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FIG 44.

Rano Raraku, its Quarries and Standing Statues — the South-east Face of the Mountain — Isolated Statues — Roads — Stone Crowns of the Images.

Strange as it may appear, it is by no means easy to obtain a complete view of a statue on the island: most of the images which were formerly on the ahu lie on their faces, many are broken, and detail has largely been destroyed by weather. Happily, we are not dependent for our knowledge of the images on such information as we can gather from the ruins on the ahu, but are able to trace them to their origin, though even here excavation is necessary to see the entire figure. Rano Raraku is, as has already been explained, a volcanic cone containing a crater-lake. It resembles, to use an unromantic simile, one of the china drinking-vessels dedicated to the use of dogs, whose base is larger than their brim. Its sides are for the most part smooth and sloping, and several carriages could drive abreast on the northern rim of the crater, but towards the south-east it rises in height, and from this aspect it looks as if the circular mass had been sliced do^\^l with a giant knife forming it into a precipitous cliff. The cliff is lowest where the imaginary knife has come nearest to the central lake, thus causing the two ends to stand out as the peaks already mentioned (fig. 45).

The mountain is composed of compressed volcanic ash, which has been found in certain places to be particularly suitable for quarrying; it has been worked on the southern exterior slope, and also inside the crater both on the south and south-eastern sides. With perhaps a dozen exceptions, the whole of the images in the island have been made from it, and they have been dragged from this point up hill and down dale to adorn the terraces round the coast-line of the island; even the images on the ahu, which have fallen into the sea on the further extremity of the western volcano, are said to have been of the same stone. It is conspicuous in being a reddish brown colour, of which the smallest chips can be easily recognised. It is composite in character, and embedded in the ash are numerous lapilli of metamorphic rock. Owing to the nature of this rock the earliest European visitors came to the conclusion that the material was factitious and that the statues were built of clay and stones; it was curious to find that the marooned prisoners of war of our own time fell into the same mistake of thinking that the figures were "made up."


FIG. 48. — Diagram of Rang Raraku.  

The workable belt, generally speaking, forms a horizontal section about half-way up the side of the mountain. Below it, both on the exterior and within the crater, are banks of detritus, and on these statues have been set up; most of them are still in place, but they have been buried in greater or less degree by the descent of earth from above (fig. 57). Mr. Ritchie made a survey of the mountain with the adjacent coast, but it was found impossible to record the results of our work without some sort of plan or diagram which was large enough to show every individual image. This was accomplished by first studying each quarry, note-book in hand, and then, with the aid of field-glasses, amalgamating the results from below; the standing statues being inserted in their relation to the quarries above. It was a lengthy but enjoyable undertaking. Part of the diagram of the exterior has been redrawn with the help of photographs (fig. 60); the plan of the inside of the crater is shown in what is practically its original form (fig. 47).

Quarries of Rano Raraku. — Leaving on one side for the moment the figures on the lower slope, let us in imagination scramble up the grassy side, a steep climb of some one or two hundred feet to where the rock has been hewn away into a series of chambers and ledges. Here images lie by the score in all stages of evolution, just as they were left when, for some unknown reason, the workmen laid down their tools for the last time and the busy scene was still. Here, as elsewhere, the wonder of the place can only be appreciated as the eye becomes trained to see. In the majority of cases the statues still form part of the rock, and are frequently covered with lichen or overgrown with grass and ferns; and even in the illustrations, for which prominent figures have naturally been chosen, the reader may find that he has to look more than once in order to recognise the form. A conspicuous one first strikes the beholder: as he gazes, he finds with surprise that the walls on either hand are themselves being wrought into figures, and that, resting in a niche above him, is another giant; he looks down, and realises with a start that his foot is resting on a mighty face. To the end of our visit we occasionally found a figure which had escaped observation. The workings on the exterior of Raraku first attract attention; here their size, and incidentally that of many of the statues, has largely been determined by fissures in the hillside, which run vertically and at distances of perhaps 40 feet. The quarries have been worked differently, and each has a character of its own. In some of them the principal figures lie in steps, with their length parallel to the hill's horizontal axis; one of this type is reached through a narrow opening in the rock, and recalls the side-chapel of some old cathedral, save that nature's blue sky forms the only roof (no. 74, fig, 60); immediately opposite the doorway there lies, on a base of rock, in quiet majesty, a great recumbent figure. So like is it to some ancient effigy that the awed spectator involuntarily catches his breath, as if suddenly brought face to face with a tomb of the mighty dead. Once, on a visit to this spot, a rather quaint little touch of nature supervened: going there early in the morning, with the sunlight still sparkling on the floor of dewy grass, a wild-cat, startled by our approach, rushed away from the rock above, and the natives, clambering up, found nestling beneath a statue at a high level a little family of blind kittens.


[No. 41, Fig. 60]  

In other instances the images have been carved lying, not horizontally, but vertically, with sometimes the head, and sometimes the base, toward the summit of the hill. But no exact system has been followed, the figures are found in all places, and all positions. When there was a suitable piece of rock it has been carved into a statue, without any special regard to surroundings or direction. Interspersed with embryo and completed images are empty niches from which others have already been removed; and finished statues must, in some cases, have been passed out over the top of those still in course of construction. From all the outside quarries is seen the same wonderful panorama: immediately beneath are the statues which stand on the lower slopes; farther still lie the prostrate ones beside the approach; while beyond is the whole stretch of the southern plain, with its white line of breaking surf ending in the western mountain of Rano Kao (fig. 54).


Attached to rock by "keel" only. Top of head (flat surface) towards spectator. [No. 61. Fig. 60.]  

The quarries within the crater are on the same lines as those without, save that those on the south-eastern side form a more continuous whole. Here the most striking position is on the top of the seaward cliff, in the centre of which is a large finished image (no. 16, fig. 47); on one side the ground falls away more or less steeply to the crater-lake, on the other a stone thrown down would reach the foot of the precipice; the view extends from sea to sea. Over all the most absolute stillness reigns.

The statues in the quarries number altogether over 150. Amongst this mass of material there is no difficulty in tracing the course of the work. The surface of the rock, which will form the figure, has generally been laid bare before work upon it began, but occasionally the image was wrought lying partially under a canopy (fig. 49). In a few cases the stone has been roughed out into preliminary blocks (no. 58, fig. 60), but this procedure is not universal, and seems to have been followed only where there was some doubt as to the quality of the material. When this was not the case the face and anterior aspect of the statue were first carved, and the block gradually became isolated as the material was removed in forming the head, base, and sides. A gutter or alley-way was thus made round the image (fig. 55) , in which the niches where each man has stood or squatted to his work can be clearly seen; it is, therefore, possible to count how many were at work at each side of a figure.


Ready to be launched; movement prevented by stone wedges. Base towards spectator. [No. 57. Fig. 60.]

When the front and sides were completed down to every detail of the hands, the undercutting commenced. The rock beneath was chipped away by degrees till the statue rested only on a narrow strip of stone running along the spine; those which have been left at this stage resemble precisely a boat on its keel, the back being curved in the same way as a ship's bottom (fig. 50). In the next stage shown the figure is completely detached from the rock, and chocked up by stones, looking as if an inadvertent touch would send it sliding down the hill into the plain below (fig. 51). In one instance the moving has evidently begun, the image having been shifted out of the straight. In another very interesting case the work has been abandoned when the statue was in the middle of its descent; it has been carved in a horizontal position in the highest part of the quarry, where its empty niche is visible, it has then been slewed round and was being launched, base forward, across some other empty niches at a lower level. The bottom now rests on the floor of the quarry, and the figure, which has broken in half, is supported in a standing fashion against the outer edge of the vacated shelves. The first impression was that it had met with an accident in transit, and been abandoned; but it is at least equally possible that for the purpose of bringing it down, a bank or causeway of earth had been built up to level the inequalities of the descent, and that it was resting on this when the work came to an end; the soil would then in time be washed away, and the figure fracture through loss of support.


FIG. 52. — STONE TOOLS (Toki). FIG. 53. — H. Balfour  del.  

In the quarry which is shown in fig. 54, the finished head can be seen lying across the opening, the body is missing, presumably broken off and buried; the bottom of the keel on which the figure at one time rested can be clearly traced in a projecting line of rock down the middle of its old bed, also the different sections where the various men employed have chipped away the stone in undermining the statue. In the quarry wall the niches occupied by the sculptors are also visible, at more than one level, the higher ones being discarded when the upper portion of the work was finished and a lower station needed. The hand of the standing boy in fig. 51 rests on a small platform similarly abandoned.


[No. 72. Fig. 60.]  

The tools were found with which the work has been done. One type of these can be seen lying about in great abundance (fig. 52). They are of the same material as the lapilli in the statues, and made by flaking. Some specimens are pointed at both ends, others have one end more or less rounded. It is unlikely that they were hafted, and they were probably held in the hand when in use. They were apparently discarded as soon as the point became damaged. There is another tool much more carefully made, an adze blade, with the lower end bevelled off to form the cutting edge. In the specimen shown, the top is much abraded apparently from hammering with a maul or mallet (fig. 53). These are rarely found, the probability being that they were too precious to leave and were taken home by the workmen. The whole process was not necessarily very lengthy; a calculation of the number of men who could work at the stone at the same time, and the amount each could accomplish, gave the rather surprising result that a statue might be roughed out within the space of fifteen days. The most notable part of the work was the skill which kept the figure so perfect in design and balance that it was subsequently able to maintain its equilibrium in a standing position; to this it is difficult to pay too high a tribute.


[No. 64. Fig. 50.]

It remains to account for the vast number of images to be found in the quarry. A certain number have, no doubt, been abandoned prior to the general cessation of the work; in some cases a flaw has been found in the rock and the original plan has had to be given up — in this case, part of the stone is sometimes used for either a smaller image or one cut at a different angle. In other instances the sculptors have been unlucky enough to come across at important points one or more of the hard nodules with which their tools could not deal, and as the work could not go down to posterity with a large wart on its nose or excrescence on its chin, it has had to be stopped. But when all these instances have been subtracted, the amount of figures remaining in the quarries is still startlingly large when compared with the number which have been taken out of it, and must have necessitated, if they were all in hand at once, a number of workers out of all proportion to any population which the island has ever been likely to have maintained. The theory naturally suggests itself that some were merely rock-carvings and not intended to be removed. It is one which needs to be adopted with caution, for more than once, where every appearance has pointed to its being correct, a similar neighbour has been found which was actually being removed; on the whole, however, there can be little doubt that it is at any rate a partial solution of the problem. Some of the images are little more than embossed carvings on the face of the rock without surrounding alley-ways. In one instance, inside the crater, a piece of rock which has been left standing on the very summit of the cliff has been utilised in such a way that the figure lies on its side, while its back is formed by the outward precipice (fig. 56); this is contrary to all usual methods, and it seems improbable that it was intended to make it into a standing statue. Perhaps the strongest evidence is afforded by the size of some of the statues: the largest (fig. 55; no. 64, fig. 60) is 66 feet in length, whereas 36 feet is the extreme ever found outside the quarry; tradition, it is true, points out the ahu on the south coast for which this monster was designed, but it is difficult to believe it was ever intended to move such a mass. If this theory is correct, it would be interesting to know whether the stage of carving came first, and that of removal followed, as the workmen became more expert; or whether it was the result of decadence when labour may have become scarce. It is, of course, possible that the two methods proceeded concurrently, rock-carvings being within the means of those who could not procure the labour necessary to move the statue.

Legendary lore throws no light on these matters, nor on the reasons which led to the desertion of this labyrinth of work; it has invented a story which entirely satisfies the native mind and is repeated on every occasion. There was a certain old woman who lived at the southern corner of the mountain and tilled the position of cook to the image-makers. She was the most important person of the establishment, and moved the images by supernatural power (Mana), ordering them about at her will. One day, when she was away, the workers obtained a fine lobster, which had been caught on the west coast, and ate it up, leaving none for her; unfortunately they forgot to conceal the remains, and when the cook returned and found how she had been treated, she arose in her wrath, told all the images to fall down, and thus brought the work to a standstill.


[No. 27. Fig. 47.]  

Standing Statues of Rano Raraku. — Descending from the quarries, we turn to the figures below. A few at the foot of the mountain have obviously been thrown down; one of these (no . 6, fig. 60) was wrecked in the same conflict as the one on Ahu Paro, and one is shown where an attempt has been made to cut off the head. Another series of images have originally stood round the base on level ground (nos. 1, 2, 3, fig. 60), extending from the exterior of the entrance to the crater to the southern corner; these are all prostrate. On the slopes there are a few horizontal statues, but the great majority, both inside the crater and without, are still erect. Outside, some forty figures stand in an irregular belt, reaching from the corner nearest the sea to about half-way to the gap leading into the crater. The bottom of the mountain is here diversified by little hillocks and depressions; these hillocks would have made commanding situations, but rather curiously the statues, while erected quite close to them, and even on their sides, are never on the top. Inside the crater, where some twenty statues are still erect, the arrangement is rather more regular; but, on the whole, they are put up in no apparent order. All stood with their backs to the mountain.


              No. 32.                                                    No. 33.                    No. 34.                

They vary very considerably in size; the tallest which could be measured from its base was 32 feet 3 inches, while others are not much above 11 feet. Every statue is buried in greater or less degree, but while some are exposed as far as the elbow, in others only a portion of the top of the head can be seen above the surface (fig. 57), others no doubt are covered entirely. The number visible must vary from time to time, as by the movement of the earth some are buried and others disclosed. An old man, whose testimony was generally reliable, stated, when speaking of the figures on the outside of the mountain, that while those nearer the sea were in the same condition as he always remembered them, those farther from it were now more deeply buried than in his youth.

Various old people were brought out from the village at Hanga Roa to pay visits to the camp, but the information forthcoming was never of great extent; one elderly gentleman in particular took much more interest in roaming round the mountain, recalling various scenes of his youth, than in anything connected with the statues. A few names are still remembered in connection with the individual figures, and are said to be those of the makers of the images, and some proof is afforded of the reality of the tradition by the fact that the clans of the persons named are consistently given. Another class of names is, however, obviously derived merely from local circumstances; one in the quarry, under a drip from above, is known by the equivalent for "Dropping Water," while a series inside the crater are called after the birds which frequent the cliff-side, “Kia-kia, Flying," "Kia-kia, Sitting," and so forth. A solitary legend relates to an unique figure, resembling rather a block than an image, which lies on the surface on the outside of the mountain (no. 24, fig. 60). It is the single exception to the rule mentioned above, that no evolution can be traced in the statues on the island. The usual conception is there, and the hands are shown, but the head seems to melt into the body and the ear and arm to have become confused. It is said to have been the first image made and is known as Tai-hare-atua, which tradition says was the name of the maker. He found himself unable to fashion it properly, and went over to the other side of the island to consult with a man who lived near Hanga Roa, named Rauwai-ika. He stayed the night there, but the expert remained silent, and he was retiring disappointed in the morning, when he was followed by his host, who called him back. “Make your image," said he, “like me," — that is, in form of a man.

On our first visit to the mountain, overcome by the wonder of the scene, we turned to our Fernandez boy and asked him what he thought of the statues. Like the classical curate, when the bishop inquired as to the character of his egg, he struggled manfully between the desire to please and a sense of truth; like the curate, he took refuge in compromise. “Some of them," he said doubtfully, he thought "were very nice." If the figures at first strike even the cultured observer as crude and archaic, it must be remembered that not only are they the work of stone tools, but to be rightly seen should not be scrutinised near at hand. “Hoa-haka-nanaia," for instance, is wholly and dismally out of place under a smoky portico, but on the slopes of a mountain, gazing in impenetrable calm over sea and land, the simplicity of outline is soon found to be marvellously impressive. The longer the acquaintance the more this feeling strengthens; there is always the sense of quiet dignity, of suggestion and of mystery.


[Nos. 27 and 29. Fig. 60.]

FIG. 59. —LOBE CONTAINING A DISC [No. 23. Fig. 60.]


Diagrammatic sketch showing position of statues.

For same image after excavation see fig. 69.  

While the scene on Raraku always arouses a species of awe, it is particularly inspiring at sunset, when, as the light fades, the images gradually become outlined as stupendous black figures against the gorgeous colouring of the west. The most striking sight witnessed on the island was a fire on the hill-side; in order to see our work more clearly we set alight the long dry grass, always a virtuous act on Easter Island that the live-stock may have the benefit of fresh shoots; in a moment the whole was a blaze, the mountain, wreathed in masses of driving smoke, grew to portentous size, the quarries loomed down from above as dark giant masses, and in the whirl of flame below the great statues stood out calmly, with a quiet smile, like stoical souls in Hades.

The questions which arise are obvious: do these buried statues differ in any way from those in the workings above, from those on the ahu or from one another? were they put up on any foundation? and, above all, what is the history of the mountain and the raison d’être of the figures? In the hope of throwing some light on these problems we started to dig them out. It had originally been thought that the excavation of one or two would give all the information which it was possible to obtain, but each case was found to have unique and instructive features, and we finally unearthed in this way, wholly or in part, some twenty or thirty statues. It was usually easy to trace the stages by which the figures had been gradually covered. On the top was a layer of surface soil, from 3 to 8 inches in depth; then came debris, which had descended from the quarry above in the form of rubble, it contained large numbers of chisels, some forty of which have been found in digging out one statue; below this was the substance in which a hole had been dug to erect the image, it sometimes consisted of clay and occasionally in part of rock. Not unfrequently the successive descents of earth could be traced by the thin lines of charcoal which marked the old surfaces, obviously the result of grass or brushwood fires. The few statues which are in a horizontal position are always on the surface (no. 31, fig. 60), and at first give the impression that they have been abandoned in the course of being brought down from the quarries; as they are frequently found close to standing images, of which only the head is visible, it follows that, if this is the correct solution, the work must still have been proceeding when the earlier statues were already largely submerged. The juxtaposition, however, occurs so often that it seems, on the whole, more probable that the rush of earth which covered some, upset the foundations of others, and either threw them down where they stood or carried them with it on top of the flood. These various landslips allow of no approximate deductions as to the date, in the manner which is possible with successively deposited layers of earth.

To get absolutely below the base of an image was not altogether easy. The first we attempted to dig out was one of the farther ones within the crater (no. 19, fig. 47); it was found that, while the back of the hole into which it had been dropped was excavated in the soft volcanic ash, the front and remaining sides were of hard rock. This rock was cut to the curvature of the figure at a distance of some 3 inches from it, and as the chisel marks were horizontal, from right to left, the workmen must have stood in the cup while preparing it: in clearing out the alluvium between the wall of the cup and the figure, six stone implements were found. The hands, which were about 1 foot below the level of the rim, were perfectly formed. The next statue chosen for excavation was also inside the crater (no. 107, fig. 47); it was most easily attacked from the side, and this time it was possible to get low enough to see that it stood on no foundation, and that the base instead of expanding, as with those which stood on the ahu, contracted in such a manner as to give a peg-shaped appearance; this confirmed the impression made by the previous excavation, that the image was intended to remain in its hole and was not, as some have stated, merely awaiting removal to an ahu (fig. 62).



FIG. 62. — Showing effect of weathering and peg-shaped base.
[No. 107. Fig. 47.]

FIG. 63. — Showing scamped work in lower part of figure, no right hand carved, and surface only coarsely chiselled.
[No. 36. Fig. 47.]


Showing {a) typical raised rings and girdle; (6) exceptional incised carvings.
[No. 109. Fig. 47.]

                                                                                     P. Edmunds.
FIG. 65. — STATUE ON AN AHU AT ANAKENA. Rings on centre and lower portion of back.

The story was shown not only in the sections of the excavation, but in the degrees of weathering on the figure itself: the lowest part of the image to above the elbow exhibited, by the sharpness of its outlines and frequently of the chisel cuts also, that it had never been exposed, the other portions being worn in relative degrees. Traces of the smoothness of the original surface can still be seen above-ground in the more protected portions of some of the statues, such as in the orbit and under the chin (see frontispiece); but a much clearer impression is of course gained of the finish and detail of the image when the unweathered surface is exposed. The polish is often very beautiful, and pieces of pumice, called "punga," are found, with which the figures are said to have been rubbed down. The fingers taper, and the excessive length of the thumb-joint and nail are remarkable (fig. 72). The nipples are in some cases so pronounced that the natives often characterised them as feminine, but in no case which we came across did the statues represent other than the nude male figure1; the navel is indicated by a raised disc. On the statue with the contracting base, which is one of the best, the surface modelling of the elbowjoint is clearly shown. The orbital cavity in the figures on Raraku is rather differently modelled from those on the ahu; in the statues on the mountain the position of the eyeball is always indicated by a straight line below the brow, the orbit has no lower border (fig. 72). On the terraces the socket is constantly hollowed out as in the figure at the British Museum (fig. 31).

The eye is the only point in which the two sets vary, with the important exception that some on the mountain have a type of back which never appears on the ahu. This question of back proved to be of special interest: in some images it remained exactly as when the figure left the quarry, the whole was convex, giving it a thick and archaic appearance, particularly as regards the neck; in other instances, the posterior was beautifully modelled after the same fashion as those on the terraces, the stone had been carefully chipped away till the ears stood out from the back of the head, the neck assumed definite form, and the spine, instead of standing out as a sharp ridge, was represented by an incised line. This second type, when excavated, proved, to our surprise, to possess a well-carved design in the form of a girdle shown by three raised bands, this was surmounted by one or sometimes by two rings, and immediately beneath it was another design somewhat in the shape of an M (figs. 64 and 106). The whole was new, not only to us, but to the natives, who greatly admired it. Later, when we knew what to look for, traces of the girdle could be seen also on the figures on the ahu where the arm had protected it from the weather. It was afterwards realised with amusement that the discovery of this design might have been made before leaving England by merely passing the barrier and walking behind the statues in the Bloomsbury portico. One case was found, a statue at Anakena, where a ring was visible, not only on the back but also on each of the buttocks, and in view of subsequent information these lower rings became of special importance. The girdle in this case consisted of one line only; the detail of the carving had doubtless been preserved by being, buried in the sand (fig. 65) . The two forms of back, unmodelled and modelled, stand side by side on the mountain (figs. 66, 67).

The next step was to discover where and when the modelling was done. Certainly not in the original place in the quarry, where it would be impossible from the position in which the image was evolved; generally speaking there was no trace of such work, and it was not until many months later that new light was thrown on the matter. Then it was remarked that in one of the standing statues on the outside of the hill, which was buried up to the neck (fig. 59), while the right ear was most •carefully modelled, showing a disc, the left ear was as yet quite plain, and that the back of the head also was not symmetrical. Excavations made clear that the whole back was in course of transformation from the boat-shaped to the modelled type, each workman apparently chipping away where it seemed to him good (fig. 68). Two or three similar cases were then found on which work was proceeding; but on the other hand, some of the simpler backs were excavated to the foot, and others a considerable distance, and there was no indication that any alteration was intended. There are three possible explanations for these-erect and partially moulded statues: Firstly, it may have been the regular method for the back to be completed after the statue was set up, in which case some kind of staging must have been used; one of our guides had made a remark, noted, but not taken very seriously at the moment, that "the statues were set up to be finished"; some knowledge or tradition of such work, therefore, appeared to linger. Secondly, the convex back may be the older form, and those on which work was being done were being modelled to bring them up to date. Alteration did at times take place; a certain small image presented a very curious appearance both from the proportion of the body, which was singularly narrow from back to front, and because it was difficult to see how it remained in place as it was apparently exposed to the base; it turned out that the figure had been carved out of the head of an older statue, of which the body was buried below (no. 14, fig. 60). Thirdly, these particular figures may have been erected and left in an unfinished condition; if so, their deficiencies were high up and would be obvious


FIG. 66. —Unmodelled

FIG. 67. —Modelled

FIG. 68. — Showing back in process of being modelled.
 [No. 23. Fig. 50]

FIG. 69. — Showing image wedged by boulders  

Scamping did not often occur, and when it did so it was in the concealed portions. In one case the left hand was correctly modelled, but the right was not even indicated beyond the wrist (fig. 63). The statue shown in the frontispiece, which rejoices in the name of Piro-piro, meaning "bad odour,"2 stands at the foot of the slope, and appears to remain as it was set up without further burial. It is a well-made figure, probably one of the most recent, and the upper part of the back is carefully moulded, but on digging it out it was found that the bottom had not been finished, but left in the form of a rough excrescence of stone; there was no ring, but a girdle had been carved on the protruding portion, so that this was not intended to be removed. In another instance a large head had fallen on a slope at such an angle that it was impossible to locate the position of the body; curiosity led to investigation, when it was found that the thing was a fraud, the magnificent head being attached to a little dwarf trunk, which must have been buried originally nearly to the neck to keep the top upright. These instances of "jerrybuilding" confirm our impression that at any rate a large number of the statues were intended to remain in situ.

Indications were found of two different methods of erection, and the mode may have been determined by the nature of the ground. By the first procedure the statue seems to have been placed on its face in the desired spot, and a hole to have been dug beneath the base. The other method was to undermine the base, with the statue lying face uppermost; in several instances a number of large stones were found behind the back of the figure, evidently having been used to wedge it while it was dragged to the vertical. The upright position had sometimes been only partially attained; one statue was still in a slanting attitude, corresponding exactly to the slope of a hard clay wall behind it; the interval between the two, varying from three yards to eighteen inches, had been packed with sub-angular boulders which weighed about one hundredweight, or as much as a man could lift (fig. 69) .

A few of the figures bear incised markings rudely, and apparently promiscuously, carved. This was first noted in the case of one of two statues which stand together nearest to the entrance of the crater; here it has been found possible to work the rock at a low level, and in the empty quarry, from which they no doubt have been taken, two images have been set up, one slightly in front of the other; six still unfinished figures lie in close proximity (figs. 70 and 71). The standing figure, nearest to the lake, bore a rough design on the face, and when it was dug out the back was found to be covered with similar incised marks. The natives were much excited, and convinced that we should receive a large sum of money in England when the photograph of these was produced, for nothing ever dispelled the illusion that the expedition was a financial speculation. It was these carvings more especially that we ourselves hastily endeavoured to cover up when, on the arrival of Admiral von Spec's Squadron, we daily expected a visit from the officers on board. The markings have certainly not been made by the same practised hand as the raised girdle and rings, and appear to be comparatively recent (fig. 64). Other statues were excavated, where similar marks were noticed, but, except in this case, digging led practically always to disappointment. It was the part above the surface only which had been used as a block on which to scrawl design, from the same impulse presumably as impels the school-boy of to-day to make marks with chalk on a hoarding. On one ahu the top of the head of a statue has been decorated with rough faces, the carving evidently having been done after the statue had fallen.

In digging out the image with the tattooed back, we came across the one and only burial which was found in connection with these figures; it was close to it and at the level of the rings. The long bones, the patella, and base of the skull were identified; they lay in wet soil, crushed and intermixed with large stones, so the attitude could not be determined beyond the fact that the head was to the right of the image and the long bones to the left. These bones had become of the consistency of moist clay, and could only be identified by making transverse sections of them with a knife, after first cleaning portions longitudinally by careful scraping.


Prior to excavation.
[Nos. 108-109. Fig 47]

After  excavation.
[Nos. 109-108. Fig 47.  See also Fig. 64.]  

In several other instances human bones were discovered near the statues, but, like the carvings, they appeared to be of later date than the images. One skull was found beneath a figure which was lying face downwards on the surface; another fragment must have been placed behind the base after the statue had fallen forward. The natives stated that in the epidemics which  ravaged the island the statues afforded a natural mark for depositing remains. In the same way a head near an ahu, which was at first thought to be that of a standing statue, turned out to be broken from the trunk and put up pathetically to mark the grave of a little child. There is a roughly constructed ahu on the outside of Rano Raraku at the corner nearest to the sea, of which more will be said hereafter, and a quarried block of rock on the very top of the westerly peak was also said to be used for the exposure of the dead (no. 75, fig. 47). Close to this block there are some very curious circular pits cut in the rock; one examined was 5 feet 6 inches in depth and 3 feet 6 inches in diameter (no. 74, fig. 47). It is possible they were used as vaults, but, if so, the shape is quite different from those of the ahu. The conclusion arrived at was that the statues themselves were not directly connected with burials. There seems also no reason to believe that they are put up in any order or method; they appear to have been erected on any spot handy to the quarries where there was sufficient earth, or even, as has been seen, in the quarry itself when circumstances permitted.


The South-Eastern Side of Rano Raraku is a problem in itself. The great wall formed by the cliff is like the ramparts of some giant castle rent by vertical fissures. The greatest height, the top of the peak, is about five hundred feet, of which the cliff forms perhaps half, the lower part being a steep but comparatively smooth bank of detritus. Over the grassy surface of this bank are scattered numerous fragments of rock, weighing from a few pounds to many tons, which have fallen down from above. The kitchen tent in our camp at the foot had a narrow escape from being demolished by one of these stones, which nearly carried it away in the impetus of its descent. It has never been suggested that this face of the mountain was being worked, nevertheless, it was subsequently difficult to understand how we lived so long below it, gazing at it daily, before we appreciated the fact that here also, although in much lesser degree, were both finished and embryo images. At last one stone was definitely seen to be in the form of a head, and excavation showed it to be an erected and buried statue. A few other figures were found standing and prostrate, and some unfinished images; these last, however, were in no case being hewn out of solid rock, but wrought into shape out of detached stones. On the whole, it is not probable that this portion was ever a quarry, in the same way as the western side and the interior of the crater. It is, of course, impossible to say what may be hidden beneath the detritus, but the lower part of the cliff is too soft a rock to be satisfactorily hewn, and the workmen appear simply to have seized on fragments which have fallen from above. “Here," they seem to have said, “is a good stone; let us turn it into a statue."

One day, when making a more thorough examination of the slope, our attention was excited by a small level plateau, about half-way up, from which protruded two similar pieces of stone next to one another. They were obviously giant noses of which the nostrils faced the cliff. Digging was bound to follow, but it proved a long business, as the figures it revealed were particularly massive and corpulent. Their position was horizontal, side by side, and the effect, more particularly when looking down at them from the cliff above, was of two great bodies lying in their graves (fig. 73). The thing was a mystery; they were certainly not in a quarry, but if they had once been erect, why had they faced the mountain, instead of conforming to the rule of having their back to it? Orientation could not account for it, as other statues on the same slope were differently placed. Then again, if they had once stood and then fallen, and in proof of this one head was broken off from the trunk, how did it come about that they were lying horizontally on a sloping hill-side? The upper part of the bodies had suffered somewhat from weather, and a small round basin, such as natives use for domestic purposes, had been hollowed out in one abdomen, but the hands were quite sharp and unweathered. We used to scramble up at off moments, and stand gazing down at them trying to read their history.

It became at last obvious they had once been set up with the lower part inserted in the ground to the usual level, and later been intentionally thrown down. For this purpose a level trench must have been cut through the sloping side of the hill at a depth corresponding to the base of the standing images, and into this the figures had fallen. While they lay in the trench with the upper part of the bodies exposed, one had been found a nice smooth stone for household use. A charcoal soil level showed clearly where the surface had been at this epoch, which must have been comparatively recent, as an iron nail was found in it. Finally, a descent of earth had covered all but the noses, leaving them in the condition in which we found them.

This, though a satisfactory explanation as far as it went, did not account for the fact that the figures were facing the mountain, and here for once tradition came to our help. These images had, it was said, marked a boundary; the line of demarcation led between them, from the fissure in the cliff above right down to the middle statue in the great Tongariki terrace. To cross it was death; but as to what the boundary connoted no information was forthcoming; there seemed no great tribal division — the same clans ranged over the whole of the district. When, however, the line is followed through the crevice into the crater (fig. 47), it is found to form on both sides the boundary where the image-making ceased (no. i is a detached figure being brought down, not in a quarry), and was probably the line of taboo which preserved the rights of the image-makers. I was later given the cheering information that a certain "devil" frequented the site of my house, which was just on the image side of the boundary, who particularly resented the presence of strangers, and was given to strangling them in the night. The spirits, who inhabit the crater, are still so unpleasant, that my Kanaka maid objected to taking clothes there to wash, even in daylight, till assured that our party would be working within call.


South-east side, Rano Raraku. Showing form of hands.  

Isolated Statues. — The finished statues, as distinct from those in the quarries, have so far been spoken of under two heads, those which once adorned the ahu and those still standing on the slope of Raraku; there is, however, another class to consider, which, for want of a better name, will be termed the Isolated Statues. It has already been stated that, as Raraku is approached, a number of figures lie by the side of the modern track, others are round the base of the mountain, and yet other isolated specimens are scattered about the island. All these images are prostrate and lie on the surface of the ground, some on their backs and some on their faces. These were the ones which, according to legend, were being moved from the quarries to the ahu by the old lady when she stopped the work in her wrath; or, according to another account, quoted by a visitor before our day, “They walked, and some fell by the way."



FIG 74.

There must, we felt, have been roads along which they were taken, but for long we kept a look-out for such without success. At last a lazy Sunday afternoon ride, with no particular object, took one of us to the top of a small hill, some two miles to the west of Raraku. The level rays of the sinking sun showed up the inequalities of the ground, and, looking towards the sea, along the level plain of the south coast, the old track was clearly seen; it was slightly raised over lower ground and depressed somewhat through higher, and along it every few hundred yards lay a statue. Detailed study confirmed this first impression. At times over hard stony ground the trail was lost, but its main drift was indisputable; it was about nine feet or ten feet in width, the embankments were in places two feet above the surrounding ground, and the cuttings three feet deep. The road can be traced from the south-western corner of the mountain, with one or two gaps, nearly to the foot of Rano Kao, but the succession of statues continues only about half the distance. It generally runs some few hundred yards further inland than the present road, but a branch, with a statue, leads down to the ahu of Teatenga on the coast, and, another portion, either a branch or a detour of the main road, also with a statue, goes to the cove of Akahanga with its two large image ahu (fig. 32). There are on this road twenty-seven statues in all, covering a distance of some four miles, but fourteen of them, including two groups of three, are in the first mile. Their heights are from fifteen feet to over thirty feet, but generally over twenty feet.

As a clue had now been obtained, it was comparatively simple to trace two other roads from Raraku. One leads from the crater, and connects it with the western district of the island. It commences at the gap in the mountain wall, in the centre of which an image lies on its face with weird effect, as if descending head foremost into the plain; and runs for a while roughly parallel to the first road but about a mile further inland. It is not quite so regular as the south road, and is marked for a somewhat less distance by a sequence of images, some fourteen in number, which in the same way grow further apart as the distance from the mountain increases. When the succession of statues ceases, the road divides; one track turns to the north-west, and reaches the sea-board through a small pass in the western line of cones; the other continues as far as a more southerly pass in the same succession of heights. In each pass there is a statue.

The third road, which runs from Raraku in a northerly direction, is much shorter than those to the south and west. It has only four statues covering a distance of perhaps a mile, and it then disappears; if, however, the figures round the base of the mountain belonged to it, and they lie in the same direction, it started from the southern corner of the mountain, led in front of the standing statues and across the trail from the crater, before taking its northward route up the eastern plain. The furthest of the images is the largest which has been moved; it lies on its back, badly broken, but the total of the fragments gives a height of thirty-six feet four inches. In addition to these three avenues, there are indications that some of the statues on the south-eastern side of Raraku may have been on a fourth road along that side beneath the cliff.


Unbroken; if erect, would face westwards.

Showing by cleavage and only partial fall that it
has been erect and faced westwards.  

So far the matter was sufficiently clear, but another problem was still unsolved: if the images were really being moved to their respective ahu all round the coast, how was it that, with very few exceptions, they were all found in the neighbourhood of Raraku? If also they were being moved, what was the method pursued, for some lay on their backs and some on their faces? With the hope of elucidating this great question of the means of transport, we dug under and near one or two of the single figures without achieving our end — nothing was found; but the close study which the work necessitated called attention to the fact that on one of them the lines of weathering could not have been made with the figure in its present horizontal attitude. The rain had evidently collected on the head and run down the back; it must therefore have stood for a considerable time in a vertical position. It was again a noticeable fact that, though some single figures are lying unbroken (fig. 75), others, like the large one on the north road, proved to be so shattered that no amount of normal disintegration or shifting of soil could account for their condition — they had obviously fallen. So wedded, however, were we at this time to the theory that they were in course of transport, that it was seriously considered whether they could have been moved in an upright position. The point was settled by finding one day by the side of the track, some two miles from the mountain, a partially buried head. This was excavated, and a statue found that had been originally set up in a hole and, later, undermined, causing it to fall forward. This was the only instance of an isolated figure where the burial had been to any depth, but in various other cases it was then seen that soil had been removed from the base, and one or two more of the figures had not quite fallen (fig. 76).

When the whole number of the statues on the roads were in imagination re-erected, it was found that they had all originally stood with their backs to the hill. Rano Raraku was, therefore, approached by at least three magnificent avenues, on each of which the pilgrim was greeted at intervals by a stone giant guarding the way to the sacred mountain (map of roads). One of the ahu on the south coast, Hanga Paukura, has been approached by a similar avenue of five statues facing the visitor. These five images when first seen were a great puzzle, as some of them are so embedded in the earth that their backs are even with the levelled sward in front of the ahu; later there seemed little doubt that, like the two giants on the southeast side of Raraku, trenches had been dug into which they had fallen. Subsequently, a sixth statue was discovered, the other side of a modern wall, weathered and worn away, but of Raraku stone and still upright. This is the only instance of an erect figure to be found elsewhere than on the mountain (fig. 77).


FIG. 78. — AHU PARO,
With image which was the last to be overthrown.
Foreground. — Hillock, traditionally utilised for placing the crown in position.
Distance. — Eastern Headland, with three cones, from which Spanish sovereignty was proclaimed in 1770.

In addition to the images which have stood in these processional roads, there are, excluding one or two figures near the mountain whose raison d’être is somewhat doubtful, fourteen isolated statues in various parts of the island, for whose position no certain reason could be found. Some of these may have belonged to inland ahu which have disappeared, or they may be solitary memorials to mark some particular spots, but the greater number appear to have stood near tracks of some sort. Some of these last may have been boundary stones, and in this class may perhaps fall the smaller statue now at the British Museum, which is a very inferior specimen. According to local information it stood almost half-way on the track leading from Vinapu to Mataveri along the bottom of Rano Kao; the hole from which it was dug was pointed out, and our informant declared that he remembered it standing, and that the people used to dance round it. The larger figure at the British Museum was in a unique position, which will be spoken of later.

No statues were, therefore, found of which it could be said that they were in process of being removed, and the mode of transport remains a mystery. An image could be moved down from the quarry by means of banks of earth, and though requiring labour and skill, the process is not inconceivable. Similarly, the figures may have been, and probably were, erected on the terraces in the same way, being hauled up on an embankment of earth made higher than the pedestals and then dropped on them. Near Paro, the ahu where the last statue was overthrown, there is a hillock, and tradition says that a causeway was made from it to the head of the tall figure which stood upon the ahu, and along this the hat was rolled (fig. 78) — a piece of lore which seems hardly likely to have been invented by a race having no connection with the statues. But the problem remains, how was the transport carried out along the level? The weight of some amounted to as much as 40 or 50 tons. It would simplify matters very much if there were any reason to suppose that the images were moved, as was the case with the hats, before being wrought, merely as cylinders of stone, in which case it would be possible to pass a rope under and over it, thus parbuckling the stone or rolling it along, but the evidence is all to the contrary. There is no trace whatever of an unfinished image on or near an ahu, while, as we have seen, they are found at all stages in the quarry. Presumably rollers were employed, but there appears never to have been much wood, or material for cordage, in the island, and it is not easy to see how sufficient men could bring strength to bear on the block. Even if the ceremonial roads were used when possible, these fragile figures have been taken to many distant ahu, up hill and down dale, over rough and stony ground, where there is no trace of any road at all.

The natives are sometimes prepared to state that the statues were thrown down by human means, they never have any doubt that they were moved by supernatural power. We were once inspecting an ahu built on a natural eminence, one side was sheer cliff, the other was a slope of 29 feet, as steep as a house roof, near the top a statue was lying. The most intelligent of our guides turned to me significantly. “Do you mean to tell me," he said, “that that was not done by mana?” The darkness is not rendered less tantalising by the reflection that could centuries roll away and the old scenes be again enacted before us, the workers would doubtless exclaim in bewildered surprise at our ignorance, “But how could you do it any other way?”

Besides the ceremonial roads and their continuations, there are traces of an altogether different track which is said to run round the whole seaboard of the island. It is considered to be supernatural work, and is known as Ara Mahiva, "ara" meaning road and "Mahiva" being the name of the spirit or deity who made it. On the southern side it has been obliterated in making the present track — it was there termed the "path for carrying fish"; but on the northern and western coasts, where for much of the way it runs on the top of high cliffs, such a use is out of the question. It can be frequently seen there like a long persistent furrow, and where its course has been interrupted by erosion, no fresh track had been made further inland; it terminates suddenly on the broken edge, and resumes its course on the other side. It is best seen in certain lights running up both the western and southern edges of Rano Kao. Its extent and regularity appeared to preclude the idea of landslip. There is no reason to suppose that it is due to the imported livestock, and it has no connection with ahu, or the old native centres of population, yet to have been so worn by naked feet it must constantly have been used. This silent witness to a forgotten past is one of the most mysterious and impressive things on the island.


Rano Kao in the distance.



Mention must finally be made of the crowns or hats which adorned the figures on the ahu. Their full designation is said to be "Hau (hats) hiterau moai," but they are always alluded to merely as "hiterau" or "hitirau."

These coverings for the head were cylindrical in form, the bottom being slightly hollowed out into an oval depression in order to fit on to the head of the image; the depression was not in the centre, but left a larger margin in front, so that the brim projected over the eyes of the figure, a fashion common in native head-dresses. They are said by the present inhabitants to have been kept in place by being wedged with white stones. The top was worked into a boss or knot. The material is a red volcanic tuff found in a small crater on the side of a larger volcano, generally known as Punapau, not far from Cook's Bay (fig. 79). In the crater itself are the old quarries. A few half-buried hats may be seen there, and the path up to it, and for some hundreds of yards from the foot of the mountain, is strewn with them. They are at this stage simply large cylinders, from 4 feet to 8 feet high, from 6 feet to 9 feet across (fig. 80), and they were obviously conveyed to the ahu in this form and there carved into shape (fig. 81). An unwrought cylinder is still lying at a hundred yards from the ahu of Anakena. The finished hats are not more than 3 feet 10 inches to 6 feet in height, with addition of 6 inches to 2 feet for the knob; the measurement across the crown is from about 5 feet 6 inches to 8 feet. The stone is more easily broken and cut than that of the statues, and while many crowns survive, many more have been smashed in falling or used as building materials.

It is a noteworthy fact that the images on Raraku never had hats, nor have any of the isolated statues; they were confined to those on the ahu.


1 The sole possible exception was probably due to some flaw in the stone.

2 The farthest outstanding figure to the left in fig. 46

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