so-called Long Ears and Short Ears, lived on the island. The Short Ears were enslaved by the Long Ears, who forced the Short Ears to carve the Moai. After many generations and during a rebellion, the Short Ears surprised the Long Ears killing them all, which explains the abrupt end of the statue-carving.

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All of the Moai were toppled in tribal wars about 250 years ago.

Many have recently been rebuilt - starting in the 1950's.

They sit on rocky lava strewn about telling a story of fallen monuments of a long lost civilization who created them. The Moai were depictions of their ancestors. The Rapa Nui were ancestor worshipers and only had one diety - Make Make.

The Moai were excavated for the first time by Thor Heyerdahl in the 1950's and were photographed at that time.

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Ahu Akivi is an unusual site in several respects. A low ahu supports 7 statues all very similar in height and style. The site is odd in that it is located far inland and the statues were erected to face the ocean. The only site where this was done. Like other Easter Island sites the statues were found knocked off the ahu, lying face down in the ground. In 1960, Archeologist William Mulloy's team spent several months raising the statues to their original positions.

During the excavation and restoration of this site many cremation pits were uncovered behind the ahu. The pits contained fragments of bone, shells, fishing implements, and obsidian flakes. Whether sites like these were used regularly for cremations and or burials is not certain. At other sites skeletons have been found buried within the ahu structure, but these burials are believed to have occurred after the statues were toppled.

Folklore holds that its seven moai represent the seven young explorers that legend says the Polynesian King Hotu Matu'a dispatched from across the seas, probably from the Marquesas Islands, to find this new homeland for him and his people. They are among the few moai that face the sea.

These seven stone giants may well symbolize those seven explorers, but no one knows for sure. Just as no one knows what any of the moai really represent or why only a few of them face the sea.

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The generally accepted theory is that these majestic stone statues were built to honor Polynesian gods and deified ancestors such as chiefs and other figures important in the island's history. Most of them are attributed to the 14th and 15th centuries, although some were erected as long ago as the 10th Century.

Their function, it is believed, was to look out over a village or gravesite as a protector. They may also have been status symbols for villages or clans.

The seven at Ahu Akivi each stand about 16 feet high and weigh about 18 tons. The tallest moai on the island exceed 30 feet. Moai in the range of 12 to 20 feet are common. Even the occasional tiny moai that you come across are at least 6 feet high.

The ahu of Easter Island vary in length - the longest one is 300 feet, while some that hold one moai are only several feet long. Each ahu has a stone masonry base that slopes upward to a high terrace upon which the moai rest. Some terraces are as high as 15 feet above ground level. All are fairly wide - the bases of the moai that stand upon them measure as much as 10 feet long by 8 or 9 feet wide.

The island's volcanic rock from which they were carved is softer and lighter than most other rock, but even the smallest moai weighs several tons. Some of the moai have been estimated to weigh as much as 80 to 90 tons.

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Many of the moai - there are hundreds of them - are erected at sites miles from the quarry at which they were carved. How could so few people move them even a couple of feet, let alone several miles, and without breaking them?

And once they did move them, how did they erect them? Even today, using powerful cranes, it would be no simple task.

Theories on How the Moai Were Moved

Many Rapa Nui people believe that the statues were moved and erected by 'mana' a magical force. Great kings of a long-gone era simply used their mana to command the moai to move to the distant sites and stand there. Mana is a word and concept you hear frequently in South Seas lore. The people of Rapa Nui believed that the moai also possessed mana, which was instilled at the time their white coral eyes were put in place, and that the moai used their mana to protect the people of the island. Today none of the moai have genuine coral eyes - and thus the mana is no more.

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The generally accepted belief is that they were transported on sledges or log rollers and then levered erect using piles of stones and long logs.

Rongo Rongo Writings
Stone Tablets

There are only 21 known tablets in existence - scattered in museums and private collections. Tiny, remarkably regular glyphs, about one centimeter high, highly stylized and formalized, are carved in shallow grooves running the length of the tablets. Oral tradition has it that scribes used obsidian flakes or shark teeth to cut the glyphs and that writing was brought by the first colonists led by Hotu Matua. Last but not least, of the twenty one surviving tablets three bear the same text in slightly different "spellings", a fact discovered by three schoolboys of St Petersburg (then Leningrad), just before World War II.

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In 1868 newly converted Easter Islanders send to Tepano Jaussen, Bishop of Tahiti, as a token of respect, a long twine of human hair, wound around an ancient piece of wood. Tepano Jaussen examines the gift, and, lifting the twine, discovers that the small board is covered in hieroglyphs.

The bishop, elated at the discovery, writes to Father Hippolyte Roussel on Easter Island, exhorting him to gather all the tablets he can and to seek out natives able to translate them. But only a handful remain of the hundreds of tablets mentioned by Brother Eyraud only a few years earlier in a report to the Father Superior of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart.

Some say they were burnt to please the missionaries who saw in them evil relics of pagan times. Some say they were hidden to save them from destruction. Which side should we believe? Brother Eyraud had died in 1868 without having ever mentioned the tablets to anyone else, not even to his friend Father Zumbohm, who is astounded at the bishop's discovery. Monsignor Jaussen soon locates in Tahiti a laborer from Easter Island, Metoro, who claims to be able to read the tablets. He describes in his notes how Metoro turns each tablet around and around to find its beginning, then starts chanting its contents.

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The direction of writing is unique. Starting from the left hand bottom corner, you proceed from left to right and, at the end of the line, you turn the tablet around before you start reading the next line. Indeed, the orientation of the hieroglyphs is reversed every other line. Imagine a book in which every other line is printed back to front and upside down. That is how the tablets are written! Jaussen was not able to decipher the tablets.

Every Easter Islander knows that his ancestors were kai-tangata, 'man-eaters'. Some make jokes about it, others take offense at any allusion to this custom which has become in their eyes barbarous and shameful.

According to Father Roussel, cannibalism did not disappear until after the introduction of Christianity. Shortly before this, the natives are said to have eaten a number of men, including two Peruvian traders. Cannibal feasts were held in secluded spots, and women and children were rarely admitted. The natives told Father Zumbohm that the fingers and toes were the choicest morsels.

The captives destined to be eaten were shut up in huts in front of the sanctuaries. There they were kept until the moment when they were sacrificed to the gods.

The Easter Islanders' cannibalism was not exclusively a religious rite or the expression of an urge for revenge: it was also induced by a simple liking for human flesh that could impel a man to kill for no other reason than his desire for fresh meat. (Man was the only large mammal whose flesh was available)

Women and children were the principal victims of these inveterate cannibals. The reprisals that followed such crimes were all the more violent because an act of cannibalism committed against the member of a family was a terrible insult to the whole family. As among the ancient Maoris, those who had taken part in the meal were entitled to show their teeth to the relatives of the victim and say, 'Your flesh has stuck between my teeth'. Such remarks were capable of rousing those to whom they were addressed to a murderous rage not very different from the Maly amok.

http://www.crystalinks.com/easterisland.html

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Posted: Feb 22 2005, 03:22 PM
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I have always been interested in Easter Island!!!
Thanks Pupp for this informative post!!!!!!!




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Posted: Dec 28 2006, 11:00 AM
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The Other Mystery of Easter Island
Posted by Stephanie Benson on December 26th, 2006
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Easter Island is branded into popular consciousness as the home of the mysterious and towering moai statues, but these are not the only curiosity the South Pacific island holds.

Where the moai are fascinating for their unknown purpose and mysterious craftsmen, the island's lost language of Rongorongo is equally perplexing. The unique written language seems to have appeared suddenly in the 1700s, but within just two centuries it was exiled to obscurity.

Known as Rapa Nui to the island's inhabitants, Rongorongo is a writing system comprised of pictographs. It has been found carved into many oblong wooden tablets and other artifacts from the island's history. The art of writing was not known in any nearby islands and the script's mere existence is sufficient to confound anthropologists.

The most plausible explanation so far has been that the Easter Islanders were inspired by the writing they observed in 1770 when the Spanish claimed the island. However, despite its recency, no linguist or archaeologist has been able to successfully decipher the Rongorongo language.

When early Europeans discovered Easter Island, its somewhat isolated ecosystem was suffering from the effects of limited natural resources, deforestation, and overpopulation. Over the following years the island's population of four thousand or so was slowly eroded by Western disease and deportation by slave traders.

By 1877, only about one hundred and ten inhabitants remained.

Rongorongo was one victim of these circumstances. The colonizers of Easter Island had decided that the strange language was too closely tied to the inhabitants' pagan past, and forbade it as a form of communication. Missionaries forced the inhabitants to destroy the tablets with Rongorongo inscriptions.

In 1864, Father Joseph Eyraud became the first non-islander to record Rongorongo. Writing before the ultimate decline of the Eastern Island society, he noted that "one finds in all the houses wooden tables or staffs covered with sorts of hieroglyphs."

Despite his interest in the subject, he was not able to find an Islander willing to translate the texts. The islanders were understandably reluctant to help, given that the Europeans forcefully suppressed the use of their native writing.

Rongorongo TabletsSome time later, Bishop Florentin Jaussen of Tahiti attempted to translate the texts. A young Easter Islander named Metero claimed to be able to read Rongorongo, and for fifteen days the bishop kept a record while the boy dictated from the inscriptions. Bishop Jaussen gave up the effort when he realized that Metero was a fraud; the boy had assigned several meanings to the same symbol.

In 1886 Paymaster William Thompson of the ship USS Mohican became interested in the pictographic system during a journey to collect artifacts for the National Museum in Washington.

He had obtained two rare tablets engraved with the script and was curious about their meaning. He asked eighty-three-year-old islander Ure Va'e Iko for assistance in translation because his age made him more likely to have knowledge of the language. The man reluctantly admitted to knowing what the tablets said, but did not wish to break the orders of the missionaries. As a result, Ure Va'e Iko refused to touch the tablets, let alone decipher them.

Thompson was determined, however, and decided that Ure Va'e Iko might be more forthcoming under the influence of alcohol. After having a few drinks kindly provided by Thompson, the Easter Islander looked at the tablets once again.

The old man burst into song, singing a fertility chant which described the mating of gods and goddesses. William Thompson and his companions quickly took down his words. This was potentially a big breakthrough, but Thomson struggled with assigning words to the pictographs.

Furthermore, he couldn't find another Islander who was willing to confirm the accuracy of this translation. While Thompson was ultimately unable to read Rongorongo, the translation that Iko provided has remained one of the most valuable clues on how to decipher the tablets.

An Indus valley connection?In the following decades, many scholars have attempted to make sense of this mystery. In 1932, Wilhelm de Hevesy tried to link Rongorongo to the Indus script of the Indus Valley Civilization in India, claiming that as many as forty Rongorongo symbols had a correlating symbol in the script from India.

Further examination found this link to be much more superficial than originally believed. In the 1950s, Thomas Barthel became one of the first linguists of the modern era to make a study of Rongorongo. He stated that system contained 120 basic elements that, when combined, formed 1500 different signs. Furthermore, he asserted that the symbols represented both objects and ideas.

This made it more difficult to produce a translation because an individual symbol could potentially represent an entire phrase. Barthel was successful, however, in identifying an artifact known as the Mamri tablet as a lunar calendar.

Some of the most recent research has been conducted by a linguist named Steven Fischer. Having studied nearly every surviving example of Rongorongo, he took particular interest in a four-foot-long scepter that had once been the property of an Easter Island Chief.

The artifact is covered in pictographs, and Fischer noticed that every third symbol on this staff has an additional "phallus-like" symbol attached to it. This led Fischer to believe that all Rongorongo texts have a structure steeped in counts of three, or triads. He has also studied Ure Va'e Iko's fertility chant, which lent additional support to the concept. Iko had always named a god first, his goddess mate second, and their offspring third. Fischer has also tried to make the claim that all Rongorongo texts relate creation myths.

Looking at another text, he has suggested that a sentence with a symbol of a bird, a fish, and a sun reads "All the birds copulated with fish: there issued forth the sun." While this could be the translation, it bears little resemblance to Ure Va'e Iko's chant about the matings of gods and goddesses.

Rongorongo naturally commands a great deal of interest from linguists, anthropologists, and archaeologists. Only twenty-five texts are know to have survived.

Should anyone find a workable translation for Rongorongo, the knowledge stored on the remaining tablets might explain the mysterious statues of Easter Island, the sudden appearance of the written language, and the island's history and customs as whole. However, much like the statues which have so captivated popular imagination, Rongorongo has so far defied all attempts at explanation.

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=710#more-710




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QUOTE
"Ye shall know them by their fruits"
~ Matthew 7:16

"Believe nothing. No matter where you read it, or who said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."
~ Buddha
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