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Lile De Paques Descriptive Essay

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THE MYSTERY OF THE EASTER ISLAND SCRIPT

BY WERNER WOLFF Columbia University, New York.

PROBABLE CAUSES OF THE DISAPPEARANCE OF THE HIEROGLYPHIC SYSTEM.

IN 1864 the French missionary Eyraud discovered in a subterranean shelter on Easter island wooden tablets with a strange script. Natives called these tablets kohau rongorongo, 1 which was generally translated: “singing wood”, but A. Metraux 2 and H. Lavachery 3 translated it: “wood with hymns for recitation”. R. V. Heine Geldern 4 object to the translation “wood” and would rather say hibiscus, which is a certain tree on Easter island. Altogether, there were found on Easter island twenty-six objects bearing hieroglyphics: twenty-one wooden tablets and five figures and sticks; but as Metraux objects to the authenticity of three objects, there are only twenty-three at our disposal.

Tradition says the the first king, Hoatu-matua, brought with him sixty-seven wooden tablets. Later on, the number of tablets is supposed to have been much larger, still around the middle of the 19th century. From one of the last chiefs, Ngaara, it is told that he had several hundreds. The art of writing was extinguished when the Peruvian slave-raiders carried off all professionals of writing. The disappearance of the old wooden tablets is probably due to their sacred character, because the natives hid them from the European immigrants, and, what seems to be much more serious, the missionaries seem to have considered these ceremonial documents as idolatrous objects against which they proceeded with their usual inquisitorial attitude. The natives repeatedly asserted that the missionaries had prohibited them from reading the tablets, and even had induced them to burn these objects as devil's work. The Swede De Greno, who arrived about 1870 at Easter island as a ship-wreck, was told, 5

“that soon after the Catholic Mission was established on the Island, the missionaries persuaded many of the people to consume by fire all the blocks (tablets) in their possession, telling them that they were but heathen records and that the possession of them would have a tendency to attach them to their heathenism and prevent their thorough conversion to the new religion and the consequent saving of their souls”.

Also Mrs. Routledge, the most thorough explorer of Easter island, was told by a native that he possessed a great number of tablets, all of which he had thrown away on the advice of the missionaries, and after-

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wards another man had built a boat of them. Even Brother Eyraud, the discoverer of the tablets, gave them so little attention that he did not even mention their existence to his missionary comrades. But not all of the missionaries had such an iconoclastic attitude, and to some of them we are indebted for transmitting us very important observations.

The wooden tablets varied greatly in size. The biggest measured six feet in length. 6 The material was, as Philippi remarks, 7 wood from the toromiro8 tree, which is a kind of mimosa. But other tablets show different kinds of wood, such as wood from Podocarpus latifolia, wood of laurel, myrtle, and of ash. These woods, partly non-existent on Easter island, must have been either driftwood or imported. Natives tell that the original glyphs, brought to them by the first immigrants, had been written on paper made from the banana plant; but later on, for the better preservation of the documents, they were written on wood. According to Eyraud 9 and Geiseler 10 the glyphs have been engraved with a piece of obsidian; but Routledge 11 and Metraux 12 mention catfish teeth as instruments for engraving 13

TABLETS.

  • 1-4—Musée Missionaire des Peres des Sacrés Coeurs de Picpus, Braine le Comte, Belgium.
  • 5—Formerly in the University Library of Loewen, Holland; burnt in 1914 but photographs are preserved.
  • 6—Collection Stephan Chauvet, Paris.
  • 7, 8—Museum in Leningrad.
  • 9—British Museum, London.
  • 10—Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Berlin.
  • 11, 12—Museum fuer Voelkerkunde, Wien.
  • 13. 14—U.S. National Museum, Washington, D.C.
  • 15, 16—Museum in Santiago de Chile.
  • 17—Museum of the University Concepcion, Ohile.
  • 18—Bishop Museum, Honolulu (one doubtful).

OTHER OBJECTS WITH INSCRIPTIONS.

  • 22—A figure, in the American Museum of Natural History, New York, N.Y.
  • 23, 24—Two breast ornaments, in the British Museum. London (one doubtful).
  • 25—Breast ornament, in Australian Museum (doubtful).
  • 26—Staff, in the Museum in Santiago de Chile.

THE READING CEREMONY ON EASTER ISLAND.

The professionals in the art of writing were called rongorongo men. W. Churchill 14 translates rongo with “news, message”. In their houses, which were set apart, the rongorongo men practised their art of writing. A finished tablet was wrapped in reeds and hung up in a room of the house. The rongorongo men came together every year at a place called Anakena. According to the reports obtained by Mrs. Routledge, 15 there were several hundreds, coining from all districts of the island. The place of the gathering, near the principal burial-ground called ahu 16 was surrounded with sticks bearing feathers on their tops. The rongorongo men, wearing feather hats, sat in rows - 3 facing the chief, who was called ariki17 and sat on tablets piled up to form a seat, at the side of his son. The rongorongo men brought with them one or two tablets. They read from the places where they stood. If a young man made mistakes, he was corrected, but if an old man failed, a young but learned boy would take the man by the ear, saying, “are you not ashamed, to be taken out by a child?” After the reading the chief addressed the readers and gave each of them a chicken.

THE BOOKS OF DEATH.

Unfortunately, there is no information at all about the subject of the reading, but the ceremonial character of the assembly seems to hint at its religious significance. The feathers on the sticks surrounding the place of .the gathering, the feather hats of the rongorongo men and the king's gift of a bird to each reader indicates a relationship to the bird ceremony which is a main ceremony on Easter island, related to spring, birth, and to the arrival of the ancestors. The proximity of the principal ahu suggests furthermore the symbolism of death and rebirth, which is involved in the bird-ceremony. Concerning the name of the tablets, kohau rongorongo, it is interesting that, according to Churchill, 18kohau also means “shaft of a lance”, and kohu “shadow, shade, obscurity”. These ideas might hint at a connection between the tablets and the concept of death. But a stronger hint of this connection is given by a report of Routledge, where she, reporting the death ceremonies, says: 19

“Some of the carved tablets were connected with these rites; one was certainly known as that of the ika while there is said to have been another called timo, which was the list kept by each ahu of his murdered men.”

The name ika, 20 which was used for sacrificed victims, as well as the name timo21 indicates that there was a direct relationship between wooden tablets and death ceremonies. There is also reported that after the death of one of the last chiefs, the ariki Ngaara, three tablets have been buried with him.

The sacred character of the wooden tablets appears in the tapu surrounding them. It is told that there was in earlier times a death penalty for touching the tablets. Jaussen, Thomson, and Routledge got some texts which were supposed to be the contents of the tablets. As we shall discuss later, the authenticity of these texts could not be checked up now, because it is assumed that the natives looking upon the tablets, only gave a recitation of known contents. At any rate, it seems interesting to study the contents of such supposed texts. They consisted of lamentations, creation myths; the reading of a love-song from one tablet was ridiculed by other natives. The general impression which we get from the kind of contents as well as from the ceremonial character of the reading suggests that the texts may have been conjurations. T. Jaussen reports the explanation of his interpreter: 22

“My interpreter taught me that the people had the custom of uniting themselves in a circle and to perform the recitation as a kind of cult.”

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Such cults in relation to the tablets are also reported to us. On occasion of a festival in honour of the father the ariki and the rongorongo men performed a prayer for the father, while a woman with a prayer-tablet, called kohau-o-te-pure, (kohau: wood; pure: 23 to pray, invocation) stood on the roof of a house. As a fertility charm, a woman with a child and a wooden tablet circled around a post. But most of such ceremonials have been performed on the occasion of burials. Here it seems fairly sure that the recitations of the rongorongo men from their wooden tablets referred to conjurations for rebirth. As the pictographs on the statues as well as on the small wooden images represented a rebirth symbolism, it seems very probable that the glpyhs originally served in general for this purpose, as was the case with the glyphs of the civilizations of the Old Orient, and with the runes of Nordic peoples. Hence the tablets probably were originally tablets of the dead, and there might have been a time when the wooden tablets with their inscriptions formed the walls of a coffin, as in the death cult of Old Egypt.

But the relation of the Easter island tablets to the death-cult becomes confirmed by other considerations. The monuments on the burial-places as well as the wooden images are representations of the dead ancestors, and both monuments and wooden images have sometimes inscriptions on their body. Furthermore, Routledge stated that some of the wooden tablets were “the list kept by each ahu of its murdered men”. 24 She reports on another occasion, 25

“that in perhaps half a dozen cases different persons recited words approximately the same, beginning: He timo te ako-ako . . .”

Timo, as mentioned above, signifies the mourning for a murdered man.

As the Polynesian customs are so very similar to those of Easter island in all their details, we might expect to obtain some information of the significance of the tablets from these sources. E. S. Craighill Handy reports 26 that men,

“destined for the tribal god were taken into the temple, where they were killed and sacrificed with the reciting of the chant . . .”

T. Henry reports such chants during a human sacrifice: 27

“Now eat of the long-legged fish oro-mata-oa. O my king, eat of thy fish of the sea, my king, Orotaua. Welcome to you, o host of gods in coming here to Oro in his home, the home of all the gods. Hail to the gods!”

And another example: 28

“O great Ta-aora, your curse is death, here is your fish, the fish caught from the vai-o-tu (water of stability). Well it is, o gods, that you have given this fish into our hands. There o gods, take it as a fish for yourselves, that all his family be extirpated and not one be spared.”

Thus the tablets of Easter island seem to be grouped around the subject of death, being either maledictions on death or conjurations against death. As it is told of the belief of the Egyptians as well as of the - 5 Mayans, the origin of hieroglyphics was in Hades where the hieroglyphics served as a conjuration for rebirth; this was probably also the case in Easter island.

THE FIRST ATTEMPTS AT DECIPHERING.

The first wooden script-tablets sent to Europe were regarded in Berlin as stencils for making native cloth; those sent to the English Ethnological society evoked some interest after a time, but in general the interest aroused by those specimens of a lost culture was very slight.

The first attempt at deciphering was made by the discoverer of the wooden tablets, Father Eyraud; but the only knowledge he gained was reported by Jaussen, 29 namely, that each sign has its name. As we shall see later this knowledge seems to be more important than that of all investigators after that time.

A next attempt was made by Father Zumbohm. He reports: 30

“The natives told me the names which I did not remember, since some of them began to read this script in singing, but others cried: ‘No, it is not like this’ The disagreement of my masters was so great that in spite of my application I had not learnt more after their lesson that I had known before.”

The most important attempt at deciphering was made by Tepano Jaussen who was Archbishop of Tahiti. When natives brought him a ring covered with inscriptions, the at that time almost forgotten discovery of Eyraud was revived. Since 1868 he made tireless efforts to collect existing tablets and to decipher them. He believed himself to be on the threshold of his discovery when he found a native named Metoro-touara who was said to have studied the art of reading and chanting from the tablets under three famous teachers: Ngahu, Reimiro, and Paovaa. Metoro claimed that he still knew the meaning of the signs. Firstly, Jaussen obtained the most important information that the tablets were written in the manner called boustophedon, which is known to us from inscriptions of the old Orient. The lines on the tablets are written in such a way that in one row the legs of the figures are standing on the ground while in the following row all figures appear reversed, so that their heads are below and their legs above, like a reflection in water. The second important hint was given by Metoro's assertion that the beginning of the tablets is at the left side of the lowest, row. Jaussen describes the first attempts at reading the tablets with Metoro as follows: 31

“I put one of my tablets into the hands of Metoro. He turns them around, looks for the beginning of the text and begins to sing. He sung the lowest row from left to right, arriving at the end of the row he sung the next upper row from right to left, the third one from left to right, the fourth from right to left, as one leads the oxen when labour-ploughing. Arrived at the last row on top, he turned the whole tablet from the obverse side to the reverse one and. beginning with the top row, went down row by row like oxen furrowing the two sides of a slope and whose labour, begun at the base of one side, would end at the base of the other side. The reader may turn the tablet after each row if not being able to read the reversed signs.”

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This detailed report indicates that Metoro really was familiar with this art of writing.

Since the student of Easter island did not succeed with the deciphering of the tablets they expressed the opinion that the contents which the natives read from the tablets were only memorized recitations which had nothing to do with the script of the tablets, and they support this belief by the disagreement of Zumbohm's masters, and the different versions which were obtained by other investigators on presenting the same tablet to different interpreters. But such supposition does not seem to be probable for the procedure of Metoro, since Jaussen reports various actions of Metoro when reading the tablets. In the case just described, Metoro having finished the obverse side of the tablet, continued his reading with the top row of the reverse side. But in another tablet he started on the reverse side again with the lowest row, as he had on the obverse side, indicating that this difference in reading originated in the fact that in this case the reverse side began with a new text having noting to do with the preceding one. Such a differentiation would not occur if Metoro had only projected memorized texts upon the tablets.

There is another fact, cited by C. De Harlez, 32 which speaks for the congruence of text and script. He found that identical glyphs in general have the same words and concepts in the text. Thus a mere improvization of Metoro seems to be very improbable. But on the other hand, such a text, as transmitted by Jaussen, does not seem to have much sense. Jaussen concluded in the preface of his publication of the text: “One must resign, there is no sense in it”. But here we have to consider that the texts were probably written in a telegraphic style, giving only the important ideas and omitting all conjunctions, pronouns and grammatical elements. Routledge got such information from her interpreter, and she says: 33

“. . . it illustrates interestingly the general method of condensation in which, even in the recitations, a few words assume or implicate extended knowledge.”

In this way a text only becomes fully understandable if the reader knows in advance the objects to which the text refers, a procedure which is known from many old inscriptions of other peoples. If Metoro did not know these old contents his translation would have the value of a telegram read by a child. But on the other hand, for understanding such texts we have to adapt ourselves to the thinking of these people, that is, we have to know their associations which to them are so self-evident that they omit to mention them. Egyptian ceremonial texts, without knowing such associations, partly seem to be even more senseless.

THE INTENTIONAL MISLEADING BY THE NATIVES.

Jaussen finally gave up his studies of the tablets. His scepticism was supported by his collaborator Roussel who had the same experience as did Zumbohm before him, that other natives interrupted Metoro, insisting that the translation was wrong. And really, the natives succeeded so far that Roussel abandoned his task. The attitude of the other natives seems more understandable if we consider that the texts were regarded as sacred ones, that it was their absolute intention - 7 to hide them from the strangers. The emotional involvement of the natives, reported by the investigators, their crying and insisting, seems to confirm their intention to disturb the attempt at deciphering.

Since that time, later investigators were misled in their efforts, and finally the opinion of Mrs. Routledge was adopted, namely, that the graphic system was of a mnemotechnic kind and that the symbols only served as aids for texts learned by heart. All investigators affirm the resistence of the natives to communicate anything related to the sacred script, and their refusal to read the tablets.

Thomson was the first to use tricks for obtaining some information. He found a native of whom it was told that he possessed the knowledge of writing. Thomson reports: 34

“He was asleep when we entered and took charge of the establishment. When he found escape impossible he became sullen, and refused to look at or touch a tablet. As a compromise it was proposed that he should relate some of the ancient traditions. This was readily acceeded to, because the opportunity of relating the legends to an interested audience did not often occur, and the positive pleasure to be derived from such an occasion could not be neglected. During the recital certain stimulants that had been provided for such an emergency were produced, and though not pressed upon our ancient friend, were kept prominently before him until, as the night grew old and the narrator weary, he was included as the ‘cup that cheers’ made its occasional rounds. A judicious indulgence in present comforts dispelled all fears in regard to the future state, and at an auspicious moment the photographs of the tablets owned by the bishop were produced for inspection. Old Ure-vaeiko had never seen a photograph before, and was surprised to find how faithfully they reproduced the tablets which he had known in his young days. A tablet would have met with opposition, but no objection could be urged against a photograph, especially something possessed by the good bishop, whom he had been instructed to reverence. The photographs were recognized immediately, and the appropriate legend related with fluency and without hesitation from beginning to end. The story of all the tablets of which we had a knowledge was finally obtained, the words of the native being written down by Mr. Salmon as they were uttered, and afterwards translated into English.”

But Thomson considered the result of his experiment a negative one. He remarks: 35

“Ure-vaeiko's fluent interpretation of the tablet was not interrupted, though it became evident that he was not actually reading the characters. It was noticed that the shifting of position did not accord with the number of symbols on the lines, and afterwards when the photograph of another tablet was substituted, the same story was continued without the change being discovered. The old fellow was quite discomposed when charged with fraud at the close of an all-night session, and at first maintained that the characters were, all understood, but he could not give the signification of hieroglyphics copied indiscriminately from tablets already marked. He explained at great length that the actual value and significance of the symbols had been forgotten, but the - 8 tablets were recognized by unmistakeable features and the interpretation of them was beyond question; just as a person might recognize a book in a foreign language and be perfectly sure of the contents without being able to acutally read it.”

Certainly something, if not all, was wrong with the recital of Thomson's interpreter, which shows the trick with the substitution of another photograph. But then Thomson obtained another result that made his general conclusions doubtful. He reports: 36

“An old man called Kaitae, who claims relationship the last king, Maurata, afterwards recognized several of the tablets from the photographs and related the same story exactly as that given previously by Ure-vaeiko.”

Thus it seems that truth and untruth were mixed up in the first interpreter's accomplishment, and we do not know how many of the lies were due to forgery and how many to the “stimulants that had been provided for such an emergency”. The fact that two different interpreters independently of each other gave exactly the same translation for some tablets seems decisive enough to suppose that the reading was partly correct. Mrs. Routledge had the same experience. She reports: 37

“It was noted, however, with interest, that in perhaps half a dozen cases different persons recited words approximately the same, beginning “he timo he ako-ako, he ako-ako tena”, and on inquiry it was said that they were derived from one of the earliest tablets and were generally known. It was ‘like the alphabet learned first’.”

The first reason for a failure in deciphering seems to be the effort of the natives to intentionally mislead, but not trained in that way of lying and unable to improvise longer texts, they probably partly read the original content which also determined their associations when attempting to falsify. Thus we might understand the coincidence of parts read by different interpreters.

On the other hand, the stories written on the tablets probably were known by some professionals, so that such a man only needed some directions for reading, as a musician reads his music. In that sense, the trick used by Thomson and later on by Routledge in secretly substituting one script-photograph for another is not convincing for the purpose of demonstrating the lack of coincidence between script, and reading. The interpreter, reading the first rows, then was able to recite the whole story from memory, not obliged to do the laborious work of turning the tablet, according to the boustrophedon. Under the emotional bondage of the sacred texts or of his intention of forgery he was, of course, not able to observe the trick used by his exploiter and continued his recitation.

Anyway, the object of the natives, to deceive, was successful. Routledge concludes: 38

“The natives were like children pretending to read and only reciting.”

She considered the graphic system of Easter island as only a mnemotechnic scheme whose symbols only served as aids like the beads of a rosary, for reciting texts learned by heart.

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Metraux also denied the possibility of a script, saying that one could not speak of a phonetic value of these symbols since they were not read but only served to call forth an association of ideas without having any intrinsic value.

A second reason for a failure in deciphering was the existence of certain expectations of the investigators. As an example, the report of Routledge, 39 describing how her interpreter drew two symbols, “stating they represented the man who gave the koro”; but she adds, “there was no sign meaning a man”. This might hold true for a European observer, but the native of Easter island probably immediately would have recognized either the shape of a man or the symbol standing for it. The second paralogism is the presumption that the glyphs have to represent graphically what they express, and not phonetically. In the latter case, glyphs expressing “a man” have not to represent the picture of a man, but sounds forming the word “man”.

THE GLYPHS AS A POSSIBLE MNEMOTECHIC AID.

If we consider it objectively, a hieroglyphic system can be:

  • 1. a mnemotechnic aid for generally-known concepts (the glyph has the value of beads of a rosary);
  • 2. a pictographic representation (the glyph has the value of an illustration);
  • 3.an ideogram (the glyph has the value of a symbol);
  • 4. a syllabic writing (the first syllable of the word describing the object of a glyph's picture is used as a phonetic value);
  • 5. an alphabetic writing.

Students of Easter island glyphs, such as Jaussen, Routledge, and Metraux, considered the glyphs only as a preliminary step to writing, namely, as a mnemotechnic aid. Routledgess 40 described each glyph as “a peg on which to hang a large amount of matter which was committed to memory”. Metraux, 41 not objecting to the value of the recorded “translations”, supposes that the texts of the wooden tablets had a metrical character, each sign corresponding to a verse.

If the readings of the interpreters have any value—and all investigators agree in admitting the strong probability that the texts do correspond in a certain way to the respective tablets—we have to consider the proportion in the number of glyphs and of words in the texts. Such a counting of glyphs and corresponding words in some tablets was already made by M. Haberlandt.42 He compared the number of words of one of Thomson's texts with the number of glyphs representing this text and found that there were 89 words and 210 glyphs. If the text as such should be correct and if each glyph should represent a whole verse, as Metraux supposes, 210 glyphs should result in 210 verses. This cannot be the case when only 89 works are used. But also Routledge's opinion that each glyph was “a peg on which to hang a large amount of matter which was committed to memory”, is no more justified, because actually there are less words then there are glyphs.

It appears that one glyph can neither represent a verse nor a sentence nor even a single word. There are also no comments of the natives that specific glyphs express in a fixed way certain concepts used for ceremonial purposes, as is the case in ornamental represent- - 10 ations where a whole ceremony is grouped around a specific symbol; on the contrary, all natives of Easter island consider the hieroglyphics as a script.

THE GLYPHS AS POSSIBLE PICTOGRAPHS OR IDEOGRAMS.

The question now arises which kind of script might be represented by the hieroglyphics of Easter island. There are different observations which do not fit into the thesis that the glyphs are pictographs. The glyphs have not the narrative and illustrative character which picto-graphs have in general, as e.g., the pictographs of the Eskimos and of the North-American Indians. Many of the signs seem to be too abstract to be understandable as pictographs. Furthermore, the signs in pictographs are generally not determined by fixed forms as is the case in Easter island, but change their forms if the same thing is represented on different occasions. Repetitions of the same abstract sign and the distribution of glyphs in rows of writing, the failure to separate certain symbols into one pictographic concept, all these phenomena make it obvious that the signs are not those of pictographs.

Now the glyphs could be stereotyped ideograms. For this possibility the statements of native interpreters seem to speak. The interpreter of Pater Zumbohm asserted, that “each sign has its name”, and Jaussen noted the names obtained from his interpreter Metoro. These designations consist partly not only of one word, but of a concept expressed by different words, as e.g., “he has two ideas in his head”, 43 or, “land of Hotomatua”, 44 etc.

THE GLYPHS AS A POSSIBLE PHONETIC SYSTEM.

There is one other quotation from Mrs. Routledge's interpreter, which suggests that the glyphs may not have exclusively an ideographic significance. His statement was, 45 that there were “the same picture, but other words”. This seems to mean that the same glyph can serve for the formation of different words.

If the ideogram stands for a determined concept, the words expressing this concept must be always the same. The same glyph only can be used for the formation of different words if the glyph only functions as a phonetic element like a syllable or like a letter. Now the conlbination of the same glyph with different other glyphs forms different words, hence we have “the same picture but other words”.

A remark by Thomson also might lead to the supposition of a partially phonetic character of the script”. When Thomson's interpreter read one tablet (Apai), he omitted two hieroglyphics, saying: 46

“The next hieroglyphics on the tablet are supposed to have been written in some ancient language, the key of which has long been lost.”

If these glyphs had been only ideograms the interpreter could easily have been given an idea from analogy with other glyphs, but if they had a phonetic value, these glyphs had formed a word which the interpreter could decipher but did not understand, a word, “written in some ancient language, the key of which has long been lost”.

If one now considers the Easter island glyphs as a partly phonetic system the question arises whether it was a syllabic or an alphabetic system. The possibility of an alphabetic system seems to be excluded by the fact of the high number of glyphs. Jaussen reported 256 - 11 different glyphs, A. Piotrowski 47 collected 227 signs from the two tablets guarded in Leningrad. An exact collection of signs from all tablets at our disposal has never been made, although the importance of such a procedure was suggested by E. B. Taylor already in 1875. For our purpose, the high number of symbols decides that they could never have served exclusively as signs of an alphabet which has only 15 sounds in the spoken language; 48 but if phonetic at all, the Easter island script must have been a syllabic system.

THE BASIS FOR OUR ATTEMPT AT DECIPHERING.

If we study the different, reports about Easter island and the various attempts at deciphering with the aid of native interpreters, Metoro seems to have been the most trustworthy. We may conclude this from his very detailed informations regarding the way of writing in the boustrophedon and of starting the reading at the left side of the lowest row. Jaussen collected a list of all glyphs which he found in his tablets; then he asked Metoro very carefully about the significance of each of these 256 glyphs. Metoro told him the name which each glyph had, thus confirming the information which Pater Zumbohm had obtained before him, namely, that “each sign has its specific name”. In the same way Father Eyraud wrote in 1864: 49

“Each figure has its name; but the little esteem they show for these tablets makes me think that the characters are relics of a primitive writing and that they are now preserved without any inquiry into the sense of them.”

Some of these designations can easily be verified if, e.g., the glyph obviously represents a bird and we hear that its designation is “bird”; or if the sign shows a hand and the name does express this object. This is actually the case with 28 simple signs out of 149, i.e., in about 20 per cent, of glyphs. Such immediate identity of name and picture is not very frequent, because abstract representations, involving an interpretation, are present in the majority of cases. But since Metoro's other informations regarding the script seem to be trustworthy and since the significance of that part of the glyphs, showing distinctive objects, is very obvious, we have no reason to believe that the abstract part of the glyphs have an arbitrary designation. Furthermore, we may consider that Jaussen reports with extreme exactness his observation of the actions of his interpreter; as he, for instance, described carefully the manner in which Metoro handled the tablet. Jaussen gives no indication that Metoro gave the names of the symbols in a hesitant or obviously untruthful way, but he must have done so unequivocally and with decision, so that Jaussen never doubted the authenticity of these glyphs and their significance. Thus for our first attempt at deciphering, Jaussen's list seems to us a material justified to work with. Besides this list of glyphs and their names we have another source of information at our disposal; that is, the spoken language of Easter island, which was transcribed in Latin letters by H. Roussel“ 50 by E. Martinez 51 and, the most important, by W. Churchill. 52

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Besides the names of glyphs Jaussen recorded an entire translation of the tablets as made by Metoro and published the original Easter island text as well as a French translation. But the content appeared so senseless and arbitrary that Jaussen, in the introduction to the monograph which he wrote for the French Academy, concluded, 53 “One must resign, there is no sense in it”. If the author himself considered his work as fruitless, we are not astonished that all later students of Easter island did not give any serious consideration to his studies. The main mistake of Jaussen was perhaps only to collect his material without analyzing it. For instance, Metoro gave him the name and the meaning of the signs of tablet Aroukou-kourenga and a complete translation of the same tablet, and Jaussen seems not to have compared the meaning of symbols in his list with the words appearing in the translation.

Now, seventy-three years later, we tried to do this work for him. We took Jaussen's list, put a photograph of the tablet Aroukou-kourenga 54 before us and, looking at Metoro's translation, saw whether we could find a correspondence between his translation and the meaning of the corresponding glyphs on his list. Metoro remarked that he began with his translation on the left side of the lowest row. The first sentence of Metoro was:

"Ka tu i te ki te henua e rua no Hoatumatua” and Jaussen translated these words as follows:

“Il vient dans le ciel sur les deux terres de Hoatumatua.”

(He comes to heaven on the two lands of Hoatumatua.)

Looking at the photograph of our tablet and the list of glyphs, we really find that the second glyph of the first row corresponds to a glyph in Metoro's list, indicating the name Hoatumatua. Besides we see that we can take this glyph for an ideogram, expressing the name Hoatumatua. We also find the glyph before the name of the mythical king in Metoro-Jaussen's list, having there the significance:

“Noho ki te rangi ki te henua”, translated as:

“He lives in heaven, on earth”. 55

Now, both glyphs together can be translated according to the list:

“Hoatumatua lives in heaven, on earth”.

Metoro's translation from the tablet was:

“He comes to heaven on the two lands of Hoatumatua”.

The basic concepts, Hoatumatua and “being in heaven and on earth” appear equally in list and translation, but there is a deviation in the relation of words. It seems that the translator made a free version, varying the original sense.

In the following comparison we give the meaning of glyphs from Jaussen's list, corresponding to the sequence of identical glyphs on the tablet. Now there appears the following:

  • (a) Sometimes the significance of list and translation is the same.
  • (b) Sometimes the basic meaning, still recognizable, is varied.
  • (c) Sometimes a pretended translation is given, for which there are no corresponding glyphs. (These words have no number-designation over the translation.)
- iii
THE INSCRIBED TABLET FROM EASTER ISLAND KNOWN AS AROUKOU-KOURENGA. MUSÉE DES SACRÉS CŒURS DE PICPUS, AT BRAINE-LE-COMTE, BELGIUM.

From Photographs kindly provided by the Rev. Père Ildefonse Alazard. (Aroukou-kourenga=the French recording of Maori Aruku-kurenga).

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The coincidence between the basic meaning of glyphs and the basic meaning of the translation seems to confirm the belief that the reading was based upon a deciphering of glyphs and, as Metoro said: 56

“. . . besides the word giving the proper meaning of the sign, the chant includes groups of other words added by the fancy of the artists”.

But the basic meaning without the artist's addition must give us a rudimentary sense which even might become clear if we separate the additions from the literal translation of the glyphs.

TRANSLATIONS.

In the following translation of the first three rows of the tablet Aroukou-kourenga the reader may compare the translation by means of the following indications: There is beside the translation of each glyph a number which indicates where the corresponding glyph in Jaussen's list can be found. The numbers on the margin correspond to the number of glyphs as they are represented in the separated rows of the tablet. When there are glyphs on the tablet, to which Metoro does not refer in his reading, we insert “missing” in column 1; when there is a reading of Metoro where no corresponding glyphs do appear on the tablet we insert “missing in column 2”.

TABLET AROUKOU-KOURENGA. FIRST ROW:
Reading of the tablet by MetoroMeaning of glyphs according to the list of Metoro-JauassenGlyph-number of listGlyph-number of tablet
KA TU I TE RANGI KI TE HENUA E RUA (Il vient dans le ciel sur les deux terres) 57He comes to heaven on the two lands58NOHO KI TE RANGI KI TE HENUA (Il demeure au ciel, sur laterre) He lives in heaven, on earth1531
NO HOATUMATUA (de Hoatumatua) of HoatumatuapiHENUA NO HOATUMATUA (terre de Hoatumatua) land of Hoatumatua1522
KA HAKANOHOA (il prend son siege) he takes his throneNOHO (demeurer) to live2203
KI TE HITO O TE RANGI KI TE HENUA (au haut du ciel et sur la terre) in the height of heaven and on earthNOHO KI TE RANGI KI TE HENUA (il demeure au ciel, sur la terre) he lives in heaven, on earth.1534
(missing) (see glyph 7)HENUA (terre) earth, land305
- 26
Reading of the tablet by MetoroMeaning of glyphs according to the list of Metoro-JaussenGlyph-number of listGlyph-number of tablet
TE ATARIKI (le prince ainé) the eldest princeTE ATARIKI (le prince ainé) the eldest prince146
KI TE HENUA KI TONA HENUA (sur la terre, sur la terre) on earth, on earthNOHO (demeurer) to live2207
KUA TERE TE VAKA (canot flottant) flowing canoeVAKA (pirogue) boat1168
KI TONA TALUNA (vers son cadet) toward his younger brotherTE TEINA (le cadet) the younger brother159
MAI TAE ATU KITE TAMAITI (venu vers l'enfant) having come to the childTAMAITI (l'enfant) the child1310
(missing)KOIA (lui, il, elle) him, he, she1011
KOIA E HIRI KI TE RANGI KI TE HENUA (ainsi s'efforce d'arriver au ciel sur la terre) thus he strives to arrive in heaven on earthKUA HIRI KI TE RANGI KI TE HENUA (il est allé au ciel sur la terre) he is gone to heaven on earth15412
MAI TAE ATU IA KI TE HENUA (lui arrivé sur la terre) he arrived on earth(missing) (see glyph 15)(missing)
KOIA KOAKOA KI TE RANGI (ainso réjoui dans le ciel) thus joyous in heaven(missing) (see glyph 15)(missing)
KUA OHO KI TE HENUA (levé, dressé sur la terre) risen, set up on earth(missing) (see glyph 15)(missing)
E TANGATA ERA E KA OHO KOA (ces hommes se levent) these men arise(missing)(missing)
(missing)HENUA NO HOATU-MATUA (terre de Hoatumatua) land of Hoatumatua15213
(missing)TE INOINO (ce qui ést eclatant, rayonnant) who is radiant, brilliant184 or 3014
- 27
Reading of the tablet by MetoroMeaning of glyphs according to the list of Metoro-JaussenGlyph-number of listGlyph-number of tablet
(missing)KUA HIRI KI TE RANGI KI TE HENUA (il est alié au ciel sur la terre) he is gone to heaven on earth15415
(missing)HENUA (terre) earth, land3016
(missing)TE ATARIKI (le prince ainé) the eldest prince1417
(missing)TE INOINO (ce qui est éclatant, rayonnant) which is radiant, brilliant18418
KA NOHO IA KO TE MATUA I RUNGA I TO PEPE (celui-ci reste assis le pere sur le dessus de son siege) this one remains sitting, the father upon his throneTE MATUA I RUNGA O TONA PEPE (le pere est sur son siege) the father is sitting on. his throne15619
MAI TAE ATU KI TONA TA MAITI (celui-ci vient vers son enfant) this one comes to his childTAMAITI (enfant) child1320
E KUA KOAKOA IA KI TE RANGI (celui-ci est réjoui dans leciel) this one is joyous in heavenKUA KOAKOA KI TE RANGI (il est réjoui au ciel) he is joyous in heaven15721
KUA RERE TE MANU (oiseau envolé) bird flown awayMANU TERE (oiseau qui vole) flying bird6622
KI RUNGA O TE HENUA (au-dessus de la terre) over the earthHENUA (terre) earth, land3023
MAI TA ATU KI (il est venu pres de) he approached(missing)(missing)
TE TANGATA MEA KAI KI TE HENUA (l'homme qui vient manger assis par terre) the man who eats sitting on earthTE TANGATA KAI (l'homme qui mange) the man who eats22524
(missing)NOHO (demeurer) to live22025
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Reading of the tablet by MetoroMeaning of glyphs according to the list of Metoro-JaussenGlyph-number of listGlyph-number of tablet
(missing)TANGATA HANGA (hommes au travail) men at work22626
(missing)TANGATA HANGA (hommes au travail) men at work22627
KO TE TANGATA HANGAI TE MOA (cet homme cherche a prendre Poiseau Moa) this man tries to catch the bird MoaMOA RERE (poule qui vole) filling fowl6428
KUA UA KI TE MOA (il a jeté de l'eau sur Moa) he poured water upon the MoaUA (pluie, eau) water4029
KUA KOTIIA E TE MOA E (il lui a coupé des morceaux)MOA RERE (poule qui vole) flying jowl6430
he cut it into piecesROTIA HENUA (terre coupé) cut soil, tilled soil3131
KA VERO KOL (il l'a percé de la lance) he pierced it with his lance(missing)(missing)
MAI TAE ATU KI TE MAITAKI (il arrive en un lieu sur) he arrives on a sure place(missing)(missing)
(missing)MOA RERE (poule qui vole) flying fowl6432
(missing)NOHO (demeurer) to live22033
MAI TAE ATU KI TE ARIKI E NOHO MAI (il arrive jusqu' eau roi qui est assis) he arrives unto the king who is seatedARIKI (le roi) the king734
KUA RERE IA KOIA (il court ainsi) thus he runs(missing)(missing)
KUA RERE KI TE MAITAKI (il est couru au lieu sur) he has run to the sure place(missing)(missing)
- v
FIRST ROW

Illustration

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Reading of the tablet by MetoroMoaning of glyphs according to the list of Metoro-JaussenGlyph-number of listGlyph number of tablet
KI TE HUA RAE O TE HENUA (sur la place en promomtoire de la terre) to the place on the promontory of the land(missing)(missing)
KOIA HAKAIRI (ainsi il se repose) thus he is resting(missing)(missing)
(missing)TANGATA (l'homme) man935
(missing)NOHO (demeurer) to live22036
(missing)TE HUA RAE (les enfants) the children1137
(missing)TAMAITI (l'enfant) the child1338
(missing)HENUA (terre) earth, land3039
(missing)HUA HAKA HIRI IA (il est parti) he is gone away21840

TRANSLATION OF TEXT ACCORDING TO MEANING OF GLYPHS.

  • 1. He lives in heaven on earth,
  • 2. land of Hoatumatua,
  • 3. (he) lives,
  • 4. he lives in heaven, on earth.
  • 5. (On) earth,
  • 6. the eldest prince
  • 7. lives
  • 8. (on) a boat.
  • 9. The younger brother,
  • 10. the child
  • 11. he
  • 12. is gone to heaven, on earth,
  • 13. the land of Hoatumatua,
  • 14. the brilliant,
  • 15. he is gone to heaven, on earth.
  • 16. (On) earth,
  • 17. the eldest prince,
  • 18. the brilliant,
  • 19. the father is sitting on his throne.
  • 20. The child
  • 21. is joyous in heaven.
  • 22. The bird flies
  • 23. (over) the earth,
  • 24. Man eats
  • 25. lives,
  • 26. man is at work,
  • 27. man is at work.
  • 28. The fowl flies
  • 29. (over) the water,
  • 30. the fowl flies
  • 31. (over) the tilled soil,
  • 32. the fowl flies,
  • 33. lives,
  • 34. The king
  • 35. man
  • 36. lives,
  • 37. the children
  • 38. The child
  • 39. (on) earth
  • 40. is gone away.
- 30

INTERPRETATION OF THE TEXT.

There are tales told by the natives, which seem to illuminate some details of the chant. Hoatumatua, the first king, was a deified ancestor and considered a mediator between heaven and earth; unlimited power was attributed to him. Thomson reports a chant, given by his interpreter as a translation of a wooden tablet (ea ha to rau ariiki ke te): 59

“What power has the great king in the universe? He has the power to create the stars, the clouds, the dew, the rain, and the moon”.

The remark of the boat, on which the eldest prince is living, may refer to Hoatumatua's arrival on a boat. Thomson reports: 60

“The island was discovered by king Hotu-matua, who came from the land in the direction of the rising sun, with two large double canoes . . .”

He reports furthermore: 61

“The king nominated his eldest son as his successor (Tuumaeheke), and it was ordained that the descent of the kings should always be through the eldest son”.

The younger brother of the king is also mentioned in the tradition of the origin of the islanders. This brother, Machaa, 62

“lands upon the same island which his brother's party reach two months later, by simply steering towards the setting sun”.

Thus one tradition goes back to two ancestor kings, the king and his younger brother.

Thomson reports furthermore: 63

“The tradition continues by a sudden jump into the following extraordinary connection of affairs: Many years after the death of Hotu-matua, the island was about equally divided between his descendants and the ‘long-eared race’ and between them a deadly feud raged . . .The ‘long ears’ had planned the utter annihilation of their enemies. A long and deep ditch was dug across Hoto-iti and covered with brushwood, and into this the ‘long ears’ arranged to drive their enemies, when the brush-wood was to be set on fire and every man exterminated. The trap was found out, and the plan cirumvented by opening the battle premeditately and in the night. The‘ long ears’ were driven into the ditch they had built, and murdered to a man. After the defeat and utter annihilation of the ‘long-eared race’, the tradition goes on to state that peace reigned on the island, and the people increased in numbers and prosperity”.

Although the tradition continues, as Thomson says, “by a sudden jump”, it might be that the two races on the island were the descendants of Hotu-matua and of his younger brother Machaa. The “short ears” of Hoto-matua murdered the “long ears” of Machaa. But the islanders probably feared that the battle was continued in the other world. The stone statues on the burial-places show, as we shall describe on another occasion, long ears, and were probably erected in memory of the murdered race for soothing their vengeance.

- 31

Our text may describe that the ancestor “Hoatumatua lives in heaven, on earth”, that his descendant, “the eldest prince, the brilliant, the father (father of the whole people) is sitting on his throne”, that “the younger brother, the child, he is gone to heaven, he is gone, the child is joyous in heaven”. The text emphasizing that the murdered younger brother is gone but has his joy in heaven, also seems to have that purpose which presumably the stone statues on the burial places have, namely, to soothe the murdered enemy in the other world.

FIRST RESULTS.

A comparison between the reading of the interpreter Metoro and our translation, based upon the vocabulary list which is transmitted by Metoro, shows such a high degree of identity that we can make several decisive conclusions.

  • 1. The reading of Metoro was not mere phantasy, but based upon a fixed meaning of glyphs.
  • 2. Metoro appears a trustworthy interpreter.
  • 3. Repetitions of the same sign with the same interpretation show that the signs are ideograms.
  • 4. The fact that the reader adds free interpretations to the basic signs and their concepts indicates that the structure of the text is that of a telegram which becomes intelligible by certain additions of the reader.
  • 5. The fact that the reading of Metoro with numerous free additions and our translation with several grammatical additions furnish the same basic content indicates that the content is a fixed entity, understandable in itself, but which may be enlarged by some additions as it was the case with the singers of the Homerian and Mediaeval epochs.
  • 6. All observations together lead us to conclude that the deciphering of the Easter island tablets with the glyph-key of Metoro-Jaussen seems to be definitely possible.

The translation of two further rows will support our conclusions. For these next rows no translation by Jaussen is given. Some kind of verification seems to be given by the meaningfulness of the text and by oral traditions, having a similar content as has the text.

We now present the second row of the same tablet, proceeding with the same method as applied before.

TABLET AROUKOU-KOURENGA. SECOND ROW:
Meaning of glyphs according to the list of Metoro-jaussenGlyph no. of listGlyph no. of tablet
TAE KI TE HAKA HIRI IA (arriver au logis) to arrive at the domicile2191
HANU (chapeau en corde d'hibiscus) hat of hibiscus braid1342
MOA RERE (poule qui vole) flying fowl643
HANU (chapeau en corde d'hibiscus) hat of hibiscus braid1344
MANU HURA ARERE (oiseau rouge qui vole) red flying bird675
MANU KAHUA (oiseau au long bec) bird with a long beak686
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Meaning of glyphs according to the list of Metoro-JaussenGlyph no. of listGlyph no. of tablet
HANU (chapeau en corde d'hibiscus) hat of hibiscus braid1347
MANU RERE (oiseau qui vole) flying bird668
E HAKA NGANA NGANA MAU I TE TAPAMEA (il panse, tenant une igname rouge) he cultivates, holding a red yam1589
MOA RERE (poule qui vole) flying fowl6410
HANU (chapeau en corde d'hibiscus) hat of hibiscus braid13411
MANU RERE (oiseau qui vole) flying bird6612


L’Île de Pâques est une toute petite île perdue en plein milieu du Pacifique.

      

L’île de Pâques est l’île la plus isolée du monde.

Elle se situe à 3 700 kilomètres du Chili (le pays dont elle dépend) et à 4 000 Km de Tahiti.

Ce paradis perdu figure sur la liste du patrimoine mondial de l'Unesco.

On dit que l’île est un "caillou" de seulement 20 km de longueur sur 20 km de largeur.

Ce petit bout de terre de 117 Km² est en fait une île volcanique. On trouve trois volcans (qui ne sont pas en activité) : Le Rana Kano, le Rana Roratka et Puakatike.

L’île de Pâques une terre aride car elle est balayée de façon quasi permanente par des vents très violents. La faune sur l'île est donc très imitée, ce qui explique pourquoi les habitants se sont longtemps adonnés au cannibalisme. En arrivant sur l’île, les Européens ont importé un certain nombre d'animaux domestiques.

Quant à la flore, elle n'est guère développée, on trouve très peu d'arbres.

Pourtant, il semblerait que de grandes forêts s'étendaient sur toute la surface de l'île il y a encore plusieurs siècles, mais elles ont été exploitées de façon intensive au cours des siècles, ce qui expliqueraient leur disparition.

   

   

Environ 4 000 personnes vivent sur l’île de Pâques qui vivent surtout dans la capitale de l'île : Hanga Roa… et il y a environ 2 000 chevaux.

On rencontre des chevaux sans arrêt sur l’Île de Pâques.

   

   

   

 

À vrai dire, il n’y a pas grand chose dans cette ville sinon une poste, une église, un marché et un hôpital.

Aucune industrie n'est installée sur cette île du Pacifique. Tout vient du continent, même le gaz, ce qui explique les prix élevés : un kilo de pain vaut 800 pesos (1,4$CAD) à Santiago mais est vendu 2 000 pesos (3,80 $ CAD) à Rapa Nui.

Les habitants vivent essentiellement (à 80%) du tourisme.

Plus de 65 000 visiteurs débarquent chaque année sur l'île, attirés par les plages, les paysages volcaniques et, bien sûr, les Moaï, ces mystérieuses statues géantes en basalte.

     

     

     

     

     

En octobre 2009, les habitants de l’Île de Pâques se sont prononcés massivement, par référendum, en faveur d'un contrôle renforcé des flux migratoires. Sur le modèle des Galápagos, et dans le but de protéger l’Île, la maire souhaite la création d'un conseil migratoire, avec des quotas de touristes et de travailleurs résidents.

Les grands complexes hôteliers sont interdits mais pourtant un luxueux "resort", consacré au tourisme d'aventure, s'est installé sur l'île, à l'abri des regards…

L'actuelle Constitution accorde un statut particulier à l'île de Pâques, garantissant la libre circulation des citoyens mais précisant que les terres appartiennent exclusivement aux Pascuans.

Les Chiliens du continent ou les étrangers ne peuvent donc pas acheter un terrain ni même une maison.

En 1999, le gouvernement chilien a attribué 5 hectares à chaque famille Rapa Nui qui cultive le manioc et le maïs. Le seul moyen de devenir propriétaire est donc d'épouser un Rapa Nui !

La découverte de l’Île de Pâques

Le soir du dimanche de Pâques du 5 avril 1722, l'amiral hollandais Jacob Roggercen aperçut une terre inconnue…

Il nomme alors cette île minuscule PAASCH EYLANDT, soit : "L’Île de Pâques".

Les premiers contact avec les habitants, les Pascuans, se font dès le lendemain. Puis l'Amiral Roggercen reprend son voyage. Sa courte visite lui a permis d'apercevoir de gigantesques et surprenantes statues…

Puis, pendant près d'un demi-siècle, l’île est oubliée jusqu'à ce que l'Espagne envoie reconnaître les terres proches de ses colonies d'Amérique. Le 15 décembre 1770, les espagnols prennent possession de l'île. Les relations avec la population sont cordiales.

Le 14 mars 1774, le capitaine Cook fait escale à l'île de Paques. C’est grâce à ces descriptions que l’Île de Pâques va devenir célèbre.

Le 9 avril 1976 une 1ère expédition française commandée par La Pérouse atteint l'île. Une exploration de l'île est entreprise puis La Pérouse reprend la mer. L'histoire de l'île de Pâques entre alors dans une ère de ténèbres. Les aventuriers et baleiniers infligent de multiples sévices aux Pascuans. Les chasseurs d'esclaves péruviens déciment la population de l'île en 1862.

Puis des missionnaires français arrivent sur l'île.

Les Pascuans s'opposent tout d'abord à leur présence, mais ils se laissent gagner petit à petit par la bonne parole. En 1868, tous les indigènes sont convertis au catholicisme. Cette année là, un aventurier français, Jean-Batiste Dutrou débarque en voulant introduire l'élevage sur l'île. Il prétend acheter les terres les plus fertiles aux Pascuans. Il met l'île à feu et à sang. De graves incidents éclatent en 1870 avec les missionnaires et les indigènes. Dutrou est finalement assassiné en 1877.

De nombreux navires abordèrent dans l'île par la suite.

En 1888 le Chili annexe l'île et loue les terrains pour l'élevage des moutons, à l'exception du village d'Hanga Roa, réservé aux insulaires.

En 1966, l’île de Paques est définitivement rattachée au Chili.

La légende de l’Île de Pâques

Un des premiers mystères ou questionnement au sujet de l’Île de Pâques c’est "Comment d'ou sont venus les habitants ?" (avant la colonisation par les hommes).

Comment ont-ils fait pour arriver jusqu’à cette île perdue au milieu de l’océan ?

En polynésien, la cité de l’île de Pâques se dit "Te Pito no te huano", ce qui veut dire : "Le nombril de la terre".

D'après leurs légendes, les Rapa Nui racontent que les 1ers êtres humains à poser le pied sur le sol de "Te Pito te Henua" traversèrent l’immensité de l’Océan Pacifique poussés par des rêves prémonitoires d’initiés de la Terre des Hommes "Enua Enata".

Hotu Matua (Matua veut dire le père d’entre tous, l’ancêtre) quitta les Terres des Hommes car son temple avait été détruit par un raz-de-marée.

Après avoir navigué, Hotu Matua rencontra une île sauvage et difficile d’accès, mais les initiés Tare et Rapa-Hango avaient vu l’île en rêve prémonitoire et lui avaient fourni de précieuses indications. Confiant, Hotu Matua fit le tour de l’île et trouva une baie habitée seulement par des oiseaux... C’est ainsi fut que fut baptisée la baie du 1er débarquement !

LES MOAIS

Ce sont ces imposantes et énigmatiques statues qui ont fait la renommée de l’Île de Pâques : les Moaïs. On compte environ 900 statues sur l’Île de Pâques dont 300 sont relativement bien conservées. Trois volcans principaux dominent l’île.

   

Les Moaïs sont faits en basalte qui provient du volcan Rano Raraku (dont le cratère est aujourd'hui envahi par les joncs). Le volcan a donc servi de carrière à la fabrication des Moais.

    

    

Sur les 900 statues que compte environ l’île, 394 sont encore sur les flans du volcan Rano Raraku qui culmine à 150 mètres.

Les statues semblent littéralement descendre du sommet du volcan… Il y en a partout, dressées sur la pente herbeuse. Petit à petit, au cours des temps, les sédiments ont recouvert les Moaïs et leurs poids les a enfoncés dans le sol. Pour la plupart des Moais, on ne voit plus que le sommet de la tête.

       

       

      

       

                      

On ne se rend donc pas toujours bien compte de leur taille qui se situe en général entre 4 et 8 mètres, certains allant même jusqu'à 10 mètres !

Les Moais sont non seulement très grands, mais ils sont surtout très pesants : entre 50 et 150 tonnes ! Soit l’équivalent en moyenne du poids de 100 voitures !

C’est l’un des mystères des Moais : comment ont-ils pu être transportés et ainsi érigés avec une telle taille et un tel poids…

Les Moaïs sont donc faits en basalte pour l’essentiel, mais on peut noter que leurs yeux sont faits d'os (de requins ou parfois d'autres vertébrés) et les pupilles sont faites par une incrustation de corail ou d'obsidienne (roche volcanique).

        

Ils portent sur leur tête un "Pu Kao", c’est à dire une sorte de chignon qui pèse en général 1,5 tonne (soit le poids d’une voiture !)

Cette coiffe n’est pas taillée dans le même volcan, c'est une pierre rouge provenant de la face ouest de l’île.

         

   

Depuis leur création, les Moaïs ont subi des dommages ou des modifications, notamment à cause des guerres tribales.

La plupart des statues sont soient brisées ou du moins mises à terre. Il y a de moins en moins de statues sur l’île et certaines ont perdu leurs yeux, leur coiffe, etc.

    

    

Quelques chiffres

Les Moaïs étaient amenés sur des Ahus.

Les Ahus sont des monuments de pierre qui servaient de support à l’érection des Moaïs, certainement des autels. Les Ahus sont construits au moyen de blocs de pierres ordonnés et ajustés sans mortier. L'ingéniosité de la mise en place des blocs est plus développée que celle des techniques habituelles des autres îles du Pacifique.

L’autel était orienté face au village, certainement pour le protéger, mais surtout face au soleil levant, à l’Est. L’autel recevait donc les premiers rayons du soleil au moment des solstices et des équinoxes. Cela signifie que les créateurs des Moaïs possédaient parfaitement la science des cycles lunaires et solaires.

    

    

   

    

    

Le plus long Ahu de l'île de Pâques est celui de l’Ahu Tonga Ariki.

Sa plate-forme mesure 45 mètres de large et 160 mètres de long. Il soutenait 15 Moaïs imposants.

Malheureusement, l’Ahu Tonga Ariki a été renversé en 1962 par un raz-de-marée. L’archéologue chilien Claudio Cristino a mis 7 ans a le reconstruire tel qu’il était.

         

Aujourd'hui encore, il reste des dizaines de statues dans la carrière volcanique qui n'ont pas été achevées.

       

       

On en trouve à tous les stades de construction : certains sont à peine commencés, d’autres bien entamées et d’autres encore sont quasiment terminés, prêts à partir.

Le plus grand de tous, qui n'a jamais été achevé, mesure plus de 24 mètres. Ces statues non finies attestent d'un arrêt soudain de leur fabrication.

    

Tous les Moaïs se ressemblent… sauf un qui est très différents des autres.

Ce Moaï est surnommé Tukututi.

C'est le seul Moaï de l'île qu'on ait trouvé avec des jambes. De plus il est agenouillé.

Il n’est pas très haut par rapport aux autres puisqu’il mesure environ 3 mètres.

Tukututi : l’exception Moaï

Les Moaïs sont tous tournés vers l'intérieur de l'île, le dos face à la mer.

Il existe une exception, c'est le Ahu Akivi, un alignement de 7 Moaïs qui regardent en direction de la mer.

Sinon leur regard se dirige toujours vers le ciel, c’est pourquoi on les surnomme : "Ceux qui regardent les étoiles".

Le plus grand mystère des Moaïs résident dans la question de leur transport, de leur lieu de fabrication (le volcan) jusqu'à leur destination finale (parfois à plus de 20 kilomètres du volcan).

Rappelons nous qu’une statue pèse entre 50 et 150 tonnes !

Or elles étaient presque toutes amenées au bord de la mer et des falaises.

  

Quand les 1ers européens sont arrivés sur l’île, les habitants ont affirmé que les statues avaient été transportées par le Dieu Maké-Maké : les indigènes sculptaient et le Dieu les transportait. Les Moaïs prenaient alors vie lorsqu'on leur mettait le Pu Ako sur la tête.

Les Anciens affirment que les Moaïs "marchaient".

L’ÉCRITURE RONGO-RONGO

Si les Moaïs suscitent bien des questionnements, une autre découverte, plus étonnante encore, nous fait réfléchir sur l’existence d’une civilisation passée très développée qui aurait existée sur cette île perdue au milieu du Pacifique. Lors de la colonisation de l’Île au 18e s., des tablettes en bois représentant d’étranges symboles ont été découvertes.

C'est assez étrange d'avoir découvert ces symboles quand on sait que la culture polynésienne, à laquelle appartiennent la civilisation pascuane, n'utilisait pas d'écriture…

Avec l’arrivée des européens au 19e s., des évènements d’une extrême violence se dérouleront sur l’île : les habitant seront massacrés, les Moaïs saccagés et les tablettes d'écriture brûlées par les missionnaires. Malheureusement, les grands prêtres porteurs de la tradition et capables de lire l'écriture Rongo Rongo ont été tués.

De cette période, il ne reste plus aujourd'hui que 21 tablettes dans le monde. Elles sont dispersées dans des musées et dans quelques collections de particuliers (le musée de Braine-le-Comte en Belgique en possède d'ailleurs une importante partie).

En outre, aucune datation ne s'est montrée concluante, leur âge reste actuellement indéterminé. Ces tablettes comportent en tout 13 682 caractères (selon le répertoire de Thomas Barthel) et environ 600 glyphes de base.

On reconnaît nettement des représentations d'hommes, des objets quotidiens, mais aussi des poissons, des lézards, des oiseaux (dont des animaux qu’on ne trouvait pas sur l'île de Pâques).

Répertoire Thomas Barthel (extrait)

La très grande majorité des hiéroglyphes sont anthropomorphiques.

Certains représentent de petits bonshommes, de face ou de profil; debout, bras ballants; ou assis, ou en tailleur; une main levée, ou baissée, ou tournée vers la bouche; tenant qui un bâton, qui un bouclier, qui une ficelle avec des barbes. Certains ont deux gros yeux exorbités, certains un énorme nez crochu avec trois poils dessus; d'autres un corps d'oiseau.

Souvent, l'écriture prend l'aspect de dessins animés.

On voit le même personnage répété en des postures légèrement différentes. On voit aussi beaucoup de signes zoomorphiques, surtout des oiseaux, moins souvent des poissons et des lézards.

Le plus fréquent ressemble à la frégate, appelée aussi hirondelle de mer, qui faisait justement l'objet d'un culte car elle était associée au dieu suprême Make-Make. Certains symboles sont difficilement interprétables, mais d’autres sont facilement reconnaissables, comme des singes et des éléphants... alors qu’il n'a jamais existé le moindre singe ou éléphant sur cette île ni même en Polynésie !

L'écriture Rongo-Rongo est probablement dans l'esprit des hiéroglyphes égyptiens mais on ne parvient pas à la comprendre !

Il y a également de nombreuses similitudes entre cette écriture et l'écriture dite Proto-Indus (ou proto-indienne) de la vallée de l'Indus qui est datée d’au moins 2600 à 3000 ans avant J.-C. Maisni l’homme ni les programmes informatiques n’ont réussi à percer le mystère de cette énigmatique écriture.

       

La seule source locale qui aurait pu permettre une interprétation, se nommait Meteoro, un Tahitien a qui (au 19e s.) le Père Jaussen montra les tablettes, car il s'était vanté de pouvoir les lire. À la vue des tablettes, Meteoro se mit à chanter ce qu'il y voyait.

C'est à ce jour à priori la seule personne qui ai compris ce que les tablettes signifiaient.

De ces observations et de ces dialogues avec Meteoro, le Père Jaussen, n'a réussi à comprendre que la façon dont se lisait les "textes" et qu'ils étaient chantés. Comment lire cette écriture ?

Le sens de cette écriture s'avère unique au monde ! On lit de gauche à droite, mais en partant du coin inférieur gauche de la tablette, puis, arrivé en bout de ligne, on fait pivoter la tablette de 180 degrés et on continue, toujours de gauche à droite. L'orientation des signes change d'une ligne à l'autre.

Imaginez un livre dont les lignes impaires sont imprimées normalement mais dont les lignes paires vont non seulement de droite à gauche mais ont des lettres imprimées sens dessus-dessous.

Pour le lire sans trop de peine, il faudrait retourner le livre à chaque ligne… Voilà à quoi ressemblent les tablettes de l'Île de Pâques !

Mais ce que chante Meteoro est difficile compréhensible :

"Il se dresse dans le ciel, sur les deux terres de Hoatumatua,
il est établi, au milieu du ciel, sur la terre,
le fils aîné, sur la terre, sur sa terre, la pirogue est partie..."

L'évêque transcrira les chants de Meteoro sur un ouvrage. Malheureusement, le manuscrit ne sera hélas jamais publié, car son impression, avec la reproduction des hiéroglyphes, aurait coûté bien trop cher… Plus tard, le père Jaussen répertoriera les glyphes dans une liste.

En 1958, dans un article de Scientific American, Thomas Barthel annonce avoir réussi déchiffrer l’écriture Rongo-Rongo ! Fausse surprise, il ne donne en fait que des généralités sur le système d'écriture, quelques exemples et une brève liste de signes avec leur prononciation et leur sens.

Tout ce qu'on est parvenu à déchiffrer, ce sont 3 lignes de la tablette dite "Mamari". En effet, on voit assez clairement qu'il doit s'agir d'un calendrier avec les phases de la lune. Or, on possède plusieurs versions de l'ancien mois lunaire.

Tablette Mamari (calendrier lunaire)

La plus intéressante est celle recueillie par William Thomson en 1886, publiée en 1889 par le Musée National américain.

Grâce à Thomson, on sait par exemple que la nuit appelée "kokore tahi" été tombée le 27 novembre 1886. Avec un almanach de l'époque ou un logiciel d'astronomie, on peut vérifier cette liste et s'en servir comme d'une clef pour déchiffrer les hiéroglyphes du calendrier.

Thomson a aussi recueilli les noms des mois pascuans avec leurs correspondances dans notre calendrier. Or, par une chance extraordinaire, l'année pascuane correspondant à 1885-1886 avait 13 mois, alors que tous les autres auteurs n'en ont noté que 12.

En calculant les dates des phases de la lune pour les années 1885-1886, on peut reconstituer l'ancien calendrier. On trouvera peut-être un jour sur une tablette les signes qui correspondent à ces noms de mois, ou à la règle pour décider quand recourir au 13e mois.

Les pétroglyphes

Les pétroglyphes sont des gravures sur pierre. On en retrouve à différents endroits de l'île, à l'air libre.

Les plus impressionnants se situent à Orongo sur une falaise escarpée (un à pic de 200 mètres sur la mer au sud ouest de l’île). Ils sont sculptés à même le sol rocheux. Ils représentent des glyphes rapanui, des tortues, des poissons ou encore l'homme-oiseau.

Les pétroglyphes ont donné lieu au culte de l'homme-oiseau.

Il s'agit d'un culte du Dieu Make-Make étroitement lié à la fertilité, au printemps et à l'arrivée des oiseaux migrateurs marins. Chaque année, à l'arrivée du printemps plusieurs hommes se rendaient à la nage sur l'îlot Motu Nui, visible depuis Orongo, et attendaient l'arrivée des oiseaux Manutara (petite sterne noire).

Celui qui parvenait alors à s'emparer du premier oeuf de Manutara devenait l'homme-oiseau et était considéré sacré. Cette cérémonie est dite rituel du Tangata-Manu. Elle s'est déroulée pour la dernière fois en 1867.

La pierre ronde

Sur l’île de Pâques, dans la baie de Hanga Hoonu (Baie Lapérouse), à côté du plus grand moaï (une douzaine de mètres de haut, mais il a été mis à terre), se trouve une pierre ronde. L’oeuf ne se situe pas du tout au centre de l’île.

La baie de Hanga Hoonu - L’œuf du centre du monde

Les scientifiques ne savent pas depuis combien de temps cette pierre est là, ni si ce sont les vents et la mer qui l’ont ainsi façonnée naturellement ou bien si cette pierre a été sculptée par l’homme.

Pour les pascuans, cette représente le centre du monde et ils y attachent une valeur très importante.

Boules découvertes dans les forêts du Costa Rica

    

Des centaines de boules artificielles parfaites de 12 tonnes et plus en granit ou en lave.

La perfection de ces boules montre que les personnes qui les ont fabriquées, connaissaient bien la géométrie spatiale et avaient à leur disposition des instruments techniquement bien conçus. À notre époque, nous ne pourrions pas réaliser manuellement une boule parfaite de 2,5 m de diamètre qui représente environ une aire de 5 m2 et un volume de 8 m3, dans une roche aussi dure que le granit. Il nous faut absolument nous servir de machines-outils programmables très perfectionnées.

Comme pour les Moaïs de l’Île de Pâques, un des mystères est comment ces boules si pesantes ont-elles pu être transportées en pleine forêt (qui plus est, pas facile du tout d’accès) ?

Boules découvertes près des pyramides de Bosnie (Europe)

    

Des boules de 1,70 m à 5,30 m ont été façonnées avec la même méthodologie que celles du Costa Rica et avec les mêmes instruments…

 

Constats sur le mystère de l’écriture Rongo-Rongo

 

1. Le bois sur lequel l’écriture Rongo-Rongo a été gravée n’existe pas sur Île…
Le seul bois dur disponible est celui dont sont faites les statuettes des fameux "hommes-oiseau"

=> Alors QUI a importé ces tablettes sur Île de Pâques et COMMENT ?

 

2. Étrangement, la civilisation polynésienne n’utilisait pas l’écriture…

=> Alors QUI utilisait l’écriture Rongo Rongo ?

 

3. Malgré notre connaissance et notre technologie actuelle, l'écriture Rongo Rongo n'a,
à ce jour, toujours pas été déchiffrée…

=> Alors QUI utilisait l’écriture Rongo Rongo et QUAND ?

 

4. En outre, aucune datation ne s'est montrée concluante,
l’âge des tablettes Rongo-Rongo reste actuellement indéterminé

=> Alors QUI possédait cette connaissance ?

 

5. Les Moais n’ont absolument pas les caractéristiques physiques des polynésiens et
certains animaux représentés sur les tablettes Rongo-Rongo n’existaient pas sur l’Ile de Pâques…

=> Alors QUI ? Quel peuple les Moaïs représentaient-ils ?

 

Mais qui étaient donc ces Moais
qui utilisaient une écriture que nous ne parvenons pas à comprendre ?

On parle d’écriture Rongo-Rongo, mais il s’agit en fait de l’écriture Kohau Rongo-Rongo.

  • Kohau signifie "le fil qui nous relie à nos ancêtres", "le rituel"

  • Rongo-rongo veut dire "la grande étude", "la parole sacrée"

  • Rongo seul est la tradition orale

  • Rongo-rongo doublé est très emphatique : cela signifie "la grande parole", "la parole des initiés"

  • Rongo Metua veut dire "le message des anciens"...

Plusieurs textes anciens attribuent l'invention de l'écriture au créateur universel Brahmâ.

Cette sculpture de Brahmâ le représente tenant un manuscrit de feuilles de palmiers dans l'une de ses mains.

Dans la tradition ancienne de l'Inde, la Révélation n'est pas liée à une écriture particulière mais à une langue sacrée, le sanscrit, qui peut se transcrire dans la plupart des écritures de l'Inde.

C'est pourquoi la mythologie indienne privilégie plutôt les mythes de naissance de la Parole.

La Parole détient l'énergie créatrice, ainsi est-ce par elle que tout l'univers a été créée.

La Lémurie

Il suffit de regarder les immenses statues de l’Île de Pâques pour comprendre qu’une grande civilisation a autrefois existé dans l’Océan Pacifique dont certains vestiges se retrouvent sur cette étonnante île aux plus grands mystères.

Plusieurs grandes civilisations ou races ont existé avant la nôtre.

Le calendrier Maya en témoignage et nous décrit comme étant les fils du 5e soleil, la 5e race.

  • La 1ère race est la race Protoplasmique ou Polaire

  • La 2e race est la race hyperborééenne

  • La 3e race est la race Lémurienne

  • La 4e race est la race AtlanteLa 5e race, la nôtre, est la race Aryenne

La race lémurienne vivait sur le continent MU, un énorme continent couvrant toute l’Aire du Pacifique, l’Île de Pâques, les Marquises, la Polynésie. Ce contient était uni à l’Australie et à l’Océanie.

Dans son livre Anthropologie gnostique, Samaël Aun Weor nous parle à plusieurs reprises de la Lémurie ou du continent Mu.

"Il y a des civilisations disparues, comme celle de l’Île de Pâques, où il existe, aujourd’hui, des effigies monumentales, d’énormes têtes humaines taillées par des mains de géants. La science matérialiste n’en a jamais rien dit. Elle se tait."

Ce qui est tout à fait intéressant, c’est que Samaël Aun Weor nous explique, dans Le Mariage Parfait, que la 3e race, la race lémurienne, a été transformée en oiseaux… Or, on retrouve sur l’Île de Pâques de nombreuses représentations d’oiseaux.

Cette humanité était extraordinairement avancée. Une civilisation bien plus puissante que la nôtre, aussi bien spirituellement que techniquement.

Sur le continent Mu, vivaient des géants de 4 m de hauteur qui vivaient 12 à 15 siècles. C’est pourquoi on appelait cette race la race des géants, dont les derniers descendants sont représentés par les fameuses statues qu’on trouve sur l’Île de Pâques.

"À travers 10 000 années de tremblements de terre, elle [la Lémurie] fut peu à peu submergée par les flots furieux de l’océan. Mais il est resté des vestiges de la Lémurie, en Océanie, en Australie, l’Île de Pâques, etc."

CONCLUSION

 

Le Mystère des Moaïs

Comment un peuple a t-il pu naître et survivre sur cette minuscule île perdue au milieu de l’Océan Pacifique,
aux multiples volcans et au climat aussi hostile ?

Comment ces statues géantes de plusieurs tonnes ont-elles été transportées et érigées ?

Les Moaïs n’ont absolument pas les caractéristiques physiques des polynésiens

 

Le Mystère de l’homme-oiseau

Quelle est la signification des pétroglyphes de l’homme-oiseau ?

 

Le Mystère de l’œuf du centre du monde

Qui a façonné cette pierre et dans quel but ?

 

Le mystère de l’écriture Rongo-Rongo

La civilisation polynésienne n’utilisait pas l’écriture

Le bois sur lequel l’écriture Rongo-Rongo a été gravée n’existe pas sur Île

Certains animaux représentés sur les tablettes Rongo-Rongo n’existaient pas sur l’Île de Pâques

Aucune datation des tablettes Rongo-Rongo ne s'est montrée concluante

Malgré notre technologie actuelle, l'écriture Rongo Rongo n'a toujours pas été déchiffrée

 

   Par Yellow Girl, le 27 juin 2010

 Si vous souhaitez lire d'autres articles de YellowGirl, cliquez [ici] 

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