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Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Easter Island Heads Have Full Bodies (and an unknown history)

The Easter Island Heads Have Full Bodies (and an unknown history)

The huge heads at Easter Island (Rapa Nui) were discovered to have bodies beneath the ground which are controversially argued to have become naturally buried over time. This argument is contested by the fact that they were made with more pointed bottom parts and were placed upright in groups, all facing away from the volcanic quarry (in contrast to the way they all once faced inwards on the Ahu platforms).

The buried parts of the statues, uncovered for the first time by S. Routledge, are of great interest not only because they add to the dimensions of these already huge statues but also because they reveal unsuspected but particularly detailed decorative carving (having been protected from the corrosive effects of the air and the rain).

Easter Island is known in Polynesian as Rapa Nui, meaning ‘Big Island’, ‘The navel of the Earth’, ‘The eye turned to the sky’.

Easter Island is situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and was one of the primary islands of the Polynesian Island group. Hundreds of stone statues or ‘Maoi’ lie scattered around the island, and encircle it on long raised platforms. The island poses several questions in regards pre-Columbian contact with the Americas.

The small, isolated nature of the island has led many to suggest that this may have led to the eventual implosion of tribal activity on the island, which culminated only shortly before its discovery by the Dutch in 1772.

There have been several suggestions of an origin and contact from both sides of the Atlantic.

The island was ‘discovered’ on Easter sunday (April 5th), and was therefore named Easter island. Before this, it had been called ‘Rapa Nui’ – (Big Island), ‘Matakiterani’ (Eye turned to the sky), and ‘Te Pito No Te Henua’ (The Navel of the Earth). (1)


A Brief History



The reigning consensus is that Easter Island was colonized around 300-400 AD as part of an eastward migratory trend that originated in Southeast Asia around 2000 BC. The settlers are thought to have been Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands, 3600 km northwest, or the Mangareva (Gambier) Islands, 2500 km west. (4) The large separation of Easter Island from any other inhabited island has led historians to believe that their arrival was an accidental and once only event. This view is strongly contested, in light of other known examples of Polynesian feats of navigation, and the several various cultural influences seen in the iconography of the island.

The earliest Radio-carbon date so far from the island is 380 AD, from Thor Hyerdahl’s expedition. (1)

The island was officially discovered in 1722 by a Dutch expedition under Admiral Jacob Roggeveen.


Like subsequent European visitors, the Dutch reported seeing not only fair-skinned Polynesians, but people of darker skin, others who were white like Europeans, and a few with reddish skin.(4)

In 1770 a Spanish party from Peru claimed the island for Spain. A conflict seems to have raged on the island before the arrival of the British navigator Captain James Cook four years later. He found a decimated, poverty-stricken population, and observed that the statue cult seemed to have ended, as most of the statues had been pulled down. It’s possible that some of the statues were toppled even before the Dutch and Spanish visits but that those sailors did not visit the same sites as Cook.

The Frenchman La PĂ©rouse visited Easter Island in 1786 and found the population calm and prosperous, suggesting a quick recovery from any catastrophe. In 1804 a Russian visitor reported that at least 20 statues were still standing. Accounts from subsequent years suggest another period of destruction so that perhaps only a handful of statues were still standing a decade later. Some of the statues still upright at the beginning of the 19th century were knocked down by western expeditions.




380 AD – Thor Hyerdahl’s earliest uncorrected C-14 date from Easter Island. (1)

690 AD (+/- 130) – William Mulloy’s earliest uncorrected C-14 date from Easter Island. (1)

907-957 AD (+/1 200) – Earliest Ahu with Solar orientation according to William Mulloy. (1)

1772 – Island first ‘officially’ discovered on Easter Sunday by Dutch.

1862 – Peruvian slavers took 1,000 men (Most of the male population), to work the Guano Islands of Lima. 100 survivors were later returned, of which 15 reached their homes (carrying smallpox), which almost finished the population of the island. (1)

1864 – Total remaining island population – 111. (originally estimated at 5,000).


South Americans helped colonise Easter Island centuries before Europeans reached it. Clear genetic evidence has, for the first time, given support to elements of this controversial theory showing that while the remote island was mostly colonised from the west, there was also some influx of people from the Americas.

Easter Island is the easternmost island of Polynesia, the scattering of islands that stretches across the Pacific. It is also one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.

So how did it come to be inhabited in the first place? Genetics, archaeology and linguistics all show that as a whole, Polynesia was colonised from Asia, probably from around Taiwan. The various lines of evidence suggest people began migrating east around 5500 years ago, reached Polynesia 2500 years later, before finally gaining Easter Island after another 1500 years.

But the Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl thought otherwise. In the mid-20th century, he claimed that the famous Easter Island statues were similar to those at Tiahuanaco at Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, so people from South America must have travelled west across the Pacific to Polynesia. His famous Kon-Tiki expedition, in which he sailed a balsa wood raft from Peru to the Tuamotu islands of French Polynesia, showed that the trip could have been made. But if it was made, no trace remained.

Now Erik Thorsby of the University of Oslo in Norway has found clear evidence to support elements of Heyerdahl’s hypothesis. In 1971 and 2008 he collected blood samples from Easter Islanders whose ancestors had not interbred with Europeans and other visitors to the island.

Thorsby looked at the HLA genes, which vary greatly from person to person. Most of the islanders’ HLA genes were Polynesian, but a few of them also carried HLA genes only previously found in Native American populations.


Genetic shuffling

Because most of Thorsby’s volunteers came from one extended family, he was able to work out when the HLA genes entered their lineage. The most probable first known carrier was a woman named Maria Aquala, born in 1846. Crucially, that was before the slave traders arrived in the 1860s and began interbreeding with the islanders.


But the genes may have been around for longer than that. Thorsby found that in some cases the Polynesian and American HLA genes were shuffled together, the result of a process known “recombination”. This is rare in HLA genes, meaning the American genes would need to be around for a certain amount of time for it to happen. Thorsby can’t put a precise date on it, but says it is likely that Americans reached Easter Island before it was “discovered” by Europeans in 1722.

Thorsby says there may have been a Kon-Tiki-style voyage from South America to Polynesia. Alternatively, Polynesians may have travelled east to South America, and then returned. There is already evidence for that: chicken bones found in Chile turned out to be Polynesian, so we know that the eastward journey did happen at some stage.

However, Thorsby’s findings don’t mean that Heyerdahl’s ideas have been vindicated. The first settlers to Polynesia came from Asia, and they made the biggest contribution to the population. “Heyerdahl was wrong,” Thorsby says, “but not completely.”
(Article:  New Scientist)

Tradition and Myth



The French ethnologist, Francis Maziere, went to Easter Island in 1963, a few years after Thor Hyerdahl. The emphasis of his research focused on the almost-lost traditions of the islanders concerning their origins. According to Maziere, the legends of settlement of the islands by Polynesians contained allusions to catastrophism. For example, one legend says “King Hotu-Matua’s country was called Maori, and it was on the continent of Hiva…The king saw that the land was slowly sinking in the sea”, as a result he put all his people into two giant canoes and sailed East to Easter Island. Another legend says that Easter Island was once ‘part of a larger country broken up by Uoke because of the sins of its people’.

The Monuments of Easter Island


The principal stone monuments on Easter Island are ceremonial paths with paved borders, tumuli, pakeopa (or ahu), and, finally, the great stone statues or ‘Maoi’.


The ‘Maoi’ – (The Stone Statues)


Easter Island is perhaps best known for its immense stone statues ‘Moai’, of which there are approximately 900 scattered across the island. Some of the Maoi were placed facing towards the centre of the island, on platforms called ‘Ahu’, built along the coasts. Captain Cook was told in 1774 that they were monuments to earlier ‘ariki’s', or royalty. The ‘Maoi’ are also described in local tradition as having once possessed ‘mana’ or a beneficial power.

All Easter Island’s giant statues were supposedly made within the space of a few hundred years. Different phases are clearly discernible, and may be separated by far longer periods than orthodox opinion allows. It is significant that the statues do not bear the slightest resemblance to the Polynesians, and in terms of size, appearance, and number are unique in the Pacific.

All the giant statues on Easter Island have long ears, and some islanders still practised ear elongation at the time the first Europeans arrived. The custom was also practised in the Marquesas Islands in Polynesia, and in Peru; the Incas said they had inherited the custom from their divine ancestors. The oldest known practice of ear extension was among the mariners in the prehistoric Indus Valley harbour-city of Lothal, where large numbers of big earplugs of the type used in ancient Mexico, Peru, and Easter Island have been found. Hindu rulers subsequently adopted the custom, but it was restricted to members of the royal families and images of the Hindu gods. Buddha images with long ears are found all over Asia, and long-eared stone statues have also been dug up in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

Hundreds of Maoi are still to be found scattered lying around the island, raising the question of why there are just so many, with more on the way. Numerous half-finished heads also lie abandoned in the Rano Raraki quarry – as if left suddenly, mid-work.

The huge heads were discovered to have bodies beneath the ground which are controversially argued to have become naturally buried over time. This argument is contested by the fact that they were made with more pointed bottom parts and were placed upright in groups, all facing away from the volcanic quarry (in contrast to the way they all once faced inwards on the Ahu platforms).

The buried parts of the statues, uncovered for the first time by S. Routledge, are of great interest not only because they add to the dimensions of these already huge statues but also because they reveal unsuspected but particularly detailed decorative carving (having been protected from the corrosive effects of the air and the rain).

There is said to be a distinct difference between the statues at Rano Raraku and those on the Ahu which is that the statues at the crater have a pointed base, destined to be buried in the ground, while those on the ahu have a flat base, so that they can stand on these monuments. This finding is disputed by Heyerdahl, who states categorically that following an examination of hundreds of statues, only one has ever been found with a pointed bottom, and that he believes, was because it was faulty. his contention is that they were all destined to eventually encircle the whole island on Ahu.

The statues at the crater are scattered around in a random manner, whereas the statues at the ahu, when they were still standing, were perfectly aligned and in a group. Although the giant statues appear scattered haphazardly, they actually form three major groups on the inner slope of the crater, facing north, such that they all have their backs to the face of the volcanic rock from which they were carved.

The Navel of the Navel: Easter Island

tepitokuraIt is an interesting fact that the islanders of Easter Island worship a mysterious site with 5 stone spheres; in the centre of a round stone enclosure is a bigger stone sphere with 4 smaller stone spheres surrounding it. The site, “Te pito kura” must have been a ritual centre for the earliest islanders to pray and divine for something. The stone sphere on Easter Isle is at the northern coastal area of the island, just north of the statue quarry at the volcanic crater of Rano Raraku.

The islanders have a legend that the statues were moved to the platforms and raised upright by the use of mana, or mind power. Either the god Makemake, or priests or chiefs commanded them to walk or to float through the air, and according to one legend, use was made of a finely crafted stone sphere, 75 cm (2.5 ft) in diameter, called te pito kura (‘the golden navel’ or ‘the navel of light’), to focus the mana.

The Rapa Nui term “Te Pito Kura” translates to “Golden Navel”, or “Navel of Light”, while “Te Pito Te Henua” translates to “Navel of the World”; which is what Rapa Nui is often referred to by its residents, referencing its place in Polynesian mythology. This specific site is the navel of the navel, as it were, located on the island’s shore near Anakena, the spot where Rapa Nui’s legendary founding figure, Hotu Matura, is said to have landed. Stone barriers surround a worked stone sphere (the “navel” itself) measuring some 75 centimetres in diameter, reputedly brought by Hotu Matura from overseas. Geological sourcing, however, indicates the sphere is actually of local origin.

(See also: The Costa Rica Stone Balls – Petrospheres)


The Mystery of Easter Island


New findings rekindle old debates about when the first people arrived and why their civilization collapsed.

Hundreds of years ago, a small group of Polynesians rowed their wooden outrigger canoes across vast stretches of open sea, navigating by the evening stars and the day’s ocean swells. When and why these people left their native land remains a mystery. But what is clear is that they made a small, uninhabited island with rolling hills and a lush carpet of palm trees their new home, eventually naming their 63 square miles of paradise Rapa Nui—now popularly known as Easter Island.

On this outpost nearly 2,300 miles west of South America and 1,100 miles from the nearest island, the newcomers chiseled away at volcanic stone, carving moai, monolithic statues built to honor their ancestors. They moved the mammoth blocks of stone — on average 13 feet tall and 14 tons — to different ceremonial structures around the island, a feat that required several days and many men.

Eventually the giant palms that the Rapanui depended on dwindled. Many trees had been cut down to make room for agriculture; others had been burned for fire and used to transport statues across the island. The treeless terrain eroded nutrient-rich soil, and, with little wood to use for daily activities, the people turned to grass. “You have to be pretty desperate to take to burning grass,” says John Flenley, who with Paul Bahn co-authored The Enigmas of Easter Island. By the time Dutch explorers — the first Europeans to reach the remote island — arrived on Easter day in 1722, the land was nearly barren.

Although these events are generally accepted by scientists, the date of the Polynesians’ arrival on the island and why their civilization ultimately collapsed is still being debated. Many experts maintain that the settlers landed around 800 A.D. They believe the culture thrived for hundreds of years, breaking up into settlements and living off the fruitful land. According to this theory, the population grew to several thousand, freeing some of the labor force to work on the moai. But as the trees disappeared and people began to starve, warfare broke out among the tribes.

In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond refers to the Rapanui’s environmental degradation as “ecocide” and points to the civilization’s demise as a model of what can happen if human appetites go unchecked.

But new findings by archaeologist Terry Hunt of the University of Hawai’i may indicate a different version of events. In 2000, Hunt, archaeologist Carl Lipo of California State University, Long Beach, and their students began excavations at Anakena, a white sandy beach on the island’s northern shore. The researchers believed Anakena would have been an attractive area for the Rapanui to land, and therefore may be one of the earliest settlement sites. In the top several layers of their excavation pit, the researchers found clear evidence of human presence: charcoal, tools—even bones, some of which had come from rats. Underneath they found soil that seemed absent of human contact. This point of first human interaction, they figured, would tell them when the first Rapanui had arrived on the island.

Hunt sent the samples from the dig to a lab for radiocarbon dating, expecting to receive a date around 800 A.D., in keeping with what other archaeologists had found. Instead, the samples dated to 1200 A.D. This would mean the Rapanui arrived four centuries later than expected. The deforestation would have happened much faster than originally assumed, and the human impact on the environment was fast and immediate.

Hunt suspected that humans alone could not destroy the forests this quickly. In the sand’s layers, he found a potential culprit—a plethora of rat bones. Scientists have long known that when humans colonized the island, so too did the Polynesian rat, having hitched a ride either as stowaways or sources of food. However they got to Easter Island, the rodents found an unlimited food supply in the lush palm trees, believes Hunt, who bases this assertion on an abundance of rat-gnawed palm seeds.

From Pakalert Press @ http://www.pakalertpress.com/2012/05/15/the-easter-island-heads-have-full-bodies/

The Other Mystery of Easter Island[Language of Rongorongo]

by Stephanie Benson 


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.

Some 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 known 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.

From Damn Interesting @ http://www.damninteresting.com/the-other-mystery-of-easter-island/

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  1. Thanks for posting this up, you have shared very fruitful information.
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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks for this information! Please note corrections for the following names:
    mo'ai & Rano Raraku, i.e.Hundreds of Maoi are still to be found scattered lying around the island, raising the question of why there are just so many, with more on the way. Numerous half-finished heads also lie abandoned in the Rano Raraki quarry – as if left suddenly, mid-work.

  4. I actually wrote a detailed article on the Easter Island statue conspiracy theories here:


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