Most of us are familiar with the giant monolithic anthropomorphic statues on Easter Island, but how many of you have heard of the Rongorongo alphabet?
Ancient artifacts containing a set of etched symbols were found on Easter Island in the 19th century, but nobody has managed to decipher the writing yet.
Could this strange writing contain the secret behind the collapse of the island’s ancient civilization?
Let’s take a closer look…
The Rongorongo alphabet was discovered by a lay friar named Eugène Eyraud in 1864. They were/are displayed on a set of twenty-six wooden tablets.
These tablets contained etchings made by natives with sharp stones – mostly of animals that were unknown on the island.
Eyraud believed that the attention to detail on these hieroglyphic characters pointed to one thing – it was a form of primitive writing.
All of the tablets were either well-weathered or burned in some way.
Apparently Eugène Eyraud’s group also found the strange glyphs on a chieftain’s staff, a bird-man statuette, and two reimiro ornaments.
The tablets consist of ‘sentences’ of glyphs printed between lines that run across the tablets.
A large majority of the tablets are also a fluted shape, and the sentences are squeezed into these thinner channels.
The symbols, or characters, that contain a head, are oriented with the head looking upwards and either facing forward, or profiling to the right.
Each glyph is no more than a centimeter in height.
Experts believe that the text can either be read from left to right or bottom to top – reverse boustrophedon.
The tablets are thought to have been created at some point in the 13th Century when the inhabitants of Easter Island were involved in forest clearing.
One of the images used on the tablets seems to resemble an Easter Island palm – a tree that is thought to have been extinct on the land since 1650 (according to pollen records).
The Rongorongo Language
The Rongorongo language has proven near enough impossible to translate due to the poor attestation of the Old Rapanui language.
Many experts believe that the writing itself might have been Proto-writing – a type of script that steps away from linguistic content.
Others believe that the language on the tablets was designed as a memory aid or for decorative purposes.
The fact of the matter is that these tablets could well hold the key to what happened to the past civilizations of Easter Island.
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