CHAUVET

Easter Island and Its Mysteries

 


 

THE EASTER ISLANDERS

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TRADITIONS AND HISTORY  78

 

As recorded by Monsignor T. Jaussen, the oral tradition of the Easter Islanders maintains that Hotu Matu’a sailed from Maroe-Orega 79 and Maroe-Tohio, which are located to the southwest, at the helm of two large canoes that contained three or four hundred people and discovered Easter Island, landing in August at Anakena with his wife Vakai a Hiva 80 and his companions. This happened about a thousand years ago, when the volcanoes were already extinct 81.

 

The canoes that brought the first settlers did not have a mast 82 and they were probably large catamarans, which are almost unsinkable (and which have a raised prow in the shape of a duck’s neck and a bifurcated poop that is not so high). These boats would have been similar to those that carried invaders from the Moluccas to Samoa and to those that others sailed to the Marquesas Islands around the fifth century, to Hawai’i around the tenth century, to New Zealand around the twelfth century and, finally, to Tahiti around the fifteenth century!! The new immigrants to the island would have brought with them, in their canoes, pigs 83 and chickens and various plants such as taro, sweet potato, yam, banana, sugarcane, toromiro, gaoho, hibiscus, maute [mahute], etc. 84.


These plants were very important because the island only had two kinds of bush until the immigrants arrived and these bushes, marikuru and naurau 85, only grew in crevices in the rocks. We should note, here, that the “wise men” who accompanied the new arrivals had brought with them a number of rolls of banana leaves on which hieroglyphics had been written and perhaps, even, some wooden tablets of the type that we shall discuss below. The new arrivals settled on the island, which the king had divided into six districts.


The immigrants continued to recognize Hotu Matu’a and his descendants as their king for thirty generations, with the title passing from the firstborn of one generation to the firstborn of the next. However, as we shall see, it is unfortunate that the names of kings on the lists compiled by Monsignor Jaussen, H. Roussel and Admiral de Lappelin do not agree 86.

 

It is likely that for several hundred years there were about 5,000 islanders 87, who were divided into fifteen clans and who lived, for the most part, along the coast of the island.


In 1860, there must still have been about 4,000 people on the island but there was soon to be a very rapid decrease in the number as a result of the various calamities that befell the islanders.


In 1862, Peruvian pirates killed several hundred islanders and took a thousand away as slaves! Four-fifths of those died in captivity and the remainder were repatriated in a state of extreme physiological misery [sic]. Moreover, some of the returning islanders were infected with smallpox, which spread over the entire island and killed more than half of the remaining population. Subsequently, with no king and no elders, the island collapsed into a state of anarchy, with fighting among the various clans. This civil war resulted in the deaths of even more islanders and also, since the conflict prevented the natives from planting and harvesting their crops, in a terrible famine.


Subsequently, two settlers, Dutrou-Bornier and Brander, held about 300 natives in a state of quasi-slavery and forced them to work on an agricultural project at Haapau 88, where most of them died (although a few were allowed to return to their homes)! Moreover, in 1871, as a result of the hardships inflicted on the missionaries by Dutrou-Bornier and Brander, the missionaries, including H. Roussel, decided to leave the island and took about fifty new converts with them to the Gambier Islands. Finally, tuberculosis (or scrofula, as it was called in de Lappelin’s time) developed as a permanent scourge 89.

 

The damage was such that of the 1,800 islanders in 1864, there remained only 930 in 1868, with 600 in 1869, according to Roussel, while there were only 275 (of which only 55 were females of any age) when the La Flore dropped anchor and only 111, with 26 women, when A. Pinart visited the island! We should note that the very low proportion of women, which had existed for a long time, had been one of the factors, in addition to poor nutrition, that had weakened the race because it had resulted in marriages of girls at too young an age.


At the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, the race continued to weaken, in particular as a result of cross breeding with sailors from passing ships and the spread of diseases brought by foreigners. We have good reason to fear that the true race of islanders will die out completely 90.


But even if the original race has, for the most part, disappeared, the actual population of the island has increased considerably since A. Pinart’s census. The immigration of Tahitians, Chileans and Europeans, as well as interbreeding, has increased the 111 islanders 91 counted by A. Pinart to 440 in 1935, according to H.-L. Shapiro. However, among this population, there are only a few islanders who have the somatic characteristics of the “Polynesian type” 92 that were unique to the ancient Easter Islanders! The next section provides details of both the bodily and the mental attributes of the islanders (according to the earliest visitors from overseas).

 


ANTHROPOLOGICAL STUDY


A) Men – We have a lot of information about the physical and mental characteristics of the islanders at the end of the eighteenth century and from the beginning of the nineteenth century as a result of the accounts written by various visitors to the island, as follows 93.


The information comes from Cook (a), La Pérouse (b), Dupetit-Thouars (c) Roussel (d), Don Guillermo Bate (chief physician on the O’Higgins) (e), Admiral T. de Lappelin (f), Pierre Loti (g), A. Pinart (h) and, also the artists who accompanied these visitors to the island (see Figures 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, and 28) 94.

 

Height – Mostly small (d); medium (f); with an average height of 1.57 meters (e and h).


Head – Facial expressions that are basically kind and gentle (h). Long head with regular features (c); somewhat elongated (h). Slightly slanted, expressive eyes (e); too close to each other, too big (g and f); but fairly lively (h). Prominent cheekbones (e and h). Prominent forehead (f). Lips with clearly defined edges; thick (h). Hooked nose (g); narrow (f); flattened between the nostrils (b); rather short nostrils (h).


Thorax – Weak, consumptive, hollow beneath the clavicles (e); circumference, 0.75 meters (e); narrow, slightly convex, with protruding clavicles (h); narrow shoulders (f); more prominent manubrium than normal 95 (e). Neck: broad (f).


Limbs – Loose (f); small feet (e).


General musculature – Very lean and scrawny; moderately muscular but very resilient (h); consumptive (f); poorly developed muscles but capable of walking and swimming long distances (f).


Joints – Prominent


Skin – Light tan (e); tan (f); rather whitish, unlike other natives of Oceania (f).


Hair – Straight, smooth and black (e); darker rather than lighter brown (f).


Beard – Rather rare (e); almost beardless (f).


Pulse – 75 to 80 (c); Respiration - 23 to 25 (e)


Temperature – 35.4 (e)!!! 96


Personality – Very intelligent (f). Kind but sometimes quarrelsome; Ngaara, one of their kings, had predicted to the islanders that their internal divisions would make them slaves of foreigners (h). Kind, cheerful and timid (f).


Unique characteristics:


1. “Many of them had a large bump on the back of the neck” (Pinart, Voyage around the World, p. 238). (See Figures 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, 127, 128, 130, and 134).


2. Many dental cavities; unusually shaped skull (Figures 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 28).


B. Women – The same general features as those of the men, but an average height of 1.62 meters (h). They were rather pretty; also, upon leaving the island, the sailors who had accompanied La Pérouse sang, “The women there are beautiful and their husbands most agreeable.”


C. Races – Given the difficulties, in terms of technique, transport and erection, associated with the enormous works of art found on the island (giant statues, pakeopa, etc.), many authors have suggested that these achievements must have been those of some unknown race of people who were much more vigorous than the people encountered by the early European visitors. Oral tradition suggests, moreover, that there was a first wave of settlers, who came from Oparo Island (Rapa Iti), who were indeed very vigorous and who had short ears 97. According to the skulls found in the tombs in the pakeopa, these ancient Easter Islanders were clearly neither negro nor Negroid [sic] and must have been of medium height and quite intelligent. But these first islanders, again according to the oral tradition (passed down among the islanders and also among the Mangarevans), were overwhelmed by a second wave of invaders who were Polynesian 98.

 

As compared to other Polynesians, the islanders had the same physical characteristics, the same customs and traditions, the same maori language, the same morals and religious beliefs, the same concept of taboo, and tattoos that were incised by the same process. Even the designs of their tattoos resembled those on other Polynesian islands (such as the Solomon Islands). In addition, the useful vegetables that they brought with them were the same as those cultivated on other islands in Oceania.


Whatever their origins, the second group of invaders noticed (according to tradition) that the island had already been settled and, fearing an attack, they withdrew to Anakena. As they had feared, several days later, the local inhabitants attacked them but the invaders killed them all with the exception of the women, who were spared to serve the needs of the invaders. Then, the king of the conquering force sent his men to Hanga Roa, Mataveri, Vaihou, and Utu Iti 99. These events explain why the islanders who were interrogated during the nineteenth century by various visitors to the island knew almost nothing about the natives who had preceded them and even less about the huge monuments that they had erected. We should note also that, during the second half of the nineteenth century, this Polynesian race had been much enfeebled and bastardized to a greater or greater extend as a result of interbreeding first in Peru and then, on the island itself, as a consequence of contacts with settlers and sailors. 100 These interactions are

responsible for the race of islanders that exists today, which is a true hybrid.

 


TATTOOS AND BODY PAINTING


Men – In 1770, Don Felipe Gonzales noted that the natives of the island, which he referred to as San Carlos, were “crudely painted but appeared, nevertheless, more European than Native Americans”. Subsequently, Admiral Cook [sic]. Dr. G. Batť, P. Loti, A. Pinart, etc. reported that the natives were entirely covered with red pigment (hiko kura 101) which they moistened with saliva (A. Pinart), and that their hair was similarly coated with red pigment (Batť) 102.

 
The pigment turned the natives’ skin a “coppery red” that Loti considered to be the “defining feature” of the race. While most of the time the natives were painted red, some of them, by contrast (both males and females, according to Cook) were painted white (Figures 5 through 19). Moreover, when Cook visited the island, men and women were tattooed from head to foot, although the women were less extensively tattooed than the men. When Loti visited the island, the men still had “long blue or dark green tattoos that were both bizarre and exquisitely executed on their legs and sides”. A little later, A. Pinart was still able to admire “old Tago whose body was covered with a very complicate tattoo”. Subsequently, however, tattoos became less and less common.


Many visitors to the island noted the tattoos but without describing them in detail and without drawing pictures of them so that it is impossible to “reproduce” them. And in his well-documented monograph, W. Lehmann noted that the reports in the literature on this subject are “limited to the dissertation by H. Stolpe”!


However, two pieces of documentation from Choris, which seem to have escaped W. Lehmann’s attention, do allow us to get a general idea of these tattoos (Figures 13 and 32), but it is the wonderful watercolor by Pierre Loti (Figure 15; reproduced here for the very first time to scale and in its true colors) that shows the general impression given by the islanders with their red skin and dark blue tattoos. In addition, we have a drawing by Admiral de Lappelin (Figure 54) and the reproductions from the book by Mrs. S. Routledge in which one can see, among other things, a native covered with tattoos that consist of human heads (Figure 88) and curved fish hooks (rau) 103 etc. 104.


With respect to technique, the blue tattoos were incised with fish bones (or with very small bone combs?) that served to introduce a dark blue powder made of the carbonized leaves of ti under the epidermis. These tattoos were indelible.


Women – Women were also painted and tattooed but the painting did not cover their entire bodies and was limited to the upper inner sides of the thighs. This “modesty” was noted by Masselot (who accompanied Dupetit-Thouars) and then by Radiguet, and it is clearly shown on their drawings (Figures 11 and 17). The artist attached to the expedition led by La Pérouse also showed these tattoos but the Parisian lithographer who made reproductions of his drawings took exception and transformed them into a kind of loincloth that was pulled between the women’s legs a little like a diaper (Figure 16).


With respect to tattoos (Figures 7, 13, and 14), Beechey noted that, on one occasion, when the islanders brought a very lovely young girl and set her down in the middle of the officers, they could see that she had beautiful eyes, long ebony hair, as well as tattoos under her eyebrows and from her waist to her knees. From a distance they had thought that the tattoos were a garment that covered this part of her body!


A. Pinart, half a century later, noticed that each woman had a circular blue line that went from the temples to each eyebrow and ended at the roots of her hair and then, from there, to the middle of her forehead. These lines were accompanied by a line of blue spots and there was also a blue line around the mouth. Some women also had, on each cheek, a tattoo in the shape of an axe head, with the blade tilted in the direction of the outer angle of the eye and the handle touching the earlobe. We should add that the holes in the women’s earlobes, which hung down as far as their chins, were also surrounded by blue dots. There were additional tattoos around their wrists and ankles. By contrast, A. Pinart noted that Queen Koreto only had tattoos on her lips and wrists. Of course, the practice of tattooing women, just like that of men, disappeared almost completely in recent times.

 


HAIRSTYLES AND HAIR ORNAMENTS


Men – In the olden days the islanders used to go around bareheaded, with their hair cut neatly above their ears (A. Pinart), artificially colored red and gathered into a bundle at the top of the head with the help of scabious stems and a mud dressing (Figures 5, 12, 13, 15, and 19). This bundle of tinted hair waved around in the wind, as can be seen in the wonderful watercolor by P. Loti (Figure 15). During his stay on the island, P. Loti also noticed that a very old and heavily tattooed islander wore long black feathers, which were stuck in his hair. While most of the islanders went bareheaded, it is likely that some of the more important ones (teachers of rongorongo, according to Tomenika, or ariki) wore a kind of large diadem made of black rooster feathers (Figures 6, 8, 10, and 15) that was sometimes as much as a meter in diameter. In any case, during the “Tablet Ceremonies” (see below), the masters of rongorongo and their supreme leader must have worn such headdresses and must also have carried a stick with a bunch of black feathers attached to the end.


We should also note, moreover, that Roggeveen reported seeing, near the great statues (which, at that time, seemed to be objects of veneration by the natives), men who seemed to be some kind of priest and who had shaved heads and wore headdresses of black and white feathers. Let us conclude this discussion of the headgear of the men on the island by recalling that P. Loti noted that some of the old men wore “earrings made from the dorsal spines of sharks”.


Women – The women on the island wore their hair in a chignon 105. From Cook’s time, as indicated in the drawings by Hodges and de Duchť (Figures 5, 7, 14, and 19), they used to wear boat-shaped hats made of braided rushes (or hibiscus), that were quite ravishing face-on and also in profile. These hats were called haupouno or pouo (Cook) 106. In the holes made in their ear lobes (which had been stretched to reach as far as their shoulders), Forster noted that they put tufts of white down, feathers and rings made out of “something elastic, rolled like the spring of a watch”, together with, on occasion, fish bones or shells! Some of them also wore a large shell, like an “ovule”, on a cord around their neck (Figures 7, 14, and 92). We note, in closing, that it is impossible to determine whether the necklace that hangs around the statuette found by Pinart (Figure 133) and is made of alternating discs of fish scales and small shells lined with mother of pearl comes from Easter Island or was obtained by barter with some other island in the Pacific 107.

 


CLOTHES


Apart from their body painting and tattoos, the islanders encountered by the first Europeans had barely any covering for their bodies. The men were generally naked (Figures 5, 12, 15, 16, and 17) or wore a simple belt of banana leaves (Figure 13; F. Gonzales, L. Choris).

 

A very few of the men wore a loincloth of tapa cloth, known as mauté [mahute] on Easter Island 108. The cloth was made in the same way as the tapa cloth on other Polynesian islands (see the drawing made by Hodges in 1777) and was tied around the waist with a cord (Cook, Figures 16 and 19). On very rare occasions, a person might also have a kind of cape of the same material (Figures 6, 13, and 15).

 

The women were sometimes entirely naked (Figure 17 [sic 16]) or they might have a bag on their hips (Figures 11 and 17); they sometimes had a bunch of leaves that hid their private parts (Figure 11); and they sometimes had a little loincloth-like covering made of tapa cloth (Figures 5, 13, and 19). Some women, in addition to this latter garment, wrapped themselves in a large piece of tapa cloth, which was white if it was in its natural state or yellow if it had been dyed with pua roots (Figure 7, 13, and 14) 109.

 

Because of the small size of the paper mulberry trees on the island, these large pieces of tapa cloth were not made in one piece, like the large tapa cloths of Oceania (with the holes, where the branches had been, covered with small patches). Rather, they were made of many small pieces, which were sewn together with pieces of stretched bark using a needle made of polished human bone or a fish bone. Some fancy tapa cloths were occasionally decorated with embroidery.


The tapa cloths were rare because they were made from the bark of the paper mulberry and these trees themselves were very rare — to thrive at all they had to be protected from the wind by walls, as we shall see below. Later on, unfortunately, the natives grew accustomed to dressing themselves in clothes discarded by their European visitors (Figures A and B).

 


DWELLINGS AND OBJECTS IN DAILY USE

 

The ancient islanders had various types of dwelling (house: hare); these were studied in detail by Dumont D’Urville.


1. Some of them (Figures 29 and 30) were large huts that looked like an upturned canoe (hare paenga). P. Loti noted that “scattered among the rocks and on the sand, they looked like the backs of sleeping animals”. The drawings that accompany the descriptions by La Pérouse show how these huts were constructed. They had a foundation of shaped volcanic rocks and most of these rocks had a hole into which a curved support for roof of the hut was inserted. The supports, which were the central veins of palm fronds, were overlaid with a thatch made of woven reeds 110.

 

The woven reeds not only looked artistic [sic] but, in addition, they had the advantage of being rainproof. La Pérouse measured several of these dwellings and provided the following dimensions: average length, 310 feet; average width, 10 feet; and average height, 10 feet. They had no windows but did have two entrances. The entrances were only two feet high so that to enter it was necessary to get down on one’s hands and knees. Sometimes, there was a small paved area in front of the entrance of these large dwellings or sometimes just an area, which might be large or small, covered with small polished pebbles.


In these long huts, which accommodated as many as 200 natives 111 each, there was no furniture at all. However, there were some decorations. P. Loti noticed statuettes made of volcanic rock (Figures 58, 59, and 61; described below) and sometimes moko (Figures 107 and 108), which served as the “household gods”. Inside the huts, “thousands of things were carefully attached: little idols made of black wood wrapped crudely in bits of tapa cloth, spears with heads made of flaked silica (actually obsidian), oars with human faces, feather headdresses, ornaments for ceremonial dances and for battle, and numerous tools that appeared rather sinister and seemed to be very old” (P. Loti).


We should note too that, among these furnishings, there were also axe heads made of obsidian and schist (toki), schist picks, obsidian knives, various types of fishhooks (mangai-iti and manga-kihi) 112, nets, harpoon heads, weights for fishing nets (round stones with a circular hole) – in summary, everything that is necessary for fishing. There were also mats, tapa cloths for capes and loincloths, bags made of plaited reeds (and, later, of woven banana leaves), and household items such as sewing needles and pins (made of human bone, spoons (Figure 76), knives (Figure 78), headdresses (made of black rooster feathers; Figure 10), fly swatters, etc. There were no ceramics (Routledge) but there were large shells 113 that were used to hold food. And, carefully attached to the framework of the roof there were both statuettes made of wood, wrapped in tapa cloth, and the precious “talking wooden tablets”, wrapped in leaves, which the women and the uninitiated were forbidden to touch.


Near these big huts there were both “chicken houses” [hare paenga] made of blocks of lava for sheltering chickens and what A. Pinart called “sunken gardens” [manavai] (Figures 29 and 30).


2. Since there were no native trees for building, there were also underground dwellings (ana kionga; Figure 29), which were often located near manavai. The ground, composed of volcanic ash and decomposed lava, was unable to hold the moisture necessary for plant growth so the natives dug round or oval pits of three to twelve meters in diameter 114.

 

These were the sunken gardens in which plants had sufficient moisture and were, in addition, protected from the force of the winds. The humidity and shelter provided by the sunken gardens was supplemented, as in a greenhouse, by the sun’s light and warmth. Thus, anything planted in these gardens grew vigorously, for example, banana trees, mulberry trees, sugar cane and also ti (Dracaena terminalis).


At one point in the circular wall of such excavations, when they were associated with a dwelling, there was an opening, towards the south, that led into a very low passage which led, in turn, into an underground chamber made of stones (Dumont d’Urville; A. Pinart). Sometimes, the entry passage did not branch out towards a garden but to a sort of vertical well that was two or three meters deep, the opening of which could be blocked with a stone slab.


3. There were also towers, known as tupa, which looked like the towers of windmills and were three or four meters high. The circular base was about six meters in diameter while the top was only about five meters in diameter. The walls were built of pieces of lava and the roof, made of the same material, was somewhat conical and was sufficiently well constructed that the natives could climb on to it, either for amusement or to keep watch 115.

 

These towers were not used as dwellings; they had no windows and entry was via very low doorway and a short low passageway (Figures 29, 30, and 32). Is it possible that there were similar dwellings long ago, with roofs made of plant material, since when Pinart visited the island, many of the towers no longer had roofs?


4. Thomson was the first to study, photograph, and describe dwellings of another type, found on the southwest side of the Rano Kau crater and forming the little village of Orongo (Figure 31). Mrs. Routledge also provided detailed descriptions and valuable photographs. These dwellings, which the natives called ana (i.e., caves) and not hare (i.e., houses), were only used when the islanders were waiting for the election of the military leader known as tangata manu (see the chapter on the birdman cult) or, sometimes, as a refuge during times of strife. The dirt in front of these dwellings was cleared and smoothed.


The village of Orongo consisted of about fifty stone dwellings, in two rows, facing the sea. Some of the dwellings were at the very edge of the cliff, separated by large rocks, some of which were carved (Figure 62). Since the site is exposed to strong winds, the houses were low and built of flat stones. The walls were generally six feet thick but the shapes and dimensions of the rooms were very variable. Some of them had rather odd shapes, as determined by the natural arrangement of the rocks.


The entry into these dwellings was a small opening that was only 60 centimeters high. The interior was never more than four to six feet high so it was barely possible to stand upright. The interior was, basically, eight feet long and four feet wide. Some rooms communicated via a door; others had a simple opening for passing food back and forth. In the ceiling, in the middle of the slabs that formed the roof, was an opening for ventilation 116. At some points in the walls, there were niches that were fifteen inches deep and one or two feet high that were used for storage 117.

 

In many of the rooms, opposite the entryway and against the back wall, there were vertical stone slabs, decorated with paintings of various subjects, for example, an ao (Figures 68, 97, and 98) decorated with red and white vertical stripes (Routledge; Figures 105 and 118), a frigate bird (Figures 67 and 68, nos. 1 to 10), etc. ... or, later on, subjects inspired by the visits from European voyagers, such as the paintings discovered by Mrs. Routledge that represent a European sailing ship and a sailor in a red shirt (Routledge, Figure 105). We should note that, when Mrs. Routledge made her inventory of these chambers, she also found flat or round stones, sometimes decorated with drawings, that served as pillows (Figure 66) and numerous harpoons (niataa) 118 and bundles of sphagnum moss (which was used to caulk boats). Let us recall, also, that it was in one of these dwellings that the statue known as Hoa haka nana ia (Breaker of Waves) 119 was found — it can now be found in the British Museum (Figures 56 and 57).


5. Finally, we need to mention the cliffside caves that the natives used frequently as a refuge in wartime, sometimes as hiding places, and sometimes as crypts for their dead. In some of these caves (on Motu Nui, for example), Thomson and Mrs. Routledge found large slabs of stone decorated with paintings 120 (Figures 67 and 68) and, very occasionally, on the ground, fish hooks (Figure 75) and the remains of other domestic items.


And last of all, before leaving these caves, we should point out that one of the large caves on the shore, at the base of the cliffs at Orongo, would have served, long ago, as the site for cannibalistic meals of human flesh (the cave known as Ana Kai Tangata) 121.

 


SOCIAL ORGANIZATION

(see the political map, Figure 91, in Routledge)


The very first islanders with divided into ten clans that lived in sixteen villages: three in the west; six in the north; and seven in the south, and all located on the shore. These villages had been established by Hotu Matua when he arrived on the island and divided it up among his companions 122.

 

The names of the principal clans were as follows: Miru (the frigate bird clan, which lived in the north of the island) — this was the clan of the oldest son, Tumaheké, of the king who had brought the first settlers to the island and also that of the Ariki (a kind of aristocracy); Marama (the moon clan); Haumoana (the Shore Clan); Tupahotu (the Tupa Clan, which, probably, controlled the quarries at Rano Raraku); Ureohei; Hamea; Kotu’u; Roca 123; Ngauré, etc. Each clan had its own priests (inetao) 124, warriors (matatoa), and servants/agricultural workers (mata kio) 125. The kings were above everyone.


The kings — The king was considered to be endowed with superhuman powers and absolute authority (in ancient times) over the lives and possessions of all his subjects. His person was sacred and protected by the law of taboo (tapu), which existed on the island just as it did on the Society Islands (Tuamotus, the Marquesas Islands, the Sandwich Islands etc....). This absolute belief in taboo, of which the kings took advantage, had to be enforced by the kings and strictly maintained. Anyone breaking a taboo was punished severely and might even pay with his life!


Since their bodies were sacred, the kings had to let their hair grow and no razor (mata) 126 could ever be used to trim their facial hair 127.

 
Moreover, their subjects were not even allowed to touch them and everything that they owned — their huts, land, canoes, nets etc. — was subject to a similar taboo. The kings did not farm and did not fish. In brief, they did no work at all to meet their own needs. Their subjects had to build the king’s home and provide everything he needed, in particular, via the tribute of first fruits. These first fruits, the first harvest of all fruits and vegetables, were brought to the king with great ceremony by a procession of young people, who stood in two rows and sang to the king while waving hau branches that had been stripped and blackened! Nobody could touch the rest of the harvest, which was taboo to the extent decreed by the king, without his authorization.


The taboos corresponded to the strictest laws and the kings benefitted considerably from them. There was also another group of leaders who benefitted as a result of their persons being taboo, namely, the tangata manu. In ancient times, the kings also had the authority to declare war. Later, when their authority had diminished considerably, they lost this privilege. Indeed, Cook noted that King Tohi Tai 128 tended to give advice rather than orders. During a war, the kings had nothing to fear from the warring parties; they could stay home without anyone bothering them.


Some of them did, however, leave their homes to take refuge at Hanga Roa, Anakena or Otuiti. Moreover, the last of the kings had no fixed abode and generally took shelter at Hangaroa. Finally, we should note that the kings, who always came from the Miru Clan because that had been the clan to which the first king had belonged (the king who brought the first settlers to the island), succeeded one another according to the law of primogeniture and passed their powers on to their sons. Here are the lists of kings that were compiled, respectively, by Monsignor T. Jaussen, Father H. Roussel, and T. de Lappelin (two lists). Unfortunately, these lists are not in full agreement with one another but they all allow similar valuable deductions to be made about the period during which Easter Island has been inhabited.


LIST OF THE KINGS OF EASTER ISLAND

who succeeded one another according the law of primogeniture  129


According to

Jaussen

According to Roussel

According to Lappelin [1] (1st list)

According to

Lappelin (2nd list)

Hoatu-Matua [sic]

(first king)

Hotu

Hotu

Hatumotua

Vakaï (his wife)

His successors:

Avarupua

Inumeké

Miru-a-Tumaheké

Tumaheke

Taumeeké

Va-Kai

Lata-Miru

Mirua-Tumaheke

Raa

Marama-Roa

Miru-O-Hata

Hatamiru

Mitiaké

 

Mitiaké

Miruohata

Otuiti

Mitiake-Utuite

Ataraga-a-Miru [2]

Mitiaké

Tun-Kura

Inukura

Atuureraga

Atahega-a-Miru

Miru

Mira

Urakikekena

Atuuraga

Ataraga

Oturaga

Kahui-Tuhuga

Urakiekkena

Tuu

Ynu-Iku

Te-Tehuga-Roa

Tetuhuga-Nui

Thu

Ikukana

Te Tehuga

Tetuhuga-Roa

Haumoana

Tucujaja

Marakapau

Tetuhuga-mara-kapau

Tupaariki

Tuku-Ytu

Ahuriahao

Ahurihao

Mataivi

Aumoa-Mana

Nuitepatu

Nuitepalu

Terahai

Tupairike

Hirakau-Tehito

Hirakautehito

Kaimokohi

Mataibi

Tupuitetoki

Tupuitetoki

Gahara

Terakay

Kuratahoga

Kuratahogo

Tepito

Reimokaky

Hitiruaanea

Hitianaanea

Gregorio

Gobara

Havinikoro

Havinikoro

 

Tepito

Teravarava

Tevaravara

 

Gregorio [3]

Terahai [4]

Terahai

 

 

Koroharua

Horoharua

 

 

Tereri-Kaatea

Tererikaatia

 

 

Kaimakoi

Kamaikoi

 

 

Tehutu-tara-Kura

Tehetutarakura

 

 

Huero

Huero

 

 

Kaimakoi [5]

Gaara

 

 

Gaara [6] (9)

Maurata [7]

 

 

Tepito [8] (10)

Tepito [9]

 

 

Gregorio [10] (11)

Gregorio

 

 

 


[1] In Tahiti, after leaving Easter Island, de Lappelin learned that his list contained names of queens, as well as kings, and was also incomplete. He prepared a second list, perhaps taking advantage of Monsignor Jaussenís list.

[2] The same as Oturaga.

[3] Last scion of the royal family, who represented the 22nd generation (de Lappelin).

[4] The same as Terakay.

[5] The same as Raimokaké; he was kidnapped with his son Maurata and taken to the Chinchas, where they both died (T. de Lappelin).

[6] Or Gabara, who showed how to read the talking tablets.

[7] Kidnapped by Peruvian pirates in 1862.

[8] Brother of Kaïmakoi.

[9] Repatriated by Brother Eyraud.

[10] Died when he was 11 years old.

 


WAR


Weapons


The following weapons (kaurima) 130 were used by the islanders.


1. The paoa, or simple wooden club, was short and generally had no ornamentation. According to Cook, it resembled the New Zealanders patoo patoo. Some of these clubs were decorated, on their handles, with an anthropomorphic motif (Figure 95b). There was apparently also another type of club, as depicted by Choris (Figure 18:4), but none of the other visitors to the island mentioned it and no examples of a club of this type have come down to us 131.

 

2. The ua or hua 132 was a long stick that resembled a narrow oar to some extent. The carving on the upper end depicted two human heads that were joined at the back of the head. (Figures 95, 96, 103, 104, and 105). These items, which are very rare, were mainly part of the ceremonial regalia of the chiefs but they could be used, on occasion, as a weapon. These ua were generally made of driftwood.


3. Lances — which were initially made of a pointed piece of calabash [gourd] attached to the end of a stick (of hau). Later, a man called Eta had the idea of replacing the piece of calabash by a sharp shard of obsidian (mata) and invented the spear.


4. The point of the spear, made of obsidian (or niho mango; Figures 77, 77b, and 81), was attached by some kind of filament to a wooden stick of about six feet in length (Cook). The obsidian came from Orito (near the Rano Kau volcano) and was the most common weapon 133. P. Loti tells us that “These men surrounded us, waving their spears that were tipped with pointed fragments of silica!” 134.

 

5. Spears with heads made of a shark’s tooth (hahae niho man ngo) 135.


6. Stone disks, designed to be thrown in a special way (were these similar to the tchakra of Northern India?). Some authors have referred to these weapons, perhaps incorrectly, as "slate disks" (because there was schist on the island).


7. The axe (or toki); this tool, of the Marquesan type, was sometimes used as a weapon (hahaerova; see the photographs by Thomson).


8. Stones of every sort, which were thrown, moreover, with great force and precision 136.


No doubt the natives made similar use of strangely shaped pieces of obsidian, which had many sharp edges or sharp points and were obviously fashioned deliberately but whose function has not been determined. Like the multi-bladed knives of the ancient Ubangi-Chari 137, they could cause serious injury since, no matter which part made contact with the enemy, a wound would be made by a sharp point that resembled a splinter of glass. It is noteworthy that these pieces of obsidian were always flat and so they would have a longer and more precise trajectory when thrown in the direction of the wind (like Indian tchakras) 138. Also, just as the javelin throwers in the early history of the Mediterranean always tried to have the sun behind them, the islanders would have done the same with respect to the wind.


Reasons for War


The islanders were rather quarrelsome and were easily pushed into wars with each other, either because of hatred of one clan by another or by greed. Even more frequently, it was either the possession of the first egg or the choice of victims who had to be sacrificed after the election of the tangata manu that was the pretext for hostilities. It was in this fashion that the war was declared during which the great wise man Ariki, known also as Ngaara, was captured 139. That year, in fact, the Miru Clan had decided to transfer possession of the manutara egg to the Ngauré Clan. But this decision angered the Marama (Moon) Clan who set off to fight the Ngauré and took Ngaara and his son Kai-mo-koi prisoner, after having burnt down their hut and all the wooden tablets that belonged to Kai-mo-Koi!


In the end, war was also often a vital necessity because, one hundred and fifty years ago 140, the islanders experienced the horrors of an overpopulated island from which nobody could emigrate! Thus, to escape famine, there were veritable wars of extermination (these explain the presence of fortified camps around the craters, as confirmed by Vancouver, moreover, according to Vancouver, these camps even had some sort of defensive palisade) 141.


The Waging of War


When war had been declared, the enemies hid their valuables and prepared their weapons. Then the warriors painted themselves black and had to spend the night without sleeping. There were no ceremonies to propitiate any divinities or to seek their protection, nor were there human sacrifices. The attacking warriors set off before daybreak, followed by their women and children, who wailed or intoned “protective” chants. Upon arrival at the site of the battle, the women and children positioned themselves on the neighboring slopes to watch the victory or the defeat of their fathers, husbands and brothers.


Now, hearing of the approach of the enemy, the islanders who were under attack hid their valuables and then discussed how to react. If they decided that they could resist the attack, they set up an ambush and waited until they could engage the enemy in combat, which was of course hand-to-hand, under advantageous conditions. If, by contrast, they decided that they would be unable to protect themselves, they surrendered to the enemy, who pillaged and burned everything (huts, sugar cane, etc....) and then led the men, women and children, as their captives, to a place that had been agreed upon in advance. On the way, prisoners were often killed, and sometimes even burned to death in cases of personal revenge. The defeated islanders, who were now slaves, were kept imprisoned in caves and were only allowed out to work, namely, to grow the food that would assure the survival of their new masters. If, some years, there was not enough food, the prisoners would be set free; when they got old, they were also released so that they could take care of their own needs. But if these slaves bravely resumed the task of tilling their lands and replanting, their previous masters would attack them yet again. So, to escape this fate and fearing to be taken again as slaves, they only grew one-twentieth of what they really needed. The result was that they died of hunger. This undernourishment and these famines that grew out of the horrendous fear of slavery were partly responsible for the enfeeblement of the race and the decrease in size of the population.

 

 

CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS


Food


There is not a single source of fresh water on Easter Island. In addition, no trees were able to grow on its stony soil, with no water and battered by the wind 142. When the Europeans imported trees and vegetable plants, these were unable to flourish without the constant care and attention of the natives. Moreover, to grow some of these plants, the natives had to use their sunken gardens (A. Pinart), which we discussed in the section about their dwellings. This explains why, following the civil wars that erupted on the island and forced the natives to abandon this technique, the islanders suffered from a terrible famine. However, according to H. Roussel, even without wars, the natives were always on the verge of starving to death for four months of every year because of the problems they had growing anything, because of the winds, and because of their laziness. He was not surprised by this since coconut palms and breadfruit trees, which are so important all over Polynesia, do not grow naturally on the island and, in any case, cannot withstand its winter weather. Similarly, the peach trees that Dutrou-Bornier tried to acclimate to island conditions blossomed but failed to bear fruit.

 

Other trees lose, during the winter, whatever they have gained in summertime. Acacias, for example, grow for a year but then the new growth withers and is replaced by new shoots (Roussel). It is true that wheat and barley were introduced in the nineteenth century and flourished, but the settlers had to abandon this form of agriculture because the rats devoured everything! To complete this sad picture, we need only add that, before the Europeans introduced goats, sheep, rabbits, cows, horses etc., the only animals on the island were a few chickens, rats and sea birds 143.

 

Even fish, as we shall see below, were much less numerous in the waters around Easter Island than they were around other islands in Oceania. And, as far as liquor goes, the poor islanders were no better off. Before the Europeans (the Picpus Fathers and Dutrou-Bornier) acclimatized the grapevine, the islanders had nothing with which to brew alcoholic beverages, not even any vegetable juices that could be fermented, as they were on other islands, to produce kawa [kava].


The natives did not even have any freshwater springs and were forced to drink rainwater, which fortunately was supplied in torrents and which they collected in fissures in the craters, in cracks in the rocks and in cisterns that they carved in the lava or on the seashore. La Pérouse saw natives, from a short distance away, drinking water that they had collected at the seashore. He noted, “I have seen the natives of Easter Island drink sea water, just like the albatrosses of Cape Horn”.


In fact, the islanders had noticed that rainwater, having soaked into the ground, went down to the sea in subterranean springs that emerged on the coast. They collected water from these springs that they referred to as vai maitai (good water). Nonetheless, given the proximity to the sea and its tides, this water must have been contaminated to some extent by seawater and, thus, somewhat salty.


As a result, a new factor was introduced that would have been very damaging to the natives health — in addition to the quantitatively insufficient food, which, qualitatively, lacked both proteins and vitamins (as a consequence of the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables) — namely, hyperchlorination. Together, all these factors were sufficient to produce profound metabolic disorders and to damage the major organs and, to an even greater extent, the endocrine glands which are ultravulnerable and which play such a major role in human physiology! The harmful consequences of the poor nutrition of the islanders led not only to the progressive weakening of the race and to creation of progressively more fertile ground for the spread of disease but also, via damage to their health and endocrine functions, to obvious and progressive morphological changes in their bodies. It is, indeed, quite strange that these morphological changes, whose

importance we shall discuss again below, have escaped notice until now 144.


In any case, the food of the islanders, at around the time that we start having solid information about them, that is to say, around 1850, consisted of sweet potatoes, yams, taro, a kind of watermelon, a kind of grape that grew by the shore, bananas, and, very occasionally, sugar cane (melons, maize, orange trees and tobacco came later). These foods were supplemented by various sea birds, which were barely edible, and very occasionally by several species of fish — there were barely any deep-water fish before the end of September each year. Then there were a few chickens ... and rats!


Of course, the foods that were cooked were prepared on heated stones in a Polynesian oven (umu) which, we know, makes everything taste delicious.


Ownership of Property


The good or bad luck associated with displacement or heredity were the basis for the ownership of property by certain islanders. Whatever their basis, nonetheless, the boundaries of various properties were clear and uncontested. By contrast, in general, planting was performed communally by members of a single family in a given district. Adult and young men took care of the plants until they reached maturity and were ready for harvest. Harvests could not begin until the chief gave his permission. Moreover, he received the first fruits and, on such occasions, the village (or several villages, depending on the extent of the harvest) held a celebration.

  

The adult men were also the fishermen; they made fishing nets and built the huts. Some young men hired themselves out as servants for payment of a few yams and some sweet potatoes. Any part of the sea beside a given piece of land belonged to the owner of the land, on condition that he made a rahui, that is to say, on condition that he surrounded all the land that abutted the sea with a row of stones. Then he alone had the right to fish, to catch octopuses and to gather shellfish along this part of the shore. However, the fish caught in the open sea by fishermen were given to the chief, or failing that, to the matatoa.


Hospitality


Strangers and friends (repahoa) were recipients of generous hospitality, which, however, required that guests reciprocated by giving back more than they had received! If the hospitality were deemed to be inadequate, the guests would steal from their hosts! Perhaps it was this tendency to steal that was the basic explanation for certain ancient customs, such as that of koro, which consisted of gifts that were given first by the owner to his close relatives, then to his cousins and then finally were returned to him. What then would be the point of stealing something since, at some point, one would own it anyway, even if only for a while?


Celebrations


In addition to the festivities associated with the harvest, the natives also celebrated births, in particular, those of boys because girls counted for little while boys were very important. This disparity must have dated from times long ago when there were more women than men on Easter Island 145 (unlike more recently, when men far outnumbered women).


Very important festivities were also associated with the ceremonies known as také and manu and during the lunar month that preceded the election of tangata manu (see the chapter on the birdman cult). These various festivities rarely proceeded without some kind of problem because the matatoa would leave their homes on the hillside (Mataveri), descend unannounced on the village that was having a feast, and steal everything that they took a fancy to.


During festivities, the hero of the hour remained apart from the celebrants and was not allowed to eat anything. It was only after dark, when everyone had left, that he would take food from its hiding place and eat it. The servants (kio) had to settle for the leftovers.


The most important celebration of all was the Celebration of the Tablets, which took place every year at Anakema [sic] Bay. The texts on all of the tablets was read to the entire population of the island. This occasion was so important that the islanders even interrupted any hostilities that might have been underway at the time (see chapter on the tablets).


Dances and Songs


We know nothing about the music of the ancient islanders. Did they, indeed, even have musical instruments? Did they have any rhythm instruments, such as wooden drums or gongs, of the type that other even very primitive peoples have? We can assume that they did but there is no proof 146.


Whether or not they ever had instruments, we do know that they sang, and here is what Loti wrote on this subject: “[They sing] a kind of plaintive and lugubrious dirge, which they accompany by nodding their heads back and forth and swaying to and fro, resembling large bears on their hind legs. They clap their hands while they sing to keep time. The women sing as sweetly and melodiously as the birds. The men sometimes sing with rather small falsetto voices, which are tremulous and reedy, and sometimes they sing with very deep voices. Their music is stilted and made up of short phrases that they end with descending and lugubrious notes in a minor key. As well as real songs, there were also various ditties that the women recited, sometimes while they were playing cat’s cradle.” 147


In addition to the songs that they sang together, the islanders also had songs that were sung by a type of bard, who might be a man or a woman. These bards usually sung long, sad and slow dirges in a minor key. For songs that were traditional or even a little ritualistic, the woman singer would kneel with her hands stretched out in front of her and would sway slowly from side to side in a manner similar to that shown in Figure 30 in Routledge’s book.


The islanders also had some very unique dances. When the boat carrying Dupetit-Thouars dropped anchor at Easter Island, the natives who came on board danced a kind of hopping dance, called nagana (the Boat Dance) 148 at his request (Figure 17).

 

H. Roussel, for his part, noted that the islanders still performed their communal chants (koro), which they intoned standing in two lines, and, in addition, various dances that included “movements that were rhythmic but very monotonous and very provocative.”


Let us note, in closing, that, during the chanting and incantations that accompanied certain ritual ceremonies, each priest would hold a rapa in his hand, while some of the participants would wave ao and many natives would hold moai in their hands (or small ancient wooden carvings of men).


Childhood and Adolescence


In general, parents preferred boys to girls. The girls were allowed to do nothing and stayed in a corner of the communal dwelling that was allocated to them. Nevertheless, all the Europeans who visited the island agreed that the islanders treated their children very well. During their adolescence, the young people of both sexes participated in two ceremonies that were very important for them and which were studied in detail by Mrs. Routledge: the first was called take and the second was called manu.


1. Také – This ceremony was abandoned in about 1820, that is to say, about thirty years [sic] before the arrival of the missionaries. Mrs. Routledge was only able to learn a little bit about it. And the early visitors to the island left us no information about it at all! All we know is that boys and girls had to undergo this ceremony and, in order to participate, they had to spend some time on the little island of Motu Nui. But, unlike the adults who participated in the ceremony of the first egg, they went to the island in canoes. They did, however, stay in the same cave, from which the hopu watched for the birds.


2. Manu – It seems very likely that Manu was an initiation ceremony that took place in December and which was related to the responsibilities of te manu mote poki (literally: bird for the child). Once he or she had been initiated, the child became a poki manu. This ceremony was obligatory for both sexes. Even though we do not know much about the privileges conferred by this initiation, it does seem that it was very important. In fact, Routledge learned that a child whose parents forgot to have him undergo this ceremony had the right to kill his father on the day that, as an adult, he was disappointed in love. It was as if omission of this initiation was viewed as the direct cause of problems in the sexual life of an adolescent.


At the start of the ceremony, the head of the child, who was dressed in ritual garments, was shaved (the head of the birdman was also shaved when he returned to the island with the first egg from Moto Nui). The child’s head was shaved by his tangata tapa manu, who was the initiating elder and who was an expert in the art of making the ritual speech. Then the child’s naked body was decorated with white strips and white circles were painted on his or her back and on each buttock. These decorations were the same as those on the Anakena statue (see Figure 65 in Routledge and Figure 57 in this volume) and on the old hollow-bellied statuettes (Figures 120, 121, 122, and 123). In addition, coconuts 149 or, if they were not available, imitations made out of driftwood, called tahonga (Figures 90, 91, 93, and 94), were hung around the child’s neck.


Once this had been done, the children and their parents, accompanied by their various tangata tapa manu, went to Orongo, each child carrying a chicken. When they arrived, they walked solemnly passed the carved rocks, then they retraced their steps and climbed into the house known as Taura Renga, which sheltered the Anakena statue (now in the British Museum), which was painted red with white ‘tattoos on the red background’ 150. They did not make any offerings to this statue. At this point, the various tangata tapa manu proclaimed the names of the children who had been initiated and received gifts of eggs and chickens from the parents, who where sitting on the roofs of the stone houses, as payment for the initiation rites that they had performed.


We should note that, if war or bad weather prevented the visit to Orongo, the ceremony took place in front of one of the great statues on an ahu (sacred burial site) and sometimes even in front of the statues at Rano Raraku. That is how the initiation ceremony was performed on Easter Island. The ceremony was the equivalent of those found among all Oceanian peoples, all of which turned a child into an adult, who could participate — from that time onwards — in all the activities of the clan and in war.


Marriage


Young girls were married, unfortunately, very early, which is not surprising given their small numbers and the constant solicitations to which they were subjected. This was one of the major factors responsible for the degeneration of the race at the end of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, marriages only occurred with the consent of the two participants, and parents were unable to prevent a marriage. There was a horror of consanguineous marriages.


Bigamy and polygamy were still practiced, it appears, in the eighteenth century, when women outnumbered men.


Once married, women had to do all the domestic work that the men did not do. Among other things, they had to procure sweet potatoes and herbs and cook them. They also had to beat mahute to make tapa cloth for clothing for the family. Spouses could separate because of a simple quarrel or just because they no longer liked each other and then each could get married again! As long as the couple remained together, all the children who came into the world were considered legitimate.


The marriage ceremony was quite unusual. The natives would build a huge conical bundle of hau branches around which all the food for the guests was distributed. The couple to be married presided over the meal and participated in it. When all the food had been eaten, they were deemed to be married.


Death


In addition to deaths in combat and deaths from disease, there were a certain number of suicides in the olden days. The islanders committed suicide for sometimes trivial reasons, some simple annoyance, for example, and they would kill themselves by throwing themselves from the top of a crater onto the rocks at the foot of the cliff. They were driven to suicide by the belief that, in the hereafter, they would live a life of luxury, with splendid clothes and good food, with exciting and beautiful women at their disposal.


When an important person died, his funeral was the occasion for important ceremonies to which the islanders came in large numbers and which ended in orgies [sic]. Here is what Eyraud wrote about the funeral rites that he saw in 1866: “The bodies, wrapped in mats, are placed on piles of stones or on a sort of wooden construction, with their heads pointing towards the sea. Now that the entire population lives on the shore, one often encounters desiccated skeletons all along the coast, to which nobody seems to pay any attention”.


We should note that, one hundred years previously, the frequency of skeletons scattered on the ground along the seashore made such a strong impression on the artist attached to Cook’s expedition that he depicted them in great detail in the picture that is reproduced here at Figure 33.

 

Roussel noted, by contrast, that some bodies were buried on the ahu (sacred sepulchers, decorated with statues) and that priests sometimes brought offerings to these ahu, for example, chickens and fish. During his visit to the island, A. Pinart noticed, along the shore of the beach referred to as “Seignelay”, a small hill and, on a neighboring point, a large number of stones that had been piled up in an orderly fashion and marked the sites of ancient graves. A “smell of dead bodies” hung over this area, suggesting to A. Pinart that there had been a recent burial. He soon found out that such was the case and learned that the islanders traditionally took advantage of the ancient sepulchers to bury their dead, which they did after removing a few stones and digging a shallow grave for the body, which they then covered with the same stones 151.

 

In the present volume, we shall see that, on the island, there are important monuments, on which stood many very large statues, called pakeopa or ahu. These monuments, which were built by the very first islanders 152, enclosed burial chambers and were used for the interment of the bodies of their important dead. Thus, the tangata manu were entombed in ahu that had been selected for them in advance (they were buried with their manutara egg and their stone fish hooks).


Now, since this first race of islanders buried their dead in this way, the skeletons that are scattered at various other sites could not be the bones of this first race of people, who would have died a natural death. But, on the other hand (and this point has escaped notice until now), the skulls show no signs of fractures, which are, nine times out of ten, the cause of death, in combat, of Pacific islanders. Can we, therefore, deduce that these are skeletons of men who were smitten by a brutal cataclysm that left no survivors who could bury the dead?


Let us finish this section on death by asking an important question: were the ancient islanders cannibals? For some authors, an affirmative answer would explain the numerous ossuaries that are found, in particular, around Rano Raraku (Hotu-iti). And indeed, even though the natives protested tenaciously that it was not true, Mrs. Routledge was able to ascertain that, in olden days, there had been meals of human flesh that took place in the Ana Kai Tangata cave, in particular, after the annual election of the tangata manu!


Skulls and their Decorations


The skulls that have been brought back to Europe from Easter Island provide us with some very interesting information (Figures 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and 26).

 

(A) First of all, the skulls that we can consider to be those of the very first race of settlers have neither the osteological features nor the measurements that are characteristic of the various races of Polynesians (or, moreover, of Negro or negroid races) 153.

 

(B) By contrast, the skulls do show evidence, which is rather slight but nonetheless clear, of the bone malformations that are associated with a very specific disease: acromegaly (see Figure 28, the characteristic head of Té haha, a member of the Miru Clan, and compare it with the skull in Figure 24).


It is odd that such an important observation has not previously been made. We shall consider it further when we discuss the wooden statuettes with sunken bellies. For the time being, the reader need only compare Figure 24, which shows the skull of a member of the earliest race of islanders with Figure 23, which shows the skull of an ancient Marquesas islander, to see the morphological differences between them (see also Figures 20, 21, and 22, in which the skulls lack a lower jaw, and Figure 25, a side view).


(C) Finally, on some skulls, we can see incisions that were made, after death, on the front and sides, which sometimes depict geometric designs (Figures 22 and 26, skull on the right) and sometimes depict more realistic images such as an abstract bird. In reality, one needs only to have some idea about the evolution, in terms of simplification and stylization, of primitive realist art among certain Oceanic peoples in order to understand that the apparently geometric shapes are no more than the ultimate consequences of such evolution (Figure 20, zigzag design) 154.


The most common motif is the frigate bird (Figures 21 and 26 — left skull) and we should recall, in passing, that the frigate bird is also very important in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Marquesas Islands etc. It is possible to study some of the engraved skulls, which are called paoko iu, in museums in Paris, London (British Museum and the Institute of Anthropology), Washington, Chicago, Berlin, Dresden etc. It is unclear why certain skulls have carvings on them and others do not 155.


Was this posthumous decoration reserved for certain important people (for example, the

tangata manu) or was it restricted to certain clans? It is impossible to answer this question. We should note that Routledge leaned towards the second hypothesis and suggested that the carvings might be specific to the ariki, in the Miru Clan 156.

 

 


 

notes

 
78. In the study that follows, everything about the anthropology, customs, traditions, religion, arts, activities etc. ... of the Easter Islanders will relate, obviously, not to the present-day islanders or even to the islanders at the end of the nineteenth century, but to the islanders who were studied by those who visited the island from the end of the eighteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth century.

79. Editorís note: Marae Renga, according to Sebastian Englert,1970.

80. Editorís note: Vakai a Heva, according to Sebastian Englert, 1970.

81. This story is corroborated by the list of kings. In reality, it is likely that the first people to land on the island arrived during the twelfth or thirteenth century. The natives referred to the volcanic craters by the generic name "rano", which means "pond" because, when they arrived, the craters had already been transformed into marshes.

82. Editorís note: On what basis Chauvet states that the Polynesian sailing canoe lacked a mast is unknown. The sailing canoes surely had a mast and a sail, perhaps two.

83. Editorís note: There is no evidence that pigs made it to the island. If the Polynesians started out with them, the pigs did not survive the long sea voyage.

84. Pumpkins were introduced from Peru and goats were first brought to the island by La Pťrouse.

85. Editorís note: This may refer to "nau nau" or sandalwood (Santalum).

86. According to tradition, Hotu Matua was buried in the pakeopa [ahu] at Akahanga; [Editorís note: Properly, "Hotu Matuía".]

87. Editorís note: The actual early population figures have never been determined.

88. Editorís note: Where this is on the island is not clear.

89. "Scrofula" did even more harm than it might have done had it not found such fertile ground, prepared by poor general health, insufficient food, a meat-deficient diet, and many other problems that have, until now, been totally ignored and which we will discuss in the section about wooden statuettes.

90. A similar process is rapidly leading to the extinction of the magnificent race of natives of the Marquesas Islands. [Editorís note: There are no pure-blood Easter Islanders today.]

91. Editorís note: The correct number of inhabitants at this time was 110.

92. Editorís note: Chauvet expects to find physical differences in the "original" Easter Islanders; this is, of course, supposed to bolster his theory.

93. To avoid making the text too long and too complicated, we shall replace the names of the various authors that are cited by letters of the alphabet, as indicated.

94. When we compare their drawings with one another and with photographs taken by contemporary visitors to the island, we can see that they have left us pictorial documents that are absolutely accurate.

95. Translatorís note: The first piece of the sternum, which is somewhat triangular.

96. Editorís note: The three exclamation marks indicate the authorís surprise that the body temperature is so low (95.7ļ F). One should not necessarily take this figure at face value since there is no indication of its accuracy or of whether it represents the average of many measurements. The author shows his lack of scientific discernment in emphasizing this value but giving the reader no way to judge its accuracy or reproducibility.

97. Editorís note: The Rapanui did not come from Oparo (Rapa Iti); the latest research indicates they came from the Marquesas, via Mangareva.

98. Some authors think that they might have come from the Gambier Islands. The details are hardly important if, as some others believe, all Polynesians have a common origin somewhere around Iran.

99. Editorís note: This so-called "legend" seems to have been made up for the occasion.

100. Editorís note: While this may be true from a particular point of view, Chauvet fails to take into account the likelihood of in-breeding among Easter Islanders; given an initial population base of probably 200 persons, some kind of in-breeding was inevitable, especially among the royal clan. In order to preserve blood purity, members of the Urumanu clan were prohibited from marrying members of the Miru clan (and vice versa). This may have contributed to a statistically high percentage of Easter Islanders with six toes on each foot as well as a peculiar degeneration of the knee joint.

101. Editorís note: These terms are nonsensical; hiko means "to beg or steal"; kura are short multicolor feathers. The words for "red" or "reddish" are henga henga, meía meía, or ura ura.

102. Some authors have written that they used a kind of ochre dirt, known as kiea.

103. Editorís note: The word for fishhook is mangai.

104. One must not confuse the routine body painting and tattoos with the occasional painting of bodies that was associated with certain ceremonies such as, for example, the manu ceremony (see S. Routledge [1919] Figure 114, the decorations of poki-manu, as distinct from the tattoos in Figure 88).

105. Editorís note: A coil or mass of hair worn by women at the back of the head.

106. Editorís note: Neither of these words appear in Fuentesís 1960 dictionary of the Rapanui language. "Hau" is the word for a small hibiscus shrub (Triumfetta semitriloba).

107. Editorís note: There was no mother-of-pearl on Easter Island.

108. Mautť [mahute] was made from the bark of a kind of paper mulberry tree (Broussonetra papyrifera. [Translatorís note: Our distinguished scientist shows his slovenliness; the correct genus is Broussonetia).] Father Roussel wrote that the tapa cloth on Easter Island was the most beautiful that he had ever seen.

109. The bags that the women wore were unlike those on other Polynesian islands. They were made of braided reeds in early times and later they were made of braided strips of banana leaves.

110. "Where did the palm fronds come from", asked Loti, "since the island lacks trees?" Surely they were swept onto the shore from the sea? Later on, however, the islanders replaced the fronds by driftwood (Pinart). [Editorís note: reeds for thatching (ngaíatu) were from the crater lakes.]

111. Editorís note: Chauvet is probably citing an estimate from La Pťrouse, who mentioned a 100- meter (330-foot) long hare paenga capable of holding at least 200 persons (see Flenley & Bahn, 2003); Routledge, referring to a hare paenga some 122 feet (37 meters) in length, estimated it could hold "anything from ten to thirty, or even more, persons" (Routledge, 1919).

112. Editorís note: The correct terms are mangai ivi (bone fishhook) and mangai kahi (fishhook for tuna).

113. Editorís note: Large shells are not known from Easter Island.

114. In France on the Ile de Rť, vines are also grown in pits of up to 60 cm in depth to protect them from the wind.

115. According to island lore, the natives sat on the roof of such towers watching for shoals of fish, migrant birds or, even, sea turtles. [Editorís note: Towers for turtle-watching are known from the Tuamotu Islands also; however it was the stars that were being watched, to indicate the time when turtles normally came to the island.]

116. Editorís note: This is in error; there were no openings in the roofs.

117. The same type of niche was found in the medieval stone hovels in The Hague.

118. Editorís note: The word for harpoon is patia (Fuentes, 1960).

119. Editorís note: The correct translation of the name of this statue is"Stolen Friend".

120. Editorís note: These painted slabs are from houses at Orongo, not from Motu Nuiís caves.

121. Editorís note: The name of this cave, Ana Kai Tangata, can mean "cave where men eat" or "cave where men are eaten" (ďkaiĒ having both ancient and modern etymologies ó meaning either ďto tellĒ or ďto eatĒ, respectively). Excavations have found human bones, perhaps suggestive of cannibalism. For detailed coverage of the subject, including a survey of literature proximate to Easter Island, see McLaughlin, 2005.

122. The center of the island was, in fact, quite probably uninhabited even in ancient times. [Editorís note: Chauvet is mistaken; the center of the island was inhabited.]

123. Editorís note: "Roca" is not a known clan name. Chauvet omits Miru, Koro-Orongo, and Ngatimo; Hamea is "Hamea Raa".

124. Editorís note: The word for "priest" is oro-matuía (according to Fuentes, 1960), ivi-atua, or tufunga.

125. Editorís note: The word for "servant" or "farmer" was "kio" and a commoner was called "hurumanu".

126. Editorís note: Correctly, "mataía".

127. This taboo was so strong that, when the nine-year-old son of the last king fell ill and was nursed at the home of Father Roussel, he would not allow the priest to cut his hair, which the priest wanted to do in the belief that it might help lower the fever which, in the end, carried off the child.

128. Editorís note: This name is unidentified.

129. If we take the average reign of each king to be approximately fifteen years, we can calculate that the island was first settled around the twelfth century.

130. Editorís note: There is no word in Rapanui for weapons in general (Fuentes, 1960).

131. Editorís note: The club shown appears to be from some other island group in the Pacific; it is not typical of those from Easter Island.

132. Editorís note: As mentioned above, hua means "penis"; the correct term is ua.

133. Let us recall that A. Pinart found a large number of obsidian items among the statues on the sides of the Rano Raraku volcano, for example, lances, knives, and scrapers.

134. With respect to these pieces of obsidian that are collectively referred to as spearheads, we should note that (i) some of them are not spearheads but are shards with stems that, when attached to a handle, were used for domestic chores; (ii) others, also with stems, but having more or less irregular shapes, are, in my opinion, simply spearheads that were thrown away after having been broken in combat [that is how I interpret the numerous examples depicted by M. [sic] J. Thomson (Figure 77) and the fine piece that is in the Toulouse Museum (Figure 77b)]; and (iii) other shards, without stems, have been completely misinterpreted until now. If one examines them carefully, one can see that they have one or two ridges that have been carved intentionally and one cutting edge (Figure 78). These items are, in my opinion, tools that were used as a knife or a scraper and were held directly in the hand. The ridges were carved precisely to allow the blade to be held in the hand without risk of injury. (See also the journal French Prehistoric Society, July 1935.)

135. Editorís note: Chauvet has scrambled the terms: hahae is an obsidian spear point (Fuentes, 1960); niho means "tooth", mango means "shark", and a spear is teía.

136. The natives threw stones at the Russian crew of Otto von KotzebŁe in 1816 and prevented them from landing on the island. In 1825, F. W. Beecheyís sailors were repelled similarly.

137. Translatorís note: Contemporary Japanese throwing stars or "shuriken".

138. Editorís note: There is absolutely no evidence for any such usage of obsidian on Easter Island.

139. Editorís note: "Ariki" means "chief", thus "chief Ngaara" would be the proper term here.

140. Translatorís note: Counted from the 1930s.

141. Editorís note: There are no fortifications around the craters and palisades are unknown on the island.

142. Editorís note: Chauvet is in error; there is water on the island and a forest of trees, including giant palms, covered the island when the settlers arrived.

143. Again because of the lack of fresh water, the acclimation of domestic animals was very difficult. The first pigs brought to the island by European visitors died of thirst. By contrast, those brought by the missionaries and by Dutrou-Bornier roamed wild after they had become acclimated. When the passengers of La Flore visited the island, there were approximately 700 domestic animals on the island.

144. Editorís note: They escaped notice because the morphological conditions as described did not exist. Here we have a classic example of a physician, who never visited Easter Island, diagnosing the populace as suffering from various diseases based entirely on the characteristics of the wood carvings that (he thought) depicted human beings. The carvings are supposed to represent spirits of the dead, thus their emaciated forms. As Chauvet warms to his theory, we will hear more about these imaginary physical problems.

145. Editorís note: There is no evidence that women ever outnumbered men on the island.

146. Editorís note: In ancient times, islanders used stones to beat the rhythm.

147. Editorís note: The Rapanui name for this is "kai-kai"; more than a game, itís a mnemonic device to recall an event or image.

148. Editorís note: The word "nagana" does not appear in the dictionaries. The word for "dance" is "hura-hura" (Fuentes, 1960).

149. Editorís note: The island did not have typical coconut palms in prehistoric times.

150. Editorís note: The basalt statue now in the British Museum was not from Anakena; it was found at Orongo. It has petroglyphs on the back that originally were painted red and white; the paint wore off during the voyage to England, so we donít know exactly how it was painted.

151. This tradition explains why one should not immediately assume that a skeleton found in the burial chamber of a pakeopa is the skeleton of a member of the first group of ancient settlers on the island ó the skeleton could be, one might say, a "cuckoo" (from a later period).

152. Editorís note: There were no "very first islanders" who disappeared. Thus "first people" or "second people" exist only in Chauvetís imagination.

153. It is curious that the skull of the Chancelade skeleton (Mr. Hardy and Mr. Feaux) that is in the Pťrigueux Museum (in the Dordogne) is very similar to a skull of an ancient islander.

154. Some of these designs are also found at the tops of the heads of the very old wooden statuettes with sunken bellies (Figures 126, 135 ó two stylized birds, facing each other, beak to beak, 135 ó center, and 131 ó double bird).

155. The Papous of Fly River carved anthropomorphic designs on skulls (see Dr. S. C., The Art of New Guinea).

156. In the Neolithic Era, in France, certain skulls were trepanned, after death, in order to remove circles of bone (archeological studies by Dr. PruniŤres in Dead Manís Cave (in LozŤre) and in many dolmens in LozŤre-sur-Loire. See also "Prehistoric Medicine" by Dr. Stťphen-Chauvet (in History of Medicine, edited by Albin Michel, Paris, 1936).

 


 

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