CHAUVET

Easter Island and Its Mysteries

 


 

MONUMENTS AND MEGALITHS  217

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE NAVIGATION MENU

 

The principal stone monuments that one can find on Easter Island are, according to A. Pinart, paths with paved borders, tumuli, pakeopa (or ahu), and, finally, the great stone statues.


1. Paths with Paved Borders


In certain places, in particular around Hituiti, there are paths with a kind of paved border that is composed of carved stones, which are about 1.2 meters long, 25 centimeters high and 10 centimeters thick. Some of the stones have small circular indentations along the mid line.

 

A. Pinart suggested that these borders (which he shows on page 231 of his report) enclosed sites of ceremonies performed by the ancient islanders! It is very likely that what Pinart took to be paved borders were actually the remains of the foundations of the large huts that were shaped like an inverted canoe! 218


On the subject of such paving, we should recall that Pierre Loti recounted that he saw, near a tumulus...: “Another mystery, some old stone paving stones, like those on a Roman road, descending to and disappearing into the ocean”. Undoubtedly, what he saw was simply lava that had solidified while flowing to the sea or a landslide of stones! 219


2. Tumuli


A. Pinart also noted the presence, at numerous sites on the island (for example, in La Pérouse Bay, at Anakena etc.) of tumuli made of stone, which the natives used to bury their dead (drawing on page 226 of A. Pinart’s report; 220 They were generally shaped like a half-pyramid cut in two (vertically), with the perpendicular face looking towards the sea and the inclined faces looking inland. These isolated tumuli, called ahu poé poé by the natives, were considered by S. Routledge to be of fairly recent origin 221.


Routledge’s hypothesis is supported by the fact that, in certain parts of the island, Pinart found similar stone pyramids that had been constructed on the pakeopa themselves, which suggests that they represented a rather casual type of tomb, built since the beginning of the “Age of Decadence” (around the start of the nineteenth century). The burial vaults themselves are “botched” 222. These are, thus, basically “third class” monuments and since, in Rapanui, ahu refers to a little hill of stones and since, moreover, it is necessary that one particular word refers only to one particular thing, and, finally, since the first visitors to the island used the word pakeopa (which, in addition, they had not invented) and not ahu as the name of the great stone funeral monuments, with statues (which we shall describe below), it would seem logical (a) to refer to a half-pyramid of stones as a tumulus; (b) to refer to a great funeral monument with statues and lateral extensions as pakeopa; and (c) to refer to the same type of monument, but less

impressive and lacking lateral extensions, as ahu.


3. Pakeopa, Ahu and Morai 223

 

Along the south coast of the island, every point “that extends into the sea is the site of a pakeopa (and between the pakeopa there are numerous tumuli). Altogether, these stone monuments and tumuli form a vast necropolis, allowing us to deduce that there were many powerful tribes on Easter Island long ago” (Pinart) 224.

 

These monuments, each of which was associated with a particular village for which it served as the mausoleum, are of two different types. Some of them (see page 227 in A. Pinart’s report) are situated near or overhanging the shore and consist of a great wall of blocks of volcanic rock that faces the sea. Below them, the waves break noisily before the foaming water spreads out along the shore that is white with coral. As P. Loti wrote: “At the feet of the Moraï there is a small circular beach surrounded by rocks. Coral of all species, that has been crumbled by the sea forms a snow-white sand, which is covered with fragile sea shells and fine branches of pink coral”.


On the landward side, disorganized blocks of lava are piled up against the platform to form an inclined ramp, within which there are burial vaults in which the ancient islanders placed the skeletons of their dead (often wrapped in a mat, together with a few small belongings). These were exclusively funeral monuments, called ahu.


In a monument of this type, which was located near the ancient village of Ovahe and is 50 meters long, 4 meters wide and 1.5 meters high, Dr. Thoulan and A. Pinart found twenty skulls and two entire skeletons that they brought back to the Museum.


We should note that sometimes one sees, near these monumental platforms, a rectangular block of stone on which, perhaps, as some authors have surmised, dead bodies were laid out to decompose before the skeletons were buried in the vaults of the ahu.


The other monumental platforms, sometimes situated near the ahu but somewhat further from the sea, are impressive constructions that consist of a central portion, parallel to the shore, and two wings that are perpendicular or at an angle to the central platform and form ramps of stone blocks that descend to the ground from the side away from the sea. Between these two wings there was a wide area paved with white stones (Roggeveen), which must have served as a kind of proscenium during the ceremonial rituals that took place at the great pakeopa (see Figure 8 in Figure 29, which shows Plate XIII). These ceremonies were attended by islanders who wore ancient wooden statuettes around their necks, islanders who wore reimiro, men who had been tangata manu, and, without a doubt, young initiates with their tahonga, etc. ... and, finally, the chiefs and celebrants (with some of the priests wearing a type of headdress made of black and white feathers).


During certain ceremonies (perhaps, by analogy to those that took place on other islands the Festivals of Taboo?), there appeared a large figure made of willow, covered with white tapa cloth and with a native hidden inside to move it and manipulate it. This was the paina, which Gonzales, La Pérouse, Eyraud and others saw and described.


The most remarkable of the great ahu are those at Opulu, Tepeu, Tongariki, Vinapu, Tahai, Hanga-o-onu (or Hanga Hoonu), Anakoirororoa, Akahanga, Vaimata etc.... 225.


The walls and terraces were made of carefully carved blocks of stone that fit together perfectly without mortar (in particular, at Vinapu and Hanga Ho’onu), and they were surmounted by colossal statues (Figures 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, and 42) 226.

 

It is worth repeating that, in order to avoid ambiguity, we should reserve the term pakeopa for these large constructions, while we should use ahu 227 to describe the preceding type and tumulus for the pyramidal piles of stones 228.

 
In any case, the dimensions of the pakeopa and ahu are very variable (see also Figures 33 to 36 in S. Routledge). Thomson estimates that the average length is 30 feet and the average height is 10 to 15 feet. The number of statues on the pakeopa depended on its importance: seven in Figure 33, five on the pakeopa drawn by P. Loti (Figure 37), five on the pakeopa in La Pérouse Bay, 13 on the one at Akahanga, 14 or 15 on the one at Tongariki, etc....

 

A. Pinart made a particularly detailed architectural study of the pakeopa at Opulu whose dimensions he recorded. According to him, it was composed of two large superimposed terraces, which were a kind of platform made of large slabs that had been crudely worked and were of large or even “cyclopean” dimensions (to use the description provided by P. Loti) 229. The first terrace was 200 meters long, 10 meters wide and 50 meters high 230. The interior was filled with pieces of lava. The second terrace was 5 meters wide, 1.5 meters long and 1.7 meters high. It was made of large slabs, placed side by side. The lower part of each of these blocks had a groove into which a cornice of red lava was embedded. The red lava was decorated with fine carvings of human heads and various animals (birds, fish, rats etc.; see Figure 36 and Figures 8 –10 in Plate XIII from Blondela, which is reproduced here as Figure 29). The cornice was not carved on the side that faced the sea 231.


The huge stone statues were erected on the first platform (Figures 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, and 42). In some cases, at Opulu for example, they looked in the direction of the upper terrace; in some cases they looked out on other pakeopa; but, in the majority of cases, they looked towards the interior of the island.


It is worth noting that, while A. Pinart suggested, in his model, that there were two tiers of stones, with the statues on the first platform, Duché de Vancy (see La Pérouse) and Loti drew three levels, with the third one supporting the statues (Figure 5; Figures 8 - 10 in Plate XIII from Blondela, which is reproduced here as Figure 29; and Figure 37). Three levels were certainly the rule but, no matter how many there were, the statues that have been knocked over are lying, in general, with their faces on the upper part of the terrace, in the ruins, and they cover the tombs that are located in the second tier. These vaults, made of slabs placed one upon another are, on average, two meters long and 80 centimeters wide. In the imposing pakeopas, these chambers might very probably have been used for the burial of bodies of important people, such as the ariki, tangata manu, tangata rongorongo....


The tangata manu were buried, of course, with their eggs, which were the sign of their authority; their obsidian knives; and, if they had any, with their polished-stone fish hooks. The ariki were buried with their tablets. For example, the body of Ngaara, the very great ariki, was brought to the chosen ahu and then, resting on three large tablets that were put on the shoulders of rongorongo men, he was placed in his tomb.


The pakeopa were communal mausoleums, which explains why A. Pinart and Dr. Thoulan found many skeletons and about twenty skulls in the one at Opulu and, at Vahio 232, about forty skulls and several skeletons (two of which were still wrapped up in mats that had been tied at both ends). But, as we have noted above, we should not immediately conclude that all the skeletons found in the pakeopa are of ancient origin. During the visit of A. Pinart to the island, the islanders were still using the pakeopa to inter their dead, whoever they were, sometimes under the fallen statues and sometimes in the vaults. Moreover, most of the vaults were looted by Brander, then by the islanders themselves, and, finally, by other settlers, all of whom hoped to find ancient objects that they could sell to collectors. As a result, obviously, nothing is in its original state 233.

 

To close, it is worth noting that not only were some of the coastal pakeopa less important than the one at Opulu, but there were many that were much smaller, in particular, in the interior of the island (where several dozen have been found). There were many of these ahu on the island: Thomson reported that there were 113 along the coast but most visitors have estimated that there must have been about 260, with as many on the shore as inland 234.

 


THE MONUMENTAL STATUES ON THE PAKEOPA AND AHU

(First type of monumental statue.)


Long ago, there were great stone statues on the pakeopa. These statues must, doubtlessly, have been endowed with religious symbolism but it is impossible to be more specific at present 235.

 

When Cook and, subsequently, La Pérouse landed on Easter Island, they did not go to Rano Raraku or to Orongo (by contrast, both P. Loti and A. Pinart explored Rano Raraku). Cook and La Pérouse only visited places along the coast and in its immediate vicinity. It was the statues (moai) on the pakeopa that attracted the attention of the artists attached to their expeditions and which are reproduced in the illustrations that accompanied the published reports of these two famous explorers (Figures 5 and 33). The head of one of these statues (1.84 meters high) is now at the Trocadéro Museum in Paris 236.

 

The museum in Washington (Figures 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, and 41) also has a great stone head of the same type (Figures 41 and 42) but it is the only museum to have, in addition, an entire statue, which even has its hat of red stone (Figures 38 and 39). This statue was taken from Anakena and brought to the United States in 1888 by Thomson on the Mohican 237.


There is another, rather crude one at the Tier Kunde Museum in Dresden and, finally, there is one, with a broken neck, that was taken from the statue “nursery” near Hanga Roa (see map no. 3) to Santiago, Chile, by the crew of the Chilean training ship General Banquedano. The statue taken to England by the Topaze in 1868, which is now in the British Museum, is a particularly well-sculpted statue called “Breaker of Waves” 238. However, for reasons that I shall discuss below, this statue seems to me to belong to a separate group of statues 239.

 

For a long time, visitors to Easter Island confused the statues on the pakeopa with other monumental statues on the island. The statues do indeed have some common characteristics but they also have some particular features, perhaps because the islanders deliberately carved statues of different types or perhaps because the statues are all of a single type but were carved with variations by different generations of sculptors, who were separated in time by longer or shorter periods 240.

 

First of all, let us note that the monumental statues on the ahu and at Rano Raraku, which are always referred to as “statues”, are not really statues because they are not accurate representations of entire people. They all represent, in fact, people without lower limbs and they actually depict torsos that terminate below the pelvis. The back is slightly concave, which allows the abdomen to be moderately convex, especially in the region around the navel. The lower part of the abdomen is covered by the two hands, which lie flat on it, with fingers almost touching. Note, with respect to the hands, that all earlier authors have described the hands as having long fingers but, as I have already indicated and will discuss again below, the hands themselves are of normal proportion but the fingernails are very long! Just as all the statues at the crater are all of the same general type, those on the ahu and pakeopa are all similarly stereotypical in all respects (posture, style, technique, details, etc.). There is hardly any individual variation among them 241.


There is a head on the torso of each of the various statues, and the head accounts for about four-tenths of the entire height. The final feature that all the statues have in common is a very special dignity that comes, for the most part, from their vast size but also to some extent from their rustic nature 242 and the simplicity of their general appearance. If they had been better carved, with copious detail, the statues would have appeared less impressive and more artificial and they would have clashed with the landscape. However, they were made by a very restrained technique, without any unnecessary details. They were carved like certain works (in wood) on the Treasury Island (see Stephen-Chauvet, Les Cahiers d’Art, no. 2, 1929) from an almost schematic idealization, and, as a result, they benefit from uncomplicated interactions between light and shadow. They appear massive and powerful and, being made of a rather coarse material, they are in perfect harmony with the severe sites that frame them and the scattered stones on the ground that surrounds them, which give them a true grandeur. Similarly, and for the same reasons, the statues on the pakeopa are perfectly suited for their serious role as funerary monuments.


In addition to the characteristics that they have in common with the statues at Rano Raraku, the statues on the ahu and pakeopa have some unique features. First of all, the statues at the crater have a pointed base, destined to be buried in the ground, while those on the ahu have a flat base, so that they can stand on these monuments 243. In addition, while the statues at the crater are scattered around in a disorganized manner 244, the statues at the ahu, when they were still standing, were perfectly aligned (Figure 37) and in a group. On the pakeopa studied by A. Pinart, P. Loti and Dr. Delabaude, there were five statues and they were spaced at regular intervals. They were approximately five meters high (with the head accounting for 1.8 to 2.0 meters) and their height was increased still further by two complementary stone items, which are missing from the statues at Rano Raraku, namely, a plinth of flat stones (Figures 5, 36, and 37) and a sort of turban (pukao in the language of the islanders) that served as a head covering and was balanced on the head, slightly closer to the front than the back (Figure 6 and, in particular Figure 37), thanks to a large basal concavity that had been carved out asymmetrically (one can see this clearly in Figures 38 and 39). This turban [pukao] was made of a slightly conical piece of red volcanic rock and was generally 0.75 meters high and 0.60 meters in diameter (Figures 5, 33, 36, 37, 38, and 39; Pinart wrote, by mistake, that the turbans were 2 meters in diameter instead of 2 meters in circumference 245).


Even without the plinth and the turban, the statues on the pakeopa are not as tall as those at the crater 246 (which, as we shall see below, are rather different, having been carved less crudely and in a different style). That being said, it is necessary to note a few more details that are specific to the statues on the pakeopa. The stone from which the pukao are carved came, according to Roussel, from a quarry situated at one end of the island, at Puna Pau (a crater near Hanga Roa) or, according to Escande, from the land around Tauatapu (where there are still, moreover, a large number of pukao that have been carved but were not used) 247. Sometimes, there is a carving (roua) 248 that indicates the name of the person who sculpted the turban, for example, Gotomo-ara, Marapate, Kanano, Gouaï-taga, Maté-Mato, etc. 249.


According to Hanonouo Kou 250, the islanders moved the statues (moai) and hats (pukao) to their chosen location by rolling them over round stones 251. Once the statue had arrived at its destination, it was re-erected and surrounded by a scaffold of large flat stones that formed a very steep inclined plane, which allowed the statue to be placed on the pakeopa (Roussel).


What was the significance of the pukao? In Balfour’s view, it represented a stylized coiffure! Taking up this idea, Mr. Lavachery wrote that it represented a crown of hair similar to that on Pinart’s statuette (Figure 133) and that “stylization is the most natural explanation”! This is really an implausible hypothesis for which there is no support and it is clear that the pukao are hats.


While the pukao are carved from red rock, the statues themselves are carved in a similar volcanic rock that is rather soft and grayish in color, which La Pérouse referred to as lapillo 252.

 

A. Pinart stated that some of the statues are made entirely of trachytic rock 253 while others are of trachytic rock mixed with gray breccia-type rock, a kind of amalgam of ash and igneous rock, specifically volcanic trachytic tuff or andesitic tuff, quarried at Hangaru 254. It is noteworthy that the inclusions scattered through this tuff are fragments of obsidian and, in particular, palagonite (for precise details, see the analysis performed by Mr. Velain) 255.


The statues on the ahu and pakeopa are more crudely carved than the second type of monumental statue and they have a rather low forehead and a flattened skull to accommodate the pukao that is placed on top. The occipital region is missing and the plane of the back extends up the rear of the head. The slightly turned-up nose is rather long, with two dilated nostrils (note that the noses are shorter than the noses of the statues on the crater and in a different style; the same is true of the chins). Facing upwards and forwards, the heads do not have what one could refer to as actual eyes: they simply have eye sockets below huge overhanging eyebrows. However, the eye sockets are carved in such a way that under certain conditions, as a result of the play of light and shade, the heads seem endowed with the ability to see. The statues at the crater, by contrast, do not have eye sockets 256. All they have is a small inclined plane, descending from the eyebrows, that slopes directly to the frontal region of the cheeks. The mouth is small and horizontal and the lips are thin. This configuration, which is even more striking because the chin is large and powerful, results in the impression of a supercilious smile. Behind the cheeks, forming a uniformly flat surface, the “cheek bones” descend vertically.


Many authors have been intrigued by these features of the statues, wondering whether they represent hair or ears. But one only has to look carefully at some of the heads, for example the one in Washington (Figure 38), to realize that they clearly represent ears, with ear lobes that are pierced and extensively elongated as a result of ear decorations, such as those shown in Figure 6, as well as on the statuette of the birdman in Figures 114 and 115, and on the wooden statuettes with sunken bellies (Figure 116 onwards) 257.

 

This feature of the stone statues is not the only one that deserves our attention. There are others that, until now, have not been noted by other authors and are certainly of considerable significance. Thus, for example, on the drawing by A. Pinart (Figure 36), we should note that, in addition to the carvings on the pukao, he very carefully drew raised circular carvings at the bridge of the nose. These decorations were certainly not carved at random and one can imagine that the islanders included them to represent the same kind of excrescence as that seen on the head of the birdman in Figures 114 and 115  258.

 

In addition, one need only look carefully at Figures 39, 40, 41, and 42 to see that at each corner of the mouth there is a small conical excrescence, which has also been ignored until now. This feature is missing from the statues at Rano Raraku. It would seem doubtful that this feature, which has remained unnoticed, could represent anything but the stylized ends of a mustache. But what was its significance? 259.


To conclude, we should note that the statues did not fall off the pakeopa as the result of a major cataclysm 260. They were still standing when Roggeveen visited the island and he noted that they were carefully surrounded by an area that was covered with white stones. Roggeveen also noted that statues were obviously venerated by the islanders. The same was true when Cook and La Pérouse visited Easter Island, and the engravings by W. Hodges and, in particular, the beautiful drawing by Duché de Vancy (1776), together with the reconstructions by A. Pinart (Figure 36) and P. Loti (Figure 37), help us to understand what the pakeopa looked like when the statues were still standing.


But, even if the statues were still standing when Cook visited the island, it is unclear whether, even at that time, they retained any true religious significance for the natives. When he carried off one of the heads, P. Loti observed that the statues were no longer revered at all by the islanders. These islanders were only the grandchildren of those who had lived on the island during the visits by Cook and La Pérouse and who had treated the statues with such respect! 261


This state of mind explains why, during a period of civil war and anarchy towards the middle of the nineteenth century, the islanders became filled with an iconoclastic fury and made “war against the statues” (huri moai), knocking them all over (in general, on their faces; Figures 34 and 35). The only ones to escape were the statues at Hotuiti (or Uti iti) because this part of the island was never invaded. This event occurred shortly before Admiral de Lappelin’s visit since the Admiral was able to question a man called Daniel, who worked for Mr. Brander in Tahiti and who reported having seen the work of the iconoclasts.


To close, we should note that it is because the style of the statues on the pakeopa is so different from the style of the giant statues at Rano Raraku and, also, because there are similar idols, similarly located at the seashore on Raivavae Island (Tubuai Archipelago), that the old native chiefs call by their maori names (Tu oné, spirit of the sand; and Tu papa, spirit of the rocks), that P. Loti proposed that they must have been the work of a second wave of Polynesians who invaded Easter Island, while the statues at Rano Raraku must have been carved by the first race of invaders, who disappeared long ago 262.

 


THE MONUMENTAL STATUES AT RANO RARAKU

(Second type; Figures 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, and 55.)


Almost all the statues of this type are located on the interior and exterior slopes of the volcanic crater at Hotuiti: Rano Raraku. According to S. Routledge, there are 153 on the interior southern section of the crater and 40 along the paths that lead up to the volcano (a total of 193 in all states of construction and destruction 263, and in all kinds of position) 264.

 

This explains why, we should mention in passing, some authors have suggested that the broken or upended statues in this area are not abandoned statues that were damaged in transit but, rather, that in the past, these statues bordered the paths that led to the crater. According to S. Routledge, there are three paths, as follows. One path goes to the southwest, near the cliffs. Two sections link it to the sea and, along its 14 kilometers, there are 27 statues that are an average of seven meters high. A second path goes to the center of the island and there are 14 statues along its six kilometers. This path forks and one of the two secondary paths ends up at Orïto, a little volcano where obsidian can be found; the other goes to the north and wanders among small craters before it finally terminates at Rano Aroi. The third path from Rano Raraku goes to the north of the island but ends suddenly after two kilometers. There are two statues along this path. When thinking about these statues, P. Loti wrote, “And then there are the others, the ones that are so frightening, that have different faces and were made at a different time. They still stand over there, over there at the other end of the island, in the depths of a solitude that is disturbed by no one.”


These statues made a similarly strong impression on Admiral de Lappelin, who wrote, “The neolithic dolmens [in France and England], the immense temples of the Incas, the great monuments in Egypt — all are less astonishing than the colossal statues on Easter Island, when one thinks of the poverty of the place and its isolation”.


How did the ancient islanders extract these immense pieces of stone without breaking them, how did they move them without jacks, wooden levers, iron, ropes, wooden rollers or beasts of burden...? 265 And then how did they stand them up? To get an idea of all the difficulties that they had to surmount, one only needs to remember that the officers of the Topaze had to use modern equipment and more than five or six hundred men, both sailors and islanders, to get a statue of a mere 2.5 meters in height onto the ship. On the island, there are statues that are four times that size. It is a mystery!!


No matter how they were moved, the statues at Rano Raraku were, to P. Loti, completely different from those at the pakeopa. The latter, in fact, consisted on a long trunk, with a head on top, that was crudely carved from a very ugly kind of rock. By contrast, the statues at Rano Raraku, even if they just seemed to consist of a head and a neck, were larger and much more carefully sculpted from a much more compact type of volcanic rock!


Even though, before the discoveries of S. Routledge, these statues were considered to consist only of a head, a neck and the upper thorax, the dimensions already seemed colossal and had, furthermore, been exaggerated. A. Pinart estimated that these statues weighed, on average, 250 metric tons and were approximately 20 meters high. But, when these numbers were calculated, one major fact had not yet come to light. It was thanks to the work of S. Routledge that it became apparent that a very large part of the torso of each of these statues was buried in the ground 266.

 

The buried parts of the statues, uncovered for the first time by S. Routledge, are of great interest not only because they add to the dimensions of these already huge statues but also because they reveal unsuspected but particularly detailed decorative carving (these parts had been protected from the corrosive effects of the air and the rain; see, in Routledge, Figures 62 - 65 and 72). These giant statues are not scattered haphazardly. They form three major groups on the inner slope of the crater, facing north, such that they all have their backs to the face of the volcanic rock from which they were carved. Thanks to some remarkable drawings made from panoramic photographs taken by S. Routledge, it is easy to figure out (in her book) the positions of all the statues and the features of each part of the crater. To do this, it is sufficient to study the aerial drawing of the crater that is shown in Figure 44 of her book; Figures 50, 51, 52, 53, and 54, which show the slopes of the volcano; and, finally, the diagram which shows a general view of the interior slopes of the crater where the statues are located (this diagram is reproduced here as Figure 55). On this diagram, the statues are even numbered, as are the sites at which they were carved out of the rock.


With respect to the number of statues, S. Routledge thinks that there were never more than 400 to 500 in all 267. Since she thinks that one of these statues of average size could be carved, from the trachytic rock, in about two weeks, she concludes that all the statues could have been carved within a period of about one hundred years! It is worth noting, however, that she was ignoring one important variable when she made her calculation: the number of workers that might have been capable of doing this kind of work. Moreover, since observation and experience have shown that, until today, no native people has ever been able to carry out a preconceived plan for a decorative structure without interruption and over the course of many years (are White people, themselves, capable of doing such a thing?), it is more logical to assume that the ancient islanders carved these statues discontinuously, as time passed, during periods when they were not at war and when they were not obliged to spend their time in the fields or fishing. When they had the time, all the natives who were able to work on a planned statue had to set to work. That said, how then did they proceed? 268


There are statues at various stages of completion at several sites and, thus, it is easy to deduce the techniques that were used. The drawing by A. Pinart, reproduced here (Figure 43), and some of the photographs taken by S. Routledge show the different stages very clearly.


The islanders chose a suitable site on the rock face of the crater and then they used axes made of schist or obsidian to carve out the front of the statue first. In the lower part of A. Pinart’s drawing, one can see, beside a sailor, part of a statue at this stage. The sides were carved out next (see, for example, the statue at an angle at the extreme right of the drawing). When this had been done, the craftsmen separated the statue from the cliff, cutting a trench behind the statue which, when combined with the work at the sides of the statue, formed a kind of circular corridor in the rock.


Since the rock above the statue had been retained, the result was a sort of grotto that was four meters deep and about 2.25 meters wide, the entrance to which was blocked by the statue. A. Pinart and his companions camped in one such grotto (see Figure 43, on the right hand side). When the statue was finished and the back of the statue had been carved out, all that remained was to detach the base, which the islanders did, as A. Pinart noted, by boring a series of parallel holes of about eight centimeters in diameter. Then the statue could be laid down and transported to its chosen destination. To do this, the islanders had to prepare a slope, at the end of which they dug a hole in which they buried the lower part of the statue. The natives who were not craftsmen did all the necessary preparatory work while the sculptors carved out the statue. The entire clan worked together, as is the case for all primitive peoples.


We do not know how the statues were moved — all we can do is marvel and admire! Do we not know, in fact, that, in addition to modern materials, levers, jacks, hoists, ropes, rollers etc., 300 sailors from the Topaze and 200 islanders as well were needed to move a much smaller and lighter statue, the one that is in the British Museum? 269

 

There must have been large numbers of islanders, certainly, but they had no horses, no oxen and no equipment; they did not even have wood for rollers! 270

 

And, even if there had been enough for one statue, how would the natives (once the barkless bushes had died) find a way to make ropes with which to move other statues (since, obviously, after moving a statue, the ropes would be damaged beyond repair).


And yet, somehow, the islanders managed to move and erect these statues, which were made of such fragile material, without leaving any traces of any kind of damage to the surface! Apparently, we have to conclude that they were not bumped around and did not come in contact with the rough surface of the ground as they were moved! How could such massive objects have been moved around in such a perfect manner?


The statues are apparently rather variable in size. Some are relatively small; others are of medium size; and, finally, some are very large — in general 30 to 40 feet tall, according to Shapiro.


One of the large statues, measured by A. Pinart, was 20 meters tall. The dimensions of its various parts were as follows: the height of the entire head (neck included) was 7 meters and the head was 3 meters in diameter; the forehead was 2 meters high; the nose was 3.4 meters long, this distance from the base of the nose to the upper lip was 75 centimeters; the chin was 2 meters long; and the torso extended 12 meters above the ground, giving a total of 20.15 meters [sic]. To appreciate the vast size of these statues, one has only to look carefully at Figures 50, 51, and 52. The second of these photographs shows clearly the tremendous contrast between a man on a horse and the giant statue beside him. And, in addition to the apparent size of the statues (the size above the ground), we know, thanks to the excavations of Mrs. S. Routledge, that several more “feet” have to be added to take into account that part of the trunk and the pelvis that are buried! Thanks also to these excavations, it is clear that the arms of the statues include the forearms and the hands “with their very elongated fingers” 271.

 

These hands sometimes meet near the navel and sometimes are closer to the genitals 272, which, themselves, are quite conspicuous (see, in Routledge, Figures 72 and 69). Moreover, carved on the backs of the statues (in the lumbar and pelvic regions), there is often the famous belt, an “M”, and ritual circles (see, in Routledge, Figures 64 and 65; we have already mentioned this type of decoration and we shall examine it again in the context of the wooden statuettes). Some of the statues are even more heavily decorated, with carved symbols on their backs that resemble simultaneously some of the hieroglyphic characters (see, in Routledge, Figure 64) and the decorative motifs on the statue in the British Museum.


Careful study of the heads of the statues in Figures 43, 44, 45, and 46, and 50, 51, 52, 53, and 54 reveals, even more clearly than the torsos, that they were quite definitely carved by craftsmen with more talent and skill than the sculptors who carved the statues on the ahu.


In fact, while the statues on the ahu are crude torsos topped by heads with very basic features, the statues at the crater were carved by a much more skillful technique according to a particular “model” with traditional and specific stylization 273.

 

The heads were never topped with pukao but a few of them have a kind of round ledge over their foreheads, a little bit like the peak of a cap (Figures C,e; 45 and 46). There are also often parallel lines on the forehead (Figures C,a and 51); no eyes, but orbital cavities with heavy overhanging eyebrows; a turned-up nose that is quite large (Figures 44, 45, 46, 53, and 54); thin lips, carved in such a way that they give the statues a supercilious smile (see, in particular, the statue in the British Museum); and there are two long ridges, which hang down “like the headdress of the Sphinx” or which are flattened ears (Pierre Loti) on the sides of and to the rear of the cheeks. Indeed, one only has to look carefully at certain statues, comparing them with the pictures of the native islanders (Figures A and B) and the pictures of the wooden statuettes (Figures 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, and 134), to realize that there can be absolutely no doubt that we are dealing with stylized representations of the ears, with their elongated and pierced lobes, of the ancient islanders, as well as of those of many other peoples in the Pacific (Figures 6, 8, and 14; such as those on the Solomon Islands, as shown in Figures D7 and D13, and in New Zealand).


On the stone statues, these ears are carved in greater or lesser detail and, even though the decorations have suffered more or less damage from the weather, these details are visible on some statues (Figures C,b and C,e, and Figures 50 and 51).


Moreover, on one of the statues, A. Pinart was able to find traces of red tattoos on the nose and chin and P. Loti noted that some of the statues were decorated with a type of necklace made of flakes of obsidian, while the carved furrows on some statues were inlaid with tattoos or drawings.


Both A. Pinart and, later, P. Loti found large numbers of scrapers and knives etc. made from obsidian flakes around the statues. A. Pinart wrote, “Could these have been the tools with which the statues were carved?” This suggestion seems plausible if we give a little thought to the minimal hardness of the rock and the ease with which it can be carved. But, perhaps, the ancient islanders also used axes made of schist, of the type found — with some minimal variation — on all the islands of Polynesia, for more rapid and easier but less detailed carving. In many places, beside the statues that are still erect, there are others that have been tipped over and broken. And just about everywhere, human bones are scattered around.


The general impression is of a building site where the workers were suddenly ordered to go on strike immediately, and where everything was abandoned on the spot! The only difference is that, when work is abandoned voluntarily, the workers do not leave everything, including their tools, in disarray. That is not the only surprising thing. In fact, since the natives buried their dead and even erected mausoleums (ahu) for them, why are there so many skeletons without any kind of tomb? 274 It is unlikely that there was a battle against invaders because none of the skulls is fractured or broken 275.

 

Finally, how is it that natives who were questioned around the middle of the nineteenth century, and even before that, had no memory of any of the traditions associated with these huge statues?


For all these reasons, a majority of recent authors has concluded that the craftsmen left these sites precipitously, never to return to complete their tasks, because they were wiped out in a single blow, together with the rest of the population. And these authors deduced, therefore, that only a major cataclysm could have annihilated the entire first population of the island. Prior to this hypothesis, other authors proposed another one, namely, that Easter Island had served exclusively as a (distant and isolated) necropolis to which the natives of other islands brought the bodies of their important dead and where they left teams of workers, as necessary, to carve the statues. But, for a variety of reasons, this suggestion is absolutely untenable.


Still other authors looked at this problem in a different way. They proposed that Easter Island was the last relic of a much larger island that had been submerged and that Easter Island, as we know it today, was actually the necropolis on the larger island, where the chiefs of the large numbers of natives were buried 276. This hypothesis seems highly unlikely since it would be very odd if only the necropolis had remained as a result of its higher elevation and if this area had been the only elevated region of the entire earlier island. Moreover, there are certain geological facts that do not fit this possibility 277.


Furthermore, why would the pakeopa and ahu be located specifically along the shore unless they were always on the shore of the island. It is really totally unlikely that, if they were all erected in the interior of the original island long ago, they should ALL now be located, after the inundation of the original island, at the very edge of the waters that submerged the lower regions of the latter!


We are left, then, with the hypothesis that some cataclysmic event occurred on an island that always had the same basic dimensions and shape. In this regard, it is worth noting, first of all, that, without invoking a volcanic eruption (since there has been none since the first settlers arrived on Easter Island), many disasters are capable, in the Pacific, of annihilating an entire population, in particular, on an island. Should we provide some examples?


In 1877, while the ensign of the Flandin was governor of the Tuamotu Islands, a tidal wave inundated the main island, destroying everything! For two weeks he survived, as did the inhabitants, by taking refuge in a coconut palm, and everyone owed their lives to the arrival of a rescue vessel from Tahiti! In 1896, a tidal wave ravaged Kinkazou Island and within moments killed 30,000 people! 278


In February 1833, another tidal wave ravaged Massachusetts. In 1896, an earthquake on the Isle of Honda [?] in Japan did tremendous damage. On March 3, 1932, another earthquake, accompanied by a tidal wave, surged over the entire north portion of this same island 279. The waters swept over the land nine times, destroying 5,500 houses. Twenty-six hundred people disappeared! In 1923, Tokyo and Yokohama were three-quarters destroyed by an earthquake. On March 11, 1933, Southern California was decimated by an earthquake. In just an instant, fourteen towns were wrecked, an oil well caught fire, 4,270 people were killed and there was 1,250 million [francs?] worth of damage! Finally, last April 22, a violent seismic event ravaged Formosa [Taiwan]; a few tremors were enough to kill 3,185 people, to injure seriously another 10,636 and to destroy 15,457 houses!


Cyclones can also cause terrible damage. In 1903, a cyclone decimated the Isle of Hikueru (in the Tuamotus) and then the north of Paraoa Island, before a huge wave surged over Hao, where 500 natives were drowned. Recently, a cyclone in Guadeloupe also caused tremendous damage.


During catastrophes of such magnitude, islands have disappeared and others have even appeared! This is what must have happened to the island that the pirate Davis saw near Easter Island that nobody was ever able to find subsequently (see “The Mystery of the Pacific” in Le Mercure de France, February 1926). Thus, it is quite possible that a cyclone 280 or a cyclone accompanied by a tidal wave might have annihilated the entire first population on Easter Island 281.

 


THE THIRD TYPE OF MONUMENTAL STATUE


In addition to the monumental statues on the pakeopa and the giant statues at Rano Raraku, there seems, logically, to be a third category of giant stone statues that were carved at the same time and by the same craftsmen, as the statues at Rano Raraku. It seems right to put them in a separate group for purely nosological reasons, first of all because they are not as large; secondly, because they are carved much more skillfully; and, finally, because they are decorated with symbolic ornamental motifs 282. The most characteristic statue of this type in the one that is now in the British Museum (Figures 56 and 57) and was brought to England on the Topaze (the Challenger, according to Roussel) in 1868 283.


This statue was called Hoa haka nana ia (“Breaker of Waves” 284) by the ancient islanders and it was found, as noted above, in one of the stone houses (Taù-ra-re-gna) in Orongo, near the village of Taura rengo 285 (near the Rano Kau volcano). At the feet of this statue, long ago, the natives performed certain initiation rites as part of the manu ceremony 286. To remove the statue, it was necessary to demolish the room in which it had been sheltered and then 300 English sailors and 200 natives were needed to take it to Cook Bay and get it onto the ship.


Sculpted with care, the statue has cleanly carved and distinct ridges that separate the different parts of the statue in exactly the same way as one sees on the ancient wooden statuettes with hollow bellies and prominent ribs. The head is also very characteristic, with features that resemble both those of the ancient wooden statuettes and those of the huge statues at Rano Raraku.


By contrast, the torso is basically cylindrical instead of having a concave belly like the moaï [sic] kavakava. The hands are long and slender and carved on the sides of the torso. The back is decorated with various sculpted designs that were originally painted red and black. On the back of the statue, one can see two birdmen (tangata manu); a manutara bird; three of the symbols, with their anthropomorphic decoration (ao and rapa), that were used as insignias by those who officiated at rituals associated with the manu cult; and, finally, a sort of belt, with a circle above it and a design that resembles the letter M below it. It will become clear, when we consider the ancient wooden statuettes with their sunken bellies, how we should interpret this last motif and the belt. As for the circle, we have already noted, in our discussions of the manu ceremonies, that the natives painted a similar symbol in precisely the same place (the lower lumbar region) on the skin of adolescent islanders at the end of their initiation ceremony.


We should recall that S. Routledge noted that, when she dug up the giant statues, some of them were decorated with carved motifs of the same type (Figures 64 and 65 in Routledge).


Let us note, finally, that Balfour proposed that the stone statues on Easter Island were directly related (in terms of style) to the statuary on the Solomon Islands 287.

 

It seems to me that there is an even greater resemblance to certain punumùrù masks from New Caledonia and, as I have noted elsewhere, to certain statues on Treasury Island 288.

 


VARIOUS OTHER STONE CARVINGS


Small Statuettes


Long ago, on Easter Island, in addition to the various types of large statues that we have just described, there were also smaller statues carved out of lava. Just as simple torsos without a head have been called statues, these small carvings have been called statuettes even though, in reality, they are most often only heads or, at most, heads with part of the torso, with or without arms! Until now, these statuettes have not been classified or even studied. Thus, it is important to analyze them with the utmost care and discrimination.

 

A. Pinart was the first to mention these statuettes. He wrote, “One also finds other stone statuettes that are basically exact but diminutive reproductions of the statues in the craters”.


Elsewhere, in Glimmer of Light on a Dark Path, Pierre Loti wrote that the door of a dwelling that he was planning to enter was “guarded” on either side by two granite [sic] divinities with sinister faces. After he had entered and his eyes had grown used to the dim light, he was able to make out the interior and “A ray of sunlight burst through the hole that served as a door and penetrated the darkness. From the dark corner where I was lying, I could see the shadow cast by one of the idols that guarded the entrance.” We can be sure that, long ago, there must have been stone or wooden sculptures, destined to play the role of household gods that would keep away evil spirits, at the entrance of every hut. Ethnologists used to think until quite recently that these statues were represented by the statue in the Trocadéro Museum (Figure 60), which consists of a head and neck, made out of volcanic rock, with a total height of 26 centimeters. There was, moreover, a similar head in the sale of P. Loti’s estate.


Even though, in 1919, S. Routledge published a photograph of the bust in the Pitt-Rivers Museum (Figure 59) and Dr. E. Loppé described, in 1928, the equally ancient head that is shown in Figure 58, this type of ancient statue was known to so few that it is not shown in any book and the special edition of Cahiers d’Art (Journal of Art) that was published in 1929 and devoted to the arts of Oceania did not even mention it. It was only at the Exhibition of Oceanic Art in the Renaissance Rooms in Paris (from May 23 to June 6, 1929), which was curated by André Portier, François Ponceton, and Stephen-Chauvet, that ethnologists were able to admire, among twenty carvings from Easter Island, the splendid ancient red-stone statue from the Lafaille Museum in La Rochelle (Figure 58) and the equally ancient and novel, equally beautiful and rare statuette in gray volcanic rock from the Museum of the Rochefort Naval Hospital (Figure 61), which the eminent curators of these two museums were gracious enough to lend to the exhibition.


It takes only a brief examination of the three stone heads (from Pitt-River, La Rochelle and Rochefort) and of other heads of similar size to realize that the the former, characterized by a particular style and by the skill with which they were made, are related to the statues at Rano Raraku and were made at about the same time, while the latter were made during the much more recent Decadent period and were crudely carved by the natives and sold to the foreigners who visited Easter Island 289.


The differences between the two types of statuette are the same, in terms of age, symbolism and quality of workmanship, as those between the ancient wooden statuettes with sunken bellies (Figures 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, and 134), and the statuettes from the more recent Decadent period (Figures 143 to 148), which the islanders have made for the past fifty years or so for “those damned foreign drunkards”, as they said to Mrs. Routledge 290.

 

It would seem wise, also, to remove from museums and collections those stone or wood carvings that were made for tourists and bear no relation to the true art of Easter Island. The ancient statuettes, let me say once again, were made by the first islanders 291 to symbolize, in their eyes, some idea or some belief and they are made with very specific artistic skill. The modern carvings have none of the same characteristics.


Since nobody has previously discriminated between the two types of statuette, there are many stone statuettes in various places that are considered to be representative of the art of Easter Island but only demonstrate the conventional imagination of the natives during the second half of the nineteenth century. Indeed, not only did the islanders carve crude wooden statuettes during that time (Figures 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, and 148), some of which were quite bizarre (Figures 149 and 150), they also made stone statuettes but did not restrict themselves to heads without torsos of the type described above. Realizing that many expeditions had come to remove some of the huge statues in their entirety from pakeopa, the islanders deduced that foreigners would also surely be interested in stone statuettes of the same type but of much smaller size. They did find, indeed, that some foreigners actually asked them for small ancient stone statuettes. Not being able to find any, since all the ancient statuettes had already been taken away, they made stone statuettes themselves. These were rather crudely carved and were based on the statues on pakeopa since they did not have any ancient statuettes to use as models. Thus, they carved stone statuettes that resembled the statues on pakeopa “…viewed through the wrong end of a telescope”.


The statuettes that the natives produced had crudely carved heads (without elongated ears and without any of the details that were described above) and similarly crude torsos with arms that were barely distinguishable and, sometimes, hands with short stubby fingers! Such statuettes can be found in various museums, such as Cranmore Museum (a bust that is 23 cm high), the Ethnographic Museum in Lubeck, etc. Thus, if one continued to consider pieces of this type as if they were related to the true island art that predated the first European visitors, one would end up by accepting so much polymorphism that some minimally competent authors would end up by including works of the type shown at the end of this chapter (Figure 61b)!!


Carved Rocks, Petroglyphs and Wall Paintings


In addition to the various types of statue of different shape and size that we have discussed, the islanders decorated the rocks on the island in a great variety of ways. First of all, on the rocks at Orongo, among the stone houses, there are very large numbers of carvings in bas relief (Figures 62, 63, 64, and 65) that have been studied in detail by W. J. Thomson, Bienvenito [sic] de Estella and, finally, by Mrs. Routledge. The most interesting carvings on the rocks are large depictions of birdmen (tangata manu). Mrs. Routledge counted 111  292, among which three are holding an egg. Mrs. Routledge concluded that, without a doubt, all these petroglyphs represent the various tangata manu who succeeded one another as chiefs of the island in the past.


We should recall that Mrs. Routledge made the important point that some of the rock carvings predate the construction of the stone houses at Orongo and were, perhaps, made when the huts there were still covered with thatch.


In addition to the tangata manu, the ancient islanders also carved petroglyphs on the rocks. These were carved to a depth of one to two centimeters and represent the head of Maké Maké, the god with the huge eye sockets. In addition, many rocks along the coast are often decorated with petroglyphs that represent this same head, as well as manutara, boats, large tuna fish (kahi), turtles etc. Other designs are carved on the Tourabouai rock 293, where, according to tradition, only the Maori or artists were allowed to sit. These designs are “roua 294 or the designs of the specific artists who carved them.


Similarly, on the slope of the crater at Rano Raraku, opposite the huge statues, A. Pinart noticed carvings of birds (manutara) 295 and anthropomorphic shapes. In addition, he noted the presence of numerous petroglyphs on the slabs of stone on the inner walls on some pakeopa (Figure 36 and Addendum).

 


 

notes

 
217. The monuments and megaliths were studied in detail by La Pťrouse, A. Pinart, Thomson and S. Routledge (who spent 16.5 months on the island).

218. Translatorís note: See www.rongorongo.org/pinart/231.html; this Figure does not seem to reflect the description provided here by Chauvet; but page 234 has a drawing of a hare paenga; Chauvet likely cited the wrong page.

219. Editorís note: Loti observed stone-paved canoe ramps.

220. Translatorís note: See www.rongorongo.org/pinart/226.html.

221. Given the deterioration due to inclement weather, the removal of stones by the natives, and the plundering of graves, it would seem unnecessarily complicated to subdivide these tumuli into "ahu-pae-pae" and ahu-poe-poe [sic]"!

222. Translatorís note: This last word is in quotation marks in the French also.

223. In Tahitian, the equivalent of maraÔ [sic] is marať. N.B. Each of these three terms has been used by numerous travelers and authors to designate the very same monument so it is necessary to mention all these terms to avoid confusion.

224. Admiral de Lappelin noted the presence of (i) similar constructions on Malden Island and on Oparo Island (or Rapa Iti), the original homeland, according to tradition, of the first Easter Islanders; and (ii) monumental statues on Raivavae in the Tubuaíi archipelago. Balfour noted similarly the presence of very large stone statues (with clearly carved ribs) on Chatham Island. Carteret, finally, noted the presence of large platforms with megalithic statues on Pitcairn Island (the neighbor of Oparo Island), which is located 1,400 miles from Easter Island. N.B. The statues on Raivavae were taken to Papeíete quite recently.

225. Editorís note: This list of ahu adds further confusion. Apparently "Opulu" (a name used by Pinart) was the site of Akahanga. The name Anakoirororoa is unknown.

226. The head of one of these statues, from a small pakeopa at a short distance from Mataveri, was brought to Europe by the La Flore in 1872.

227. Editorís note: The correct term is "ahu" and there are between 239 and 360 ahu of all types on the island. The largest is 200 feet (60 meters) long and 23 feet (7 meters) high.

228. With respect to these comparisons, one could consider pakeopa as "first class" monuments for very important personages among the ancient islanders. The ahu can be considered to be similar monuments for the same kind of personage but of a more recent date (it would be less trouble just to say that the first class monuments became second class, while the "tumuli" were memorials to less important people altogether (tumuli were built during the same period as the ahu and also more recently, when they were much less carefully built).

229. At Vinapu Admiral de Lappelin measured the stone slabs that were absolutely rectangular with perfect straight edges; they were 2.5 meters wide and 1.8 meters high.

230. Editorís note: Chauvet is here repeating the erroneous measurements made by Pinart.

231. Editorís note: There was no cornice on the sea side of a platform, though some inner ahu walls had red scoria coping.

232. Editorís note: This may be Vaihu.

233. It was in such tombs that Brander found the polished-stone fish hooks and the fish hooks made of human bone that he sold to various buyers, but he never found any wooden tablets.

234. Editorís note: There are between 800 and 1,000 moai on the island. Island wide, 887 moai actually have been recorded, 397 of these are still in the quarry at Rano Raraku. Between 164 and 288 were on ahu and at least 200 are scattered about the island in positions indicating that they were "in transit".

235. P. Loti noted that there were similar statues, which were less tall and somewhat deteriorated, on the TubuaÔ Archipelago, on some marae on Raivavae Island. Some of these statues represent the spirit of the sand "Tu-one" and some represent the spirit of the rocks "Tu-papa".

236. It was, without doubt, because England had, in 1868, taken one of the giant statues from Easter Island that later, in 1872, Admiral de Lappelin had the extremely felicitous idea of bringing back a head, at least, to France.

237. Note that soon the American Museum in New York will be enriched by a reproduction of the most beautiful of the giant stone statues on Easter Island, thanks to the expedition led by Templeton Crocker (1935).

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

239. Since the expedition in 1935, a new head, smaller than the head brought back by de Lapelin [sic] (and which lacks its pukao has been brought to the Trocadťro Museum in Paris, and an entire statue has been brought to the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels.

240. It is curious that nobody has taken this rather important factor into account. Similarly, for foreigners, some Louis XV armoires look just like certain Louis XVI armoires from Normandy, having the same general shape, being made of the same types of wood, having the same function, and even the same essential features but, nevertheless, there are certain variations between the styles of the two types of armoire because they were made forty years apart.

241. Editorís note: There is variation amongst the statues, not only in terms of size but proportion and "style". Both style and size changed over time. The earliest were small with round eyes; as time passed, the statues got larger and the eye sockets changed shape, as did the facial features. Sizes of the statues range from six feet (2 meters) to thirty feet (10 meters). One still in the quarry is 65 feet (20 meters) long and is estimated to weigh 270 tons.

242. Translatorís note: The words "folk art" might be appropriate in this context; the author uses "rusticity".

243. Editorís note: The moai generally had flat bases. One that Routledge excavated had a roundish base, but the general purpose of the statues (especially those destined for platforms) was to stand on an ahu, thus the bases had to be flat.

244. Editorís note: The moai were "in process" of being finished and were not "placed" around the quarry, although itís possible not all moai were destined for ahu.

245. Editorís note: Pinart was correct in his measurement of pukao; the pukao at Te Pito Kura is 2 meters (6 feet) in diameter with an estimated weight of 12 tons.

246. Editorís note: The reason for the size difference is that many of the statues still in the quarry were carved at a later time than those made and moved earlier. The size increased over time.

247. Editorís note: Puna Pau is the location of the topknot quarry.

248. Editorís note: He likely means "rona", the Rapanui word for carving.

249. Editorís note: Where Chauvet got this information is unknown, but it is in error. While some pukao have petroglyph designs carved on them, these are not "signatures".

250. Editorís note: There is no indication of who this person was.

251. Editorís note: Clearly this was not the way the statues were moved; rolling them over stones would have ruined the surface of the statues and ground them to dust.

252. The softness of the rock is apparent from the fact that the crew of the La Flore was able to separate the head of a moaÔ [sic] from the torso with a carpenterís saw! This head is now in the Trocadťro Museum.

253. Editorís note: Some of the smaller statues are made of trachtyte from Poike.

254. Editorís note: The name "Hangaru" is unknown on the island.

255. Translatorís note: Obsidian is a general term for volcanic glass; palagonite is a fine-grained glass of basaltic composition.

256. Editorís note: The eye sockets were carved only after a statue had been placed upright on its ahu; the act of "opening" the eyes activated the mana (sacred power) of the statue.

257. The natives on the Solomon Islands still have similarly deformed ears.

258. It is worth noting that, as a result of the friability of the rock and the damage to the statues by rain and weather, these details must have disappeared since A. Pinart visited the island seventy years ago! Nevertheless, I would guess that, on the head in question, this excrescence was carved to evoke the horny growth seen on certain birds and, thus, its inclusion adds ornithological symbolism. This symbolism is reinforced, moreover, on this head ó as on other statuettes of birdmen ó by another feature that has also been ignored to date, namely, the lateralization of the eyes.

259. Editorís note: Here Chauvet is mistaking texture or light and shadow for carved detail.

260. Editorís note: It has been speculated that some statues may have fallen due to earthquake activity; see the 1996 article by E. Edwards, Rapa Nui Journal 10(2):1-15.

261. P. Loti wrote, "The natives laughed and danced for joy when the sailors knocked over several statues in an effort to choose the best head."

262. It is clear that the statues on the ahu and pakeopa bear witness to a certain decadence, in terms of technique and art, as compared to those at the crater and they must, therefore, have been made at a later date. As we shall discuss below, the art of carving wooden statuettes evolved similarly.

263. Editorís note: There are 397 statues in and around the quarry at Rano Raraku.

264. When P. Loti was there, these paths were "covered with bones and even skeletons lying in the grass". W. J. Thomson estimated that there was a total of 555 statues, of all heights, scattered over the island.

265. Editorís note: The islanders most certainly had wood from the extensive palm forest and rope made from bark

266. With the passage of the centuries, dirt and scoria, carried by the rains, buried the statues, in some cases up to (and including) their chins!

267. Editorís note: There are nearly a thousand statues on the island.

268. It is likely that all the natives who were able to do the work were expected to participate since such is generally the case whenever a tribe undertakes a project that is of general importance, such as fortifications, religious structures etc.

269. In addition, the transport of the small statue that was brought back by the Mercator in 1935 required many ropes (which broke), a very strong net, wooden rollers, a hoist with a differential of five metric tons and....130 to 140 people (Lavachery, p. 258). Nonetheless, Lavachery reckons that it is easy to explain how the islanders moved enormous statues!

270. With respect to ropes, the fibers from the bark of the scrawny "borahu" (hau) bushes would have been only barely enough for fishing lines and fishing nets! One would need an imagination totally free of scientific constraints to conceive that the natives could have made, in addition, the long thick ropes that would have been needed to drag a statue over the ground!

271. In fact, as noted already and as will be discussed further below, when we talk about the wooden hand that belongs to the British, we think that the statues do not have hands with extremely elongated fingers but, rather, that the fingers are extended by very long finger nails, of the type that could belong only to chiefs who were not obliged to perform manual labor.

272. Editorís note: The hands are on each side of a squarish shape that represents the hami or sacred loincloth worn by chiefs.

273. I shall not repeat the description of this very specific stylization (to avoid repeating myself). It is not a question of random design nor of convention. It is quite simply the stylization of the particular somatic morphology of the natives. The morphology was due to pathology and until now (quite surprisingly) it has escaped notice completely. This hypothesis is discussed in detail below (and in the chapter about ancient wooden statuettes).

274. Editorís note: The incidence of skeletons surely is related to the results of the smallpox epidemic.

275. A fractured skull was the most frequent cause of death because the natives fought each other with clubs (as did other natives in prehistoric times; see the article on prehistoric medicine by Dr. Stephen Chauvet in the Bulletin of the French Prehistorical Society, May 1935, and The History of Medicine published under the direction of Professor Laignel-Lavastine, Albin Michel, Paris 1936).

276. Editorís note: The "sunken continent" theory was popular before oceanographic studies revealed the true profiles and characteristics of the ocean floor; however, some people today still repeat this old, erroneous theory.

277. Surrounded by depths of more than 3,000 meters, Easter Island is far from being a relic that escaped submersion and is, by contrast, a volcanic island that rose up from under the sea.

278. Translatorís note: The author is probably referring to the Sanriku tsunami, which struck Honshu, Japan, on June 15, 1896 and killed approximately 28,000 persons.

279. Translatorís note: Honda is not identifiable as an island in Japan; there was an earthquake and tidal wave in Honshu, Japan, on March 3, 1933.

280. Editorís note: Cyclones do not occur in the seas around Easter Island.

281. This would not be the first example of the disappearance of an entire race in this part of the Pacific. The first explorers who sailed through the straits that were later named after Magellan (!) saw a race of giants (the people who saw them included Rigafetta in 1519, Sarmiento in 1579, Knivet in 1592, Frťzier in 1711, Rainaud in 1712, Captain Biron in 1765, de la Giraudais in 1766 etc.). Some of these explorers encountered these giant men along the coast, below the island of Chiloť; others saw them in Port Dťsirť, or Port Julian; still others saw them in Boucaut Bay, Cape Gregory, and on the east coast of the deserted land of the Patagonians. These giants were, on average, nine to ten feet tall! (Rainaud said nine feet; Biron, ten) and the Indians in the Chiloť region called them "Chaucahues". Olivier de Nert saw others, at a place called Cou, that were called "Tirimemen" and who were twelve feet tall. According to tradition, they used to live in the central part of South America and, pushed southwards by the people who were fleeing the Spanish, they moved towards the desolated lands of the Patagonians (with whom many poorly informed authors and even explorers mistakenly confused them because the latter are and always have been of normal height). In any case, nobody ever found this race of people again.

282. Editorís note: Chauvet appears not to realize that the statue known as Hoa Haka Nana Ia is carved from basalt, not volcanic tuff. This dense stone allows for finely carved details.

283. Editorís note: Topaze is correct.

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

285. Editorís note: These names are not recognized today. The name of the site is Orongo Village.

286. Editorís note: This statue was found inside a stone house at Orongo, buried to the shoulders with its back to the entrance. Whichever rite or ritual was going on, it seems not to have involved the front of the statue.

287. From this perspective, the illustrations in Figure D reveal certain similarities between ornamentation from the Solomon Islands (1 through 7 in Figure D) and symbols from Easter Island (1a, 2a, etc.) Items 9, 10 and 11, which I have added, are included to show that a Bird Cult also exists in New Guinea and in Santa-Cruz (item 11). Items 6, 7, 12, 13 and 15 are from the prows of canoes from the Solomon Islands. I have included these four items, which reveal the same kind of stylization that is, in each succeeding case, more and more accentuated, to show that, contrary to what has been reported, there is no common symbolism between the canoe prows from the Solomon Islands and the statues at Rano Raraku (item 8). For me, item 15 in Figure D, for example, is the most typical and represents a human face that has been conventionally deformed to depict the greatest bestiality and to inspire terror. It was made, obviously, to decorate a canoe destined for head hunting. Moreover, to accentuate its features, the craftsman has included, between the figureís two hands, a small head that seems to have been placed there, as if to represent a holocaust! [Translatorís note: The reader is reminded that this book was written in the early 1930s, before the Holocaust, which has changed our understanding and use of the word.] The heads of the giant statues represent, by contrast, the details of human bodies (in a semi-diseased state, as will be discussed in the chapter on the wooden statuettes) that have been stylized and objectified but not deformed. These bodies were those of the race of ancient Easter islanders that these islanders also depicted in the wooden statues with sunken bellies (Figure 116 and subsequent Figures). Having considered the deliberately caricatured faces on the prows of the canoes from the Solomon Islands, we can note, by contrast, certain similarities between the details in item 14 of Figure D, which represents a native of Ronongo in the Solomon Islands, and item 8.

288. The masks are not called Apouema, which is the incorrect term. In addition to certain general similarities, the mouths of some of these masks are similar to those of the ancient statuettes (see, for example, Figure 126). See also the article by Stephen Chauvet, entitled "The Art of Treasury Island", in Cahiers díart, nos. 1 and 2, Paris, 1929. Be that as it may, among the stone statues on Easter Island, it is the statues of this third type that would tend to support to Balfourís opinion.

289. (1): In the Berlin Museum of Folk Art, there is a stone statuette (VI-7-240) that is 75 centimeters tall and from the "right" period, but it is unfinished and cannot be compared, in terms of quality, to the two statuettes in French museums. (2): The second style is also represented by Figure 1 in plate LI of Thomson and by the carving on the rocks at Orongo shown in plate XXII. Both are very likely relatively recent works, completed since the arrival of Europeans on the island. [Translatorís note: These designations refer to plates in Thomsonís book. Editorís note: There is no reason to assume either example cited by Chauvet is recent. Small carved faces in the rocks are common and may be ancient.]

290. At the present time, the islanders are making a new type of statuette to sell to visitors to Easter Island and these statuettes can also be purchased in Papeete (see Figure 150b)!

291. Editorís note: The reader is reminded that there were no "first" islanders. Even today, island artisans create stone and wood carvings for the tourist trade, and they have done so since interest was first expressed in them.

292. Editorís note: There are actually 481 Birdman petroglyphs on Easter Island , 86% of which can be found at Orongo (Lee, 1992).

293. Editorís note: What this location may be is not known.

294. Editorís note: Chauvet may mean "rona" which is the Rapanui word for "carving".

295. Editorís note: The bird carving in the quarry depicts the frigate bird (Fregata minor).

 


 

Main

Page

Table of

Contents

Next

Section

Previous

Section