Easter Island: land of mystery

David Pratt Contents
1. Introduction 2. History 3. South American connection 4. Carving the statues 5. Moving the statues 6. Platforms 7. Rongorongo 8. Chronology 9. Sunken lands 10. Megalithic Pacific

1. Introduction
Everywhere is the wind of heaven; round and above all are boundless sea and sky, infinite space and a great silence. The dweller there is ever listening for he knows not what, feeling unconsciously that he is in the antechamber to something yet more vast which is just beyond his ken. – Katherine Routledge, The Mystery of Easter Island, 1919

Fig. 1.1 A stone giant at Rano Raraku continues its solemn watch, silent and inscrutable.

Lying just south of the tropic of Capricorn, midway between Chile and Tahiti, Easter Island – or Rapa Nui – is one of the most remote islands on earth. Triangular in shape, with an extinct volcano at each corner, its 170 square kilometres offer a varied landscape of gently rolling hills, volcanic craters, rugged lava fields, and steep ocean cliffs, surrounded by the deep-blue waters of the South Pacific. The island is famous above all for nearly a thousand gigantic long-eared stone statues or moai, most of them 4 to 8 metres tall, and for over 300 stone platforms or ahu, many of megalithic proportions. It is a land of mystery, known in former times as Te Pito o te Henua, ‘the navel of the world’.

Fig. 1.2 Easter Island lies isolated in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Platforms were built all around the island’s coast, and statues once stood on most of them, facing inland towards the villages. Some platform statues bore a large cylindrical headdress or pukao carved from reddish stone, and eyes of cut coral were fitted into their faces. Nearly all the statues are made from yellowish volcanic rock, quarried at the volcanic crater of Rano Raraku. Work at the quarry seems to have stopped suddenly, for dozens of statues remain uncompleted, and thousands of stone pickaxes were found scattered around. Another enigma is the island’s still-undeciphered hieroglyphic script, known as Rongorongo – virtually the only ancient form of writing known in Oceania.

constructive society which supported a large class of master-builders and master-sculptors. They rapidly acquired mastery in advanced stone-carving techniques and the transportation and erection of statues and stone blocks weighing many tons. transport them great distances. Alvimpress Impresores. 2000. and was ruled by a hereditary hierarchy of sacred priest-kings. many as high as a three-storey building. stable. 1.3 Rano Raraku volcano. However. or by South Americans from the east? How did the islanders manage to sculpt hundreds of colossal moai. decided to carve giant statues and build huge platforms. given that they are not supposed to have had any metal tools? Does the archaeological history of Easter Island really go back no further than 1500 years? Is there any truth to the legend that the island was once part of a much larger landmass? References 1. It was around this time that the first European explorers discovered the island. José Miguel Ramírez and Carlos Huber. p.Fig. Amidst the turmoil all the statues standing on the platforms were pulled down. 67. Their descendants. For over a thousand years they maintained a peaceful. a land of rocky dreams. However.1 (courtesy of Carlos Huber) The official view is that Easter Island was discovered accidentally by Polynesian migrants in the 4th century AD. . overpopulation and a deteriorating environment resulted in intertribal warfare by the late 17th century. many controversies remain: How many times was Easter Island settled and from which direction: by Polynesians from the west. Easter Island: Rapa Nui. and erect them on the stone platforms? How did they manage to carve and shape the very tough basalt blocks used in the platforms. living in isolation and having nothing better to do.

1 Official The reigning consensus is that Easter Island was colonized around 300-400 AD as part of an eastward migratory trend that originated in Southeast Asia around 2000 BC. or the Mangareva (Gambier) Islands. 3600 km northwest.2. 2500 km west. History Fig. . 2. The settlers are thought to have been Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands.

deforestation. Huge stone blocks and 15 statues with an average weight of more than 40 tons were carried over 150 metres inland. Forests of palms and conifers once grew on the island. and decadence (1500-1722).2 The official view of Polynesian migrations across the Pacific. but overpopulation. produced by an earthquake off Chile.Fig. and the islanders concentrated on making smaller wooden carvings and crude stone figurines. Natural disasters – earthquakes and tsunamis – may have contributed to the damage suffered by the platforms and statues. an 8-metre-high tidal wave. 2. cannibalism. expansion (1000-1500). led to civil war. and the collapse of the old order. The history of Easter Island until the arrival of the first Europeans is usually divided into three main phases: settlement (400-1000). The golden age of platform building and statue carving is believed to have begun in the mid-12th century. . The statues erected before 700 are thought to have been far smaller and more naturalistic than later ones. The authority of the hereditary chief waned. On 22 May 1960. and power was seized by a ruthless class of warriors. with few statues being erected on platforms after 1500. Platform statues were successively overthrown. struck the island and entirely destroyed the remains of Ahu Tongariki. famine. and reduced soil fertility. perhaps aggravated by drought. for instance.

In April 1722 a Dutch expedition under Admiral Jacob Roggeveen became the first Europeans to set foot on Rapa Nui. Like subsequent European visitors. He found a decimated. poverty-stricken population. The Frenchman La Pérouse visited Easter Island in 1786 and found the population calm and prosperous. followed by smallpox epidemics.3 Ahu Tongariki. They spent one day there. the first being led by an American captain in 1805. others who were white like Europeans. a French Catholic . whalers began stopping on the island. and a few with reddish skin. In 1864 Eugène Eyraud. 150 metres long.Fig. and both men and women were extensively tattooed. but people of darker skin. and reported that the natives worshipped huge statues with fires while prostrating themselves to the rising sun. A conflict seems to have raged on the island before the arrival of the British navigator Captain James Cook four years later. reduced the population to just 111 in 1877. During a skirmish in which the natives threatened to throw stones. Easter Islanders also suffered a series of slave raids. and observed that the statue cult seemed to have ended. Roggeveen’s men shot dead a dozen islanders before sailing off – thereby ensuring that the arrival of European ‘civilization’ would be a day to remember. as restored in the mid-1990s. wiping out the hereditary caste of teachers and initiates (maori). After 1800. It’s possible that some of the statues were toppled even before the Dutch and Spanish visits but that those sailors did not visit the same sites as Cook. the Dutch reported seeing not only fairskinned Polynesians. In 1804 a Russian visitor reported that at least 20 statues were still standing. A major slave raid launched from Peru in 1862. In 1770 a Spanish party from Peru claimed the island for Spain. Some of the statues still upright at the beginning of the 19th century were knocked down by western expeditions. leaving behind venereal diseases. They named it Easter Island as they landed on Easter Sunday. suggesting a quick recovery from any catastrophe. Accounts from subsequent years suggest another period of destruction so that perhaps only a handful of statues were still standing a decade later. as most of the statues had been pulled down. 2. Some had stretched and perforated earlobes hanging to their shoulders.

settled on the island. As John Flenley and Paul Bahn put it: ‘The chances of Easter Island being reached even once were extremely limited. green island to the west of Easter Island. Easter Island’s culture was founded by the legendary god-king Hotu Matua (‘prolific father’). and this remained as the island we know today. great stout chests. They were yellow. and that such an unlikely event could not possibly have happened more than once. a powerful supernatural being named Uoke. After a magician in Hiva called Hau Maka had made an astral journey to Easter Island in a dream. travelled about the Pacific prying up whole islands with a gigantic lever and tossing them into the sea where they vanished beneath the waves. to imagine it being reached several times over vast distances is beyond belief. References are also made to several voyages being made back and forth to Hiva. then a much larger land than it is today. who conducted archaeological excavations on the island in 1963. however. but it is estimated that the prehistoric population could have reached as many as 20. According to legend. Commercial exploitation of the island began in 1870. He was killed by the remaining islanders in 1877. but a tradition told to the earliest European explorers says that the first settlers came from a land to the east. imply two or three different migrations.missionary. native traditions are sometimes contradictory and cannot all be historically accurate. when Hau Maka had his prophetic dream. he set sail for Easter Island due to the cataclysm caused by Uoke. was followed by a second Polynesian migration about 100 years later. who is said to have lived on a remnant of Hiva called Maori. and eventually succeeded in converting the population to Christianity – as well as introducing tuberculosis. This race once existed on two other Polynesian islands. and a network of stone-paved roads built by earlier settlers was found inland. According to one version of the legend. After destroying many islands he came to the coast of Easter Island. Another mentions that Hoto Matua’s seven explorers found an inhabitant on the island. Since no seafarers in those days are supposed to have had maps. lived on the island well before the coming of Hotu-Matua’. According to one tradition. They did not possess fire. They came by boat from a land that lies behind America. very big. ‘the burial place’. it is thought that the island must have been discovered mainly by chance. who had arrived with another person who had since died. known as Marae-toe-hau. was told by a native elder that ‘very big men.4 A third account says that a burial platform was found at Hotu Matua’s landing place. but they may offer important clues. but not giants. The Frenchman Dutroux-Bornier began to transform the island into a sheep farm while expelling the islanders to the plantations of Tahiti. and began to lever up parts of it and cast them into the sea. He was unable to dispose of the last fragment.3 One tradition suggests that the first Polynesian migration. he saw six men on the island. which had a very hot climate. huge ears although their lobes were not stretched: they had pure yellow hair and their bodies were hairless and shining.2 The most widespread tradition today is that Hotu Matua’s homeland was a large.’1 Some of the island’s legends. Traditional Orthodox researchers believe that Easter Island was settled only once: by Polynesians in the 4th century AD. who came from a land called Hiva. As is often the case. with long arms. In 1888 the island was annexed by Chile. Another related the following legend: The first men to live on the island were the survivors of the world’s first race. The total population currently stands at about 4000.000.6 . led by Hotu Matua. Another version says he was forced to flee after being defeated in war. Eventually he reached a place on the island where the rocks were so sturdy that his lever broke. in a locality called Marae Renga. and Hotu Matua followed later in a double-canoe. There are indications that Easter Island was inhabited even before Hotu Matua arrived. a reconnaissance voyage of seven youths was sent there. warm.5 Francis Mazière.

as no weapons or bones have ever been found in the ditch. 1996 (1924). References 1. 44-5. p. pp. However. In any event. Francis Mazière. Thor Heyerdahl. 1969. until the latter finally rebelled. p. Stelle. 2000. The long-ears are sometimes said to have started building the great platforms. One tradition says that Hotu Matua’s people were the ‘short-ears’. Whatever the correct term may be. Although some charcoal excavated from it has been radiocarbon dated to about 1676. pp. 28. Easter Island: The mystery solved. Today momoko carries the sense of ‘sharp-pointed’. 110-5. and that the correct translations are ‘stocky race’ and ‘slender race’. which means ‘earlobe’. 45-8. but there is also a word epe. while the ‘long-ears’ arrived in a subsequent migration. Mysteries of Easter Island. and had white skin and red hair. pp. since a period of civil war followed when all the long-eared statues were overthrown. But another says that he brought both short-ears and long-ears with him. David Hatcher Childress. 292. The Enigmas of Easter Island. 8. John Macmillan Brown. and there were still people with elongated earlobes alive when the first Europeans arrived. IL: Adventures Unlimited Press. and it is assumed that the word probably used to mean ‘slender’ or ‘weak’. and the short-ears as more recent Polynesian arrivals.9 Heyerdahl saw the long-ears as the descendants of the first. John Flenley and Paul Bahn. The long-ears reportedly subjugated the short-ears. 2. Island at the Centre of the World: New light on Easter Island. a land of rocky dreams. New York: Oxford University Press. Easter Island: The mystery solved. 6. in which piles of brushwood had been set alight. and yet another that the long-ears arrived before the short-ears. 126. it is unlikely that only one long-ear survived such a battle. New York: Random House. 1970. Kempton. p. www. 88-93. Robert Hale & Company. pp. 122.org/vanaga/a. some researchers say that this is erroneous. 3. Easter Island: The mystery solved. 44-5. while the short-ears were the first to carve huge images of their ancestors and place them on the platforms. other charcoal has been dated to about 386 AD and to the 11th century. pp. José Miguel Ramírez and Carlos Huber. Amerindian colonizers. All the long-ears except one were allegedly massacred in the latter half of the 17th century. Alvimpress Impresores. pp. pp.5 m (8 ft) tall. Lost Cities of Ancient Lemuria & the Pacific. Mysteries of Easter Island.html. Easter Island: Rapa Nui.According to another tradition. one of the early tribes (the ‘long-ears’) were about 2. 67. pp. after a fierce battle the short-ears drove them into the Poike ditch. and it could all have come from bush fires or slash-and-burn practices used in clearing the fields. 7. Thor Heyerdahl says that the term was formerly spelled Hanau-epe. London: Collins. p. Most researchers doubt this story. Island at the Centre of the World. Mysteries of Easter Island. 127. 9. 125. 4. Easter Island: The mystery solved. Father Sebastian Englert. 45. . The Enigmas of Easter Island. and the Hanau-momoko the lower class. The Riddle of the Pacific. 5. 1988. London.rongorongo. 2002. the people referred to certainly had elongated earlobes. IL: Adventures Unlimited.8 Some writers have concluded that the Hanau-eepe were the upper class. 64-5. 63.7 The key players in the island’s traditional history are the Hanau-eepe and the Hanau-momoko. Hanau means ‘race’ or ‘ethnic group’. Eepe means ‘stocky’ or ‘corpulent’. p. pp. 1989. 60-2. These terms are often translated ‘long-ears’ and ‘short-ears’ respectively.

and that there is no trace of a sudden influx of new cultural influences at any point in Easter Island’s history. and suggested this could be due to some Marquesans having sailed to South America. for example. . for there are simply too many elements of uncertainty involved. . bringing about considerable unrest and the expulsion of many earlier settlers. Its frequency of occurrence on almost all islands from New Zealand to Hawaii ranges from 72 to 90%. They describe his theory as ‘a tottering edifice precariously based on preconceptions. arguing that not a single South American artifact has ever been found in 50 years of intensive archaeology in Polynesia. Heyerdahl originally proposed that Easter Island was initially settled by South Americans around 400 AD. South American connection Polynesian archaeology appears to be dominated by a small. Carved wooden clubs similar to those of the Marquesas have been found in Peru. but proposed that this might be due to ‘selective migration followed by isolation and inbreeding’. in 1862. and why the Inca quipu – a system of knotted cords for remembering facts and especially numbers – is used on many island in Polynesia and Melanesia. and sugar cane. Contacts of some kind are needed to explain how the sweet potato. bottle gourd. In graves at Rio Negro in Argentina. In his view.. and concluded that they had probably been brought there against their will by people from South America. Peruvian slave raiders sailed to Easter Island and put an end to the aboriginal culture. but to those of Polynesia. by making use of the prevailing westerly trade winds. He held that the sweet potato. concede that there must have been at least sporadic contacts between Polynesians and South America. However. human remains have been found that do not belong to any race of South America. he later modified his opinion: he felt that the Polynesians had largely abandoned their own distinct faith and culture after arriving on Easter Island. either through force or cunning. He thought that a pre-Inca society had reached Easter Island from Peru. in Polynesia’s Tuamotu archipelago. history was repeating itself when. zealous group. In 1947 he demonstrated that such voyages were feasible when he sailed his balsa raft Kon-Tiki from South America to Raroia Atoll. absolutely nobody has the right to claim to know the whole truth about the past. and that the Polynesians arrived centuries later. the ‘scientific’ evidence is ambiguous. H.4 The possibility cannot be ruled out that influences may have gone back and forth between Polynesia and South America over vastly longer periods of time than orthodox theories allow. for example..2 Most researchers dismiss Heyerdahl’s theory of a South American source for Easter Island’s culture. among a tribe known as the Mapuche. though they think it was probably the Polynesians who went to South America rather than the other way round. – Øystein Kock Johansen1 Norwegian explorer and anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl. into Indonesia and through China. During the 12th century the Incas rose to power in Peru. the figure for Easter Island is 48.L. Shapiro found that Easter Islanders deviated significantly from the Polynesians in the shape and dimensions of the cranium. as one of the island’s early traditions suggests.5 The rocker jaw is the most characteristically Polynesian skeletal trait. There is archaeological and linguistic evidence that Polynesians landed on the north coast of Chile. extreme subjectivity. However. opposed the conventional view that Easter Island was first peopled from the west (Polynesia).3 They do.5%. however. the Easter Islanders have been said to be just plain Polynesians of ‘a somewhat specialized and exaggerated type’. Maori stone implements have been discovered at Cuzco in Peru and at Santiago del Estiro in Argentina. distortions and very little hard evidence’.3. We must bear in mind that nobody. and Ecuador. who led archaeological expeditions to Easter Island in 1955-56 and 1986-88. with no admixture of any other groups. Columbia. One researcher found that the Easter Islanders show a few minor Amerindian traits. massacring most of Amerindian population. and totora reed were introduced to the island from South America. The official thinking today is that the Easter Islanders are Polynesians. while the chicken. but it is extremely rare among Amerindians. Chile. banana. who will not permit any points of view other than their own. and argued that it was first settled from the east (South America). were introduced from Polynesia. reached Polynesia. Heyerdahl speculated that some of these Peruvians sailed west and brought Polynesians to Easter Island.

Some investigators think that the most likely homeland of the Easter Islanders is Mangareva (Gambier Islands) or the Tuamotus. The same custom existed both in the Andes and on the Polynesian island of Mangareva in the Gambier archipelago. but it was restricted to members of the royal families and images of the Hindu gods. Other researchers hold that there is no satisfactory evidence for the existence of a prePolynesian language or second wave of Polynesian immigrants. The first settlers apparently did not introduce pigs or dogs. The other was known to the islanders as tavari. and long-eared stone statues have also been dug up in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Hindu rulers subsequently adopted the custom. which was used for carving. one from east Polynesia. The practice of letting the nails grow also existed in China and among initiated Incas. The oldest known practice of ear extension was among the mariners in the prehistoric Indus Valley harbour-city of Lothal. houses. beans. Two species of freshwater plants. it grew in Lake Titicaca. who visited the island four years later. The most skilfully carved statues. they were required to remain celibate and let their nails and hair grow. They also point out that the island had no maize. Certain children on the island used to be shut up in caves to preserve the whiteness of their skin.9 The Easter islanders had their own writing system. but they were never seen again by subsequent visitors. Heyerdahl points out that a variety of writing systems were in use in pre-Columbian America. and in Peru. found in Easter Island’s crater lakes but nowhere else in the Pacific. though a small genetic element from South America remains a possibility. Buddha images with long ears are found all over Asia. and exemption from manual labour. probably from the east. the Incas said they had inherited the custom from their divine ancestors. and also correct proto-Polynesian words for 1 to 10. The orthodox view is that either the islanders invented it after the arrival of the Europeans. which dominated the banks of South America’s Lake Titicaca and was cultivated in vast irrigated fields in the desert valleys on the coast below. Easter Island’s language was made up of three elements: one of west Polynesian origin. and that the Rapanui language is a member of the eastern Polynesian subgroup. come from South America.7 Easter Island’s language (Rapanui) is usually said to be derived entirely from Polynesian. and boats. no other closely related species existed in Polynesia. The custom was also practised in the Marquesas Islands in Polynesia. However. One of them was the totora reed. even though no Polynesian tribe is known to have possessed the art of writing. and symbolized knowledge. in 1770 the Spanish visitors compiled a vocabulary which included words clearly of Polynesian origin along with others which were clearly not. and both useful to man. Conventional researchers emphasize that the Spaniards were unfamiliar with Polynesian languages. had a Tahitian with him who could converse with the islanders to a limited extent. known as Rongorongo (see section 7). where large numbers of big earplugs of the type used in ancient Mexico.6 All the giant statues on Easter Island have long ears.8 Robert Langdon and Darrell Tryon argued that at the time of contact.11 . and Easter Island have been found. and was used as a medicinal plant. which conventional researchers admit is surprising if they came from Polynesia. and some islanders still practised ear elongation at the time the first Europeans arrived. and also manioc and gourd. it was used for making mats. had long tapering finger nails. Peru. and a third of unidentified origin. thought. the French visitors of 1786 brought maize and various domestic animals with them. regarded by some researchers as the oldest. Like the totora.10 As already mentioned. a list of 17 Polynesian words was compiled. or that they brought it with them from another Polynesian island. Some plants on Easter Island clearly come from South America. or squash – which are staple resources in South America. mainstream researchers prefer to believe that the Polynesians made contact with the South American mainland and returned with the sweet potato. The most useful wild tree on Easter Island was the toromiro tree. such as the islanders’ staple food the sweet potato (which is known by its Quechua name kumara). Heyerdahl says that the loss of the original language of the coastal cultures of western South America prevents any comparison with the non-Polynesian words in the Spaniards’ list. On the other hand. the numerals from 1 to 10 were totally different. Captain Cook. It is so close to its continental Chilean relative that it could be considered the same species.

as chickens were sometimes kept in them in later times.1 A Rapa Nui tupa (top) and a Peruvian chullpa. Mainstream writers suggest that seeds could have been transported to the island by the wind. ocean. contradicting native traditions that it was brought by the Polynesian Hotu Matua. Chullpas served as mausoleums for prominent persons and are found in large numbers on desert hillsides from Lake Titicaca down to the Pacific coast. Such structures are not found elsewhere in Polynesia. On Easter Island there are several dozen round or rectangular towers – or tupas – of uncut stones with a crawl-in entrance and vaulted roof. even their names are similar.Pollen analysis shows that totora has been present on Easter Island for at least 30. 3. or on birds’ feet. Mainstream writers try to deny any link between tupas and chullpas. but they closely resemble the chullpas of pre-Inca Peru. Human remains were likewise found in some tupas. Another possibility is that they were brought by an earlier ‘Hotu Matua’. .000 years. Fig. and many believe that tupas were chicken houses.

He thought that the inspiration for the Marquesan statues probably came from the tropical regions of Colombia. who spent five months on Easter Island in 1923. Note.8 m (fig. They tend to be fairly crudely made. Most researchers see the total absence of woven textiles and pottery on Easter Island as damning evidence against it having had any significant links with Peru. 10. from San Augustin in Colombia to Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) by Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. that no one has yet demonstrated how tough basalt blocks could have been cut without metal tools (see section 6).1 John Macmillan Brown. and the question of who might have inspired whom is unsettled. but that none of them had found their way to aboriginal Easter Island.) A further argument against a strong South American influence is the complete absence of the pressureflaking technique on stone tools throughout Polynesia (involving ‘pushing’ flakes off a core as opposed to striking them). often standing on ceremonial platforms. nevertheless believed that the stone giants of Easter Island were closely related to those of South America and that the differences were due to stylistic and artistic variations. however. where the tallest is 2. Sir .Heyerdahl points out that the cultural elements usually considered indicative of Polynesian culture are the grooved wooden mallet for making bark cloth (tapa). Fig. Monolithic human statues are also found in western South America. the bell-shaped pounder for making poi (food paste made from the taro root). where the tallest was 2. and on Raivavae. However. and the total absence of South American metalwork on Easter Island. 3.13).4 m (fig. 10.18). But they are usually far more ornate than those on Easter Island and again the resemblance is very poor. But.2 Statues at San Augustin (left) and Tiwanaku (right). (Double standards are at work here. and statues of reasonable size are found only in the Marquesas Islands. as said. since these are the two most characteristic and abundant products of Peruvian culture. these figures look nothing like those on Easter Island. and the wooden bowl for the kava-drinking ceremonies. while those of Easter Island are more akin to the art of Tiahuanaco. there are notable differences. Stonework and carvings Stone statues (or tiki) with hands on their bellies are found on other islands of eastern Polynesia. since prehistoric pottery has been found in the Marquesas but this doesn’t stop many researchers believing that Easter Island was originally settled from there.

A unique discovery at Rano Raraku was the kneeling statue Tukuturi. Heyerdahl says that Easter Island’s platforms resemble the huaca platforms found in the Andean region. while the marvellous stonework at Ahu Vinapu is reminiscent of the finest pre-Inca masonry in Peru (see section 6).Clements Markham and Argentine ethnologist J. the figure kneels with its hands on its knees and its buttocks resting on its heels. Many prehistoric American stone statues also had inlaid eyes. With a total height of 3. adopted the practice from the Sumerians. Imbelloni thought that Easter Island could have inspired the pre-Inca culture.3 Tukuturi. Inlaid eyes were a common feature of many of the oldest images of the Middle East. 3. it came as a shock to many researchers. which was almost completely buried. upturned face has short ears and a goatee beard. for example. Heyerdahl’s expedition to Easter Island in the 1950s uncovered a number of unusual statues which he believed strengthened the South American connection.67 m. who had opposed the idea on the grounds that this was not a Polynesian custom. The seafaring Hittites. Its round.2 Fig. Easter Island’s platforms are usually compared to the marae of Polynesia. When proof was found in 1978 that some of the Easter Island statues once had inlaid eyes. . from Egypt to the Indus Valley. Another complete but badly eroded kneeling statue has been found inside the crater. though none of the latter are as impressive as the island’s best platforms.

Heyerdahl’s team found a rectangular block of red scoria.3 There are notable differences in both cases. In the sunken temple plaza at Vinapu.Heyerdahl compares Tukuturi to the smaller kneeling stone statues that were typical of Tiahuanaco. A deep hole had been cut into the region of the heart and the head was broken and missing. inspired whom. if anybody. Orthodox writers point out that ribs were an essential feature of the kneeling statues from Tiahuanaco.5 m (11. but when set up the image fragment still stood 3. Conventional researchers compare it to a small squatting stone statue from Tahiti. and again the question is who. rectangular form so characteristic of the pre-Inca stone giants of the Tiahuanaco area. but Heyerdahl countered that fragments of a kneeling image were found buried deep in the sand by the great ahu at Anakena.4 . Heyerdahl points out that the cross section of the pillarlike figure has the rounded. one of which had clearly marked ribs. 3.4 Kneeling statue from Tiwanaku.5 ft) tall. Fig. representing a body with its arms resting on the stomach and stunted legs.

including moai kavakava or ‘statues of ribs’. turtles.5 . The Easter Islanders used to make an incredible variety of curious lava sculptures (moai maea). Conventional researchers speak only of ‘superficial’ resemblances. Petroglyphs on the island also display a wide range of imaginative motifs. 3. 3. and strange symbols.6 Lava sculptures. whales. Fig. and wooden figures (moai toromiro). birds and birdmen. spiders. They include bizarre human masks and eye motifs. who spent six months on Easter Island in 1934. lizards. boats. fish. and weird monsters and creatures. drew comparisons with the imagination and variety displayed by the pottery motifs of the early Mochica art in Peru (dating from the first few centuries AD). Heyerdahl says that this artistry stands in sharp contrast with the rest of Polynesia. showing unbridled imagination and creativity.5 Red-scoria statue.Fig. and archaeologist Henri Lavachery. monsters.

perched on the 400-m-high rim of the Rano Kau crater. The contestants had to clamber down the cliff face. between 1 and 2 m high inside. acting on behalf of noble patrons. . The village comprises about 50 oval houses with 2-m-thick walls of horizontal stone slabs and corbelled roofs.7 Moai kavakava: each figure has a large curved nose. extended earlobes. and Tangaroa were common to all Polynesia and regarded as the progenitors of the royal lines of divine descent. Makemake does not exist anywhere else in Polynesia. The last ceremonies took place in 1866. about a mile to the southwest of the Orongo headland. who would be declared the tangatu manu or birdman.1 Their creator-god was Makemake (pronounced: mackay-mackay). or ‘spirits’. Birdman cult The gods Tiki.Fig. and was favoured with privileges comparable to those enjoyed by the king until the next year’s competition. paddle out to the island on small reed floats. and then look for a tern’s egg and return with it to their patron. Tane. An annual birdman contest was held there each September (the month of the spring equinox in southern hemisphere). they are said to represent akuaku. competed to find the first egg laid by the sooty tern on the small bird island of Motu Nui. protruding cheekbones. a goatee beard. whose representative on earth was not a hereditary king. But none of these principal Polynesian gods were originally known to the Easter Islanders. Young men. but an annually selected birdman. 3. The birdman cult used to be practised at the ceremonial village of Orongo. and protruding ribs in a sunken abdomen.

It has no parallel in the rest of Polynesia.2 .9 Birdman petroglyph overlooking Rano Kau crater. Motu Iti. and depicted them symbolically as felines. as bird-headed men. The origins of the birdman cult are unknown. and the pointed rock of Motu Kao Kao in the background. Although we know little about the deities of the extinct pre-Inca civilizations. 3. 3.8 Birdman petroglyph. with Motu Nui. or as faces with tear marks below the eyes – as on Easter Island. the Incas worshipped the sun and their royal ancestors.Fig. Fig. but Heyerdahl notes that birdman motifs based on a prehistoric bird cult are typical of the pre-Inca empire to the east.

and holding eggs in their hands. Rangi reappears elsewhere in Polynesia as rani and ani. The ancient Egyptian religion attached huge importance to a learned bird/man figure – long-beaked. Rapa Nui In the 19th century. There are no stone statues on Rapa Iti. One of the former names for Easter Island is the ‘navel of the world’. Both islands are about the same size. almost ridiculous. and probably dates to the Lambayeque period. Like the falcon and phoenix in ancient Egypt. is an island southeast of Tahiti. when their eyes were fitted. They are indistinguishable from papyrus-reed floats depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics and still used in Nubia and Middle Egypt in recent times. of cyclic time. but the names would be understandable if the migrants named the island they settled on after their original homeland. ‘eyes looking at heaven’ – a reference to the fact that. known to them as Rapa Nui. The megalithic Incan capital in Peru was called Cuzco – meaning ‘navel’. refers to the attainment of enlightenment and ‘immortality’.1 It is also similar phonetically and semantically to the Egyptian ‘maat Ra’. meaning essentially ‘the eye of the sun’. ibis-headed Thoth. and is commonly used also as a poetic reference to the legendary Polynesian fatherland. ‘Crossing over to the horizon’. to the horizon on reed floats. Tangata manu means ‘learned man of the sacred bird’. They were also of a type characteristic of the Peruvian coast and still in use on Lake Titicaca. but many around Lake Titicaca. totora-reed floats used on Easter Island are called pora – meaning literally ‘reed floats of the sun’. laid by the phoenix. the god of knowledge and the ‘enumerator of the stars’. and also the souls of the dead. meaning Great Rapa. Mata-rani. missionaries and their Polynesian companions from French Oceania began to refer to Easter Island as Rapa Nui. Friezes around the ships depict dancing birdmen in two different variations lifting their arms. between the 12th and 14th centuries. a village in northern Peru. On Rapa Iti a tradition survived claiming that the island had been settled by pregnant women escaping from massacres on Easter Island. like crossing to ‘the other shore’ in Buddhist writings. Melanesia and Southeast Asia. the manu-tera. this bird can be seen as a symbol of the sun.4 The birdman ceremony resembles a quest ritual for the primeval egg of the sun god Ra. There is only one other island in the world called Rapa.’3 Some researchers have drawn parallels between the birdman cult and ancient Egypt. though the earliest birdman motifs in Peru date back at least to the Chavin period (1800-1000 BC). The motif matches the Orongo rock carvings on Easter Island. Another name for Easter Island was Mate-ki-te-rangi. meaning ‘sunbird’. The situation seems quite forced.2 . and the one on Rapa Island depicts a man with long ears. Øystein Kock Johansen remarks that everybody is ‘desperately hunting high and low for vague Easter Island birdman parallels in Polynesia. The journey on the reed float across the sea is reminiscent of the journey of Ra. is the name of an ancient aboriginal port on the south coast of Peru. and of reincarnation. while they more or less completely ignore the use of this motif in South America from times before Christ. The tusk-shaped. symbolized on Easter Island by the egg of the sooty tern. shows two large sea-going reed boats with cabins on deck. ‘eyes of heaven’. just below Lake Titicaca. Little Rapa.A relief found during excavations at Túcume. the moai seemed to be looking upwards at the sky. The same name was applied in ancient times to many other sacred places. Rapa Iti. and it is about the same distance from Easter Island but in the opposite direction: Rapa Island in Lake Titicaca.

and their timing are uncertain. 3. Øystein Kock Johansen.museumsnett.Fig. ‘Modus vivendi within Polynesian archaeology in relation to the connection Easter Island – Peru’. Thor Heyerdahl. www. . p. part 1. Connections of some sort can be discerned between the culture of Easter Island and that of Polynesia. South America. Egypt. References 1. The exact nature and relative importance of these influences. and other places.10 The ambiguous evidence reviewed in this section is clearly open to multiple interpretations. Easter Island: The mystery solved.no/kon-tiki/Research/Tucume. 2. the orthodox position that there was a single migration to Easter Island from Polynesia in the 4th century looks far too simplistic. In any event. 1989. New York: Random House. 173.

p. pp. 2002.R. pp. pp. 222. p. p. W. Francis Mazière. 55. 89. 192-3. pp. p. pp. 199. Ibid. 1998. Easter Island: The mystery solved. 211. 4. pp. 58. p. The Enigmas of Easter Island. Birdman cult 1. 31. 245. Graham Hancock and Santha Faiia. Easter Island: The mystery solved. 139.. London: Collins. John Flenley and Paul Bahn. 72. London: Michael Joseph. Ibid. 4. 31-3. 148-9. Corliss (ed. Heaven’s Mirror: Quest for the lost civilization. 10. Heaven’s Mirror. p. Heyerdahl. 1969. Stonework and carvings 1. p. 2. Mysteries of Easter Island. Ibid. Easter Island: The mystery solved. Johansen. Hancock and Faiia. Easter Island: The mystery solved. 56-8.. The Enigmas of Easter Island. 53-4. pp. New York: Oxford University Press. Rapa Nui 1. [T]he whole air vibrates with a vast purpose and energy which has been and is no more. Easter Island: The mystery solved.. 3. 5. ‘Modus vivendi within Polynesian archaeology in relation to the connection Easter Island – Peru’. 167. 3. 156. 3. October 1997. 163. Anomaly Register. 5. 77. 193-5. parts 3-6. pp. 9. 11. pp. 4. Easter Island: The mystery solved. The Enigmas of Easter Island. Ibid. Flenley and Bahn. the shadows of the departed builders still possess the land . 1. The Enigmas of Easter Island. pp.. Easter Island: The mystery solved. 8. p. Heyerdahl.. 2. 153-5. 4. no. 45. What was it? Why was it? – Katherine Routledge1 . Carving the statues In Easter Island . Heyerdahl. pp..3. 7. 6.)... 2. 243-4. 31-4.

including 397 at the quarry – the volcanic crater of Rano Raraku. for everything seems to have stopped suddenly. Francis Mazière writes: Here in this lunar landscape they carved giants that belong to another world.. A great many statues were being sculpted there when activity apparently came to an abrupt halt.Fig. in a single day. It is this which gives the sanctuary its unearthly feeling. 4. the impression is shattering. and it all gives rise to a strong feeling of distress.2 Statues still in their extraction cavities. A total of 887 moai have so far been catalogued on Easter Island.. .1 Unfinished statue at Rano Raraku. as though it had been hit by the blast of some enormous disaster.2 Fig. . Rano Raraku is one of the world’s most extraordinary and evocative archaeological sites. Everything here is on the most tremendous scale. 4.

The statue known as Paro. still lies unfinished at Rano Raraku. basalt. Carvers completed the front and sides. or trachyte – and are smaller than the average size of 5 m. including all those erected on platforms. The vast majority are made of Rano Raraku tuff. but never liberated it from the rock below. which once stood on Ahu te Pito Kura. The biggest. .3 (courtesy of Carlos Huber) More than 230 finished statues were erected on the ahu platforms. About 55 statues are made of other stone – red scoria.6 m (71. El Gigante.8 m long and weighs 82 tons. just above the path. El Gigante can be seen towards the right. and very few are shorter than 3 m. 4.3 Exterior quarry and slope of Rano Raraku. with less accentuated features and less concave or prominent noses and chins. with some rows of statues being built up over time. at Ahu Hanga te Tenga. and weighed up to 270 tons. The largest statue ever made.Most of the island’s statues are 5.5 ft) long. The platform figures tend to be stockier and less angular than those at the quarry.9 ft) long. It was a monstrous 21. Fig.5 to 7 m tall. A single platform might have up to 15 moai in a row. is 9.9 m (32. is 9.

small mouths with thin. the arms hang stiffly. it is never the same on two faces. and elongated earlobes. some of which are carved to represent inserted ear ornaments..1 . with long slender fingers. The heads are elongated and rectangular. Though the arrogant and resolute look is given to the faces of all the statues.. Appearance Although all the giant moai are similar. it is the expression of victorious warriors and empire-makers . prominent chins. John Macmillan Brown writes: Taken as a whole they express haughty scorn and imperious will.Fig. extend across a protruding abdomen. with heavy brows and prominent noses.4 Paro. The statues’ physical features do not look at all Polynesian. every one looks as if it had been intended to be an individual portrait .. pouting lips. and the hands. no two are exactly alike. 4. Their base is about where the statue’s hips would be..

but no moai is known to have borne the name of a divine personality. All were known by the general name of aringa ora. highranking ancestors. It is thought that the coastal statues faced inland towards the villages to provide protection. and as intermediaries between the world of the living and the world of the gods. and the seat of immortality. by projecting the mana (occult power) of the akuaku (ancestral spirits) they represented. Jean-Michel Schwartz says that the position of hands indicates the point on the abdomen – the she men or ‘stone door’ – where Chinese medicine situates the ancestral centre of procreational energy and vitality. Captain Cook’s party heard the term ariki (chief) applied to some. in view of native legends that the original settlers had fled a partly submerged island. Figures with hands resting on their stomach are common in the Marquesas and elsewhere in Polynesia. the ‘living faces’ of the past. Their location close to the shore may also have been designed to prevent encroachment by the sea. 4. the hands were placed there to protect ritual knowledge and oral traditions.2 .Fig. and also in South America. Early European explorers received the impression that the Easter Island statues were idols. which were believed to be carried in the belly.5 A platform statue. In the traditional Maori carving of New Zealand. while others had nicknames such as ‘Twisted Neck’. They are generally regarded as stylized representations of deified. and even ‘Bad Smell’ (due to the upturned nostrils). serving to keep their memory alive. such as the creator god Makemake. ‘Tattooed One’.

It is believed that the statues may have been commissioned during the lifetime of elders, but that they did not have their eyes carved until they had been moved to the platforms – after the person had died. Only the platform statues were given eye-sockets, and in 1978 it was discovered that the sockets were once fitted with beautiful inlaid eyes of white coral and red scoria. Some platform statues were also given a red ‘hat’ (pukao), and there are signs that some may have been painted red and/or white. The straightness or concave curve of the statues’ noses contrasts markedly with the frequently arched noses on the island’s wooden figures, and art historian Max Raphael argued that the nose was shaped as a symbolic phallus, while the pouting or protruding thin lips with a groove between them suggest the form of a vagina. The islanders held that the entire moai was a phallic symbol. As regards the reason for the statues’ elongated ears, H.P. Blavatsky made the following comments on longeared statues of the Buddha: ‘The unnaturally large ears symbolize the omniscience of wisdom, and were meant as a reminder of the power of Him who knows and hears all, and whose benevolent love and attention for all creatures nothing can escape.’3 The actual physical elongation of the ears as a mark of social rank and power in many different cultures may have arisen after the original purely symbolic meaning had faded. The squared shape between the fingers of the statutes is thought to represent the hami, or sacred loincloth worn by chiefs and priests, or a kind of penis cover or shield. Many statues have detailed carvings on their backs, which are often interpreted as tattooed signs of rank. Some statues also bear carvings of birdmen, double-bladed paddles, and vulva signs, but these seem to be later additions. The lines that curve across the small of the back are often said to represent a ‘belt’ associated with the loincloth. However, this is unlikely since it consists of an arched rainbow motif that does not continue round to the sides and front.

Fig. 4.6

Fig 4.7

Some islanders interpreted the triple bow with a circle (or sometimes two) above it and an M-shaped design below it as representing a rainbow with the sun above and rain beneath.4 Francis Mazière was told by a native that they represent the elements of life: sun, moon, and thunder, with thunder signifying electricity.5 Schwartz argues that they represent the three elements of the universe: sunlight, water or sea, and mountain or earth. He says that the circle at the level of the sacrum indicates that mana entered there; ancient Chinese medicine calls that part of the body ming men or ‘door of life’.6 Some writers, including H.P. Blavatsky, have drawn attention to the overall resemblance of these three symbols to the Egyptian ankh, also known as the ansated cross or tau, which signifies life, regeneration, and the descent of spirit into matter.7

Fig. 4.8 This basalt statue, 8.2 ft tall and weighing 4 tons, is now in the British Museum.

Carving
Rano Raraku contains numerous now empty niches where statues have been hacked out, as well as 397 figures visible on the outer and inner slopes illustrating every phase of the carving process. As a result of rubble and silt being washed down the slope, the statues set up at the foot of the quarry now stand so deep in the earth that no one has succeeded in pulling them down. Large areas of the quarry are in fact hidden under slope deposits, and many more moai undoubtedly remain to be discovered.

At some time. 4. Using a hammer and chisel. a member of Heyerdahl’s team took half an hour to chip off a bit of rock the size of a fist in the quarry.Fig. The Spanish visitors of 1770 struck a statue with a hoe. The figures are as hard as bone below the outer surface. an attempt was made to decapitate a statue. and can be cut and shaped quite easily even with stone tools. .1 Other writers seem to contradict this. and sparks flew.2 But it should be noted that the quality of the rock varies widely. and so is the exterior surface where it has not been subjected to the rain.9 A statue excavated by Heyerdahl’s team. the rock is not much harder than chalk. The yellow-brown tuff of Rano Raraku is compacted volcanic ash. The hardness of the rock should not be judged by the crumbly outer surface of the statues. saying that underneath the outer layer. but it ended in failure and the damage extends no further than a hand’s breadth into the giant neck.

though some point the other way. The rock was frequently splashed with water to soften it. leaving a keel along the . in a horizontal or slightly reclining position. body and sides. During the Norwegian expedition.3 On the basis of this very scanty evidence it was somehow calculated that six men. after which they gave up. working every day. 4. 4. Most moai were carved face up. others lie parallel to the mountain. Heyerdahl hired six men who used these tools to outline a 5 m (16 ft) statue. Fig. and some are almost vertical – apparently to avoid wasting any space. and then proceeded to carve the head.Fig. First the sculptors opened up channels about 60 cm wide and 1.10 A toki.5 m deep around a volume of rock. but the picks quickly became blunted and had to be repeatedly sharpened or replaced. It took three days to produce a statue outline. usually with their base pointing down-slope. could have completed a medium-sized moai in 12 to 15 months.11 Moai outlined by Heyerdahl’s team. The quarry was once littered with thousands of crude pickaxes (toki) made of dense basalt.

It is thought that ropes may have been attached to horizontal wooden beams set transversely in the channels leading down the slopes. With the statue held firm by a packing of stones and fill.12 The statue then had to be moved down the slope (of about 55°). The quarry displays plenty of evidence of breakage or of figures having been abandoned due to defects in the stone.back. Some moai had to be lowered down the vertical cliff face. without damaging it or any other statues on the way down. Fig. the keel was finally hacked away. Depressed runways or channels of earth seem to have been used for this purpose. . 4. and then manoeuvred over statues on which work was still proceeding on the ledge below. to keep it attached to the bedrock.

as in a cableway’. which consisted of going up and down the volcanic cliff with the use of ropes. But even if such a hoisting system once existed. though some of the holes are puzzling. and it is thought they may have been used for coiling and storing the rope. given their location above a marginal area of the main quarries. the holes ‘do not seem to be related to the sliding of the moai.4 (courtesy of John Flenley) At the highest point on the inner face of the crater. but to an ancient game called ma’ari. there are a series of cylindrical holes over one metre in depth and width. with horizontal channels connecting them at the bottom. it would only have been of use to operations at one part of the inner slope. Archaeologist José Miguel Ramírez argues that.5 .13 Statues still lying at the top of Rano Raraku. One view is that large tree trunks were stood in them with ropes around them. 4.Fig. where they were carved.

Many researchers think that the statues inside the crater were not intended to be removed. This would explain why far more statues were left finished or unfinished at the quarry than could ever have been erected on existing platforms. on both slopes. of the statues standing on the outer slope may also have been intended to remain there. who headed the first archaeological expedition to Easter Island in 1914/15. but there still appears to be no order. all with their backs to the hill. The arrangement of the standing statues inside the crater is more regular. On the plain adjacent to the outer slope about 30 more statues lie on the surface. and sculptors finished carving their backs. they are full statues like those on the platforms. thought that some. The statues at the foot of the outer slope of the crater appear to be set up in the ground in a disorderly fashion. workers raised the statues into a standing position in holes or on terraces. if not all. Most standing statues. Some of the upright statues are in fact standing on stone pavements. some alone. sometimes blocking one another’s view. Others are scattered along prehistoric ‘roads’ or tracks heading out of the quarry.14 Holes at the summit of Rano Raraku. but had not yet been moved because the people they represented were not yet dead.Fig 4. It is commonly believed that the statues on the crater slopes were awaiting transportation to the platforms. and every statue had a slightly different orientation. or because there was no room on the platforms or no resources for transportation. were raised roughly along an axis running from NW to SE.6 . the tallest being over 11 m (36 ft) in height. and ‘each looks at a part of the world over which he has power and for which he is answerable’. Near the foot of both the inner and outer quarry slopes. guarding the volcano. Mazière was told by a native that all the Rano-Raraku moai are sacred. mostly on their fronts. and then hauling them to a more convenient working place. some in clusters. Researchers such as Katherine Routledge. but were set up there permanently. About 200 statues are still standing on either side of the crater’s lip. Although only the heads usually project above the surface. and Francis Mazière. If the intention was to move all the statues to the platforms. instead of simply cutting out rough blocks. facing the lake. One of the island’s mysteries is why most of the carving was done before moving the statues to the platforms and even before bringing them down the quarry slope. it is not clear why some were quarried inside the crater given the additional effort required to get them out of there.

The Mysteries of Easter Island. 203. 2.P. pp. The Enigmas of Easter Island. 7:297-8. 1950-85.15 Two giants’ heads. Ramírez and Huber. The Enigmas of Easter Island.P.Fig. Aku-Aku: The secret of Easter Island. References 1. p. 79. p. IL: Adventures Unlimited Press. John Macmillan Brown. H. 4. 128. Wheaton. 2. 114-5. Heyerdahl. Easter Island: The mystery solved. they are just under 40 ft high. John Flenley and Paul Bahn. Easter Island: Rapa Nui. 1:322. 119. 1975. 1977 (1888). 1958. 1989. 4. plate ix. 2000. 2. pp. 2002. 130-1. 5. Kempton. 193. 191. 165. Mazière. 137-8. José Miguel Ramírez and Carlos Huber. Regarded as some of the oldest and purest statues. New York: Random House. 4. H. pp. 1998 (1919). Mysteries of Easter Island. p. Carving 1. Kempton. Mysteries of Easter Island. New York: Oxford University Press. New York: Avon. 1996 (1924). Schwartz. their bodies buried by erosion. The Mysteries of Easter Island. p. 6. The Mystery of Easter Island. a land of rocky dreams. The Secret Doctrine. Thor Heyerdahl. 6. Appearance 1. IL: Adventures Unlimited. Katherine Routledge. Alvimpress Impresores. Easter Island: The mystery solved. Francis Mazière. 71. 3. Easter Island. Mazière. 17. 3. p. p. Pasadena. Mysteries of Easter Island. Blavatsky Collected Writings (vols. 130-1. 2:339. 183. London: Collins. p. The Riddle of the Pacific. p. 5. Thor Heyerdahl. pp. The Secret Doctrine. 66. Blavatsky. IL: Theosophical Publishing House. Jean-Michel Schwartz. 124. 193. London: George Allen & Unwin. CA: Theosophical University Press. 3. 1969. . 1-14). pp. 7.

. Either the god Makemake. or priests or chiefs commanded them to walk or to float through the air. or magicians. According to one tradition. Some writers have said that high up on the rim inside the Rano Raraku crater is an open rock-hewn cave with a series of rock benches or seats lining its walls. or mind power.2 Above: ‘Seats’ in an ‘open cave’. and irregular ‘seat-like’ depressions can be found elsewhere in the quarry. called te pito kura (‘the golden navel’ or ‘the navel of light’). or an empty extraction cavity? Below: A sketch showing how the ‘seats’ may have arisen. Legends about the use of levitation in the construction of megalithic monuments are found all over the world. 5. 75 cm (2.5 ft) in diameter. Fig.2 However.1 Te pito kura. and according to one legend. seven masters. the ‘open cave’ could also be seen as nothing but an ordinary extraction cavity from which the statue has been removed. oriented towards the crater lake.1 Fig. to focus the mana. use was made of a finely crafted stone sphere. 5. sat together on the benches and combined their mana to make the statues walk out of the crater and around the island in a clockwise spiral. Moving the statues The islanders have a legend that the statues were moved to the platforms and raised upright by the use of mana.5.

Two gigantic wooden legs in the shape of a ‘V’ are attached to the statue’s neck by a loop.. It is thought that this problem could have been solved by using levers. without leaving any marks. about 180 men. the statues would have required considerable wrapping and padding with vegetation to protect them. and the ropes would need to be several centimetres in diameter and 80 m long. while at the same time I see the amazing evidence of a quite extraordinary past. . However.5 hours. In a 1998 experiment organized by Jo Anne Van Tilburg. [O]n the sheer side of the volcano there is something wonderfully strange. since none show any signs of rope marks or other damage. on which the statue rests face-downwards. The natives say that everything died on Easter Island when mana left it. . women. sometimes more than 20 km away. However. A major problem would arise as the columns of people pulling the sledge neared the coastal platform. If transported on their fronts or backs.. 40 men were able to move a 9-ton replica statue using this method... It would therefore have taken 1500 people to have moved Paro’s 82 tons. it has not yet been demonstrated that these methods could be used on a statue of average height and weight without damaging it. and when the legs are tilted forward. confusing magnetism.Francis Mazière was one of the few scholars to take the legends about mana seriously: What if certain men at a certain period were able to make use of electro-magnetic or anti-gravitational forces? . It may be that para-psychology will find a sympathetic vibration in this island with its perturbed. Geologist William Mulloy suggested using a curved Y-shaped sledge made from the fork of a big tree. as there would be nowhere for them to go – except into the sea. 12 men levered a 6-ton rock 15 ft in 1.3 All modern mainstream researchers believe that muscle-power alone is sufficient to move the statues to the ahu. since it was important not to damage the elaborate detail already carved on the figures. During Heyerdahl’s Norwegian expedition. Here statues were brought down over the top of dozens of others. The main problem in transportation is thought to be not so much the statues’ weight (the average being no more than 18 tons) but their fragility. The required manpower can be reduced significantly by pulling the sledge over log rollers. Yet the movement of ten or twenty tons is by no means child’s play. this technique – which has never been tried out in practice – puts particular stress on the statues’ fragile necks and not all the statues have the protruding stomachs ideal for this method. and to erect them. The statue could therefore be rocked forward using the bulging abdomen as a fulcrum or pivot point. and children pulled a 4 m (13 ft) statue weighing around 10 tons for a short distance on a sledge using two ropes. In one experiment. the rope partially lifts the statue and takes some weight off the sledge.

then raise it again at the platform.3 Mulloy’s method. tip it over onto a sledge. Only 16 people were required to move it a distance of 6 m: 7 tilting and 9 pulling forward. only 3 men were needed to tilt it. a 2. and 5 to pull it forward.Fig. This is because of the statues’ ingenious design: the thickness from front to back of the upper part is so insignificant compared to the bulky lower body that the centre of gravity is almost at the navel. It was so stable that it could tilt 70° without falling. 5. while another two are fastened down at the base and alternately pulled forward. Upright transportation avoids the need to take a standing statue at the quarry. Fig. A 4 m (13 ft) statue of 9 tons was also moved in this way. 5. the other team pulls the left-hand side of the base forward before the giant tips back again.4 .8 m (9 ft) statue of 4 or 5 tons was moved using this method.4 Tilt-and-swivel technique. The teams then change sides. causing the statue to walk by wriggling forward from side to side. Two ropes are attached to the top of the statue and used to pull it to each side alternately. making half turns on their round bases’. As one team pulls on the top rope to make the statue tilt to the right. Mazière was told by a native that ‘the statues moved standing upright. and many researchers believe that this is the method being referred to. It could therefore have been moved 200 m per day. Czech engineer Pavel Pavel discovered that statues can be moved upright. they can in fact be made to ‘walk’. In one experiment on the island.

The results might be entertaining. a 10-ton. and few people.During experiments conducted by geologist Charles Love in Wyoming. Van Tilburg. Fig. until many of those erected on platforms have the edges of their bases completed rounded off from wear. timber. There are unconfirmed reports from fishermen that submerged moai have been seen on the seabed. but the farther away from the quarry they are. the statue could simply be turned round and moved backwards. Heyerdahl disagreed: he argued that statues that have not travelled far from the quarry have perfectly flat bases. and ropes available. Some researchers think that the tilt-and-swivel technique was probably used only for moving very short distances or for final positioning. 4-m replica statue. and requires little wood. It has been suggested that some figures might even have been transported 500 m to the shore and then floated on timbers or rafts around the coast to the platforms. but chips came off the front of its base. (courtesy of Charlie Love) The general view is that different transportation techniques were used according to the size and stye of figure. not much rope. Love’s team found that if they placed a statue upright on two logs carved into sledge runners. and then raised it onto a track of small wooden rollers. and the figure toppled over twice. the distance to be travelled. Many researchers say that the bases of the statues do not show the amount of wear expected from this technique. on the other hand. it could be moved 45 m in 2 minutes using 25 men and 2 ropes. says that both this method and the tiltand-swivel method are incredibly dangerous: ‘The logistics of any upright method suggested to date are daunting-to-impossible on the rolling Rapa Nui terrain. If the statues were moved upright. 5. and the manpower. . At several points around the coast there are lava-flow causeways and paved ramps. equivalent to the smallest 20% of the moai. On the descending side of the slope. was moved by crews of 14 to 21 men. they would not have toppled over on a gentle slope of 10 or 12 degrees as they have a slightly forward-slanting base – stones had to be placed under some of those on reconstructed platforms to prevent them leaning forward.’5 These two methods have yet to be tried out with taller statues on steep slopes. Some see this as the most efficient method for long-distance transportation: it causes no damage. the more convex their bases become.5 Sledge-and-roller method.

but the furthest image is the largest to have been moved (36 ft 4 in). Fig. It is not as regular as the south road. in .6 Many researchers disagree with Routledge and believe that all the statues found between the quarry and platforms were in the process of being moved. however. 5. and a platform on the south coast was approached by an avenue with 5 or 6 statues. It has only 4 statues covering a distance of about a mile. excavation of 10 m and 20 m stretches has revealed how they were cleared. and has 14 statues. most over 20 ft tall and some over 30 ft. cut. focusing on the three main roadways plus several branch roads. Charles Love has examined about 20 km of the 40 km of roads built from Rano Raraku. there are signs that some of the statues on the southeastern side of Rano Raraku may have been on a fourth road along that side beneath the cliff. Another road ran through a gap in the crater wall toward the western part of the island. Geologist Christian O’Brien. with one or two gaps. on each of which the pilgrim was greeted at intervals by a stone giant guarding the way to the sacred mountain. graded and. as did some of the upright statues at the foot of Rano Raraku. The southern road can be traced from Rano Raraku. but at very irregular intervals.2 Some of them stood on stone pavements. They were revealed when the level rays of the sinking sun showed up inequalities in the ground. nearly to the foot of Rano Kao.Roads Katherine Routledge discovered three main roads. Flenley and Bahn describe his preliminary findings as ‘startling’: [The roads] traverse old basalt flows and the shallow valleys between them. Fallen statues lie along certain parts of the roads.’1 In addition. felt that at least 56 of the 61 statues now found scattered on and off old roads in the island’s interior are in the place intended for their erection. each about 3 m wide. which grow further apart as the distance from the mountain increases. and have a basic cut-and-fill construction. 29 fallen statues lie scattered along it. The third road runs in a northerly direction and is much shorter than the other two. branching out from Rano Raraku. Routledge wrote: ‘Rano Raraku was therefore approached by at least three magnificent avenues.

which seem to be kerbstones set into the backfill. The roads were cunningly contrived to represent the plan of the web of the grey and black-pointed spider. and it is clear that a great deal of cooperative labour was required for these roads – in the valleys. spirals. It is known as Ara Mahiva... We do. as steep as a house roof. ara meaning ‘road’ and Mahiva being the name of the spirit or deity believed to have made it.. Some stretches of road were carved into the surface of the higher basalt flows. they add: [W]e need to go back to the drawing board. zigzags. which was recited independently by two islanders. though the existing roads could have formed part of it. No network of this kind is visible today. this one living in the aboriginal homeland (Hiva) ‘where the black and whitepointed spider would have mounted to heaven.. with paths cut into a shallow V or a broad U shape.. filled with soil. find an intriguing correspondence in Peru. and scraping off the surface layer of the earth. an unidentified beaked creature. near the top a statue was lying. There are also outline drawings of faunal species – some of them hundreds of feet in extent – including a spider monkey. there are traces of a different track which is said to run round the whole seaboard of the island.3 Furthermore. . Katherine Routledge relates the following anecdote: We were once inspecting an ahu built on a natural eminence. To draw . the land was crossed with roads beautifully paved with flat stones. a pavement was made. The road showed up as a continuous furrow: on the northern and western coasts it runs for much of the way along cliff tops. Various grades up and down slopes were cut and filled to help the statue movers. a condor. because researchers have always assumed that the island’s roadbed surface was flat and the road horizontal. the other was a slope of 29 ft. The most intelligent of our guides turned to me significantly.6 According to this legend.’5 This road is referred to in a rongorongo tablet known as Apai. none of the moai-moving theories or experimental methods presented so far can cope with the structure of the roads he [Love] has excavated! The cut parts of the road are not conducive to rollers or tilting a statue along.. apparently to facilitate the movement of Paro through a section of rough bedrock. and any contraption used would have to accommodate both the flat fill surfaces and the V-shaped surfaces. It contains the following: When the island was first created and became known to our forefathers. the fill construction can be built up to a metre or more with layers of clayey soil to make a flat surface about 5 m wide. however. and a Ricinulei spider. and it runs up both the eastern and western edges of Rano Kao. up and down steep hills and over rough and stony ground. one side was sheer cliff. rather than cut into bedrock). while others have numerous post holes dug into bedrock outside the kerbstones – presumably to accommodate some kind of contraption for pulling and prising the statue and its framework forward in places . Regarding the methods used to transport the statues. Heke was the builder of these roads. So the mystery of statue transportation remains intact . In at least one area. about 5. and geometrical figures. drawn on the surface of the desert by removing the mass of volcanic pebbles and boulders. where there is no trace of any road at all. a gigantic lizard. and it was he who sat in the place of honour in the middle where the roads branched in every direction.5 m wide and 30 cm deep (though in other places the roads seem half-worn in the ground surface. and no man could discover the beginning or end thereof.. but then comes a reference to a different ‘spider’.many places. radiating out from a central point. Such features seem most common where the roadway slopes upwards. the island once had a network of roads resembling a spider’s web.’ he said. perhaps Rano Raraku. ‘that that was not done by mana?’4 Routledge points out that besides the ceremonial roads and their continuations. The Nazca Plain is covered with numerous straight lines. but was prevented by the bitterness of the cold’. ‘Do you mean to tell me. the fragile statues were transported to many distant ahu. Some segments of road have long rock alignments along the shoulders. but . Routledge comments: ‘This silent witness to a forgotten past is one of the most mysterious and impressive things on the island. apparently to avoid a flat surface. At this point the recitation was interrupted because of unintelligible text in another language..

and they had it standing in only 18 days. during Heyerdahl’s expedition in 1956. but it is thought that if the figures arrived upright at their platforms. large scars were caused. by being titled first one way and then the other. as stones or logs were inserted beneath them. . Twelve islanders used two wooden poles to raise it 3 m onto its platform by gradually slipping rocks underneath. The first to be re-erected was a medium-sized (20 ton) statue at Ahu Ature Huki. the artist used a single line which turns and weaves but never crosses itself.8 Re-erecting the statue at Ahu Ature Huki. Anakena. 5. Massive ramps do not seem to have been used to raise the statues onto platforms.1 Since the levers were used against the statue itself. Raising the statues and headdresses All the statues standing on platforms today have been re-erected during restoration work over the past 50 years. All experiments to date have involved horizontal statues. they could have been raised in the same gradual way. Fig. this would have involved colossal amounts of extra labour. Fig.7 The Nazca spider. it was drawn so that no one could discover where the line began or ended – just like the web of roads referred to in the rongorongo text. including the giant spider. 5.most of the animal glyphs. said by some researchers to represent Orion. in other words.

According to legend. Some researchers see them as a sign of continuing rivalry between villagers or kingroups. they are believed to be a late addition.The pukao – the headdress or ‘topknot’ – is a soft red-scoria cylinder quarried from the small crater at Puna Pau. No one has yet given a practical demonstration of this. nearly all of them are now carved with petroglyphs. and no traces of tracks leading out of the crater and across the rugged volcanic terrain have been found. Fig. associated only with statues on the largest and most important platforms. They range from 6 to 9 ft in diameter. are 4 to 8 ft high. Since only about 60 statues have them. The headdresses seem to have been reworked on reaching the platforms. 5. As at Rano Raraku. they were moved by mana. Some were carved to a more elliptical cross-section. while others have a narrower knob at the top. as about 30 cylinders lie inside or just outside the quarry. . some of the Anakena statues have tenons on their heads to fit these mortises. but the conventional view is that they were rolled out of the quarry and over the hilly terrain to their destinations using levers. work at Puna Pau seems to have ceased unexpectedly. Some take the form of a truncated cone. and weigh up to 20 tons.9 Interior of Puna Pau. and a shallow mortise was made in the base.

and not without difficulty.7 m high. but this is generally considered to be far too risky. Placing the headdresses on top of the statues’ heads was a tremendous feat of engineering. 1. Some scholars have proposed that the cylinders were lashed to the statues and both were raised together. and had to be raised 10 metres into the air. weighs about 11.12). 5. however.2 It should be borne in mind. . Captain Cook suggested that ramps and scaffolding were used. Experiments by Pavel Pavel show that some pukao may have been put in position by gradually pulling them up sloping beams of wood. 5.5 tons.11). measures almost 2 m across.10 Pukao outside the crater. Those to be seen today on restored statues were all put there by cranes (fig. that Paro’s monstrous pukao. A concrete pukao.Fig. which was by no means the biggest. 5. 1 m in diameter and weighing 900 kg. was raised onto the top of a 3 m concrete moai by only 4 men in 6 hours (fig.

11 . 5.Fig.

3 . which means ‘topknot’. Ancientastronaut enthusiast Erik Von Däniken saw them as space helmets! The islanders call them pukao. or crowns. red was associated with ritual and chiefly power. in the Marquesas. a male hairstyle common on Rapa Nui when Europeans first visited the island. baskets. all island traditions agree that it was the head that bore mana.13). Jean-Michel Schwartz held that the pukao were a sign of knowledge. the reddish cylindrical headdresses have been regarded as hats. 5. 5. and the seat of the mystical force known as mana. and red feathers were identified with the spiritual power of the gods.12 In the past. and some believe the pukao may have had a similar meaning.Fig. a red feather headdress worn by warriors. Throughout Polynesia. and the present consensus is that this is what they represent (fig. a great stone was placed on the image of a dead man as a sign of death and mourning. Flenley and Bahn believe that they are a stylized version of the hau kurakura. However.

Flenley and Bahn. 198. The Shining Ones. 2. In conclusion. www. Heyerdahl. Easter Island: The mystery solved. 1997. Heyerdahl. 2. The Mysteries of Easter Island. 510. 5. Kemble. http://davidpratt. The Shining Ones. p. 144. Easter Island: The mystery solved. Christian and Barbara Joy O’Brien. pp. 107. p. Lost Cities of Ancient Lemuria & the Pacific. 1988. Easter Island: The mystery solved. p. pp. Thor Heyerdahl. pp. despite the numerous theories that have been put forward regarding the carving. Jean-Michel Schwartz. section 5.htm. Ibid. 1975.Fig. 4. David Hatcher Childress. 16. Katherine Routledge. 113. New York: Avon. we are still very far indeed from having solved all the mysteries. 204-6. The Mystery of Easter Island. and despite the numerous experiments that have been carried out. IL: Adventures Unlimited Press. 1969. 1998 (1919). Francis Mazière. 5. 131-3. 319-20. 3. 240. Raising the statues and headdresses 1. p. 134-5. 2. New York: Random House. 2002. Stelle. Kempton. See ‘Gravity and antigravity’. and erection of the statues and their headdresses. pp. IL: Adventures Unlimited Press. p. 3. 197-8.html. p. 509.13 An islander with a topknot. transportation. 199. 5. Roads 1. 111. p. pp. New York: Oxford University Press.pbs. . The Enigmas of Easter Island. London: Collins. pp. 6. The Enigmas of Easter Island. Mysteries of Easter Island. Cirencester: Dianthus Publishing.org/wgbh/nova/easter/move/past. References 1. John Flenley and Paul Bahn. 3.info/gravity.. 4. The Mystery of Easter Island. 1989.

000 cubic metres of rock and earth fill. weighing an estimated 2000 tons. A few were built inland but most are situated around the coast. for which no mortar was used. Some required the moving of 300 to 500 tons of stone. A few platforms seem to have been built to contain burials. 6. and some as many as eight. bodies were interred in stone-lined tombs in the platforms and ramps. After the moai had been toppled. though some archaeologists regard the association of the dated material with the . whereas elaborate cremation pits have been found behind the central platform at many complexes. usually at sheltered coves and areas favourable for human habitation. bodies were placed around the fallen moai or on other parts of ramps and then covered with stones. statue-bearing platforms. at Tahai. but most image platforms show evidence of more than one construction phase. and also as boundary markers. No early skeletons have been discovered. where cremation was not practised. Seaward walls often consist of uncut stones. Based on radiocarbon dating. in contrast to the rest of central and eastern Polynesia. but sometimes they consist of precisely carved and fitted blocks. Platforms Easter Island has at least 313 ceremonial platforms or ahu – open-air temple sanctuaries erected in honour of the gods and deified ancestors. but this does not seem to have been the original function of the image platforms. but others are remarkable pieces of massive communal engineering. and seem to have been designed purely for burial purposes. is dated at 690 AD. Fig. Semi-pyramidal platforms were the last type of ahu to be built: they were usually superimposed on the earlier. At a later stage. Some platforms seem to have been built in a single episode.6. paved with lines of beach boulders and sloping down to an artificially levelled plaza. 150 m (500 ft) or more long and up to 7 m (23 ft) high. Less than 75 are known.1 Plan of an image platform. Some ahu are quite small. They are composed of a rubble core faced with masonry. while the Tahai complex comprised three structures requiring 23. the earliest structure. compared with more than 125 image platforms. On the landward side was a ramp. Platforms served as social and religious centres. though a few are located on cliff edges.

1 The best facade slabs commonly weigh 2 or 3 tons. Cyclopean masonry The finest platform masonry.2 Fig. 6. they are as carefully tooled. These blocks are too huge to have been shifted frequently to let the mason find out whether they fitted or not.2 The seaward wall at Ahu Tahiri. while one at Ahu Vai Mata is 3 by 2 m (10 by 6 ft). and the irregularities of their sides that have to come together are so cut that the two faces exactly fit into each other. . Sacsayhuaman. John Macmillan Brown writes: The colossal blocks are tooled and cut so as to fit each other. Every angle and projection must have been measured with scientific precision before the stones were nearing their finish. that turn the edge of the toughest modern steel’. and to have lasted until well into the 16th century. Vinapu. The cyclopean masonry of Ahu Vinapu and certain other platforms is reminiscent of that of ‘Incan’ (or rather pre-Incan) monuments to be found at Cuzco. Machu Picchu.5 by 1. In the Ahu Vinapu and in the fragment of the ahu near Hangaroa beach the stones are as colossal as in the old Temple of the Sun in Cuzco. They must have been cut and tooled to exact measurement or plan.5 ft) and weighs 6 or 7 tons. and weighs 9 or 10 tons. consists of ‘enormous squared and tooled stones.7 m (8 by 5. Ollantaytambo. There is no evidence of chipping after they have been laid. and Sillustani in Peru.structure as extremely doubtful. originally one course higher.1 Platform building is generally believed to have become an obsession by 1200. such as that found at Ahu Tahiri (one of the two ahu at Vinapu). At Vinapu one of the polished basalt slabs measures 2.

perfectly fitted. . 6. Although the Incas were excellent stone masons. Cuzco. On the basis of carbon dating.3 Details of the seawall. the oldest. whereas Easter Island had similar dressed stonework before AD 1200 and therefore could not have been influenced by South America in this respect! However. 6.4 Part of the cyclopean fortress at Sacsayhuaman. megalithic masonry is found on a far vaster scale and the polygonal blocks often have far greater dimensions. cyclopean masonry at Sacsayhuaman could be hundreds of thousands of years old! Fig. orthodox researchers claim that the accurate mortarless fitting of large polygonal blocks began in Peru after AD 1440. they used small rectangular blocks.Fig. For all anyone knows. polygonal construction. larger. In Peru. there is not a scrap of hard evidence to support the claim that magnificent colossal structures like the ‘fortress’ at Sacsayhuaman just outside Cuzco were built by the Incas just a few hundred years ago. Layers of Incan masonry can often be seen on top of the earlier.

The same method has been used to date the beginning of the classic construction phase at Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) to AD 800. however. Detailed examinations during Heyerdahl’s first expedition led to the conclusion that ‘Vinapu 1’ or Tahiri (the structure with the classical stone masonry) belonged to the earliest building period (which in Heyerdahl’s view still meant the 8th century AD). near Lake Titicaca. The modern orthodox view. 6. There are signs of different stages of ahu construction at Vinapu. and that the platform had twice been rebuilt and added to by far less capable architects. The practice of dating stone structures by carbon dating organic remains found in association with them can obviously lead to flawed results. is that Vinapu 1 dates to AD 1516.Fig.5 Masonry similar to that at Vinapu can be found at Sillustani. contrary to all previous theories. So we’re supposed to believe that both the most outstanding masonry on the island and the shoddy semipyramidal platforms belong to the same late phase of the island’s history! . Peru. typically east Polynesian facing of vertical slabs – is earlier (AD 857). But the fact that the site was inhabited at that time does not preclude the possibility that some of the original structures were built ages earlier. whereas Vinapu 2 – a structure displaying a rougher.

A block in one corner of the Vinapu wall has a projecting knob – just like many large blocks in Peru. there are also striking similarities with the pre-Incan Andean style of masonry. The corners of the seawall are rounded. the Easter Island walls are merely a facing of slabs that mask a rubble core.6 Aerial view of fallen moai at Ahu Tahiri. a connoisseur of Tiwanaku. The blocks are irregularly shaped. again as in the Andes. Prof. with slightly bevelled edges. fit together with the utmost precision.3 (courtesy of John Flenley) The official position is that all Easter Island’s platforms are simply variations of the marae platforms of central and eastern Polynesia. unlike the solid block construction used in Peru. Each slab is convex or pillow-shaped. which were socio-religious centres and shrines to ancestral gods.Fig. and small holes or chinks are filled with perfectly fitted stones. and stones with projecting edges are fitted into stones with receding edges.’4 .and ‘Inca’-type masonry writes: ‘Ahu Vinapu is an architectonic construction which combines the essential characteristics of the structures in the Altiplano of Peru-Bolivia in a manner so evident that one cannot doubt the arrival on the island of a contingent of these people. and its entire face is in fact slightly convex. Vinapu’s megalithic stone wall is said to bear only a superficial resemblance to the classic ‘Incan’ masonry because. 6. However. Camila Laureani.

. 6. Captain Cook was particularly impressed by the huge wall of perfectly dressed megaliths at Hanga Roa. many other platforms have perfectly-fitted stone masonry.Fig.5 The wall was unfortunately destroyed by European settlers in a futile attempt to build a harbour. such as the 3-m-high seawalls of Ahu Tepeu and Ahu Vai Mata. which he compared to the wall at Vinapu. Although no cement was used. The outer surface of the upright stones in the latter two ahu. In addition to Ahu Tahiri. like that of the slabs used in Ahu Tahiri. with enormous stones mortised and tenoned into one another. is pillow-shaped.7 Megalithic seawall of Ahu Tepeu. the joints were exceedingly tight.

Thomson. that later suffered the same fate. though they are not perfectly fitted.6 Fig. known as Ahu Oahu. The central stone weighed an estimated 6 tons. who spent 12 days on the island in 1886. and are also found in the Ahu Nau Nau platform there. 2.9 Drawing of Ahu Oahu. Another impressive platform stood nearby. which has been dismantled. but it later fell into the sea. 6. On the high plateau of the north coast Thomson’s party saw another ahu.8 m high and 69 m long. described an ahu with a record number of 16 fallen statues that lay on an inaccessible terrace halfway up the cliffs east of Rano Kao. . William J. The upper row of stones has been turned over sideways to make a firm support for a later statue. superior platform used to exist there. This suggests that another. Cut stone blocks of megalithic proportions are found scattered around at Anakena.8 Huge stones in the seawall of Ahu Vai Mata. His drawing of this ahu shows the same masonry technique admired by Captain Cook’s party in Hanga Roa and Vinapu.Fig 6.

Excavations of the earth-covered pyramidal mound at Akapana in Tiwanaku have shown it to be a terraced pyramid from long before the age of the Incas. this type of masonry was unmistakably an Early Period product that had been buried in silt before the Middle Period ahu was erected.7 Heyerdahl adds that the widespread belief that the splendid walls in Peru date from the late Inca period has been disproved. and that the Incas learned the craft of masonry from their predecessors in Tiwanaku. Trenches sunk along the landward side also uncovered a beautiful wall of megalithic slabs. one that had been dismantled by man or destroyed by nature. perfectly hewn and fitted. According to Heyerdahl. which was radiocarbon dated to AD 850. A neatly fitted pavement made of boulders was found 7 ft below the surface. but it is typical of the megalithic walls of South America. excavations were carried out on the landward side of Ahu Nau Nau. they had then been reworked to fit them together according to another plan. .Fig 6. During Heyerdahl’s expedition in 1987. Three feet below it. a layer of soil full of human refuse was found. and although perfectly polished and joined in the original wall. just as on Easter Island. It is faced with accurately hewn and artistically jointed blocks. Note the inclusion of a moai head. This buried wall was clearly older than the Middle Period walls visible above ground. The slabs had been dragged to this place from another site. This discovery demolished the popular theory that such walls had appeared at a late stage on Easter Island and represented the high peak of local evolution due to the lack of timber.10 The seawall of Ahu Nau Nau shows at least six stages of construction. A closer inspection proved that these fine slabs had been part of an even older structure originally existing elsewhere. Nothing like it has been found on a single island in the whole of Polynesia.

.11 Megalithic walls at Anakena (above) and Tiwanaku (below). 6.Fig.

Raa means ‘sun’ in the island’s language. the crater lakes . Its seven hatless moai stand about 16 ft tall and weigh about 18 tons each. so that the moai faced the rising or setting sun at the solstices or equinoxes. and Ura-o-Hehe (red setting sun).12 Ahu Akivi was one of the few platforms built inland. especially the winter solstice. its mythical past. Graham Hancock points out that Ra. whereas Ahu Vinapu 2 marks the summer solstice. There were clans called Raa. The inland ahu with astronomical orientation are generally linked with the solstices. and its cosmology. though the moai of Ahu Akivi face the setting sun at the equinoxes. the name of the Egyptian sun god.1 Fig. 6. Astronomically oriented ahu along the coast tend to be positioned so that the moai look straight east or west.Astronomical alignments Around 20 ahu appear to have been oriented astronomically. Hitti-ra (sunrise). This is true of Ahu Tahiri (Vinapu 1). appears frequently in connection with Easter Island’s sacred architecture.

6. 20 or 30 cm wide.5 to 2. and Rano Raraku. The season for the summer paina ceremony honouring the dead depended on the position of the three stars of Orion’s Belt. and Ahu Ra’ai was aligned to two volcanic peaks to act as a marker and observatory for the path of the sun on the December solstice. Detailed observations at the solstices and equinoxes showed that the four holes constituted a sunobservation device. narrow houses resembling an upturned canoe. the blocks had to be hewn to the correct curvature. which are said to have represented a star map. or ‘rock where they watched the stars’. into which the islanders inserted thin branches to support the arched reed roof. the tangata rani.3 At Orongo. and at least 50 cm high. incised with a spiral design. the largest weigh up to 10 tons. Near the eastern extremity of the Poike headland she was shown a large flat rock called papa ui hetu’u. Rano Aroi. but others only half a dozen. The dwellings varied enormously in size.13 Hare-paenga foundations. there are four small holes pecked through the bedrock just beside an ahu. Small holes were bored in their upper surfaces.2 Traditions state that ages ago there existed on the island a brotherhood of ‘learned men who studied the sky’. Nearby there is another engraved stone on which 10 cupshaped depressions are visible. Katherine Routledge was taken to a northwest facing cave near Ahu Tahi and told it had been ‘a place where priests taught constellations and the ways of the stars to apprentices’. To make the pointed ends the right shape. The stones measure 0.are named Rano Kao. some could house more than 100 people. with a single narrow doorway in the middle of one side. . The foundation stones of these elliptical houses were made of cut basalt. Hare paenga Hare paenga are long. Fig. on the edge of Rano Kau crater.5 m long.

tooled to perfection. and ‘were evidently intended by their original architects to bear the framework of great structures’. says Heyerdahl. Graham Hancock says that the ahu poepoe and the ‘boat house’ foundations are reminiscent of the ‘boat graves’ associated with pyramids and tombs in ancient Egypt – which might be stone or brick replicas of boats or full-sized sailing vessels. The best example. .1 Fig.’ The stones are of the hardest basalt. graceful curves and high polish that our engineers refused to believe that such work was possible without the modern lathe’. 21 m long and 4 m high. ‘to carry its deceased passengers to some far away coast’. stone-lined. ‘were so perfectly formed and balanced. He came in the ship . some traditions refer to them as ‘boats of bones’ and associate them with a builder-god named Nuku Kehu who came to Easter Island with Hotu Matua. 6. fig. with the bow elevated over a metre above the stern. But were the paenga stones originally intended for the foundations of thatched houses? As John Macmillan Brown said: ‘The timbers of their houses look ridiculous alongside the cyclopean stone-foundations. 6. An Easter Island legend about the god-king Hotu Matua says: ‘He came down from heaven to earth . only that they were reused in walls of a later period.4 These have not been found on other Polynesian islands. since they were often reused in later platform walls (they can be seen stacked on Ahu Tepeu. lies just west of Anakena close to the ocean. There are also seven boatshaped platforms known as ahu poepoe. ‘as if it were ready’. boat-shaped enclosure immediately to the landward side was discovered. Thor Heyerdahl mentions that the excavation of the pre-Inca image platforms at Tiwanaku has uncovered stones remarkably like the paenga of Easter Island (fig. which were used as tombs. into the small holes in which they were stuck.13). with the slender lines. We do not know what they were originally used for.’2 During Heyerdahl’s excavations at Ahu Nau Nau. Although archaeologists assume that all such structures are the foundations of boat-shaped houses. He also says: ‘It is difficult to understand how they bored the inch-deep holes for the wooden posts in the adamantine basalt of the foundation stones. The ancient Egyptian funerary and rebirth texts describe the souls of deceased kings passing between earth and heaven in such boats..14 Tiwanaku.’3 Other noteworthy examples of exquisite craftsmanship are popoi pounders which. 6.7). comments Father Sabastian Englert.The foundation stones must date to an early period of the island’s history. an enormous... which the first European explorers never saw being used and which the natives refused to part with.. He also mentions examples of exquisitely fashioned basalt fish hooks.

The possibility that more advanced tools and methods were used at certain times for some of this immense labour cannot be ruled out.15 Basalt fish hook. huge amounts of rock had to be hacked away around each one of them.16 Is this how all the carving was done?1 . The basalt mystery To carve the moai statues. Fig. 6.Fig. In theory. 6. this work could have been done using the basalt picks that have been found in abundance at the Rano Raraku quarry – though no one in modern times has felt like demonstrating how a complete statue can be carved by such arduous and primitive means.

43-4. John Flenley said he had no idea. 25. John Macmillan Brown.. I think. and many more platforms were constructed from blocks of black basalt of a similar type.2 m wide. The Riddle of the Pacific. José Miguel Ramírez and Carlos Huber. and this also applies to the shaping and boring of the basalt hare-paenga foundation blocks. it has a rectangular bottom. 3. Ibid.7 m deep. 1996 (1924). 1989. the problem of working basalt does not merit a single mention anywhere in their informative but conservative book! When asked by email how the basalt was cut. and the carving of several thousand petroglyphs in relief on tough basalt rock. as in the case of statue carving. there are no genuine mysteries. John Flenley and Paul Bahn. What tools were used for this purpose? And have any experiments been conducted to test the proposed methods. Obviously the basalt can only have been worked with stone of equal or greater hardness. The reason no one has ever conducted any experiments to see whether basalt can be precision-cut using basalt tools is very simple: no one is dumb enough to even try! The Poike ditch is a deep and possibly entirely artificial ditch separating the eastern headland from the rest of the island. Although largely filled with silt today. plate xiii. 230-1. which can only mean basalt from the island.5 km long. the cutting away of basalt to make the roads. The working of basalt poses problems of an altogether different magnitude than the softer volcanic rock found at Rano Raraku. most ahu blocks are ‘of a vesicular basalt that European masons would find hard to work even with tools toughened by admixture of the rare metals’. a considerable period appears to have elapsed during which a layer of inwash from the surrounding area. many have retaining walls made of skilfully cut and fitted blocks. weighing from 2 to 20 tons. New York: Oxford University Press. Believing however that the masons had nothing but clumsy stone tools at their disposal. partial reexcavation took place. but exactly when is unclear. and Paul Bahn replied: ‘a good question. raising. pp. p. about 12. 2. IL: Adventures Unlimited. pp. the carving of basalt statues. 3. and transportation? John Flenley and Paul Bahn argue that although there are still plenty of ‘intriguing questions’ to be answered about Easter Island. The tough basaltic rock removed could easily have supplied building blocks for all the platforms on the island with cyclopean masonry. Quoted in Thor Heyerdahl. aided by sand and water.4 References 1.’2 But as Macmillan Brown pointed out. Carbon dates obtained so far do not tell us when the trench was first excavated. 2000. . The Enigmas of Easter Island. though. Kempton. Easter Island: Rapa Nui. though that doesn’t stop them entitling their book: The Enigmas of Easter Island.8 m thick. There is evidence that some time after the original cutting. and is about 3. and is unlikely to have been chipped out with small basalt picks! After the initial excavation of the lower trench through the lava flow. Ahu Tahiri. and one which. ‘must have taken a workman with his stone implements. p. Cyclopean masonry 1.Although the platforms are mainly composed of unworked basalt blocks. 1. at least 1. he says that each of the scores of immense shaped stones. Alvimpress Impresores. The ditch was a considerable feat of excavation. New York: Random House. has never really been tried out with experiments. years to cut and groove’. a land of rocky dreams. Ibid. only that it could have been no later than 200 AD – and possibly ages earlier. 5. Easter Island: The mystery solved.. pp. Carving these slabs would have been a tremendous undertaking. that such skilled work would have been undertaken with such patently inadequate tools. 4. Interestingly. Ahu Tongariki. 257-8. accumulated in the ditch. 2002.3 It seems unlikely.

The Riddle of the Pacific. Some signs also survive on paper in makeshift ‘books’ from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 1958. pp. Thor Heyerdahl. 1997. Aku-Aku: The secret of Easter Island. 3. 53. Heaven’s Mirror. The Riddle of the Pacific. pp. birds.. Cirencester: Dianthus Publishing. and geometrical shapes – but these are combined to form between 1500 and 2000 compound signs. Ramírez and Huber. but none are found on any statues or platforms. 4. London: George Allen & Unwin. 7. London: Michael Joseph. 3. plants. Catherine and Michel Orliac. 2. p. London: Thames and Hudson. Christian and Barbara Joy O’Brien. The Shining Ones. Kempton. 110. 2. Easter Island: The mystery solved. 518. 242. Hancock and Faiia. 7. Kemble. 56-7. Ibid. 2. Katherine Routledge. Hare paenga 1. 162. Ibid. 230. pp. p. The basalt mystery 1. The Silent Gods: Mysteries of Easter Island. 105-7. Rongorongo Even orthodox researchers have to admit that the Easter Island script – Rongorongo – constitutes a genuine enigma. 3. pp. 233. 114. 233. Emails of 24 May 2004. Astronomical alignments 1. p. 1998.. Easter Island: The mystery solved. p. Graham Hancock and Santha Faiia. celestial objects.6. pp. . 1998 (1919). 4. The glyphs contain about 120 basic elements – human figures in a variety of positions. Heaven’s Mirror: Quest for the lost civilization. 235. 6-7. though other tablets might still be hidden in the island’s sacred family caves. p. 241. Many of the motifs are also found in the island’s rock art. pp. Easter Island. The Mystery of Easter Island. Brown. Heyerdahl. IL: Adventures Unlimited Press. p. Rongorongo now survives only as markings on 25 pieces of wood scattered around the world’s museums. Brown. 340. animals. p. 1995. 2.

plus a means of keeping count. The precise nature of the rongorongo script is uncertain. Each sign was a peg on which to hang a large amount of text committed to memory. like rosary beads. the writing proceeds from left to right but at the end of each line the tablet has to be turned round. but are ‘cue cards’ for whole words or ideas. as in other scripts. In other words. when a written proclamation of annexation was . the individual glyphs do not represent an alphabet or even syllables.1 According to legend. The prevailing view today is that the motifs represent a rudimentary phonetic writing system. genealogical tables. 7. Alternate lines are written upside down. starting from the bottom lefthand corner of a tablet.Fig. This means that. and other records of the past. in which picture symbols were used to express ideas as well as objects. and he was accompanied by learned men who knew the art of writing and reciting the inscriptions. Some researchers have argued that the rongorongo script is not ancient but was invented by the islanders after the Spanish visit in 1770. Hoto Matua brought 67 rongorongo tablets with him containing traditions. with the end of one line running into the beginning of the next – a system known as boustrophedon (‘as the ox ploughs’).1 The writing was inscribed on the rongorongo boards in neat rows a centimetre high.

for instance. one. it is only in Asia that this writing still exists. as are some Greek ones from about the 6th century BC. However. though there might have been some influence in either direction. with its signs reflecting the local environment and culture. The last truly literate islanders died either as a result of the 1862 slave raid or the subsequent smallpox epidemic. consists of a European oar. Steven Fischer announced that most of the tablets were religious chants taking the form: god A copulated with goddess B begetting a particular animal. Of the four parts of the world that were at one time inhabited by the first race. The orthodox view is that any similarities have been exaggerated and are purely coincidental. but there are a few early cases of boustrophedon. who recorded songs by painting on wooden tablets. despite claims to have done so.’5 Interestingly. Some of the symbols used by the natives in signing the proclamation resembled the rongorongo hieroglyphs. for example. Rongorongo specialist Thomas Barthel speculated that the script originated on the Polynesian islands of Huahine or Raiatea and he believed it came to Rapa Nui with Hotu Matua. In the 1930s Guillaume de Hevesy identified similarities between the rongorongo signs and 130 signs used in the at least 4500-yearold script found in the towns of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa in the Indus Valley. plant.4 The Indus Valley script was usually written from right to left. being more interested in the gold frames. Some of the symbols are identical with those of Easter Island. and the script was written in boustrophedon style. which were passed down through the generations of rulers and guarded by learned men. But the inscriptions could have been copied from earlier specimens. Natives who later claimed to be able to read Rongorongo appeared to be either reciting memorized texts or merely describing the figures rather than actually reading them. Conventional researchers believe that the rongorongo script is Polynesian. In 1995. Mohenjo Daro and Easter Island lie almost exactly 180° apart: the former is situated at 27°23'N and about 69°E and the latter at 27°08'S and 109°23'W. Some see far more significant similarities between certain rongorongo motifs and designs employed in the Solomon Islands in Melanesia. They acknowledge that boustrophedon was used in Peru but say that there is no affinity between the signs used in the two places. Even the Incas reportedly had a writing system: their history was recorded on ‘boards’. Putting modern preconceptions aside.offered to the chiefs and priests for them to sign.2 Thor Heyerdahl argued that Rongorongo was related to several South American scripts. or natural phenomenon. The script has still not been deciphered. We’re supposed to believe that the rest of the script was invented later! It’s possible that all the existing rongorongo tablets are no more than a few hundred years old. and sometimes gave different renderings of the same text. He mentioned the pictographic writing of the Cuna Indians of Panama and northwest Colombia. his claims to have deciphered the script have been roundly attacked by other researchers. .3 The Spaniards found some stored in the Temple of the Sun and burned them. It is noteworthy that one Easter Island legend says: ‘The first race invented the Rongo-Rongo writing: they wrote it on stone. though a direct migration from there to Easter Island is no longer considered tenable. Rongorongo may reflect a variety of influences.) The seals used in the Indus Valley were made of soapstone. The writing systems found among early historical (post-Columbian) Aymara and Quechua tribes of the Lake Titicaca area also used boustrophedon. (Some Etruscan and Hittite texts are also written in boustrophedon style.

Jean-Michel Schwartz asserts that there are resemblances not only in the form of the characters.26 Other writers have pointed to resemblances between rongorongo signs and about 40 archaic Chinese ideographs. 7.7 Three symbols of knowledge: Fig.3 .Fig. mostly dating from before the 8th century BC. but also in their meanings. 7.

New York: Oxford University Press. 7. 7.4 Also worthy of mention are the pictographs that have long been known in the Chatham Islands east of New Zealand.000 to 60 million and would have had no use in daily life. John Flenley and Paul Bahn. However. It was used by the young chief of the island and was known only to five people on it. The numbers ranged from 100. It seems unlikely that the Woleai script originated on a small isolated island. Fig. the Woleai script was syllabic.Rongorongo is often said to be the first script to be found in Oceania. 2002. a small island about 160 km to the northeast.4). In 1908 an expedition to Faraulep collected a number of symbols forming part of a counting system. 187. They may have been related to some writing system. . though it was also in use on Faraulep. The Enigmas of Easter Island. References 1. in 1913 John Macmillan Brown found a script of some 60 characters on Woleai Atoll in the Caroline Islands (fig. the island’s early Polynesian inhabitants. but unlike any other in the world.8 Whereas the Easter Island script is largely ideographic. and were said by natives to have long predated the Morioris. p.

. Jacques B. www. 1978. holds that the variety of vegetal species introduced by the initial settlers shows that a systematic. A great deal of excavation work still needs to be done. some native traditions point to pre-Polynesian settlement. 536-7. pp. 52-3. 84. 6.M.). . Some archaeologists suspect that the island must have been settled several centuries earlier. Archaeologist José Miguel Ramírez.R. Ibid. There is clear evidence of different phases of development in statue carving and platform construction. This fits in with the tradition that there had been 57 generations of kings since Hotu Matua.’1 Thor Heyerdahl argued that the island was originally settled by South Americans. pp. Kearsley. however. Glen Arm. Guy. The Mysteries of Easter Island. 1969. the standard view is that Polynesians discovered Easter Island by chance and that after its initial colonization it was not visited by anyone else until the Europeans began to arrive in the early 18th century. and adds: ‘It would also not be logical to hold that this amounted to a single contact with the people involved. and number are unique in the Pacific. allowing an average of 25 years per generation. As Heyerdahl says: ‘Nobody could tell what kind of monuments and information a coat of soil as high as a house might still conceal. Chronology Radiocarbon dating shows that Easter Island was inhabited by 690 AD. www. the evidence is ambiguous but is certainly consistent with some sort of South American influence alongside the prevalent Polynesian influence.com/~trance/rongo2. Ancient Man: A handbook of puzzling artifacts. and the insistence that all the archaeological remains must be crammed into a history spanning just 1500 years is theory-driven. Jean-Michel Schwartz. this takes us back to 450 AD. pp. as mentioned in section 2. 4. Graeme R. London: Yelsraek Publishing. Corliss (comp. Mayan Genesis: South Asian myths. As already explained. 8.rongorongo. At Anakena the present surface of the sandy plains lies 4 m above the bedrock. 5. 207.. 181. However if ‘unacceptably’ early carbon dates were obtained they would most likely be dismissed as ‘contaminated’. 179.netaxs.. 8.’3 Statue carving All Easter Island’s giant statues were supposedly made within the space of a few hundred years. The rongorongo phenomenon is also difficult to fit into conventional theories about Easter Island.’2 Francis Mazière put it in a nutshell: ‘The ground of this island will have to be dug deep to discover the true beginnings . London: Collins. 3. 7. It is significant that the statues do not bear the slightest resemblance to the Polynesians. 1975. migrations and iconography in Mesoamerica. Different phases are clearly discernible. As shown in section 3. Mysteries of Easter Island. The island could have received settlers or visitors from both east and west on many occasions. MD: Sourcebook Project. 616-9. New York: Avon. 93-9.org. appearance. ‘The Easter Island tablets’.html. p. and in terms of size. IL: Adventures Unlimited. p. and centuries later by Polynesians (though probably brought there by South Americans). Kempton. At Rano Raraku the ground on which the giant statues were set up is often 6 m below the present surface. There is of course no evidence – only theories and assumptions – to rule out the possibility that the island was inhabited millennia before this. and may be separated by far longer periods than orthodox opinion allows. 164. John Macmillan Brown. pp. who thereafter remained in absolute isolation until historical times. 2001. planned colonization was involved. and possibly by the 4th century. 1996 (1924). W. The Riddle of the Pacific.2. Francis Mazière.

These are generally thought to be oldest carvings on the island. . Anakena. as these are still found at the quarry. as some have been found buried beneath thick layers of earth.1 Statues on Ahu Nau Nau. and to have preceded the Rano Raraku figures. between about 1 and 2 metres tall. However. there are smaller statues. their arms and hands are atrophied. they no longer have the slender delicacy of the first statues. and may not have been intended to be taken to the island’s platforms. There are in fact striking differences between the statues at Rano Raraku and those that once stood on the platforms around the coast. They are made of red tuff. They have little in common with the giant statues except that they usually hold their hands on their stomachs with their fingers pointing towards one another. Fig. the latter seem to be later: the general appearance remained the same but degeneration had set in: their features are less harsh. earlier era altogether. and also built into later platforms. and they sometimes have no symbols on their backs. The average height of the platform statues is 4 m (13 ft). or the yellowish-grey Rano Raraku stone. As several writers have remarked. It is usually argued that the tallest of the giant statues were the last to be made. restored in 1978. some of them appear to be recarved fragments of Rano Raraku tuff that used to be statues of the classical type. with more rounded and naturalistically-shaped heads that were never designed to wear topknots. 8.In addition to the famous stone giants. So some may be ‘early’ and others ‘late’. black basalt. They have short faces and deep eye cavities. and none have long ears. whereas that of those not on platforms is 6 m (20 ft). But some or all of these may date from another.

Pierre Loti, who visited Easter Island in 1872, assigned the statues standing at Rano Raraku to a very early period. They are the work of less childish artists who knew how to give them an expression. They frighten. ... What human race do they represent, with their pointed noses and their thin lips that show a pout of disdain or mockery? ... According to the tradition conserved by the old people they were earlier than the arrival of their own ancestors. The migrants from Polynesia ... found the island deserted, guarded only by these monstrous visages. ... Gnawed by lichens they seem to have the patina of fifty centuries like our celtic menhirs.1

Fig. 8.2 One of the early, purest statues on the outer slope of Rano Raraku.

Francis Mazière, too, distinguishes between two periods of sculpture. He believed that many of the statues at Rano Raraku, including nearly all the raised statues at the foot of the volcano, belonged to the first period. During a huge excavation at Rano Raraku, he uncovered two 10-m statues, undamaged by erosion, which were completely white and very highly polished. The wings of the nose and the trace of the muscles in the upper lip were handled with striking delicacy and technical skill. Their elegant hands, joined at the height of the navel, in a meditating posture, ended in prodigiously long, tapering nails. The top of their heads was very narrow and clearly not designed for a cylindrical red hat. More such statues were subsequently uncovered.

There are also marked differences among the Rano Raraku statues themselves: in general, the statues inside the crater are smaller and less carefully made than those on the outer slope. Mazière wrote that on the outer slope ‘the great majority of the sculptures are very highly finished, whereas those on the crater side are decadent – much coarser: they are the work of another set of people altogether’. He said that the statues on the inner side of the volcano were of ‘commonplace technique’ and ‘commonplace stone’ – ‘debased copies’ of the outer-slope statues.2

Fig. 8.3 Statues on the inner slope (above) and outer slope (below) of Rano Raraku.

Mazière wondered why the lower statues on the outer slope were covered with rubble and earth, while for over 60 m above them lay other figures, free from the rock and ready to leave their hollows. Either the men had begun by cutting into the cliff at the top and had brought the statues down the slope, in which case the lower statues were inexplicable. Or they had started at the bottom, in which case why had they not taken away the statues that we had just discovered, why was each not taken away as it was finished and ready to go? A more thorough analysis showed us that all the statues carved at the top of the cliff – and this applied to the whole rim – were far less carefully made and above all were cut out of a distinctly poorer stone. They belonged to the second period. This tended to strengthen our opinion: there had indeed been two periods, two migrations, and in between the quarry had been abandoned for years and years. During this time erosion covered the first series of overlapping statues that began at the foot of the cliff. The second migration, seeing the standing giants, took over that splendid art, changing and debasing it. The newcomers built the ahu, and by a curious anomaly they set up these adopted gods on their platforms, in the Polynesian manner.3 But perhaps there have been more than just two migrations and two periods of carving. And why assume that the Polynesians were the first inhabitants of Oceania to set up statues on platforms? If the statues at Rano Raraku were carved at different periods, then the fact that unfinished statues lie all over the inner and outer slopes would mean that work came to a sudden end more than once, indicating that history does indeed repeat itself.

Dating the statues and platforms
During excavations at Rano Raraku, Katherine Routledge noted that thin lines of charcoal, resulting from grass or brushwood fires, were found at various depths and marked old land surfaces, subsequently covered

while others are eaten away and covered with moss. could have been buried deep beneath stone-chippings from an age a thousand years earlier. The natives say. However. then. Heyerdahl’s belief that the finest statues were carved and erected on platforms during the ‘middle period’ was partly based on his interpretation of radiocarbon dates of 1467 and 1206 for two charcoal samples from mounds of quarry cuttings on the flanks of Rano Raraku.D. a section through the mound ‘shows clear evidence of land slip formation with some added dumping of coarse stone debris’.’ And perhaps this is true.2 Fig. which is based on the principle: the deeper the layer. as geologist Christian O’Brien points out. ‘The ones lichen does not grow on are still alive. Referring to the statues standing at the foot of the volcano. He concludes that the erect statues were in place when the charcoal was formed from which the samples were taken: ‘Their carving. the older it is. As already mentioned. This does not automatically prove that they were produced over a long timespan since the volcanic tuff from which they are carved is of uneven quality. by reason of one earth tremor.4 .by later landslips. and this is the only deduction that can be made from the evidence. ± 100 years.’ He says that to work out by how much requires an examination of the state of preservation of the statues and platforms. wind or sand. unchanged by rain. as it is for many objects that are called magical because they receive vibrations and retain them. pre-dates 1476 A. He thought it quite conceivable that charcoal from a fire which occurred in the mid-19th century. Mazière wrote: How long have they stood there? And why are some of them carved from a different stone. 8. one unweathered by the wind? For there they are.1 Many statues are severely weathered and others far less so. These successive descents of earth and debris made it virtually impossible to apply stratigraphic dating. the rock of which some statues are made is extremely hard: one statue was struck with a hoe which rebounded in a shower of sparks.

statues. Hard sandstone and limestone. The megalithic wall found during Heyerdahl’s excavations at Anakena also predates the present platform. and have been exposed to a climate not greatly different from that at Easter Island.4).4 The orthodox position is that the finest masonry dates from the latter part of the ‘middle period’ (1100-1680). and topknots shows skill and willingness to handle large stones at least equal to that of the Early Period’. we could not contemplate any age range less widely spread than 3000 B. If the earliest statues and platforms were in fact the most skilfully made. However. because although the platform builders of the middle period used small. The Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island were certainly capable of building large structures with uncut basalt rocks or rebuilding structures from older cut blocks. while the rest of the carving was buried below it. However. eroded soil. in other parts of the world. the workmanship displayed at Vinapu and other ‘early’ platforms stands in marked contrast to the inferior statues that he assigned to the same period. and its beautifully hewn slabs appear to have originally been part of an older and finer structure.3 Even this estimate may yet turn out be extremely conservative. if this is a measure of the weathering that has taken place over 400 years. but there is no solid evidence that they had the . He concludes that.. It is quite clear that a great many platforms have been rebuilt and modified several times. which must clearly date from a far later time. . a layer of debris. Heyerdahl found the top of the masts above the then ground surface. Knowing the composition and state of preservation of the cyclopean blocks at the Greek sites of Mycenae and Tiryns. for example. Since charcoal layers indicate several former vegetation-covered land surfaces. and wind-blown dust 6 m or more thick has accumulated. subsequent changes in ground level would have proceeded very slowly. stabilizing vegetation cover at worked areas of the slope. Once this had happened. During the carving process and immediately after work was abandoned (which appears to have happened more than once). to the platform at Anakena. Even with metal tools the very precise cutting of such tough basalt would have been a tremendous achievement. Nearby there are smaller statues lying on the surface. the platform masonry of the ‘middle period’ shows neither the technical perfection nor the artistry of the earlier masons. during the past 150 years hardly any silt from the quarry uphill has been deposited. in the quickest and most practical way possible.D. to 500 A. In Heyerdahl’s view. 1100 AD). 8. O’Brien points out that the weathered parts of the masts are only marginally less clear than the parts of the masts which had been buried – probably for at least 400 years. this raises the question of where the unknown sculptors and builders learned their craft. the oldest parts of the ahus could have stood for countless millennia without suffering serious weathering. have survived for millennia with no more weathering than the better Easter Island statues. except as a result of earth tremors and very severe rainfall. Given the toughness of the basalt used to build the platforms (which poses major problems that conservative researchers simply ignore). and the later natives are not known to have had any metal tools.. which is crudely executed and clearly a piece of later graffiti (fig. the shoddy semi-pyramidal platforms were certainly a very late development. there would have been no protective.C. and it is highly unlikely that the finest platform masonry dates from the same period. which are 4000 years old. Heyerdahl assigned the initial construction of the finest ahus to the ‘early period’ (pre-400 AD to c. perhaps 2000 years or more. A further clue to the chronology of Rano Raraku is the fact that since the earliest statues were carved. for both the earliest ahu and the statues. This applies. Careful study of the degree of erosion at different heights of upright statues could shed more light on this matter. ‘their work with statue bases. easily moved and usually uncut stone. the enormous volume of soil and debris around the statues does not seem to have accumulated before vegetation had taken hold. and the evidence suggests that earlier finely carved blocks were fitted together less precisely in later versions of it.One of the statues at Rano Raraku bears a carving of a ship. and those made from igneous rock have survived far longer with scarcely a change. But again there is an incongruity in his position. As regards the platforms. blocks and statues. the deep and extensive weathering of the head must have taken considerably longer. The main aim was to create strong platforms capable of supporting ever taller and heavier statues. burying the raised statues at the foot of the slope up to their necks.

However. They are as grand as they are mysterious. during the Chilean expedition of March 1936. we have no way of knowing for certain what the early Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island were capable of. that the statues range from under 2 m to nearly 22 m in height. but there have been many large-scale eruptions over the past few hundred thousand years.means to precisely cut large basalt blocks themselves.5 Geologists think a minor volcanic eruption may have taken place only 12. Blavatsky adds that most of the gigantic statues discovered on Easter Island are 20 to 30 ft high. was destroyed between 850 and 700 thousand years ago. They seem of one cast though different in features – that of a distinctly sensual type.2 Thus the fact that Blavatsky links Easter Island’s civilization with both the Lemurians and Atlanteans does not mean that its present archaeological remains must be millions of years old! As well as saying that the Easter Island statues represent the last descendants of the Lemurian race. Another example is the following very feeble argument for the existence of a large Pacific continent in the remote past: the present inhabitants of the different island groups in the Pacific tend to speak similar languages and to have similar beliefs and customs. as they did not have the compass or the necessary boats and navigational skills!7 . the most astounding and eloquent memorials of the primeval giants. that have remained unbroken on that island. the main portions of the ancient continental systems of Lemuria and Atlantis sank many millions of years ago (in the late Mesozoic and early to mid-Cenozoic respectively).. Conventional researchers proclaim that it is ‘insulting’ and even ‘racist’ to suggest that the Polynesian ancestors of the present islanders were not responsible for all the archaeological wonders we admire today. She goes so far as to say that the statues could only have been made by giants of the same size as the statues themselves!5* It should be borne in mind. and raising of gigantic statues made of volcanic tuff. yet ‘according to every testimony’ they could never have communicated with one another before the arrival of the Europeans. For instance. As regards the carving. may also belong to a very early period. Ruta.1 According to theosophy. the size of their bodies. as evidence that nothing Blavatsky said on the subject needed to be taken seriously.. some islanders did in fact relate a legend that an ancient race had been wiped out by a cataclysmic eruption of two sacred volcanoes. sank about 270 thousand years ago. a fairly large island in the Indian Ocean.6 But no writer is infallible. and those found by Captain Cook were nearly all 27 ft tall and 8 ft across the shoulders. Blavatsky describes Easter Island as a portion of a submerged Pacific continent. however.4 One of the stanzas of Dzyan states that the Atlanteans built great images 27 ft (8. But much of the work currently attributed to them may belong to long bygone ages.2 m) tall. the basalt hare-paenga foundation stones and basalt statues.3 she writes: The Easter Island relics are . and Daitya. She dismisses the standard view that they were made by the Polynesians and are not very old as ‘one of those arbitrary decisions of modern science which does not carry much weight’. But emotive name-calling hardly amounts to a rational argument! It is commonly said that no volcanic activity has taken place during the human occupation of Easter Island. Poseidonis. As already noted. which was situated in the Atlantic Ocean beyond the Straits of Gibraltar. such as the Atlanteans (the Daityas and ‘Atlantians’) are represented to have in the esoteric Hindu books. about the size of Ireland. since the island’s folklore contains no references to this phenomenon. which were sometimes built into later platforms. together with several inaccurate descriptions of the present archaeological remains on Easter Island (largely the result of Blavatsky using inaccurate contemporary accounts). to recognise in them at a glance the features of the type and character attributed to the Fourth Race giants. but remnants of various sizes are said to have continued to exist for a long time afterwards.000 years ago. Theosophical hints H. The last remaining ‘Atlantean’ island of noteworthy magnitude. was submerged in a great cataclysm in 9565 BC.P. and one has but to examine the heads of the colossal statues. *Katherine Routledge cited this statement. a large island in the Pacific Ocean. moving.

Blavatsky writes: This continent was raised simultaneously with the submersion of the equatorial portions of Lemuria. De Purucker also writes: How about those wonderful platforms out in the Pacific built with uncemented stone. however.12 The last quotation implies that at least some of Easter Island’s statues were immersed in seawater for a considerable period. mute witnesses of a banished knowledge of some kind?16 Ryan points out that whereas the statues could have been sculptured with primitive stone tools. The oldest remains of Cyclopean buildings were all the handiwork of the Lemurians of the last subraces . Therefore..10 Easter Isle . which have stood for ages. and. but it is suggested that the great pyramids. some were carved from very hard volcanic rock.. She goes on to say that the stone relics on Easter Island are in the cyclopean style. This may be regarded as fiction by certain geographers and geologists. belongs to the earliest civilisation of the Third Race. de Purucker stated that he ‘could not accept a very enormous antiquity for the statues. Easter Island was also taken possession of in this manner by some Atlanteans. As already mentioned. How many thousands of years have those platforms on Easter Island stood. unless all the present statues postdate the cataclysm referred to. during the Champlain epoch of northern polar submersion.Blavatsky indicates that Easter Island (i. or that the latter may once have been much harder. were built about three precessional cycles (78. when destroyed in one day by its volcanic fires and lava. the statues had been submerged for a long time. Submerged with the rest.14 No definite age is given for the Sphinx in theosophical literature. settling on the islands.9 Referring to Atlantis. having escaped from the cataclysm which befell their own land. One of such great cities of primitive structure was built entirely of lava. so old that they are not merely weather-beaten but weather-worn. the Sphinx may be about the same age. as a standing witness to the existence of Lemuria. But he admitted that ‘this theory raises other difficulties’.8 She writes: . the land then existing at that location) once formed part of the gigantic Lemurian continent. the statues seem to date from very different eras. The seawall at Vinapu consists of beautifully cut and dressed . probably including all the three main Giza pyramids. included them among their lands and continents . Ages later. whatever the age of that famous monument may ultimately be discovered to be’.. Charles Ryan stated that although most statues were made of friable conglomerate material. a volcanic and sudden uplifting of the Ocean floor. and are disintegrating because they are so old.11 The end of the Champlain was dated in Blavatsky’s time at about 200. some of the Lemurian remains re-appeared again on the face of the Oceans. and was entirely destroyed by a series of volcanic eruptions.000 years ago.000 years ago. as Blavatsky hints. though they might be as old as the Egyptian Sphinx... they would not have been subject to weathering or violence. some thirty miles west from where Easter Island now stretches its narrow piece of sterile ground. He also argued that if. to the Occultists it is history. raised the small relic of the Archaic ages untouched. He thought that the hard ones may be immensely older than those made of soft breccia. the platforms were made of large blocks of adamantine basalt. and have been compared to the temple of Pachacamac in Peru and the ruins of Tiwanaku in Bolivia. settled on that remnant of Lemuria only to perish thereon.13 G. we find the Lemurians in their sixth sub-race building their first rock-cities out of stone and lava.. who.000 years) ago. . the Fourth Race Atlanteans got some of the Lemurian relics... during the precessional cycle that began 87..e. and in the mild climate of the Pacific Isles you can understand that stones would last longer than they would in the northern countries where frost and hot sun and rain and wind and beating sand will wear down rocks easily.. with its volcano and statues.15 Since a temple beside the Sphinx is connected with the Second Pyramid of Giza by a causeway.

p. 3. Heyerdahl. The Mystery of Easter Island. p. pp. Ibid. H. p. 336-7. 1977 (1888). Easter Island: The mystery solved. 2:434-5. New York: Doubleday. 1:439.. 2. Kemble. 3. 92. José Miguel Ramírez and Carlos Huber. 2:788-9. IL: Theosophical Publishing House. pp. 212. IL: Adventures Unlimited Press. and the extremely hard stones must have been cut and tooled to exact measurement with great precision in order to fit so well.17 How could primitive artisans have worked these stones so beautifully – or at all? The Easter Islanders had no metal tools and their small. Thor Heyerdahl. 5. TUP. 2000. 2. 2:224. Blavatsky Collected Writings (vols. 142-3.g. 1:594-5fn. Easter Island: The mystery solved. 7:292-3. 2:331. Theosophical hints 1. a land of rocky dreams.. Isis Unveiled.. 239..blocks. The Theosophical Forum.19 References 1. The Secret Doctrine. Wheaton. H. 2. pp.P. Cirencester: Dianthus Publishing. London: Collins. 2. 290fn. Pasadena. 3. March 1938. Ibid. 1950-85. 6. 1969. Quoted in John Dos Passos. Easter Island: Rapa Nui. 127. CA: Theosophical University Press (TUP). 1971. 1997. pp. . 207-8. Statue carving 1. comparable with the famous casing stones of the Great Pyramid. H.htm. p. while the statues are far more recent – perhaps copies of older ones. 2:339-40. pp.. The Shining Ones. and equal to the finest pre-Incan cyclopean structures in Peru. p. Mysteries of Easter Island. 1972 (1877). New York: Random House.info/continents. and represent the work of the extremely ancient inhabitants of the land of which Easter Island is a remnant. 337. p. Mysteries of Easter Island. Ibid. The ahus are a far greater mystery than the statues so far as their fabrication is concerned. http://davidpratt. 3.P. Easter Island: Island of enigmas. 7. even if it were possible without modern power machinery. The Secret Doctrine. Dating the statues and platforms 1. The Secret Doctrine. Mazière.. 196. 1989. 1-14). weak stone tools would be about as effective as a knitting needle to cut out and shape blocks of the hardest basalt . Alvimpress Impresores. Francis Mazière. 148.18 It is not impossible that the ahus are immensely older than the statues. 513-5. 5. Blavatsky Collected Writings. In some of the ahus the irregularities in shape of the faces of the colossal polygonal stones that meet one another are so cut that the surfaces exactly fit together. Blavatsky. 521. Christian and Barbara Joy O’Brien. The basalt-stones are so hard that they might have been in place for hundreds of thousands of years or more without crumbling .P. E. p. Blavatsky. 4. 127. 4. Mysteries of Easter Island.. 20. There was no mortar to fill gaps. One archaeologist calculated that it would take a man’s life-time to carve one stone of such intractable material. 523-4. but no tools adequate to such a task have been found. See ‘Theosophy and the seven continents’. 331. Mazière. Kempton. The Shining Ones. 1998 (1919). Katherine Routledge. like those at Cuzco in Peru and Cosa in Etruria. 2:316fn.

10. de Purucker. The island is believed to be the summit of an immense mountain formed by the outpouring of molten volcanic rock from the seafloor. pp. 16. pp. pp. Sunken lands .htm. Ryan. May 1946. CA: Wizards Bookshelf. 357. G. The oldest lava flows have been dated at up to 3 million years old.. According to the ruling geological paradigm of plate tectonics.4* *For conversion between ‘scientific’ and theosophical dates.info/pyramid. 234-5. 136. Rano Kau. San Diego. p. Mythical Monsters. Charles Gould. The Theosophical Forum. 11. April 1927. Easter Island has never been part of a sunken continent. Charles J. pp. 2:327-8. Successive ice ages during the Pleistocene have lowered sea level by at least 100 m and possibly far more at times.. The Theosophical Path. 18. 86-96. http://davidpratt. Nov 1925.. Ibid.. a part of a sunken continent. pp. Ibid.info/geochron. Blavatsky1 Read my lips: the islands of Polynesia are not. 98-9fn. 2:323-4.8. it is also situated on the Easter fracture zone.htm. Easter Island – the living and solitary witness of a submerged prehistoric continent in the midst of the Pacific Ocean. 15. 9. However. the platform ends and the ocean floor drops to between 1800 and 3600 m. ‘The latest news from Easter Island’. . p. 477-8. Ryan. May 1946. and Terevaka. May 1946.P. Feb 1949.5 to 5 million years ago. pp. but more recently lower dates of half to threequarters of a million years have been published. Studies in Occult Philosophy. but 15 to 30 km off the coast.3 Some scientists think the earliest lavas of Easter Island (now well below sea level) erupted around 4. 17. Some of the main problems are outlined below. 2:317. 14. 1981 (1886). The Secret Doctrine.. The Theosophical Path. It rests on a submarine platform some 50 or 60 m below the ocean’s surface. also The Theosophical Forum. 2:326-7. nor have they ever been. The Theosophical Forum. Easter Island owes its roughly triangular shape to the three volcanoes located at its corners: Poike. The Theosophical Path. See ‘The Great Pyramid’. The Theosophical Forum. and Easter Island would then have been larger than it is today. the plate-tectonic model is challenged by a mountain of evidence. Charles J. TUP. Nov 1925. Ibid. 233-6. 12. In addition to these main volcanic centres there are at least 70 subsidiary eruptive centres. pp. – A modern ‘expert’2 Easter Island lies some 500 km east of the crest of a submarine mountain range called the East Pacific Rise. Legend describes Easter Island as having once been part of a ‘much larger country’. 233-6. 13. 336-7. ‘New light on Easter Island’. 19. http://davidpratt. 474-82. see ‘Geochronology: theosophy and science’. 1945. 9. – H.

although ignored by the textbooks. These crucial facts – which go largely unmentioned in modern geological textbooks – render the large-scale lateral movement of individual ‘plates’ impossible. Plate tectonics – a dogma in distress Although most earth scientists jumped on the plate-tectonic bandwagon in the 1960s and 70s. Yet. the rocks forming the St. The lithosphere is said to average 70 km in thickness beneath oceans. Plate tectonics claims that new ocean crust is constantly being created by upwelling magma at ‘midocean’ ridges (including the East Pacific Rise) and subducted back into the mantle along ocean trenches. the earth’s outermost layer. In addition. This would mean that the entire ocean crust should be no more than about 200 million years old. 835 and 2000 million years. the boundaries of the main plates are sometimes ill defined or nonexistent. 9. whereas according to plate tectonics they should be only 35 million years old. 450. For instance. Even under the oceans there is no continuous asthenosphere. However. Their number is increasing as evidence contradicting the reigning paradigm continues to accumulate. mostly located around the Pacific Rim. Rocks from central Tahiti in the South Pacific have proven to be over 800 million years old. literally thousands of rocks of Palaeozoic and Precambrian ages have been found in the world’s oceans. Peter and Paul islands near the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge gave ages of 350. Contrived and unconvincing attempts are . As explained below.Fig. and that the asthenosphere is absent or very thin beneath them. or lithosphere. only disconnected asthenospheric lenses. seismic tomography (which produces 3D images of the earth’s interior) has shown that the oldest parts of the continents have very deep roots extending to depths of 400 km or more. is divided into separate ‘plates’ that move with respect to one another on an underlying plastic layer known as the asthenosphere. the theory has always had its critics.1 Francis Mazière thought that the legendary lost continent of Hiva might have been a long continental ridge (the East Pacific Rise). growing evidence is emerging that far larger areas of the Pacific Ocean were once land. and to be 100 to 250 km thick beneath continents.1 According to plate tectonics.

But whereas 80. The outlined ‘subducting slab’ appears to be a product of wishful thinking.500 km of trenches and 9000 km of ‘collision zones’ – i. about 90% of all the sedimentary rocks composing the continents were laid down under water. vast amounts of oceanic sediments should have been scraped off the ocean floor and piled up against the landward margin of the trenches. as the data available already suggest. as crustal blocks that somehow got left behind during ‘seafloor spreading’. only half the length of the ‘spreading centres’. sediments in the trenches are generally not present in the volumes required. However.000 km of midocean ridges are supposedly producing new crust. the basalt layer that is currently labelled ‘basement’ conceals more ancient sediments below it.2 The earthquakes taking place at different depths on the landward side of ocean trenches define a Benioff zone.3 The volume of crust generated at ocean ridges is supposed to be equalled by the volume subducted.e. Several geoscientists have called for a major effort to drill the ocean floor to much greater depths to verify whether. there are only 30. and currently represent the deformation interface between the uplifting island arc/continental region and the subsiding ocean crust and mantle. Plate tectonicists have had to resort to the far-fetched notion that soft ocean sediment can slide smoothly into a subduction zone without leaving any significant trace. Benioff zones have a highly variable and complex structure. which is interpreted in plate tectonics as a ‘descending plate’. Fig. now submerged. and bear little resemblance to the highly stylized pictures of continuous downgoing slabs depicted in geological textbooks. . An alternative view of Benioff zones is that they are very ancient fractures produced by the cooling and contraction of the earth. plate tectonicists tend to ignore the growing evidence that there used to be large. and they do not display the expected degree of deformation. Moreover. Everyone accepts that enormous areas of the present continents have repeatedly been submerged beneath the sea. continental landmasses in the present oceans – landmasses that are completely ignored in imaginative reassemblies of today’s supposedly drifting continents. If subduction was really happening. with transverse as well as vertical discontinuities and segmentation. But due to their ingrained beliefs.occasionally made to explain such anomalies away – e.g. How ocean crust is supposed to descend into the denser mantle has never been satisfactorily explained. 9.2 Earthquake distribution perpendicular to the Andes (15-30°S).

But critics have shown that plume explanations are ad hoc. The continents and oceans are covered with a network of major structures or lineaments. and seismic data.6 In plate tectonics. many dating from the Precambrian. The Easter fracture zone lies on the Central Pacific Megatrend. running NNW-SSE and WSW-ENE (fig. Furthermore. and seamount chains.4 Hotspots are commonly attributed to ‘mantle plumes’ rising from the core-mantle boundary. but a large majority show little or no age progression. which spans the entire Pacific and continues across . but to produce these orthogonal megatrends the plates would have to move in two directions at once! Although plate tectonicists invoke ad-hoc ‘microplates’ and ‘hotspots’ whenever the need arises. seamount chains supposedly indicate the direction of plate movement. artificial. This should give rise to a systematic age progression along hotspot trails. composed of ridges. fracture zones. perhaps from a network of magma ‘surge channels’ in the lithosphere. and that plumes are not required by any geological evidence. the ages of islands and seamounts along the Sala y Gomez ridge (on which Easter Island and Sala y Gomez Island are located) fail to increase systematically to the east. they are unable to offer a satisfactory explanation of any of these megatrends.3 The Pacific ‘plate’. and inadequate. and prefer to ignore them. For instance. 9. 9. Asian.5 An alternative proposal is that ocean island chains are formed by magma that rises from much shallower depths.Most plate tectonicists believe that chains of oceanic islands and seamounts in the Pacific are the result of the Pacific plate moving over ‘hotspots’ of upwelling magma. drilling. and North and South American continents where they link up with major Precambrian lineaments. In the Pacific basin there are intersecting megatrends. Fig. implying that the ‘oceanic’ crust is at least partly composed of Precambrian rocks – as has been confirmed by deep-sea dredging.3). some megatrends continue into the Australian.

andesitic volcanoes are supposed to form along the edge of a continent. There are over 100 submarine plateaus and ridges scattered throughout the oceans. the Kermadec Islands. and many may be submerged continental fragments that have not been completely ‘oceanized’. which is found in abundance on the continents – and increasingly under the oceans. Blandford pointed out back in 1890: [T]he occurrence of volcanic islands does not prove that the area in which they occur is not a sunken continent. and as much as 36 km thick at the Tonga Islands. the Tonga Islands. Chatham. rocks from other islands on or near the East Pacific Rise. together with an island.. the Fiji Islands. above a mythical subduction zone. Most geologists nowadays prefer to assume that andesite and rhyolite rocks found in oceanic settings formed by high levels of fractional crystallization of oceanic basalts – but this is entirely hypothetical. Basalts are considered to be a major component of the ocean crust. and . as more and more basalts are analyzed. Baker puts it more cautiously: ‘the lavas in general are rather more siliceous than is usual for an oceanic setting’.5 Soviet scientist N.4 Plate-tectonicist P. If Africa south of the Atlas subsided two thousand fathoms [3660 m].F. Zhirov pointed out that ‘continental’ (sial) rocks such as granite.7 These interconnecting lineaments demolish the plate-tectonic myth that ‘plates’ and continents have moved thousands of kilometres over the earth’s surface. Some geologists in the past have described Easter Island’s rocks bluntly as ‘continental’. which. schist. rhyolite. The crust is 40 km thick beneath North Australia. the Galapagos Islands. and/or andesite have been found on many Pacific islands. But as H. but flood basalts are also found in abundance on the continents. like the others.3 Easter Island of course now lies 3600 km from the nearest continent. including the Marquesas Islands. whilst sea-bottoms now over a thousand fathoms deep must have been land in part of the Tertiary’. He added that there is ‘clear proof that some land-areas lying within continental limits have within a comparatively recent date been submerged over a thousand fathoms. Kilimanjaro. 22-28 km thick in the Fiji-Tonga-Samoa area. and Man Islands in the Carolines.1 Easter Island’s volcanic rocks consist mainly of basalts and andesites and a small amount of rhyolite.. Furthermore. and Chuuk. what would remain above water? So far as our present knowledge goes. dotted with islands. The coarse-grained equivalent of rhyolite is granite. are similar in this respect.6 Continental crust is usually said to average 35 km in thickness compared to only 7 km for oceanic crust. Sunken continents It is commonly argued that Easter Island can never have formed part of a continent because no granite or sedimentary rocks such as limestone and sandstone have ever been found there – only igneous rocks. as suggested by ‘anomalously’ thick crust and finds of ‘impossibly’ ancient continental rocks. Mount Kenia. Ruwenzori.South America into the Atlantic Ocean. . or more than one. the difference in the composition of oceanic and continental flood basalts is becoming increasingly blurred. would be entirely composed of volcanic rocks. 20 km thick in the eastern part of the adjacent Coral Sea. such as Pitcairn and the Galapagos.E. the remaining islands would consist of four volcanic peaks – the Cameroons. Bounty and Oakland Islands.2 In the plate-tectonic scheme. Yap.

4 Worldwide distribution of oceanic plateaus (black). and the submergence of Atlantis in the first half of the Cenozoic. 9. geologist J. Some areas of the oceans appear to have undergone continuous subsidence. whereas others have experienced alternating episodes of subsidence and elevation. and the Indian Ocean during the Paleocene and Eocene.9 . In the early 20th century. most of them disappearing by the Miocene. He believed that major areas of the oceans were formerly land. He wrote: ‘The direct geological evidence is overwhelming. This disproves the seafloor-spreading model.8 This corresponds closely to the theosophical teachings on the submergence of Lemuria in the Late Mesozoic and early Cenozoic. Gregory concluded from a detailed survey of geological and palaeontological evidence that landmasses of varying sizes had been uplifted and submerged at various times in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Pacific Ocean appears to have formed mainly from the late Jurassic to the Miocene.Fig.’7 Russian geoscientist E.M. according to which the age of sediments should become progressively older with increasing distance from the midoceanic ridge. the Atlantic Ocean from the Late Cretaceous to the end of the Eocene.W. that large blocks of the Earth’s crust rise and fall for vertical amounts greater than the greatest depths in the oceans. Ruditch concluded from a detailed study of ocean drilling results that there is no systematic correlation between the age of shallow-water sediments and their distance from the axes of the midoceanic ridges.

a rocky islet just above water some 415 km northeast of . but with ‘a long tract of pretty high land’ to the northwest. Choi on the basis of ocean-floor sampling and drilling. flat.Fig. but their exact outlines and full extent are as yet unknown. and concluded that an archipelago of considerable extent must have foundered in this area between 1687 and 1722. far to the west of Easter Island. in the early 20th century Lewis Spence and John Macmillan Brown took the report of Davis Land at face value. However. 9.11 Lost Pacific islands Easter Island legends tell of the first settlers arriving after their native land had been submerged. of which Easter Island is a remnant. and that Davis Land was Mangareva. Such legends do not specify when the various landmasses are supposed to have existed.5 The map of former land areas in the present Pacific and Indian Oceans presented in fig. and in other areas bordering the Pacific. Some geologists have argued that the area in the Southeast Pacific labelled S3 probably extended much further west and encompassed what is now Easter Island.R. seismic data. For instance. Dickins and D. as was by no means unusual in the case of the early mariners. leaving only its mountaintops as islands. low. He said it was 800 km from the coast of Chile. and sandy. Although it is certain that no large continents in the Pacific have been submerged during the past few millennia. The general belief today is that Davis had misjudged his position. Similar traditions of vanished continents are found throughout Polynesia and Melanesia. causing the subsidence of a large continent. the chief island in the Gambier archipelago.M. This description in no way applies to Easter Island. and of a giant named Uoke. and the location of ancient sediment sources. Brown thought that Sala y Gomez. An English buccaneer named John Davis reported sighting this island in 1687 in latitude 27°20'S. When the Dutchman Roggeveen discovered Easter Island in 1722. but it sank. the Hawaiians believed there was once a great continent stretching from Hawaii to New Zealand. several writers believe that islands of reasonable size have done so. in a fit of anger.5 was compiled by geoscientists J. 9. he was actually searching for Davis Land.10 Only landmasses for which substantial evidence already exists are shown.

Over the next 13 years. pp.000 people today. P. Metis Island. Chile. Hasse. 195085. were inhabited by Polynesians. Although a few small islands seem to have sunk in the Pacific in the past few millennia. and today is about 30 m high. ‘The petrogenetic evolution of lavas from Easter Island and neighbouring seamounts. part of the Cook group in the South Pacific. . The need for caution in interpreting such accounts is underlined by the following incident: in 1928 the captain and two officers on a British luxury liner announced that Easter Island itself had vanished – but a Chilean gunboat was sent to the island and found it in its usual place! In 1955 US military pilots sighted an island 615 km west of Honolulu. died in Rarotonga during the 20th century. The ruins of Nan Madol on Pohnpei. In February 1946. and added: ‘It is one of the miracles of the Pacific unless we assume a subsidence of twenty times as much land as now exists. some 1600 km west of Pohnpei. The three Tuanaki Islands. was born in 1885 when an eruption raised a shoal 88 m above the ocean surface. but in 1844 a missionary ship failed to locate them. the evidence that archipelagoes on the scale that Spence and Brown had in mind existed during this period is extremely slim. with its massive walls. 1997. and was removed from charts in 1935.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings (vols.D. Fonuafo’ou (Falcon Island) in the Tonga group.org/mysteries. Journal of Petrology. landmasses of continental size undoubtedly existed in the Pacific in the much more distant past. vol. K. Stoffers and C. no. he found a written script still in use. intersected by miles of artificial waterways.2 They held. for instance. its 3-km-diameter mass disappeared. An island near Easter Island was sighted in 1912 but was likewise never seen again.Easter Island. Sarah Ann Island northwest of Easter Island was removed from naval charts when a search in 1932 failed to find it. Quite a few islands that mariners have reported on their travels have later gone missing.5 sq km. 38. was probably the remains of Davis Land. but it disappeared within a few weeks. 1-14). Hiva being the name given to their legendary homeland. Brown pointed out that within a radius of 2400 km there are no more than 50. would have required a workforce of tens of thousands (see section 10). Several former inhabitants of the islands.html. there are numerous reefs around it and the water in its vicinity is shallow.islandheritage. leaving only sulphurous streaks on the surface. Spence and Brown argued that land had also been submerged in several other parts of the Pacific within the last few thousand years.4 For instance.1 The Easter Islanders called it Motu Matiro Hiva. In addition to the Easter Island archipelago. IL: Theosophical Publishing House. who had left in their youth. quite unlike any other in the world (see section 7). popped up in 1875 and vanished in 1899. But the island was never seen again. 6. Two months later they had dissolved into a shoal considerably larger than their initial size. It was reborn in 1927. a British warship witnessed the birth of two volcanic cones 320 km south of Tokyo. Garbe-Schönberg. they rose to a height of 15 m and spread out over an area of about 2. inhabited by cultivated Polynesians who had the curious custom of amputating the little finger of the left hand at the second joint. The island has not been found since. 120 km from Fonuafo’ou. www. earthworks. in 1879 an Italian captain announced his discovery of Podesta Island. Hunter Island was discovered in 1823 at 15°31'S and 176°11'W. that the Caroline archipelago could be the remains of a vast island-empire in the eastern Central Pacific. But. 785-813. References 1. disappeared around the middle of the 19th century.’3 On the little coral island of Woleai. 2. H. These islands. as explained above. and great temples. meaning ‘islet in front of Hiva’. 1390 km due west of Valparaiso. 3. Wheaton.M. just over a kilometre in circumference. It was a fertile land. near-ridge hotspot volcanoes in the SE Pacific’. In addition to temporary volcanic islands that suddenly appear in deep ocean basins. 7:292-3. there are also islands that rise and fall in more shallow regions. too.

Choi and A. southeast Pacific’.info (Earth science). pp.4. 222). pp.R. in: S.. Choi. Yano. and orthogonal intersections’. Physical Geology: Earth revealed.B. Tectonophysics. 116-22. 2. 2001 (1970). 147-66 (p. pp. and fallacy’. Dickins. fiction.F.I. ‘The world ocean without spreading’.F. 3. pp. 2007. New Brunswick. 67-80. Kahle (ed. 3. Vasiliev & T.E.C. New Concepts in Global Tectonics Newsletter. Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists. J. TX: Texas Tech University Press.R. 2. Pangea: Global environments and resources. Clark and J. Lubbock. ‘Geology and tectonic development of the Pacific Ocean. ‘Past distribution of oceans and continents’. Press.). Memoir 17. 23-51. Smoot and D.G. Plate tectonics – a dogma in distress 1.).M. 2001. ed. 5. 1990.L. 11. 72-136 (p.C. Johnson and B. Parson.C. 2.R. pp. ‘Flood basalts and large igneous provinces from deep mantle plumes: fact. vol. J. Sunken continents 1. no. 101). no. 311. New Concepts in Global Tectonics Newsletter. Athens: Theophrastus Publications. pp.A. 9. B. Memoir 23. no. Plummer. and ‘Sunken continents versus continental drift’. New Concepts in Global Tectonics Newsletter. Rusby. Ruditch. http://davidpratt. pp. Dordrecht: Kluwer. McGrawHill. 48. McGeary and C. Chatterjee and N. Gregory. 193-9. 29-48. OK: American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Murton and P. 2.G. pp. Zhirov. The Megatectonics of Continents and Oceans. Journal of Scientific Exploration. Geology Magazine. 192-3. pp. vol. Zhirov. 2008. vol. Surge Tectonics: A new hypothesis of global geodynamics (D. W.I. 1924. 1967. 1998. no. 7. MA: WCB.info/lowman. pp. pp. 43. See also: B. 12-14.htm. 8. vol. 465-94. Barto-Kyriakidis (ed. pp. B. ‘What is Pangaea?’. Morris.R. New Concepts in Global Tectonics Newsletter. Glass. Kaymen-Kaye. 3-17. Lyons. ‘Earth geodynamic hypotheses updated’. pp. New Concepts in Global Tectonics.M. 167-239 (p. 5. in: C. M. 11-15. M. R. 81-106 (p.I. pp. Agocs.J. N. Smoot. London: Geological Society Special Publication no. 343-95. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. E. See ‘Theosophy and the seven continents’. in: A. ‘Continental and oceanic geophysics’. Sheth. no. H. 8-13. See ‘Plate tectonics: a paradigm under threat’. London: William Rider & Son. J. 1970. Atlantis. in: L. www. ‘Ancient and continental rocks discovered in the ocean floors’. The Problem of Atlantis. Embry. Baker. 4. no. vol. 104.C.L.S. 1974. Honolulu. parts 1-3.). 1998. http://davidpratt. 132).W. 1994. 60. Browning (eds. 5. in: A. vol. in: H. ‘GLORIA and other geophysical studies of the tectonic pattern and history of the Easter Microplate. P. 162). N. 10. Choi.C. 7. Quoted in Lewis Spence. pp. microplates. 1997. pp. 8. 1999. 4.info/continents. 8-13.M. 1-29. 1992.I. Part 3: Structure and composition of the basement’. Plate Tectonics – Assessments and Reassessments. HA: University Press of the Pacific. ‘Geochronology and petrochemistry of Easter and Sala y Gomez Islands: implications for the origin of the Sala y Gomez Ridge’. A. pp. 1930.).davidpratt. pp. Taner. Bhat. pp. 1977.M. Beauchamp and D. ‘The geological history of the Pacific Ocean’. Dillon. D.L.N. no. B. 7. Meyerhoff. Atlantology: basic problems. pp.).htm. pp.). ‘Geology of the southeast Pacific’. 6. A. L. Hotton III (eds. ‘Neovolcanism: a proposed replacement for the concepts of plate tectonics and continental drift’. 266. 86. N. Smoot. P. 34-5. 170. ‘Preliminary account of recent geological investigations on Easter Island’. 6. 3rd ed. 4. Dickins. Atlantis. J. Meyerhoff Hull.E. 2. Ophiolites and their Modern Oceanic Analogues. 9. Yeates. 15. no. Critical Aspects of the Plate Tectonics Theory. Smith (eds. 1545. Choi. 1992. Tulsa. Dymond. Lost Pacific islands . Boston. See ‘Problems with plate tectonics’. Quarterly Journal of Geological Society. N. 1996. 150-1. D. D. NJ: Rutgers Univ. Vasiliev & D. ‘Magma floods. pp. I.

The settlement of the Pacific is currently thought to have begun some 50. despite persistent denials by many orthodox archaeologists. dates for the settlement of the various Pacific islands are very tentative since they are based mainly on the oldest radiocarbon dates so far obtained. 2. p. Chinese. 143. at a time when they were joined by land due to the lower sea level resulting from the ice age. Kempton. p. The history of even the past few thousand years is as yet poorly known. Libyans.1 Some ancient maps provide tantalizing but controversial evidence . Lewis Spence. Greeks. Kila. The Problem of Lemuria. Invisible Horizons.d. For instance. 1996 (1924). there is growing evidence for transatlantic and transpacific contacts between a variety of ancient cultures. 45. The Riddle of the Pacific.000 years ago. The Polynesian islands are believed to have been settled for the first time only within the last 2000 years or so. Migration proceeded eastwards. Arabs.000 years ago. including the Egyptians. Phoenicians. Megalithic Pacific Fig.1 The Pacific Ocean and its islands. future excavations and discoveries may indicate that human habitation goes back countless millennia earlier. 25-47. MT: Kessinger. 3. 10. Hindus. pp. Mayans and Incas. 4. Vincent Gaddis. The Riddle of the Pacific. n. However. when huntergatherers first colonized Australia and New Guinea in the western Pacific. IL: Adventures Unlimited.1. 52. 1965. (1933). John Macmillan Brown. 10. p. and reached the northern Solomon Islands about 28. New York: Ace Books. because the Polynesians took a long time to develop the navigational expertise enabling them to sail far offshore. Dravidians.

succumbed more readily to diseases brought by Europeans than the black-haired Polynesians.7 Reports by the earliest European visitors contain many references to the variable skin colour of Polynesians on different islands and also on the same island. and 4. The following brief tour of the Pacific focuses on remains of monumental and megalithic architecture. the whites in Tahiti. Malaysia and Indonesia were joined by land. and the Middle East across the Pacific to the Americas.. and also contacts from the Americas across the Pacific back to Asia. was discovered off the small Japanese island of Yonaguni. there are various genetic and cultural similarities between the Polynesians and the Tlingit. 100 m wide.5 m wide. and over a timespan far vaster than mainstream archaeologists are willing to contemplate. at a time when lower sea levels meant that Indo-China.000 years ago. when the sea level was much lower.000 years earlier. ramps and trenches. there were fewer such sightings. The prevailing theory in the late 1800s and early 1900s was that the Polynesians were an Indo-European group who came to the Pacific via India. some of the structures may be the work of very ancient and as-yet-unknown cultures. India. paleskinned natives. at which time it would have stood on the tropic of Cancer. Nowadays the Polynesians are generally believed to have originated in East Asia or Melanesia. and migrations from Asia. sometimes with reddish hair. The structure includes wide terraces. or mariners. The origin of the Polynesians is still controversial. which travelled to the Indo-Pacific region for trading and mining purposes.000 years. and two megalithic blocks 6 m high. Libyan sailors were employed on Egyptian ships.that the earth had been mapped over 10. and it seems likely that the structure is a natural geological formation that has been worked and modified by human hands. Micronesia In the mid-1980s a rectangular stone structure. about 34% of Polynesian Y chromosomes are of East Asian origin and 66% are of Melanesian origin. cultural transfers. These migrations followed the same pattern as land migrations in that the male migrants. a strong Libyan influence on the early Polynesians’ alphabet and language has been identified. It now lies in depths of up to 30 m of water but would have been exposed about 10. But some researchers argue that genetic data as a whole favour an origin in island Southeast Asia approximately 10. about 2. forming a huge peninsula known as Sundaland. and about 79% of the Polynesian autosomal gene pool is of East Asian origin and 21% is of Melanesian origin. There were reports of a high proportion of tall. during the last ice age. often holding positions of high rank. Genetic studies are said to show that about 94% of Polynesian mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) are of East Asian origin and 6% of Melanesian origin. bought or captured marriage partners from coastal or island peoples thereby producing mixed race descendants. measuring about 250 m long. traded.1 .4 More controversially. and this racial heritage is still obvious in many islands in Eastern Polynesia as it was to the first European explorers. Some Polynesians appeared to be Indians of the Americas. Kwakuitl and Haida Indians of Alaska and Canada � something not readily explained by any mainstream theories.2 There may have been several waves of migration into the Pacific from different directions. Therefore variable racial inheritance is clearly in evidence throughout the islands of the Pacific . Some of the stones show tool marks. For many thousands of years there appear to have been trade links.6 Graeme Kearsley says that the Polynesians are in many respects closely allied to Caucasians and were in many studies considered as such. These data suggest a dual origin of Polynesians with a high East Asian but also considerable Melanesian component. As on Easter Island. large steps.5 And in addition to the link between Polynesian and Sanskrit.9 m thick.. this was partly based on linguistic evidence. for example.3 The dominant theory is that the ancestors of the Polynesians originated in China/Taiwan and migrated south to the Philippines some 6000 years ago. and 25 m high. As time went by. while others were of ‘Jewish’ type or wore turbans.

and processional ways surmounted by pairs of towering features resembling pylons.Fig. 4. grand staircases leading to broad plazas.5 m at the top. The upright stones usually occur in double rows of 6 to 14 stones.3 Throughout the Mariana Islands latte stones are found – tall stone columns with a hemispherical capstone. square in shape. Latte stones range from small crude structures constructed of natural boulders to massive stone columns. They include paved streets and crossroads.7 m high and .5 m or more in height.2 Submerged structure near Yonaguni. They are 3. 10.2 (courtesy of Robert Schoch) Other sunken structures have been found over a distance of 500 km between Yonaguni and Okinawa. The pillars are 5. The island of Tinian has two of the largest standing megaliths. capped with enormous blocks of stone. huge altar-like formations. looking like mushrooms.5 m in circumference at the base and 4.

5 m high and 1.3 House of Taga. most weighing under 10 tons. it is commonly assumed that the lattes once supported wooden houses. and quality of the lattes suggest that they could have been made by different cultures at widely different times. In the lagoon on the southeastern coast of Pohnpei lies Nan Madol. When the Spaniards first arrived in the early 16th century. The islands were made by stacking large undressed hexagonal basalt prisms.4 Fig.support capitals 1. and ascribed the stones to the ‘spirits of the before-time people’.5 km by 0. but could have been far higher originally. The largest stone. Another view is that the taller lattes once supported the roof of ancient temples.8 m in diameter. size.6 m in height. Nan Douwas. the ‘Venice of the Pacific’. The walls are made from basalt megaliths over 6 m long and reach 7. The earliest radiocarbon date from organic material found in the vicinity of the lattes is 900 AD – but this tells us nothing about when they were made. the lattes were already partly in ruins. The buildings are rather crude. consists of two concentric perimeter walls separated by a seawater moat and enclosing a central pyramidal mound. The natives (descendants of the ancient Chamorros) disclaimed all knowledge of the builders. Each coral monolith weighs about 30 tons. Tinian. . The largest structure. In 1949 two pieces of iron were discovered under the base of one latte pillar. and may have been the centre of a vanished empire. also called Ascension) is a volcanic island in the eastern Caroline Islands. oriented to the cardinal directions. on the coral reef and filling in the centre of the islet with coral. It covers more than 18 square kilometres. 10. These pieces of iron were not intrusive. though no one has ever seen them used for that purpose. and some archaeologists have concluded that at least one latte stone must have been erected after the arrival of the Spaniards – the possibility that earlier cultures on the island may have used iron is ruled out on ideological grounds. There were originally 10 pillars arranged in two parallel rows. Egypt. weighs around 50 tons. as in the Temple of Luxor at Karnak. but the core of the site is about 1.5 Pohnpei (or Ponape. but the scale of the work is very impressive. known as the House of Taga. a massive basalt cornerstone on the southeast side of Nan Douwas. Since the natives called them the ‘houses of the old people’ and still build their houses on supports. The marked differences in the shape.5 km and contains 92 artificial islands built in the lagoon and surrounded by man-made canals.

traces of an earlier layer of construction have also been detected. 10. was also made of huge basalt walls and pyramids. and the megalithic basalt blocks weigh up to 50 tons. They include a series of tall pillars standing on flat pedestals. The ruins are very similar to those of Nan Madol but not as extensive. Nan Madol was built as a ‘mirror image’ of its sunken counterpart. Olosopa and Olosipa. Lost prisms can in fact be seen on the bottom of the lagoons along the route from the quarries. which lies adjacent to Kosrae (the easternmost of the Carolines). Whereas Nan Madol has sunk somewhat. the official view is that they were carried on coconut palm rafts.4 Nan Douwas. The existence of extensive undersea ruins has been confirmed. indicating that at least some were transported by this means. . Some of the walls are over 6 m high. Ashes at the bottom of a fire pit on one of the artificial islands were dated to 1000 AD. According to legend. reaching heights of up to 8 m. with the islands and buildings being intersected by a canal network connected with the ocean.Fig. In any event. Although legend speaks of the prisms being magically floated through the air.7 The ancient giant stone city of Insaru on Lelu Island. legend says the city was built in one night by two magicians. selected the site of Nan Madol after they climbed a high peak and saw an underwater city below. but this only shows that the city was inhabited at that time – not that the entire city was built then.6 Between 500 and 750 thousand tonnes of building material were transported from varying distances to the site. Lelu appears to have risen slightly since the canals are almost dry. Legend speaks of two sunken cities and of underwater tunnels. two wise and holy men. Where the stones came from is a mystery.

some with facial features carved on them.5 m or more high and often 9 to 18 m wide.5 An 1899 photo of one of the massive walls on Lelu Island. Some of the terraces are 4.8 On the Palau islands. Similar monoliths can be found on Vao and Malekula in the Vanuata Islands (New Hebrides). over 5% of the land surface is terraced. and whole hills have been sculpted to resemble step pyramids. some weighing up to 5 tons. The Bairulchan megalithic site on Babeldaob has two rows of large basalt monoliths. and no one knows who built them. 10. There are 37 stones in all.Fig. The terraces do not feature at all in local oral traditions. the westernmost of the Carolines. and the largest being 3 m tall. .

Fig. and they theorize that the mounds were built by huge. Nevertheless.950 BC. there are several notable structures on other islands.9 m high and weighs about 50 tons.8 m long and weighs about 9 tons.6 Left: Stone monoliths on Palau’s Babeldoab Island. Each of the upright coral pillars is 4. The material composing them seems to come from the immediate surroundings: coral debris. Many archaeologists doubt this as the early settlers did not use cement.1 Polynesia The Polynesian triangle stretches from New Zealand in the southwest to Hawaii in the north to Easter Island in the southeast. flightless birds for incubating their eggs! However the cylinders inside the tumuli are of a very hard.9 Melanesia On the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia there are about 400 large tumuli or mounds. 10. and grains of iron oxide. even the later date is some 3000 years earlier than humans are believed to have reached the southwest Pacific from the Indonesian area. It is thought they may once have supported a massive structure. The island of Tongatapu in the Tonga Islands has the only megalithic arch in the South Pacific – the trilithon of Ha’amonga. and 0. ranging from 9 to 50 m in diameter. The larger tumuli enclose cement columns of lime and shell matter. earth. Nowhere in the Pacific are there as many impressive megalithic remains concentrated in so small an area as on Easter Island. The lintel. suggesting that the tumuli are the product of human activity. now-extinct. Right: Part of a broken monolith on Malekula.6 m in height. which is set into grooves in the upright stones. containing bits of shells which have yielded radiocarbon dates of 5120 to 10. homogeneous lime-mortar.6 to 4. is 5. One theory is that the trilithon was erected in the 14th century for a king to sit on as he drank an alcoholic beverage known as kava! .

Mu’a.Fig. The unusual notching can be seen on the far right. 10. and forms part of a wall 222 m long. 2. has many megalithic platforms (known as langi). It contains probably the largest structural stone ever used by the Polynesians: measuring 7. it is notched and fitted into an adjacent block.8 The largest stone block in Langi Tauhala.2 . The island has risen about a metre over the last few thousand years and such structures as the wharf and canal/moat are now useless. a pyramidal platform at the old fortress of Tongatapu. 10.4 m long. Langi Tauhala.4 m thick. a canal city on Tongatapu. Fig. Massive rocks at an ancient port on the lagoon side of Mu’a indicate that huge vessels once docked there. The central area of Mu’a was surrounded by a huge canal or moat.1 The ceremonial centre of Mu’a (formerly Lapaha).7 The trilithon of Ha’amonga. is made of massive cut stone blocks. 0.2 m high. and weighing 30 to 40 tonnes.

seven of which are truncated. at about the same time as Tonga. At either end is a slightly sunken ramp to the top. it measures about 60 by 65 m at the base. roads. Samoa is believed to have been settled by the Lapita people around 1200 BC. but it seems unlikely that this was their original purpose. Made from natural basalt stones. On Savai’i island is an enormous flat-topped. as would befit a major ceremonial centre.8 m at its base. On Upolu is another ceremonial centre consisting of immense earthen mounds. and appears to be made entirely of earth.5 by 95.9 Other stonework at Lapaha. and stone walls. known as the Pulemelei – the largest surviving mound in Polynesia. together with a pavement. On the basis of carbon-dating. about 12. 10. The mounds are generally thought to have been used for the former royal amusement of pigeon-snaring. and it is surrounded by numerous other platforms. rectangular pyramids. The largest of them surpasses the Pulemelei in size: it is 105.2 m high. . and rises in two tiers to a height of about 12 m.Fig.

as was the case on Easter Island. in ancient India. now uninhabited. 6 to 18 m wide. Samoa. and similar to those found in Peru. It is better constructed than the roads on Malden Island. The island has a megalithic road that once encircled the entire island. as well as several pyramidal platforms. with traces of paved roads leading down to the sea. and 27 to 60 m long. 10. but most of it has now been paved over with asphalt. The kerbing is composed of neatly fitted blocks of prismatic basalt laid closely together. Rectangular enclosures associated with ceremonial platforms are set off from road. piercing the ears and extending the earlobes were old customs. the largest of the Cook Islands.4 On Rarotonga.Fig. Republic of Kiribati [pronounced: Kiribas]). The Rarotonga dialect is close to the Rapanui language. 3 to 9 m high. .3 Malden Island (one of the Line Islands. Some sections of the road were paved with perfectly fitting slabs. has some 40 stepped pyramidal platform-temples. and in Peru.10 Above: The Pulemelei mound (left and centre) and a star-shaped mound (right) on Savai’i. Below: The upper platform of the Pulemelei mound.

.6 by 81. or marae.11 Paved road encircling Rarotonga. are found throughout the Society Islands.4 m at the base. and rose in 11 steps to a height of over 13 m. In overall appearance it was a stepped pyramid with a broad flat top. It is said to have been completed shortly before Captain Cook’s visit in 1769. but was demolished after 1897. It measured 21. some consisting of megalithic stones. The largest of all the Polynesian stone structures was Marae Mahaiatea on Tahiti. 10. The courses were made of coral blocks. carefully shaped and fitted. pyramidal platforms.Fig.5 Truncated. faced with squared volcanic stones.

12 A 1799 etching of Marae Mahaiatea. Claims that the moai statues of Easter Island are a development of the Polynesian tiki are unconvincing.13 The largest tiki found in Polynesia.6 Fig. 10. . but now stands at Tahiti’s Gauguin Museum.75 m (9 ft) tall.Fig. It stands 2. 10. the religious centre of Polynesia. It was carved on Raivavae (one of the Austral Islands). and consists of 2 tons of basalt.

7 m high. Easter Island) – the hills are carved with overgrown terraces and mysterious pyramids. but was built over an older platform. Like those of Raiatea. and one of its most sacred sites.14 On the remote island of Rapa – also known as Rapa Iti (Little Rapa) to distinguish it from Rapa Nui (Big Rapa. 10. it is not known who made them. whereas comparable structures on Tahiti and Moorea are made of round basalt stones.7 Marae Taputapuatea on Raiatea (the largest of the Leeward Islands) is 43 m long.e. i. It is one of the largest and best preserved platforms in Polynesia. .3 m wide.Fig. the marae on Huahine and Bora Bora are constructed of large coral slabs. and up to 3. It is thought to have been erected in the early part of the 2nd millennium AD. 7.

10.Fig. .15 Coral slabs in Marae Taputapuatea.

However. walled house sites.Fig. . The largest archaeological site in Polynesia is found on Hiva Oa. and occupies the whole of the Taaoa Valley. no carefully cut stonework comparable to Ahu Vinapu on Easter Island has been found. provide silent testimony of a vanished culture. 10. a large tohua (public ceremonial centre). most of them overgrown with jungle vegetation. and contain cyclopean basalt blocks weighing over 10 tons. Some of the platforms are 120 m long and 30 m wide. and several me’ae (sacred platforms taboo to the public).16 Coral slabs in Marae Tainuu. Throughout the Marquesas Islands the remains of great stone platforms. and terraces. Raiatea. This partially restored site has over 1000 paepae (platforms on which houses were built).

.Fig.17 Platform in the Taaoa Valley. 10.

One of the most impressive archaeological sites is the unrestored ancient ceremonial centre in the Taipivai Valley on Nuku Hiva. some of them 1. It includes a massive platform.43 m tall. . the largest being 2. Vahangeku’a Tohua. it contains an estimated 6800 cubic metres of earth fill.18 On the massive Te I’ipona me’ae at Puama’u on Hiva Oa stand five huge stone tiki. Measuring 170 by 25 m.5 m high and just as broad. built on an artificial terrace on a hillside. 10.Fig. and was faced by a wall almost 3 m high consisting of enormous basalt blocks.

Their finds included a musket used in the American Civil War. However. and a glass bowl manufactured in Philadelphia in the late 1700s. a French brandy bottle.8 The structures could of course be thousands of years older. rebuilt. The population is thought to have peaked at about 100.19 Megalithic 3-m-high wall of Vahangeku’a Tohua. and described the massive platforms as being of such antiquity that his Marquesan guide said they were ‘coeval with the creation of the world’. as one of the most easterly parts of Polynesia. the Marquesan language is closely related to the languages of Hawaii. played a key role in two-way contacts between Asia . around 300 AD. Suggs concluded that the platforms had been constructed since the arrival of the Europeans in the Marquesas. Nuku Hiva.000 a few centuries ago. A minority view is that the Marquesas were populated from Mexico or Peru. Nowadays the Marquesas Islands have about 8000 inhabitants. Mangareva. His crew dug several trenches in the huge platform in the hope of finding datable artifacts. a sacred site that had long been concealed from western visitors. but was decimated following the arrival of the Europeans at the end of the 16th century. 10. and could have been renovated. but Suggs argues that they were settled much earlier. Nevertheless. around 300-500 BC. or enlarged several times. probably from Tonga or Samoa. The islands are widely believed to have been one of the main points from which Polynesians spread throughout the Pacific. The Marquesas are frequently assumed to have been settled by people of western Polynesian origin. 15 years before the American Civil War. and Easter Island. Melville’s book on the subject appeared in 1846. but opponents point out that no South American pottery or tools have ever been found in Polynesia. there is evidence that the Marquesas. In 1956 archaeologist Robert Suggs carried out excavations at Hikouku’a in the Hatiheu Valley on Nuku Hiva.Fig. novelist Herman Melville had visited Nuku Hiva in 1842. Yet Suggs believed the platforms were still being constructed in the mid-1800s! He had fallen into the common error of assuming that the dates of artifacts or burials found in association with megalithic structures are reliable indicators of when the original structure was built.

which lies next to the sacred mountain of Taipi. especially at Tiahuanaco and Chavin. Ecuador. or candelabra. Interestingly.3 . and 180 (all multiples of 18) are known as precessional numbers. a custom found in Peru and also among the Flathead Indians of Montana. There are many cultural parallels between the Marquesas and the cultures of Mexico. and astronomically aligned megalithic structures on the islands of Kiribati and Tahiti. as it was in Peru. and the rising sun moves slowly against the backdrop of the zodiacal constellations from one equinox to the next. Hancock writes: Exactly 180 degrees east of Angkor (and 108 degrees west of Giza).2 Numbers such as 54. the ruins of Nan Madol on Pohnpei lie 54° east of Angkor. The next significant precessional number is 180. The ancient sacred centre of Nuku Hiva was probably the Taipivai Valley. As Graham Hancock has pointed out. we find only one island in the vicinity: Easter Island. Peru. The Marquesans also practised skull elongation. It is the outline of a trident. The next significant precessional number is 144. ear elongation was practised in the Marquesas. which lies just over 3° (barely 320 km) to the east of the exact location. banyans can also be seen growing from stone platforms in India. at an average rate of 1/72 degree per year. and were assigned special significance in ancient societies.and the Americas. a colossal and unmistakable beacon does exist. lie respectively 72° and 108° east of Angkor. and takes 25. Hancock suggests that Easter Island might originally have been settled ‘to serve as a sort of geodetic beacon. Near the temple platforms on Nuku Hiva.9 World grid Many ancient cultures were familiar with the important astronomical cycle known as the precession of the equinoxes. 108. When we look 144° of longitude east of Angkor (which is also 144° west of Giza). 72. or marker – fulfilling some as yet unguessed at function in an ancient global system of sky-ground coordinates that linked many so-called �world navels� ’. and Bolivia. carved into the red cliffs of the Bay of Paracas on the coast of Peru and it is visible from far out to sea. we find that the great temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia lies 72° east of the Giza meridian. and almost exactly as far south of the equator (13 degrees 48 minutes) as Angkor is north of it (13 degrees 26 minutes).1 Due to a very slow gyration of the earth’s axis. the spring equinox occurs about 20 minutes earlier every year. 30° (one constellation of the zodiac) in 2160 years. sacred banyans were grown. It therefore moves 1° in 72 years. if we take the meridian of Giza-Heliopolis in Egypt as the zeromeridian for measuring longitude. and on certain other Polynesian islands. towards the plains of Nazca to the south and the Andes mountains to the east.920 years to make a complete circuit of the zodiac. It seems to point inland. For instance. and they have also been compared to Chinese Bronze Age statues. 144. 250 metres high. Colombia. Bug-eyed statues similar to those found on the Marquesas are found in Bolivia and Peru. the sacred centre at Tiwanaku bears a similar name: Taypi.

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