Ahu-tongariki

Katherine Routledge who lived for a while on Easter Island in 1919 recorded legends told to her by an old woman who said that  the huge stone heads were moved into place by a magical technology called “mana”  — an interesting word since the ancient Hebrews during their forty days in the wilderness were fed by “mana” that fell from heaven.

Twenty-five texts called rongorongo were found on the island. They contain an ancient script, which predates inscriptions made by the most recent inhabitants of the island. They were created by an earlier people, and are believed to be a form of writing, as yet undeciphered.

On stones at the tops of cliffs overhanging the ocean are petroglyphs — figures of birdmen carved into the rock.  Their big beaks and big eyes are easy to make out.  The name of their chief god was Makemake, who had created human beings and who had a link with the birdmen. The carved birdmen look as if they’re about to fly out over the cliff. They are a recurring theme in many cultures – a great many – like angels with wings.

In Sanatana Dharma (or Hinduism), the vehicle of Lord Vishnu is Garuda, who is a mighty, very wise being, part man and part eagle or kite, who carries Vishnu wherever he wishes to travel.

The birdmen are more recent than the great standing statues, the moai, and the birdmen petroglyphs are said to have appeared first around 1570 and to be essentially the same as some found in Hawaii, so the concept must have traveled from one island to another.

Petroglyphs also depict sea turtles and fish.

On Easter Sunday, 1722, the first European, Dutch captain Jacob Roggeveen, arrived on the south Pacific island.  He stayed for a week or so.  Due to a “misunderstanding”, he shot some of the island’s residents. Things went from bad to worse over the next couple of centuries with nearly all of the thousands of the islands’ inhabitants being killed or sold into slavery.  Such are the hazards of being “discovered.”

In recent years the population has increased again to around 4,000, with about 60% of these being Rapanui, the native island people.

The giant stone figures, the moai, were in centuries past used during ceremonies.  They stand with their backs to the sea.  They were given eyes to wear during ceremonies, with the whites made of coral and the iris made of obsidian or red scoria, a type of volcanic rock filled with many holes.

The moai consist of heads along with their torsos. Only in one case was there a line of moai facing the sea.  Radiocarbon dating has yielded a date of between 1100 and 1680 CE for when they were carved. In 2011 though, a large moai was dug up out of the ground, which indicates that they are both larger and older than previously believed.

They carry even today an extraordinary presence.

Thanks to the History Channel H2, which featured Easter Island in a recent program on April 8, 2012 and to Wikipedia for much of this information.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Author: Rivi / GNU Free Documentation License / Six of the 15 Ahu Tongariki Moais