CHAPTER 17

THE STONE CIVILIZATION

VINAPU

Here's another wall that looks very like some of the walls at Cuzco and Tiahuanaco, in South America. This is at Vinapu:



Captain Cook, voyaging in 1774 AD was greatly impressed at finding these walls 'composed of huge stone blocks, so precisely cut and polished that they fitted together without mortar or cement.' Cook 'had never seen more perfect work in any mason's work in any wall, even in the best buildings in England.' But he added that 'all this care, pains and sagacity had not been able to preserve these curious structures from the ravages of all-devouring Time.'

In the 20th century AD Thor Heyerdahl investigated the site far more thoroughly. He had an archaeologist in his group. Here's a much copied photo of what they found - the walls were very old and continued to what is now underground:



Where's Vinapu? It's on Easter Island (Rapa Nui , or Large Island, to its native inhabitants). What is the purpose of these huge stone walls on Easter Island? The answer is that they're retaining walls. They have to hold back the material behind them when a platform is being constructed which is capable of holding a heavy weight above it. The retaining walls have to contain the thrust of the weight of whatever is placed on the platform plus the weight of the platform itself. So now, on Easter Island, let's look above the wall to see what's on a typical platform:



This next view gives us a better understanding of the size of these statues:



We can see a man in front of this stone statue. And you won't be surprised when I tell you that this one weighs about 45 tons, and the 'topknot' another 10 or 11 tons.

Here's how remote it is:



Pitcairn is 1200 miles away from Easter Island which is 2,700 miles from the huge crafted stone blocks at Tiahuanaco in South America, 11,200 miles from the Osirion in Egypt, and about 13,000 miles from the massive finished stone platforms in India. Yet they all have evidence of similar workmanship and techniques. But even if we know why 'the walls of Cyclops' as I've called them are there on Easter Island, why are the locations of these huge finished blocks so far apart around the world, and why are there statues in what's been called the remotest habitable island on earth? Scholarship can't help us answer these questions. One archaeologist in the late 20th century spent over ten years measuring and documenting just about everything to do with the statues. But our questions remain totally unanswered. Before I attempt to answer them, let's fill in the main features of the relevant data so that our conclusions can be better informed, and you can judge for yourself whether or not you think I'm right in what I propose.

Today's conventional wisdom says that about 400 AD a colonising group of Polynesians who spread gradually across the Pacific Islands reached Easter Island. This was a remarkable achievement. Its very small -- 14 miles east to west, 7 miles north to south, shaped like a triangle. Here it is from the air, with a few wispy white clouds above it:



Modern researchers date the start of statue building to about 400 - 500 AD, the largest open air altar c.690 AD (Cousteau) (Various books, research papers, and archaeological reports provide between them somewhat differing information. Where the differences are significant, alternatives are in (these brackets). My comments are in [these brackets]. We're told there are 240 AHUs or temple sites on the island (at least 360), some of them 500 feet long (60 meters) with raised platforms and cobble stones laid out in front of them. It's said that the original platforms and statues were aligned to the solar ecliptic or had other astronomical significance. There are crematoria beside them where the earliest deceased were cremated. Later, burials took place. There are 827 known statues on the island (800 to 1000 because some lie buried), about 394 in various stages of completion still in and around the quarry:



Statue sizes are said to range from 6 ft to over 30 ft tall. One of these incomplete statues in the quarry is said to be the largest, weighing about 200 tons (270 tons and over 65 ft long) (69 ft long). Others are more complete but scattered on open ground or are located on the roadways leading from the quarry to the sites:



Thor Heyerdahl was impressed by the similarity between pre-Inca megalithic walls, such as at Cuzco, and Tiahuanaco, and the walls of the platforms for the statues on Easter Island. He sailed a reed boat from South America westwards to try to prove South American Indians could have populated Easter Island. His voyage ended sailing far north of Easter Island, but he proved by this and other ocean voyages that reed boats could have crossed oceans.

More recent researchers have carbon-14 dated the reeds on Easter Island to 30,000 BP (before present) They conclude this shows the reeds were unlikely to have been brought there by South American Indians (SAI). Study of the cranial shapes of ancient skulls on Easter Island shows them to have similar characteristics to those of Polynesians (P), not SAI. For example, the SAI had a flat root to the nose, both P and Easter Islanders (EI) had deeply depressed roots. The SAI had straight palates, the P and EI had arched palates. The SAI had flat based jawbones, the P and EI had rocker based jawbones (48% of those from EI did).[It seems to me this percentage leaves the result as inconclusive. We are not told what were the characteristics of the majority 52%]. But we apparently have fairly conclusive evidence that at least some of the ancestors of the present day Islanders were from Polynesia. There are language similarities between the two that reinforce this conclusion: There are some words in their language that are the same as Polynesian, not South American Indian. A Polynesian on Captain Cook's ship in 1774 understood some of the Easter Island dialect. So it's assumed now that based on this evidence Heyerdahl was probably wrong, despite the similarity of the walls. But it seems to me the conclusion should be that some of the present inhabitants have descended from ancestors who came from elsewhere than Polynesia, and there is evidence to support that conclusion, which we'll discuss in the next chapter.

A script was discovered carved in wood:



Here's a piece of a surviving board:



It's said that at one time long ago wooden boards were hung on each of the statues. With their usual zeal, Christian missionaries seem to have been responsible for the destruction of all but 12 of these script boards. There is even some debate among scholars today as to whether it was created after the arrival of Europeans. It's written in boustrophedon (the meaning of the word is 'as the ox turns' - when ploughing, from the Greek bous =ox, and strophe = turning). It's written and read: left to right, next line right to left, then left to right, and so on. But the Easter Island Rongo-Rongo boards are scripted in reverse boustrophedon: left to right, turn it upside down, right to left, then turn the right side up, left to right, and so on. The Islanders today are unable to read the script. Various attempts at translation by early Western researchers were, with all due respect, pitiful and meaningless. But Barry Fell, a professor at Harvard, produced in the 2nd half of the 20th century a meaningful translation. He had been raised in his early years in contact with a Maori family in New Zealand. The Maori are Polynesian in origin. Fell recognized the Rongo Rongo script as Polynesian based. His translation provided a simple and factual description of the arrival of Hote Matu'a with his Polynesian party and their early days on the Island.

In a moment of inspiration Barry Fell realized that the Rongo Rongo script was not plain text in the Polynesian language. It was a specific form of hidden text. Some phonetically similar words were substituted for the intended-meaning words. There is a somewhat similar example of 'double talk' in England, among the Cockneys of London. I happen to have a 3 volume encyclopedic dictionary that has a 9 page section on this which it calls 'rhyming slang.' For example, a 'wife' is a 'jane'. But the word 'jane' is omitted and instead 'ball and chain' is substituted. Here are a few more examples:
Adam and Eve = believe
airs and graces = faces
alderman's eyes = flies
alive or dead = head
all afloat = coat.
The result of this type of communication is that only a knowledgeable hearer understands the speaker, although he/she might be familiar with the language spoken. It's said that Polynesian workers used such a language-form so that their bosses couldn't understand what they said to one another. Barry Fell gives an example of a Polynesian scholar's translation:
Head head the sun shines
You may eat the lice of my head
Head head the sun shines

By just changing a few words (eg. a 'u' to an 'o' sound) Fell had an entirely different translation:
O cloud let the sun come out
This I conjure by gesture and chanting the spell
O cloud let the sun come out

By applying this principle Barry Fell provided a translation for a Rongo Rongo tablet (from which I've selected just the first sentence plus one additional later phrase as examples):
Hitu Arangi was discovered by Hotu Matu'a on his double canoe
It is located at the extreme limit of the sky
The land he found to be of small extent
..... Thus our founding father Hotu assumed the office of kingship...

The Easter Island Council of Elders agreed with Barry Fell's translation
Based on the premise for Person A speaking to Person B so that Person C cannot understand the conversation. It's called 'reverse talking.'
Incidentally, Barry Fell's translation confirms the oral tradition of the Easter Islanders.

The Islanders also have a tradition that the first humans on the island were what they called Long Ears. These were the statue builders. It's said by modern researchers that the island had a substantial coverage of palm trees in those early days. The voyaging Polynesians would have brought seeds and domestic animals for colonizing and so all would have gone well for a long time. But the Polynesians used (and still today use) destructive slash and burn methods for agriculture -- the soil there was thin and under it was rock, so in time they consumed the wood for construction, rollers for the statues, canoes, fires, and so on. Gradually they decimated the resources, and then competed for those that remained. They had divided up the island into districts. The original leader Hote Matu'a and his descendants had the north shores where they originally landed.

When the Dutch admiral Jacob Roggeveen arrived in 1722 AD he found the natives friendly and the statues mostly still standing. When he left there were 12 dead from musket fire. There is no explanation as to why, but it was probably because of thefts by the islanders. They were described as tall, well-built people, fair skinned like other Polynesians on Tahiti, Hawaii, and such. But among the visitors to the Dutch ships some were darker skinned while others were 'quite white' like Europeans. Among the first to board one of the ships was a 'completely white man' who had a more ceremonious air than the others, and showed by his bearing that he was a prominent person in the community. Many of the Islanders had, like him, artificially lengthened their ear lobes by piercing them with round white pegs, so that they hung down to their shoulders. The admiral called the island 'Easter' as it was on this day of the year that they found the island.

The next European arrivals were two Spanish ships in 1770, led by Don Felipe Gonzales. Both gifts and stolen goods disappeared so completely that the Spaniards suspected [quite correctly] that the Islanders had secret underground hiding places. They met tall, fair men, the biggest were 6ft 6½ inches and 6 ft 5 inches tall. Many had beards. Not all were black haired. Some were brown, and some had reddish, some had cinnamon-coloured hair [yellowish-brown hair]. The Spaniards persuaded the Islanders to repeat back a sentence in Spanish, which they did without difficulty The Spaniards concluded they were intelligent people. 4 years later when Captain Cook arrived in 1774 some of the statues had been toppled, a few with stones set to deliberately break their necks. Captain Cook concluded the existing islanders had nothing to do with the statue construction-- the walls of the terraces were crumbling and in decay -- some of the statues had fallen -- nothing had been even maintained and the statues were evidently very old.

Meanwhile the islanders in their reduced ecological circumstances had turned on one another, spear points of obsidian rock first appear in the 15-1600s. Cannibalism followed. The palm trees disappeared -- fish hooks tell us deep sea fishing was replaced by inshore fishing. That's because their boats could not be repaired through lack of wood. The statue cult was abandoned, and a bird man cult arose. Each year the first islander to swim (almost a mile) off shore to an island (islet called Moto Nui) ('small island') where birds nested, and bring back an egg which he presented to his patron caused the patron to be declared birdman for the year, (a position with honour), [but some drawbacks].

The population had once risen to about 9000 (about 7000), then gradually sank to about 2000. Whaling ships came to the island, looking for wood, women, replacement crew members, fresh food and water; then Peruvian slave traders (1862-3) came who took the king and his son and the priests as slaves. The total captured was said to be 1,407 or about a third of the estimated population. Only 12 islanders (15) taken as slaves got back eventually. They brought small pox, many of the population were wiped out, only a few hundred remained (111). Missionaries brought Christianity to the island and this destroyed the ancient religion, traditions and culture. A French sea captain, Jean-Baptiste Onéxime Dutrou-Bornier, (DB) who brought two missionaries to the island, returned in 1868, bought up land for trivial gifts, proclaimed himself lord of the island and took a Rapanui wife. At first his relations with the missionaries were cordial. Later they quarrelled. DB led a group against them. Buildings and crops were destroyed and the missionaries were recalled. DB turned the island into a vast sheep ranch. Only about 175 Islanders remained. In 1877 the Islanders murdered DB. In 1888 a Chilean captain, Policarpo Toro Hurtado took formal possession of the island in the name of the Republic of Chile. 12 Rapanui chiefs ceded sovereignty to Chile 'for ever.'

Enrique Merlet, a businessman from Chile, took control of the island. A wall was constructed around the village of Hangaroa. All the Islanders were confined to the village and forbidden to go to the rest of the island without permission. Guards, gates and fencing were set up; the rest of the island was left for the sheep, said to number at one time 70,000. These denuded the old natural ecological system. Merlet was succeeded by the Williamson-Balfour Company, known as Compania Explotadors de le Isla de Pascua (CEDIP). Since then various researchers have gone to the island, trying to get more facts about its history. These visitors have collected artifacts even including statues, taken for various museums. In 1913 the 5 masted schooner El Dorado broke apart in a fierce storm and the captain and crew reached Easter Island in a lifeboat. There were less than 100 islanders then. Each crew member obtained a 'wife' there. In 1914 the Islanders revolted. Their living conditions were deplorable, half starved, with little access even to water, given mostly to the sheep. The Islanders were left with leprosy and venereal diseases. But their rebellion faded away when their aged leader died. Matters drifted on until Chilean naval authorities took control in 1952. They were apparently just as autocratic as the previous commercial 'rulers.'

In 1955 the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition came, headed by Thor Heyerdahl. In 1964 a Canadian Medical Expedition came, in time to witness another revolt. The Americans came to build a tracking station, providing jobs, money, radios, cigarettes and so on. In 1967 an airfield was completed at Mataveri, just south of the village. Commercial flights began. American presence and the air flights brought the Islanders relative prosperity and a more acceptable life style. Today aircraft jet in twice a week with plane loads of tourists and the remaining islanders have intermarried with outsiders; the ancient traditions, history and stock are basically lost.

Now that we have some idea of the human story on Easter Island, in the next chapter we'll attempt to answer our two questions: why are the very ancient 'walls of Cyclops' to be found in South America, North Africa, India, and Easter Island? And why are there so many huge statues in such a remote place as Easter Island?

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