Polynesian Stone HeadsPolyynesian stone heads
When these stones could speak.... Polynesian enigma; Easter Island revealing its secrets but reluctantly
Situated on the holy hillsides of Rano Raraku, a Polynesian Mount Olympus, the impassable faces look over vast sculptures of smooth vulcanic rock over areas coloured dust rose by the maturing high gras and far out into the Pacific Ocean's water. This view embraces the whole globe, which could have been known to the makers of the mysterious sculptures, the most striking expression of an antique community able to cope with living on the most secluded and populated of the earth's islands.
Below on the southern shore of Easter Island, also overlooking Rano Raraku, 15 more of these grey boulders, named moai (pronounced MOY-eyes), were re-assembled in a series on a stone deck and brought into their initial erect position. Archaeologists consider the place, Tongariki, as one of the largest sacred relics of early Polynesian civilization in the Southern Pacific.
An extensive study by archaeologists from Chile and the United States has included nearly 900 of these sculptures, with some other areas not yet mapped. For a long time, the sculptures have followed the imagination of discoverers, humanists and other people. At the beginning of this centuries English ethnicist Katherine Routledge devoted more than a year to study Easter Island civilization and its striking work.
Only a few heads have had their eyes mended. The archaeologists are finally making headway in restoring the story of Rapa Nui, the name of our native civilization for the islands, the peoples themselves and their native world. Everyone on the outside thinks the islands are so easy and uncomplicated," said Dr. Jo Anne Van Tilburg, archaeologist at the University of California at Los Angeles and author of Easter Island:
Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994. We are not sure when the first settlement took place on the Isle, exactly where the population came from or whether they had contact with their home countries when they arrived," he said. We know it was humans who came here and built these sculptures.
'' Similarly, scientists say that they have put aside the idea that the indigenous peoples were Indians from South America, which became widespread in the 1950s through the researcher Thor Heyerdahl of Norway. Thought he saw a similarity between pre-Columbian Peruvian and Easter Island architectures. The majority of human scientists are in agreement that the humans of Rafa Nui were Polynesians.
It is Polynesian, although it has undergone such a radical change that it points to an early division from home cultures and century-long isolations. There are Polynesian prints on the sculptures and other archaeological finds, and in 1994 the genetic material of 12 Easter Island skeleton was found to be Polynesian. It was a period of the Pacific colonization's travel.
Polynesians, originating in Southeast Asia, had arrived in Tahiti and the Marquesas by 300 before discovering and occupying Hawaii and New Zealand. However, finding Easter Isle must have put Polynesian sailors to the test. It would have had to be paddling against the predominant wind and current, far southward and eastward of their normal route and then somehow to an isle that is nowhere:
1,400 leagues south-east of Pitcairn Iceland, the closest populated country, and 2,340 leagues westward of Chile, the owner of Easter Island est. since 1888. It is unlikely that this was accidental," said Dr. Ben Finney, Anthropological Associate at the University of Hawaii, who is a Polynesian explorer. A Hawaiian crew trained in classic Far East marine navigational techniques plans next year to try to copy the trip in a 62-foot double-walled Polynesian mayoe.
During earlier explorations, the same crew discovered that the early Polynesians had the vessels and navigation capabilities to explore and colonize the Pacific. Dr Finney, a consultant to the group known as the Polynesian Voyaging Society, said the Mangareva NW Pitcairn trek would begin.
Polynesians probably visited Easter Isle for the same reason they travelled across the remainder of the Pacific, Dr. Finney said. Humans had invented the world's best offshore technologies for the tropical regions. Like the younger European children who went on the Crusades or to the New Worlds, the younger Polynesian children organised explorations to find a new isle.
'' But when they arrived on Easter Island, the humans were probably on the beach. Scientists cannot find any proof of mutual communications between the Isle and the remainder of Polynesia. It seems that the colonists have cleared the islands of tree life, especially the hardwood used in canoeing structures. They had no way back without paddleboats and were completely alone until Jacob Roggeveen, a Flemish sailor, arrived on Easter Sunday 1722.
The most recent archaeological digs conducted by archaeologists from the University of Chile have exposed ancient farming lands, seed and root of former forests, home remains, ceremony places and falling sculptures. Analyzing the results shows that the number of islanders increased from 1000 to 1500 when it seemed to peak at 9,000.
Though the first sculptures were probably built soon after the colonization of the isle, archaeologists have found that the humans went to a construction site between 1400 and 1600. Almost all the sculptures were dismantled and engraved on the top of Rano Raraku, a skittle of one of the three volcanos that made up the isle.
Towards the end, the statuaries produced ever larger sculptures, as if desperate for greater devine advocacy in an age of increasing difficulty. Many archaeologists regard the sculptures as the main veneration sites for ancestors. It was governed by a ferocious cult that had the capacity to recruit a large number of workers to make the statue as depictions of its ancestors, the chieftains, who were also deities in Polynesianism.
Almost all the sculptures were not facing the ocean, but towards the interior, towards the lands that require the blessings of fruitfulness and some of the holy places. Dr. Van Tilburg stated that the mai is an image that illustrates the basic Polynesian concerns about family history, generations, status as well as respectfulness. They rebelled against the cult elites, often overthrowing and beheading the symbol of their power, the sculptures.
The disappearance of the worship of the Moai led to the replacement of it by a worship of birds. Young soldiers ran to the farthest point of the isle to return the first eggs of the time. According to a tradtion dating back to the last hundred years, the bird man and emperor of the next year became the victor, an embodiment of Makemake, the founder deity of the civilization, who was aboriginal.
As a rule, the breakdown of the crop is due to a mixture of overcrowding, overexploitation of the country and the felling of all the wood for fuel wood and wooden cylinders to move the sculptures. Dr. William S. Ayres, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon who was studying farming on the islands, found proof that many of the large areas were left in the 1600s and that more and more of the population had to live from the production of small home yards.
An example of the battle to survive on an islet without trees and shrubs, said Dr. Ayres, one of his doctoral candidates, Joan Wozniak, looking under the cliffy countryside and discovering proof that humans had turned to a kind of lithian mulching garden. Dr. Ayres and Dr. Van Tilburg both believe that human beings may not be entirely responsible for the tragic demise of the world.
There is a high probability that such an isolation could be at the mercy of the environment without help," said Dr. Van Tilburg. It' one of the greatest riddles on the isle, and we haven't started to work it. In the 1960s, the conservation of the island's historic buildings was started by Dr. Ayres and Dr. William Mulloy of the University of Wyoming, who were members of the Heyerdahl family.
Some of the fallen sculptures were set back on their stone platform, known as Ahu, and the stone houses were rebuilt in Orongo. Japonese firm provided a hoisting machine to lift the heavier bricks. As some restoration work continues, much of the interest has moved to the conservation of historical and cultural heritage.
It has recovered from the attacks of Peru' s slaves and diseases in the latter part of the nineteenth centuries, which almost eradicated it. 1877 only 111 persons remained. Because of the new importance of the islands, humans are exposed to a new menace. Disconcerted by the changes, many of the 2,000 Chileans demand that Chile give them more government oversight over their business, the country and the archaeological site.
This worship follows the well-known Christendom ceremony, but the guitar, drum and singing vocals in the songs are reminiscent of the sound of Polynesia. We are trying not only to maintain the Rapa Nui civilization, but to save it," said Dr. Ramirez. It and the whole isle have been designated a UNESCO Cultural Patrimony.
Some of the most famous sculptures are in the country's 40 per cent area. Our most immediate concern is to protect these sculptures from humans and cattle," said Dr. Ramirez, pointing to the increase in tourism and wildlife. Last months when an interna-tional group of researchers came here, Dr. Ramirez asked them for help to draw the world's attention to the needs of the Isle.
Such a notable accomplishment of the Easter Isles is of interest and importance to the whole wide globe and should be handled accordingly. Dr. Van Tilburg said that in the years of her work on the isle she has seen the effect of the weather on the sculptures. We all have to find a way to get the statue, if not all, then at least some," she said.
Dr. Van Tilburg, for his part, made 5,000 detailled sketches and dimensions of how the sculptures look like the most comprehensive documentary of the secret of Easter Island and a heritage for archaeologists of the present, who will certainly still be mystifying about the destiny of a nation that once inhabited the wide void of the North.
14 July 1998, Tuesday An Science Times Tuesday report about mystical sculptures on Easter Isle, Chile, mistakenly related to Kon-Tiki, the float used by an adventurer to show that Indians from South America may have arrived on the Isle.