The Cataclysm of Easter Island - The Strange Rongorongo Script (Part 2)
Little is known of this strange script which includes pictographic and geometric shapes; often the figures are of a birdman with his arms and legs in various positions. The script was written in the unusual boustrophedon pattern of writing where the successive lines are read (“as the ox plows”) alternately left to right and then right to left. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia, certain older forms of Greek, such as Doric Greek, were written in the boustrophedon pattern, as were Etruscan, Sabaean, Safaitic, Hittite and possibly Indus Valley writing such as that from Harrapa or Mohenjo Daro.
The writing was first reported by Eugene Eyraud, a French missionary on the island, in 1864. Eyraud sent some specimens to the Archbishop of Tahiti, since he recognized the significance of a written language being developed on a tiny, remote island in the South Pacific—it was against all accepted theories of the time. It was generally thought that only peoples with contact with different cultures could rise to a high level of civilization that included written communication. But here at Easter Island, it was then surmised, was a culture that had independently of the rest of the world developed writing, art, megalithic construction and more. The notion that a few hundred people should create all that without the aid of the outside world was astounding, and still is. This is still the accepted anthropological theory on the island’s development.
At the time of Eyraud, a few of the “royalty” were known to still be able to read the rongorongo tablets. These few people were quickly dying out, some taken to the guano islands in Peru. The French author and archeologist Franis Maziere claimed in his book The Mysteries of Easter Island that the last initiate of the rongorongo tablets died of leprosy and had once told him: “The first race invented the rongorongo writing. They wrote it in stone. Of the four parts of the world that were inhabited by the first race it is only in Asia that the writing still exists.” The native was apparently speaking of the Indus Valley culture and the writing at Mohenjo Daro and other cities.
Said the native, “The island’s first race was once to be found on two Polynesian Islands, in one part of Asia and one part of Africa where there are live volcanoes.” Today, the only active volcanoes in Africa exist along the Great Rift Valley at the borders of Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi. There are two volcanoes, Nyiragongo and Nyamulgira.
The Polish researcher and author Igor Witkowski examines rongorongo writing in his book Axis of the World. Witkowksi notes how Easter Island is one of the most remote and isolated places in the world and is “a very small island, the size of a not-too-large city district, almost devoid of resources, the very symbol of isolation, the inhabitants of which nonetheless ‘created’ a sophisticated system of writing. This is an unquestionable milestone in human development that, for instance, did not evolve in all of North America, despite a far longer period of time at the disposal of the people of that continent. Isn’t something wrong with this picture?”
Witkowski says the according to legend:
…the first king, Hotu Matua, “brought with him 67 most precious tablets from their land of origin in the west. We can only suppose that they contained the “core” of their religious, and perhaps historical texts. It is also known that he brought the religion tied with the “bird-man” and with Make Make. It has generally nothing in common with the different variants of purely Polynesian beliefs, based on the cult of the Tane and Kon Tiki gods. All in all, presently we know of 26 various genuine artifacts covered with the Rongo Rongo hieroglyphs. They contain around 16,000 signs in all. Thus, contrary to appearances, there is quite a lot of material to study.
… This writing has a certain unique feature (characteristic exclusively to it, the Indus Valley script mentioned above, and to certain evolved variations used on a small scale on the Andean altiplano) which is namely a variation on a method of writing known as “bustrophedon,” from the Greek meaning “like a plowing ox,” i.e., alternately from left to right and from right to left. Although ancient writing from several cultures follow this pattern (where the first line is written from left to right, and the second line is written from right to left, etc.) the scripts we have just mentioned have every other line inverted. After recording one line, the writer turned the tablet upside down and kept writing.
This similarity in writing gives us something that resembles a chain of traces from the Indus Valley (the capital of which was the city of Mohenjo Daro located in today’s Pakistan), to Easter Island itself, and on to Tiahuanaco on the Andean altiplano—over 2,300 miles farther to the east. However, this presents a certain problem, namely that Mohenjo Daro and its Indus Valley civilization literally vanished from the archaeological scene around 1000 - 1200 years BC. This means that at the moment when Easter Island was inhabited, Mohenjo Daro’s unique system of writing, its religion, etc., lived only in human memory. It had been gone for over two millennia (at least according to officially accepted theories)! It was simply one of the three oldest civilizations on our planet, along with the Sumerians and the empire of the pharaohs. Could Easter Island’s culture reach that deep into the prehistory of mankind? Incidentally, these circumstances make the rongorongo script the oldest system of writing in use in historical times, for no less than four thousand years (although nobody can be sure if it was used continuously). In the case of this chain of traces, the truth seems so obscure, and so strange at the same time, that one has to ask himself a question: what really happened there, in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, all those thousands of years ago? And last but not least: who were these people?
Witkowski credits the Professor Benon Z. Szalek from the University of Szczecin (in Poland) with being the “decoder” of the rongorongo writing. Sometimes a Hungarian scholar named de Hevseg is given credit for noticing the similarity between the Indus Valley writing and rongorongo. Witkowski says that Professor Szalek followed the threads leading to the “super-civilization” from many thousands of years ago. Working on a project in 1974, Professor Szalek found similarities between Hungarian, Japanese and English, and then Basque, Japanese and English. Wikowski says that Professor Szalek came to the conclusion “that these peoples must have been subjected to the influence of some single state organism—or that they were once part of it.”
There are approximately 25 known, “genuine” artifacts that have rongorongo symbols on them. There are thought to be over 14,000 individual glyphs in the entire corpus of rongorongo writing. It has eluded translation, as have many ancient languages, but similarities have been noted, starting in the 1960s, between it and the undeciphered Indus Valley script. A Hungarian scholar named de Hevseg made a comparison of the writing on Easter Island and that found at the Indus Valley civilization cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. These cities existed at about 4000 BC if not earlier, and the culture literally vanished about 3500 BC. That rongorongo writing is very similar, if not identical, to this ancient, undeciphered language, is extraordinary. They are precisely on opposite sides of the earth: Mohenjo Daro is located at 27°23’ North and about 69° East; Easter Island is at 27°08’ South and 109°23’ West. No other land area could be farther away from the Indus Valley cities as Easter Island.
The script at Mohenjo Daro is now believed to be related to ancient Dravidian, the fragments of this language still existing in southern India in the language of Tamil. An article in Scientific American (vol. 248, No. 3, March 1983) by Walter Fairservis, Jr. entitled The Script of the Indus Valley Civilization, describes the author’s attempts to decipher the writing. A fairly dry article, it makes no reference to the similarity of rongorongo script, but does say he believes that a form of Dravidian was the spoken language. Significantly, Fairservis does say that there are 419 “signs” and that the script is neither alphabetic (as in Sanskrit or English) or logographic (as in Chinese) but rather logo-syllabic, meaning that some signs represent words and others serve purely for their symbolic value or sounds. The author says that other examples of such writing are Egyptian hieroglyphs, early Sumerian ideographs and modern Japanese. It has also been noted that some early Shang Dynasty symbols (1600-1046 BC) found in “oracle bone script” from central China are also similar to rongorongo.
Another curious object with writing on it is the Fuente Magna Bowl which is currently housed at the Gold and Precious Metals Museum in La Paz, Bolivia. The Fuente Magna Bowl is said to have been found near Tiwanaku and has Sumerian cuneiform writing on it, as well as early Sumerian hieroglyphs that were in use before cuneiform. This bowl apparently dates from about 3000 BC.
Were Sumerians and Indus Valley seafarers making trans-Pacific voyages starting sometime around 3000 BC? Did they bring with them a complicated form of writing that came down through history on a small island on wooden tablets with rongorongo writing on them? What sort of cataclysm stopped the ancient seafarers from returning to tiny Easter Island in the middle of the South Pacific?
The islanders patiently waited year after year for the big ships to come back, but they never did. Or maybe some did. Polynesians on great epic voyages, such as the ones to Hawaii, must have managed to arrive at Easter Island. Pitcairn Island, the nearest island to the north, was uninhabited when the Bounty mutineers settled there, but there was evidence of statues on that island as well. Pitcairn may have been a stopover island between Tahiti and Easter Island. Easter Island is also associated with the Marquesas Islands, which are not the closest Polynesian Islands to them—and the big question is whether there was contact with South America. The mainstream says no, but scholars such as Thor Heyerdahl say yes!
Part 3: And the Statues Walked
Part 4: Stones Walking
Part 5 - The Megalithic Wall of Vinapu
Part 6: The Museum in Hanga Roa