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Sources of Information: History, Recent Remains, Living Memory — Mode of Life: Habitations, Food, Dress and Ornament — Social Life: Divisions, Wars, Marriages, Burial Customs, Social Functions.  

It has been seen that any knowledge which exists on the island with regard to the origin of the monuments is of the most vague description, and it is therefore necessary, in the attempt to solve the problem, to rely principally on indirect evidence. It becomes in particular essential to collect all possible information about the present people; not only for its intrinsic anthropological interest, but in order to find if any links connect them with the great builders, or if we must look for an earlier race.

As a first step in the search the scientist naturally turns to the most ancient accounts which he can find describing the island, its inhabitants, and remains; these are not yet two hundred years old. The first European to see it was a Dutch Admiral named Roggeveen, who came upon it on Easter Day, 1722, during his search for another and mysterious island known as Davis or David's Island.1 He concluded that it was not the place for which he was looking, christened it Easter Island, and went further afield. His ship lay off the north side of the island for a week, but only on one day did landing take place, and one or two of the party have left us short descriptions. There were, they say, no big trees, but it had a rich soil and good climate; there were sugar-cane, bananas, potatoes and figs, and the natives brought them a number of fowls, estimated varyingly from sixty to five hundred. One of the voyagers goes so far as to say that "all the country was under cultivation." As for the inhabitants, they were, they tell us, of all shades of colour, yellow, white, and brown, and wore clothes made of a "field product," evidently tapa. They were "painted," which apparently signifies tattooed, and it was the habit to distend the lobes of their ears so that they hung to the shoulders, and large discs were worn in them. “When these Indians," wrote Roggeveen, "go about any job which might set their ear-plugs wagging, and bid fair to do them any hurt, they take them out and hitch the rim of the lobe up over the top of the ear, which gives them a quaint and laughable appearance." 2

The natives were extraordinarily thievish, stealing the caps from the seamen's heads, while one actually climbed into the port-hole of the cabin and took the cloth off the table. These habits gave rise to an unfortunate incident, as when the visitors came on shore, a scuffle took place over the sanctity of property, and the natives began throwing stones, on which a petty official gave the order to fire, ten or twelve natives being killed. The occurrence, however, was duly explained, and did not terminate amicable relations. We learn that at this time the great statues, of which this is of course the first report, were then, as has already been noted, standing and in place. The Dutchmen describe them as "remarkable, tall, stone figures, a good 30 feet in height," and notice that they have crowns on their heads; a clear space was, they said, reserved round them by laying stones. They have no doubt that the figures are objects of worship; the natives "kindle fires in front of them, and thereafter squatting on their heels with heads bowed down, they bring the palms of their hands together and alternately raise and lower them." Another observer adds, in connection with this worship, that they "prostrated themselves towards the rising sun." A great step would have been gained towards the solution of the problem if we could feel assured that these last remarks were justified and were not merely the result of imperfect observation. 3

For fifty years darkness once more descends on the history of the island. Then, within a period of sixteen years, it was visited by three expeditions, Spanish, English, and French respectively. The Spanish were under the command of Gonzalez.4 They too were searching for David's Island when, in 1770, they touched at Easter, and they also came to the conclusion that it was not their goal. They took, however, formal possession of it, and named it San Carlos. Their ships lay at anchor in the same place as had those of Roggeveen, the bay on the north coast now called after La Pérouse. From this anchorage three curious hillocks on the northern slope of the great eastern volcano form striking objects (fig. 78); on each of these they planted a cross, and proclaimed the King of Spain with banners flying, beating of drums, and artillery salutes. The natives appear to have thoroughly enjoyed the proceedings, and "confirmed them," according to the solemn statements of the Spaniards, by marking the official document with their own script. This is the first that we hear of a form of native writing. The expedition sent a boat round the island, which made a very creditable map of it.

Four years later Cook cast anchor on the west side in the bay which is known by his name. He was there three days and did not himself explore inland, but his officers did so, including the elder Forster, the botanist of the expedition, and his account of what they saw was published by his son.5

In 1780 La Pérouse anchored in the same place, and also sent some of his men inland, who covered partly, but not entirely, the same districts as those of Cook.6

As these expeditions were so nearly of the same date, their remarks may fairly be compared and contrasted with those made by Roggeveen half a century earlier. All three give very similar descriptions of the people, their appearance and dwellings, which also resemble the accounts of the Dutch. Cook is very much impressed with the long ears, though La Pérouse does not refer to them. There is the same story of the native powers of appropriating the goods of the strangers. Cook says that they were "as expert thieves as any we had yet met with," and Pérouse, whose own hat they stole while helping him down one of the image platforms, is particularly aggrieved at such conduct, considering that he has given them sheep, goats, pigs, and other valuable presents; peace was only kept between the crew and the natives by official compensation being given the seamen for their lost property.

Here, however, the resemblance of these accounts with that of Roggeveen ends. The descriptions which are given by these later expeditions of the state of the country, and its facilities as a port of call, are very different from those of the Dutchmen. The Spaniards speak of it as being uncultivated save for some small plots of ground. The Englishmen are the reverse of enthusiastic. Forster calls it a "poor land," and Cook says that "no nation need contend for the honour of the discovery of this island, as there can be few places which afford less convenience for shipping." "Poultry" now consists of only a "few tame fowls" — later still we find that only one is produced. Pérouse, although he is not so depressed as Cook, tells us that only one-tenth of the land is cultivated. With regard to the population Roggeveen gives no number, and probably was not in a position to do so. The estimates made by the Spanish and English are very similar. Gonzalez puts it at nine hundred to one thousand, Cook at seven hundred; both of them, however, state that the number of women seen seemed to be disproportionately small. La Pérouse, writing of course some years later, speaks of the number as two thousand and has seen many women and children. Both English and French are interested to find that the language is similar to that spoken elsewhere in the Pacific.

Again, in dealing with the state of the monuments and the way in which they were regarded, the impressions of the later observers differ greatly from those of Roggeveen. The Spaniards do not tell us very much. They saw from the sea what they thought were bushes symmetrically put up on the beach, and dotted about inland; later they found that they were in reality statues, and they wondered particularly how their crowns, which they observed were of a different material, were raised into place. It was one of the Spanish officers who states, as recorded at the beginning of this book, that the seashore was lined with stone idols,7 from which it may be gathered that the great majority were still erect. The figures were, they tell us, all set up on small stones, and burying-places were in front. It is interesting, in view of what we know of the prohibition of smoke near the ahu,8 to find one of the Spanish writing: "They could not bear us to smoke cigars; they begged our sailors to extinguish them, and they did so. I asked one of them the reason, and he made signs that the smoke went upwards; but I do not know what this meant."9 Cook's people observed that the natives disliked these burying-places being walked over, but whereas Roggeveen was convinced, whether rightly or wrongly, that the cult of the statues was what we should call "a going concern," Cook, fifty years later, is equally certain that it is a thing of the past; some of the figures are still standing, but some are fallen down, and the inhabitants "do not even trouble to repair the foundations of those which are going to decay." "The giant statues," he says, “are not in my opinion looked upon as idols by the present inhabitants, whatever they may have been in the days of the Dutch." Forster also remarks that "they are so disproportionate to the strength of the nation, it is most reasonable to look upon them as the remains of better times." La Pérouse does not agree with this last sentiment; he admits that at present the monuments are not respected, but he sees no reason why they should not still be made even under existing conditions; he thinks that a hundred people would be sufficient to put one of the statues in place. The objection he sees is that the people have no chief great enough to secure such a memorial. It is unfortunate that the mountain of Rano Raraku is so far removed from both the north and west anchorages, that none of the voyagers discovered it, although Cook's men were very near that from which the crowns were obtained.


[Drawn from Nature by W . Hodges.]
From A Voyage To-d'ards the South Pole, James Cook, 1777, vol. i., part of pi. xlix.

The artist has not observed the features or arms of the images, nor that they stand on stone platforms. The hats, as shown, greatly exceed their true proportion to the figures. The picture has probably been redrawn from memory.

In the nineteenth century we have a few accounts from passing voyagers. Lisiansky, in 1804, found no people with long ears,10 but in 1825 Beechey in H.M.S. Blossom says that there were still a few to be seen. With regard to the statues, the process of demolition has gone so far that Beechey declares "the existence of any busts is doubtful."11  It is amusing to find, a hundred years after Roggeveen's similar experience, that the Blossom has an affray with natives over the stealing of caps. While attention has been drawn to the importance of these early narratives, it must be remembered that all the visits were of very short duration, and that the old voyagers were not trained observers. The Dutchmen, for instance, deliberately tell us that the statues have no arms. The accounts frequently give the impression of being written up afterwards from somewhat vague recollection, and in most cases the narrators have read those of their predecessors and go prepared to see certain things. One navigator who never landed assures us that the houses are the same as in the days of La Pe rouse. On the other hand, with regard to the stores available, they are, so to speak, on their own quarter-deck, and their remarks can be accepted without question.

In the "sixties" of last century the great series of changes took place which brought Easter Island into touch with the modern world. The first of these largely broke those chains with the past which the archaeologist now seeks to reconstruct. Labour was needed by the exploiters of the Peruvian guano fields, and an attempt which was made to introduce it from China having failed, slave-raids were organised in the South Sea Islands. As early as 1805 Easter had suffered similarly at the hands of American sealers, and it was amongst the principal islands to be laid under contribution in December 1862.

It is pathetic even now to hear the old men describe the scenes which they witnessed in their youth, illustrating by action how the raiders threw down on the ground gifts which they thought likely to attract the inhabitants, and, when the islanders were on their knees scrambling for them, tied their hands behind their backs and carried them off to the waiting ship. The natives say that one thousand in all were so removed from the island, and, unfortunately, there were amongst them some of the principal men, including many of the most learned, and the last of the ariki, or chiefs. Representations were made by the French Minister at Lima, and a certain number were put on board ship to be returned to their home. Smallpox, however, had been contracted by them, and out of one hundred who were to be repatriated, only fifteen survived. These, on their return to the island, brought the disease with them, which spread rapidly with most fatal results to the population.

Meantime, shortly before the raid, the attention of the Roman Catholic "Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary” in Valparaiso had been drawn to the island by the account received from a passing ship, and they determined to inaugurate a mission. Three of the Community left for Easter Island, their route taking them by way of Tahiti. Finally, only one continued, Eugene Eyraud, who landed on the island in January 1864. Eyraud was a lay brother in the Order, having been a merchant in South America; he devoted his life to the call to take the Gospel to Easter, and the accounts of his work, which are extraordinarily interesting, leave a great impression of his courage and devotion.12 He was alone on the island for eight or nine months, and was at the mercy of the natives, who stole his belongings, even to the clothes he was wearing, and compelled him to make a boat for them. In March 1866, Eyraud, after a visit to Chile, returned with another missionary, Father Roussel, and the two were for a while blockaded in a house which they had put up, but the tide now turned. Either Roussel was a man of greater determination than Eyraud, or with increased numbers a firmer attitude was possible. Surgeon Palmer of H.M.S. Topaze tells us that when one of the natives took up a stone with a menacing gesture, Roussel quietly felled him with his stick and went on his way, after which there was no further trouble. The missionaries were joined later in the year by two more of their number, and became a power in the land.

Eyraud on his return from Chile was suffering from phthisis, of which he died in August 1868. When he was nearing his end he asked Roussel if there still remained any heathen in the island, to which the Father replied "not one"; the last seven had been baptized on the Feast of the Assumption. It seems natural to connect with Eyraud 's illness the fact that there was at the same time a severe epidemic of phthisis in the island; so little was the need of precaution understood at this date, that even Surgeon Palmer, writing of the inroads made by consumption, remarks "which they (the natives) believe infectious."13

The ravages of this disease, following on those of smallpox, reduced the population, which at the time of the arrival of the mission had stood at twelve hundred, by about one-fourth.

The remarks of the missionaries on native customs, particularly those dealing with their ceremonies, reflect credit on the observers at a time when such things were too often thought beneath notice; they will be referred to later. Their ethnological work was, however, limited by more pressing exigencies, by the difficulties of locomotion on the island, and by the language. Roussel compiled a vocabulary, which is useful to students, though not free from the mode of thought found in a well-known missionary dictionary, which translates hansom cab into the Swahili language. It is a curious fact that so completely were the terraces now ruined that the Fathers never allude to the statues, and seem scarcely to have realised their existence; but it is through them that we first hear of the wooden tablets carved with figures. The body of professors acquainted with this art of writing perished, either in Peru or by epidemic, and this, in connection with the introduction of Christianity, led to great destruction of the existing specimens of this most interesting script. The natives said that they burnt the tablets in compliance with the orders of the missionaries, though such suggestion would hardly be needed in a country where wood is scarce; the Fathers, on the contrary, state that it was due to them that any were preserved. Some certainly were saved by their means and through the interest shown in them by Bishop Jaussen of Tahiti, while two or three found their way to museums after the natives became aware of their value; but some or all of these existing tablets are merely fragments of the original. The natives told us that an expert living on the south coast, whose house had been full of such glyphs, abandoned them at the call of the missionaries, on which a man named Niari, being of a practical mind, got hold of the discarded tablets and made a boat of them wherein he caught much fish. When the "sewing came out," he stowed the wood into a cave at an ahu near Hanga Roa, to be made later into a new vessel there. Pakarati, an islander now living, found a piece, and it was acquired by the U.S.A. ship Mohican.

Side by side with the establishment of the religious power the secular had come into being. The master of the ship who had brought the last two missionaries was a certain Captain Dutrou Bornier. He had been attracted by the place; and, having made financial arrangements with the mercantile house of Brander in Tahiti, settled himself on the island and proceeded to exploit it commercially. Title-deeds were obtained from the natives in exchange for gifts of woven material. The remaining population was gathered together into one settlement at Hanga Roa, the native name for the shore of Cook's Bay. This was the state of things when H.M.S. Topaze touched in 1868 and carried off the two statues now at the British Museum.

Dutrou Bornier had at first spoken enthusiastically of the work of the missionaries; later, however, the not unknown struggle arose between the religious and secular powers. According to the accounts of the missionaries, they protested against the actions of Bornier in taking over two hundred natives, practically by force, and shipping them to Tahiti to work on the Brander plantations. Bornier retaliated by rendering their position impossible, and the Fathers ultimately received orders to transfer their labours to the Gambler islands. Jaussen tells us that their converts desired to accompany them, and that almost the whole population went on board with them. The captain, however, instigated by Bornier, refused to carry so many, and one hundred and seventy-five were sent back to the shore. This, therefore, “was the whole population" in 1871. We have not Bornier's account of the quarrel, but there seems to have been some justification for the attitude of the missionaries towards him, as five years later he was murdered by the natives, and, if current stories are to be believed, his end was well merited.

Subsequently one of the Branders lived at Mataveri, and Mr. Alexander Salmon, to whom the missionaries sold their interests, at Vaihu on the south coast.14 The Salmon family had intermarried with the royal family of Tahiti, and the new resident was well aware of the value of antiquities. According to native accounts he organised a band to search the caves and hiding-places for articles of interest. They also state that he employed skilled natives to produce wooden objects connected with their older culture for sale to passing ships. He spoke the language of the island, and when the U.S.S. Mohican arrived in 1886, he was the source of much of the information which they subsequently published. It is an important but difficult matter to know how far the material thus gleaned thirty years ago was carefully obtained and reproduced. One or two of the folk-tales are still told very much as retailed by Salmon, but he appears to have taken little interest in the surviving customs and failed to understand them. The report of the Mohican, made by Paymaster Thomson, has been the only account of the island in existence with any pretention to scientific value.15 The Mohican was there eleven days, and Thomson went rapidly round the island with a party from the ship. The amount of ground covered and work done is remarkable, although his statements are naturally not free from the errors inseparable from such rapid observation.

In 1888 the Chilean Government formally took possession. In 1897 M. Merlet, of Valparaiso, purchased from the representatives of Brander, Bornier, and Salmon, their interest in Easter Island, with the exception of a tract of land containing the village of Hanga Roa, which the Chilean Government acquired from the missionaries and retained in the interest of the inhabitants; this land covers a far larger space than the natives are able to utilise. The population is again increasing, as will have been seen from the fact that during our visit they numbered two hundred and fifty. M. Merlet subsequently sold his holding to a company, of which he became chairman.

Easter Island has had many names. That given by the Dutchman has become generally accepted, but the Spaniards christened it San Carlos, and in some maps it is termed "Waihu," a name of a part of the island erroneously understood as applying to the whole. A native name is Te Pito-te-henua, "henua" means usually "earth" and "pito" "navel."16 Thomson says it was ascribed to the first comers. Elsewhere in the Pacific "pito" also means "end." Churchill holds the name signified simply "Land's End," and was applied to all these angles of the island, which was itself without a name.17 Rapa-nui (or Great Rapa) is another native name for which various explanations are offered.

The island of Rapa, sometimes known as Rapa-iti, lies some two thousand miles to the westward. Thomson states that the name Rapa-nui only dates from the time when the men kidnapped by the Peruvians were being returned to their homes. The Easter Islanders, finding no one knew the name Te Pito-te-henua, and that some comrades in distress from the other Rapa managed to make their place of origin understood, called their own home Rapa-nui; a story which sounds hardly probable, but was presumably obtained from Salmon.

According to the report of H.M.S. Topaze, the Islanders of their day believed that Rapa was their original home. Others state the name was given by a visitor from that island.


The brief accounts which have been referred to are all that is known from external evidence of the original life of the present people, and but little hope was held out to us in England that those fragments could still be supplemented. There were found, however, to be still in existence two possible sources of information, namely, the memories of old inhabitants, and the actual traces which still remain of the life led by the people previous to the Peruvian raid and the coming of Christianity. The great ahu which have so far been described are only a part, although the most imposing portion, of the stone remains of the island. It is fortunate for the student that when civilisation appeared the natives were gathered into one settlement, for they left behind them, sprinkled over the island, various erections connected with their original domestic life. These buildings were certainly being used in recent times, and are treated from this point of view, but for all we know they may have been, and very possibly were, contemporary with the great works.

The study of the remains on the island, from the greatest to the least, is by no means so simple as may hitherto have appeared. Our earliest attempts at descriptions, although conscientious, were almost ludicrous in the light of subsequent knowledge, and Captain Beechey's error on the subject of "the busts" is at least comprehensible. Easter, it must be remembered, is a mass of disintegrating rocks. When in an idle moment the Expedition amused itself by inventing an heraldic design for the island, it was universally agreed that the main emblem must undoubtedly be a "stone," "and as supporters," suggested one frivolous member, “two cockroaches rampant." The most correct representation would be a stone vertical on a stone horizontal. Every individual who has lived, even temporarily, in the place, has collected stones and put them up according to taste; and every succeeding generation, also needing stones, has, as in the instance of the manager's wall, found them most readily in ruining or converting the work of their predecessors. Even when a building is comparatively intact, the original design and purpose can only be grasped by experience, and matters become distinctly complicated when the walls of an ahu have been made into a garden enclosure and a chicken-house turned into an ossuary. It must be remembered also that rough stone buildings bear in themselves no marks of age. The cairns put up by us to mark the distances for rifle fire from the camp were indistinguishable from those of prehistoric nature made for a very different purpose. The result is that the tumble-down remains of yesterday, and the scenes of unknown antiquity blend together in a confusing whole in which it is not always easy to distinguish even the works of nature from those of man.

The other source of information which was open to us was the memory of the old people. If but little was known of the great works, it was possible that there might still linger knowledge of customs or folk-lore which would throw indirect light on origins. This field proved to be astonishingly large, but it was even more difficult to collect facts from brains than out of stones. On our arrival there were still a few old people who were sufficiently grown up in the sixties to recall something of the old life; with the great majority of these, about a dozen in number, we gradually got in touch, beginning with those who worked for Mr. Edmunds and hearing from them of others. It was momentous work, for the eleventh hour was striking, day by day they were dropping off; it was a matter of anxious consideration whose testimony should first be recorded for fear that, meanwhile, others should be gathered to their fathers, and their store of knowledge lost for ever. Against the longer recollection of extreme old age, had to be put the fact that the memories of those a little younger were generally more clear and accurate. The feeling of responsibility from a scientific point of view was very great . Ten years ago more could have been done; ten years hence little or nothing will remain of this source of knowledge.

Most happily, these authorities were in almost every case willing and ready to talk, and our debt to them is great. They came with us, as has been seen, on our explorations of the island, but the greater part of the work was done when we were living near the village. Some of them took pleasure in coming up to Mataveri and talking in the veranda, enjoying still more, no doubt, the practical outcome of their subsequent visits to Bailey's domain — the kitchen. Others were more at ease in their own surroundings, and then we went down to the village and discussed old days in their little banana-plots, while interested neighbours came in to join the fray. Sometimes a man did better by himself, but on other occasions to get two or three together stimulated conversation. Unfortunately, some of the old men who knew most were confined to the leper settlement some three miles north of Hanga Roa, and the infectious power of leprosy was not a subject which we had got up before leaving England. The Captain of the Kildalton feared lest even the distance of the settlement from the manager's house might not suffice to prevent the plague being carried there by insects, and told a gruesome tale, within his knowledge, of two white men who had gone for a visit to a Pacific island, one of whom on their return to an American port had been immediately sent back to a leper colony. But how could one allow the last vestige of knowledge in Easter Island to die out without an effort? So I went, disinfected my clothes on return, studied, must it be confessed, my fingers and toes, and hoped for the best.

It would not be easy for a foreigner to reconstruct English society fifty years ago, even from the descriptions of well-educated old men: it is particularly difficult to arrive at the truth from the untutored mind. Even when the natives knew well what they were talking about, they would forget to mention some part of the story, which to them was self-evident, but at which the humble European could not be expected to guess. The bird story, for example, had for many months been wrestled with before it transpired precisely what was meant by the "first egg." Deliberate invention was rare, but, when memory was a little vague, there was a constant tendency to glide from what was remembered to what was imagined. Scientific work of this nature really ought to qualify for a high position at the bar. The witness had to be heard, and discreetly cross-examined without any doubt being thrown on his story, which would at once have given offence; then allowed to forget and again re-examined, his story being compared with that of others who had been heard meanwhile. Counsel had also to be judge and to act as reporter, and at the same time keep the witness amused and prevent the interpreter from being bored, or the court would promptly have broken up. Though great care has been exercised, it must be remembered, when a particular account is quoted, as, for example, that of Te Haha regarding the annual inspection of the tablets, while it is believed to rest on fact, its absolute accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

The language question naturally added to the difficulty. On landing two courses had been open, either to go on with Spanish, of which the younger men had a certain knowledge, and which was used by Mr. Edmunds, or to try to get some hold of the native tongue. The latter plan was decided on, and though at one time the difficulties seemed so great that this course was almost regretted, in the end it was vindicated. There is, as stated, a vocabulary in French made by the missionaries, and also one in Spanish, but there is no grammar of any kind.

Clan Maratna.  
Clan Ureohd
Clan Mini  
Clan Tupaliotu.
FIG. 83.

 The French carpenter, Varta, was some assistance, particularly at the beginning. The first steps were the easiest. The Kanakas were much interested in my endeavours, and rushed round wildly,, bringing any object they could lay hands on in order to teach its name; but even with the nouns an unexpected complication arose. The natives speak, not only their own language, but, side by side with it, that of Tahiti, which is used in their religious books and services; there are affinities between the two, but they are quite dissimilar, and to understand conversation it was necessary to learn both. This very much prolonged the task, and also lessened the results obtained.

The next stage, the putting together of sentences, was still more difficult . How was it possible to talk in a language which had no verb "to be"? I had, it is true, a native maid (fig. 29), but, after the simplest phrases had been learnt, topics for conversation were difficult to find. We looked through illustrated magazines together, but wild beasts, railway trains, and the greater part of the pictures of all kinds, conveyed nothing to her. The plan was therefore hit on of a tale, after the manner of the Arabian Nights, dealing with imaginary events on the island; it was very weird, but served its purpose, though there were initial difficulties. The heroine, for instance, was christened "Maria," but "there were," Parapina said, "three Marias on the island. Which was it?” and it was long before she grasped, if indeed she ever did so entirely, that the lady was imaginary. A certain sequence of events was somehow made intelligible to her. She was then induced to repeat the story, while it was taken down. It was copied out and next day read again to her for further correction. Every word and idea gained was a help in understanding local names and the native point of view. Before the end, in addition to using the language for the ordinary affairs of life, it was found possible to get simple answers direct from the old men, and understand first-hand much of what they said.

Any real success in intercourse was, however, due to the intelligence of one individual who was known as Juan Tepano. He was a younger man about forty years of age, a full-blooded Kanaka, but had served his time in the Chilean army, and thus had seen something of men and manners; he talked a little pidgin English, which was a help in the earlier stages, but before the end he and I were able to understand each other entirely in Kanaka, and he made clear to the old men anything I wished to know, and explained their answers to me. It was interesting to notice how his perception gradually grew of what truth and accuracy meant, and he finally assumed the attitude of watch-dog to prevent my being imposed on. Happily, it was discovered that he was able to draw, and he took great delight in this new-found power, which proved most useful. The tattoo designs were obtained, for example, by giving him a large sheet of paper with an outline of a man or woman, also a pencil and piece of candle; these he took down to the village, gathered the old men together in their huts in the evening, and brought up in the morning the figure adorned by the direction of the ancients (fig. 88). He took a real interest in the work, learning through the conversations much about the place which was new to him, and at the end of the time triumphantly stated, “Mam-ma now knows everything there is to know about the island."

It is proposed to unite the information gained from locality and memory, referring where necessary to the accounts of the early voyagers, and give as complete descriptions as possible of the primitive existence which continued on Easter Island till the middle of last century. It will be seen that the condition of the people on the coming of Christianity, as we were able to ascertain it, corresponded almost exactly with that described by the first visitors from Europe, more than a hundred years earlier. Such traditions as linger regarding the megalithic remains have already been alluded to earlier in this book, but attention will be drawn to the point whenever this line of research seems successful in throwing indirect light on the origin of the great works.


Mode of Life. — The present natives, in talking of old times, say that their ancestors were "as thick as grass," and stood up like the fingers of two hands with the palms together; a statement from which deduction must be made for pictorial representation. The early mariners never, as we have seen, estimate the population at more than two thousand, but the land could carry many more. Mr. Edmunds calculates that about half of the total amount (or some 15,000 acres) could grow bananas and sweet potatoes. Two acres of cultivated ground would be sufficient to supply an ordinary family.





Housing accommodation presented no great problem. Many slept in the open, and even to-day, in the era of Christianity and European clothes, a cave is looked upon as sufficient shelter. When on moving from our "town" to our "country" house we inquired where our attendants were to sleep, we were cheerfully informed "it was all right, there was a very good cave near Tongariki" — and this cave, called Ana Havea, became a permanent annexe to the establishment (fig. 124). Some of these caves had a wall built in front for shelter.

Houses, however, did exist, which were built in the form of a long upturned canoe; they were made of sticks, the tops of which were tied together, the whole being thatched successively with reeds, grass, and sugar-cane. In the best of these houses, the foundations, which are equivalent to the gunwale of the boat, are made of wrought stones let into the ground; they resemble the curbstones of a street pavement save that the length is greater. In the top of the stones were holes from which sprang the curved rods, which were equivalent to the ribs of a boat, and formed the walls and roof (figs. 84 and 85) . The end stones of the house are carefully worked on the curve, and it is very rare to find them still in place, as they were comparatively light, weighing from one to two hundredweight, and easily carried off. Even the heavier stones were at times seized upon as booty in enemy raids; one measuring 15 feet was pointed out to us near an ahu on the south coast, which had been brought all the way from the north side of the island. In the middle of one side of the house was a doorway, and in the front of it a porch, which had also stone foundations. The whole space in front of the house was neatly paved with water-worn boulders, in the same manner as the ahu. This served as a stoop on which to sit and talk, but its practical utility was obvious to ourselves in the rainy seasons, when the entrance to our tents and houses became deep in mud (fig. 84A). Near the main abode was a thatched house which contained the native oven, the stones of which are often still in place. The cooking was done Polynesian fashion: a hole about 15 inches deep is lined with fiat stones, a fire is made within, and, when the stones are sufficiently heated, the food, wrapped up in parcels, is stacked within and covered with earth, a fire being lighted on the top.

Many of the surviving old people were born and brought up in these houses, which are known as "haré paenga." The old man, for example, before alluded to, who was brought out to Raraku, roved round the mountain telling with excitement who occupied the different houses in the days of his youth. He gave a particularly graphic description of the scene after sundown, when all were gathered within for the evening meal. In addition to the main door, there was, he said, an opening near each end by which the food was passed in and then from hand to hand; as perfect darkness reigned, a sharp watch had to be kept that it all reached its proper owners. He lay down within the old foundations to show how the inhabitants slept. This was parallel to the long axis of the house, the head being towards the door; the old people were in the centre in couples, and the younger ones in the ends. The largest of these houses, which had some unique features, measured 122 feet in length, with an extreme width of 12 feet; but some 50 feet by 5 feet or 6 feet are more usual measurements. They were often shared by related families and held anything from ten to thirty, or even more, persons.


Diagram of stone foundations, paved area and cooking-place.

The food consisted of the usual tropical produce, such as potatoes, bananas, sugar-cane, and taro. Animal diet formed a very small part of it, rats being the only form of mammal; but chickens played an important role in native life, and the remains of the dwellings made for them are much more imposing than those for human beings. They are solid cairns, in the centre of which was a chamber, running the greater part of their length; it was entered from outside by two or more narrow tunnels, down which the chickens could pass. They were placed here at night for the sake of safety, as it was impossible to remove the stones in the dark without making a noise (fig. 86). Fish are not very plentiful, as there is no barrier reef, but they also were an article of diet, and were bartered by those on the coast for the vegetable products obtained by those further inland. Fish hooks made of stone were formerly used, and a legend tells of a man who had marvellous success because he used one made of human bone. The heroes of the tales are also spoken of as fishing with nets. There are in various places on the coast round towers, built of stone, which are said to have been look-out towers whence watchers on land communicated the whereabouts of the fish to those at sea; these contained a small chamber below which was used as a sleeping apartment (fig. 87). Turtles appear on the carvings on the rock, and are alluded to in legend, and turtle-shell ornaments were worn; but the water is too cold for them ever to have been common, and Anakena is almost the only sandy bay where they could have come on shore.

The sole form of dress was the cloth made from the paper mulberry, and known throughout the South Seas as tapa; it was used for loin-cloths and wraps, which the Spaniards describe as fastening over one shoulder. Head-gear was a very important point, as witnessed by the way the islanders always stole the caps of the various European sailors. The natives had various forms of crowns made of feathers, some of them reserved for special occasions. Cherished feathers, particularly those of white cocks, were brought out of gourds, where they had been carefully kept, to manufacture specimens for the Expedition. The crowns are generally made to form a shade over the eyes, like the head-dresses of the images. Naturally, every effort was made to find the prototype of the image hats. No one recollected ever seeing anything precisely like it, but among the pictures drawn for us of various head-decorations was a cylindrical hat made of grass; the brim projected all the way round as with a European hat, but it had the same form of knot on the top as that of the statues.




Tattooing was a universal practice, and the exactness of the designs excited the admiration of the early voyagers, who wondered how savages managed to achieve such regularity and



accuracy. The drawings made for us from the descriptions of the old people show the men covered, not only with geometrical designs, but with pictures of every-day objects, such as chisels and fish-hooks; even houses, boats, and chickens were represented in this way according to taste. The most striking objects were drawings of heads, one on each side of the body, known as "pare-pu," which the old mariners describe as "fearsome monstrosities"18 (fig. 88). Various old persons said that they remembered seeing men with a pattern on the back similar to the rings and girdle of the images. It seems, however, doubtful whether the image design merely represented tattoo, in view of the fact that it was raised, not incised, and in any case this would only put the search for its prototype a stage further back. The fact, however, remains that those particular marks were still being perpetuated, and form a link connecting the present with the past. Beechey, in 1825, tells us the women were so tattooed as to look as if they wore breeches. In addition to this kind of decoration, the islanders adorned themselves with various colours: white and red were obtained from mineral products found in certain places; yellow from a plant known as "pua,"19 and black from ashes of sugar-cane. They had a distinct feeling for art. Some of the paintings found in caves and houses are obviously recent, and it is a frequent answer to questions as to the why and wherefore of things, that they were to make some object "look nice."

A native of the Paumotu.

It will be remembered that not only have the images long ears, but that all the early voyagers speak of them as general among the inhabitants. It was therefore somewhat surprising to find that no such thing was known as a man whose ears had been perforated, though with the women the custom went on till the introduction of Christianity, and two or three females with the lobe dilated in this manner still survived (fig. 90). At last one old leper recalled that the father of his foster-father had long ears, and on asking as a child for the reason, he had received the illuminating reply that "the old people had them like that." He also mentioned one or two others with similar ears, and this was subsequently confirmed by other authorities. It will be seen that the custom, as far as men were concerned, of dilating the lobe of the ear, must have been abandoned at the end of the eighteenth century, or just about the time of the visits of the Spanish, English, and French Expeditions. That this was cause and effect, and that they imitated the appearance of the foreign sailors, seems more than a guess; it will appear from other sources how great was the impression which was made by the foreigners.

Social Life. — Roggeveen's description of the people as being of all shades of colour is still accurate. They themselves are very conscious of the variations, and when we were collecting genealogies, they were quite ready to give the colour of even remote relations: "Great-aunt Susan," it would be unhesitatingly stated, was "white," and "Great-aunt Jemima black." The last real ariki, or chief, was said to be quite white. “White like me?” I innocently asked. “You!” they said, “you are red"; the colour in European cheeks, as opposed to the sallow white to which they are accustomed, is to the native our most distinguishing mark. It is obvious that we are dealing with a mixed race, but this only takes us part of the way, as the mixture may have taken place either before or after they reached the island.

They were divided into ten groups, or clans ("máta"), which were associated with different parts of the island, though the boundaries blend and overlap; members of one division settled not infrequently among those of another. Each person still knows his own clan.

In remembered times there were no group restrictions on marriage, which took place indiscriminately between members of the same or of different clans. The only prohibition had reference to consanguinity, and forbade all union nearer than the eighth degree or third cousins. These ten clans were again grouped, more especially in legend or speaking of the remote past, into two major divisions known as Kotuu (or Otuu), and Hotu Iti, which correspond roughly with the western and eastern parts of the island. These divisions were also known respectively as

FIG. 91. — Note: The dividing lines shown are not defined boundaries.

Mata-nui, or greater clans, and Mata-iti, or lesser clans. The lower portions of the island were the most densely populated parts, especially those on the coast, and the settlements on the higher ground appear to have been few (fig. 91).

In Kotuu, the Marama and Haumoana inhabited side by side the land running from sea to sea between the high central ground and the western volcano Rano Kao. They had a small neighbour, the Ngatimo, to the south, and jointly with the Miru spread over Rano Kao and formed settlements by the margin of the crater lake. The Miru lived on the high, narrow strip between the mountain in the apex and the cliff, and mixed up with them was a lesser people, the Hamea. To the east was another small clan, the Raa, which is spoken of in conjunction with the Miru and Hamea.

The principal Hotu Iti clans were the Tupahotu, the Koroorongo, and the Hitiuira. The last were generally known as the "Ureohei"; they inhabited jointly the level piece of ground from the northern bay to the south coast, and had some dwellings on the eastern headland. Next to them on the south coast was a small group, the Ngaure.20 The particular importance of the clans lies in the fact that, while they may be merely groups of one body, they may, on the other hand, represent different races or waves of immigrants. If there have been two peoples on Easter Island, these divisions are one place where we must at least look for traces for it.

Legend tells of continual wars between Hotu Iti and Kotuu. In recent times general fighting seems to have been constant, and took place even between members of one clan. A wooden sword, or paoa, was used, but the chief weapon was made from obsidian, and took from it the name of "mataa." This volcanic glass is found on the slope of Rano Kao, but the principal quarries are on the neighbouring hill of Orito. Tradition says its use was first discovered by a boy who stepped on it and cut his foot. The obsidian was knapped till it had a cutting edge, and also a tongue, which latter was fitted into a handle or stick (fig. 92). The various shapes assumed were dignified by names, fourteen of which were given, such as "tail of a fish," "backbone of a rat," "leaf of a banana." It was very usual to pick up these mataa, and hoards were occasionally found; in one instance fifty or sixty were discovered below a stone in a cave, and in another case the hammer-stone was found with them which had been used in the process of squeezing off the flakes. The weapon was used both as a spear and as a javelin. A site is pointed out near Anakena, where a man throwing down hill killed another at about thirty-five yards. The art of making these mataa is, of course, practically extinct, but one old man, commonly known as "He" (fig. 83), brought us some which he had manufactured himself for the Expedition, and which were fairly well wrought.

With the exception of the Miru, of which more will be said, there were no chiefs nor any form of government; any man who was expert in war became a leader. The warfare consisted largely of spasmodic and isolated raids; an aggrieved person gathered together his neighbours and descended on the offenders. It is related incidentally that one man, going along the south coast, “found war going on," one set of men having blocked up another in a cave. Another story is told of six men, called Gwaruti-mata-keva, of the clan Tupahotu, who lived in a cave in a certain hillock on the south coast, known as Toa-toa. They went round in a boat to Hanga Piko, stole fish, and returned rapidly to their cave. A hundred men from Hanga Piko then came overland to punish the robbery, and made a fire of grass before the cave in which the men lay hidden. When the attackers assumed that the enemy were all dead from suffocation, they went into the cave; but those within had buried their faces in holes scraped in the earth, and when the men from Hanga Piko entered, they arose and slew the whole hundred. A more interesting fact came out incidentally in connection with this gang of Toa-toa, connecting them with the secret societies found elsewhere in the Pacific. They were, it was said, in the habit of going about after dark with their faces painted red, white, and black, and visiting houses, where they declared they were gods, and demanded food, which the inhabitants accordingly gave them. The fraud, however, finally came to light when one day a man, who was travelling with his servant, saw them washing paint off their faces, “so they knew that they had deceived the people, and the people gathered together and killed them."

In these internecine fights fire was very generally set to the enemy's dwellings. “He often burnt houses," a young man said, pointing to an older one, and the impeachment was not denied. The ahu, too, were raided and bodies burnt, which seems to be the cause of the burnt bones recorded by certain travellers; there is no reason to suppose there was cremation or sacrifice on Easter Island. It was in this sort of warfare that the last images were overthrown.



[Brit. Mus.]

While legends record how many people were eaten after each affray, all living persons deny, with rather striking unanimity, not only that they themselves have ever been cannibals, but that their fathers were so. If this is correct, the custom was dying out for some reason before the advent of Christianity;21 their grandfathers, the old people admit, ate human flesh, but, if there were any rites connected with it, they "did not tell." The great-grandmother of an old man of the Miru clan was, according to his account, killed on the high central part of the island by the Ureohei and eaten. In revenge for the outrage, one of her sons, Hotu by name, killed sixty of the Ureohei. Another son, who had pacifist leanings, thought the feud ought then to be ended, but Hotu desired yet more victims, and there was a violent quarrel between the two brothers, in which the peace-maker was struck on the head with a club; for, as Hotu remarked, if they had slain his father, it would have been different, but really to eat his mother was "no good."

Our acquaintance with the person said to have been "the last cannibal," or rather with his remains, came about accidentally during the time when I was alone on the island. A little party of us had ridden to the top of the volcano Rano Kao; and on the southern side of the crater, that opposite Orongo, some of the natives were pointing out the legendary sites connected with the death of the first immigrant chief, Hotu-matua. Suddenly one of them vanished into a crevice in the rocks, and reappeared brandishing a thigh-bone to call attention to its large size. I dismounted, scrambled into a little grotto, or natural cave, where a skeleton was extended; the skull was missing, but the jaw-bone was present, and the rest of the bones were in regular order; the individual had either died there or been buried. Bones were in the department of the absent member of the Expedition, but it was of course essential to collect them, from the view of determining race, and the natives never resented our doing so. I therefore passed these out, packed them in grass in the luncheon-basket, and, sitting down on a rock, asked to be told the story of the cave. “That," my attendants replied, “is Ko Tori." He was, they said, the last man on the island who had eaten human flesh. In this hiding-place he had enjoyed his meals, and no one had ever been able to track him. There had formerly been a cooking-place, but it was now hidden by a fall of stones. He had died as a very old man at the other end of the island, apparently in the odour of sanctity; to judge by the toothless jaw if he had not deserted his sins they must long ago have deserted him. His last desire was to be buried in the place with which he had such pleasant connections, and in dutiful regard to his wishes, or because it was feared that his ghost might otherwise make itself unpleasant, some of the young men bore the corpse on stretchers along the south coast and up to the top of the mountain, depositing it here. The next thing was to get at some sort of date; chronology is naturally of a vague order, and the most effective method is, if possible, to connect events with the generation in which they happened. "Did your grandfather know him," was asked, "or your father?” The answer was unexpected. “Porotu," they said, pointing to one of the old men, “helped to carry him," and silence fell on the group. My heart sank; I had then undone this last pious work and committed sacrilege. To my great relief, however, strange sounds soon made it clear that the humorous side had appealed to the escort; they were suffocating with mirth. "And now," they said, gasping between sobs of laughter, “Ko Tori goes in a basket to England." As I write, Ko Tori resides at the Royal College of Surgeons, and has done his bit towards elucidating the mystery of Easter Island.


Sexual morality, as known to us, was not a strong point in life on the island, but marriage was distinctly recognised, and the absolute loose liver was a person apart. Polygamy was usual, but many seem to have had only one wife. The children belonged to the father's clan, and are often distinguished by his name being given after their own. At the same time the clan of the mother was not ignored, and a man would sometimes fight for his maternal side. If a man had sons by more than one wife,, after his death each claimed the body of his father to lie on the ahu of his mother's clan, and the corpse might thus be carried to several in turn, finally returning to its own destination. We collected a certain number of genealogical trees, the various dramatis personæ being for this purpose represented by matches or buttons. It was not a very popular line of research, the cry being apt to be raised, “Now let's talk of something interesting"; but some two hundred names were in this way placed in their family groups, with details of clan, place of residence and colour, and some knowledge obtained with regard to many more. It is not of course enough ground on which to found any theory, but it was very useful in checking information gathered in other ways. Only in one case was it possible to get back beyond the great-grandfather of our informant, but the knowledge of family connections was often greater than would be found among Europeans. The number of childless marriages was striking.

The early story of Viriamo (fig. 83), the oldest woman living in our day, gives a picture of this primitive state of things. She belonged to the clan of Ureohei, and her family had lived for some generations, as far back as could be remembered, on the edge of the eastern volcano, not far from Raraku. The great-grandfather, who was dark, had as his only wife a white woman of the Hamea. Their son was white, and had two wives, one of the Tupahotu and one of the Ngaure. By the first, although she also was white, he had a dark son who married a white wife of his own clan, Ureohei, but of a different group. Viriamo was the second of their eight children, all of whom were white save herself and her eldest brother. Four of the girls died young in the epidemic of smallpox in 1864. Viriamo and two of her sisters were initiated as children into the bird rite.22 When older she was tattooed with rings round her forehead and with the dark-blue breeches. Somewhat later, but still as a young woman, she went over to Anakena and had her ears pierced, but she never had the lobe extended, preferring to let it remain small. When asked about her marriage, she bridled as coyly as a young girl. Her first union was a matter of arrangement, the husband, who was also of the Ureohei, giving her father much food, and, if she had refused to accept the situation, she would, she said, have been beaten. There was no ceremony of any kind, no new clothes nor feasting; her father simply took her to her new home and handed her over. The house was near the two statues with the projecting noses, excavated on the south-eastern slope of Raraku (fig. 73), and, when she wanted water, rather than cross the boundary and go round to the lake by the gap, through the hostile dwellers on the western side, she used to clamber with her vessel up the boundary rift in the cliff face. There was one white child, who died young, but her marriage was not a success, and Viriamo left the man and went off to live with one of the Miru clan at Anakena. His house already contained a wife and family, also four brothers, but they all got on quite happily together. She had five children by this man, who, like their father, were all white; four of them, however, died in infancy. This was the result of the parents having most unfortunately fallen foul of an old man, whose cloak had been taken without his consent, and who had accordingly prophesied disaster. The remaining child, a daughter, was living and unmarried when we were on the island. The last husband was the most satisfactory of the three; he was a Tupahotu living near Tongariki. She was handed over to him as a matter of family arrangement, in discharge of a debt, but she was quite amenable to the exchange, and was very fond of him. He was light in colour, but her only child by this marriage, our friend Juan, was dark, taking, as he said, “after my mam-ma."

The women do not seem, judging by existing remains, to have had always a happy time. Dr. Keith, who examined the skulls collected by the Expedition, concludes his report on one of the female specimens as follows: "The most likely explanation is that the indent of the left temple was the cause of death, produced by the blow of a club, and that the suppuration and repair of the right side has been also produced by a former blow which failed to prove fatal. Two other skulls, also those of women, show indented fractures in the left temporal region."

Any deficiency at marriages, in the way of social festivity, was made up at funerals. These were attended by persons from all over the island, for "when they were not fighting, they were all cousins." In answer to the remark that "considering the population their whole time must have gone in this way," it was cheerfully observed that "they had nothing else to do, so they all went, everybody took food and everybody ate." The parents of one of our friends, Kapiera, lived at Anakena, but he was born on the south side of the island near Vaihu "when his mother went for a funeral." The men who knew the tablets went also and sang, but there seems to have been little or nothing in the way of rites. The missionaries were impressed with the fact that there was no ceremony of any kind at a burial.

Most elaborate spells were, however, performed in connection with a man who had been slain, known as "tangata ika," or fish-man; the corpse was kept from resting either day or night while his neighbours went in pursuit of vengeance. In front of one ahu, on the north coast, some pieces of the old statues have been formed into a rude chair. On this, it was said, had been seated the naked body of a man belonging to the district, Kotavari-vari by name, who had been killed at Akahanga on the south coast. One man kept the corpse from falling, while two others sat behind and chanted songs to aid the avengers. These watchers were covered with black ashes, wore only feather hats, and carried the small dancing-paddle known as "rapa" (fig. 116); the chief man in charge of the ceremony was known as the "timo." It must have been an eerie scene as dusk came on. The story is told of a murder near Tongariki. In this case the victim's corpse was placed on the ahu and turned over at intervals by the watchers. Hanga Maihiko, a converted image ahu on the south coast, is one of those which have a paved approach, and there are on the pavement two stones — pieces of a hat and a statue — specially used for exposing "fish-men" (fig. 93). If these charms failed to act, there was a still more reliable way. The clothes of the victim were buried beneath the cooking-place of the foe, and when he had partaken of food prepared there he would certainly die the night following. Some of the carved tablets were connected with these rites; one was certainly known as that of the "Ika," while there is said to have been another called "Timo," which was the "list" kept by each ahu of its murdered men.


Old Image, Ahu, converted to semi-pyramid form, with paved approach; also two stones on which were exposed the corpse of slain men.

The custom of exposing the dead was, as has been stated, going on in living memory. The information already given on this head is confirmed by the accounts of the missionaries,23 but burial was also practised, the mode of disposal being a matter of choice. There were two drawbacks to exposure: firstly, if the deceased was for any reason an uncanny person, his ghost might make itself unpleasant — he was safer hidden under stones; secondly, the body, if left in the open, might be burnt by enemies; this latter was the reason given for the burial of the last great chief, Ngaara, who was interred in one of the image ahu on the western coast. Not only were the ruins of the greater ahu still being used, but up till 1863 smaller ones were being built. One was pointed out on the north coast as having been put up for an individual, the maternal aunt of our guide, the lady having had the misfortune to be killed by a devil in the night. It was a small structure, ovoidal in shape, 10 feet in length, with a fiat top sloping from a height of 9 feet at the end towards the sea, to 4 feet 6 inches at that towards the land; there was beneath it a vaulted chamber for bones.



Burial cairns, called "ahu poe-poe," were being made in modern times, and a man skilled in their construction was amongst those who were carried off to Peru. The word "poe-poe" is described as meaning a big canoe, such as their ancestors came in to the island. It is applied to two types of ahu, one of which is obviously built to resemble a boat; of this kind there are about twelve in the island. One large one (fig. 94) measured as much as 178 feet in length, the width being 20 feet, while the ends, which are made like the bow and stern of a canoe, are about 10 feet to 15 feet in height. The flat top is paved with sea-boulders, and is surrounded by a row of the same in imitation of the gunwale of a boat. In one such ahu two vaults were found by us just below the surface with perfect burials. One was the body of an old man, the other of a woman with a child. Both had been wrapped in reeds, and with the body of the woman were some glass beads. On the surface of the ahu were a few bones, possibly of a body which had been exposed there, but the ahu had apparently been built for the two interments. It is less obvious why the same name, “ahu poe-poe," should be applied to a burial-place which was wedge-shaped in form. It follows the lines of the image ahu in so far as having a wall towards the sea flanked on the land sides by a slope of masonry. It might be held to represent the prow of a boat, but resembles rather a pier or jetty. Only some six of these were seen, of which the longest was 70 feet. One in a lonely spot, at the very edge of a high cliff, which overlooked Anakena Bay, formed a most striking abode for the dead (fig. 95).

In a few cases the term ahu is given to a pavement, generally by the roadside, neatly made of rounded boulders and edged with a curb; the form was said to be ancient. One of those on the west road was reported as specially dedicated to mata-toa — which signifies victors or warriors — and the same was said of a differently made ahu on the south coast .24

Neither exposure nor interment was necessarily confined to ahu, and corpses were frequently disposed of in caverns, as in the case of Ko Tori. Three instances were mentioned, an uncle and two nephews, where the corpses, after being exposed, were lowered with a rope down the crevasses of the cliff of Raraku in order to evade the enemy. One of the nephews, who had been of the party when the final statues were overthrown, had met with a tragic end, being drowned by catching his hand in a rock when diving for lobsters under water. With the exception of those near the standing statues, we practically never found an earth burial. This seems to account for the exaggerated estimates of the number of human remains on the island; it is doubtful if even five hundred skulls could be collected, but, whether in caves or ruined ahu, a large proportion of those which exist are very much in evidence.

Memorials of the dead were erected in various places independently of the actual locality where the corpse rested. Some of these were simply mounds of earth, which can be seen on various hills; there is a regular succession on the landward rim of the Raraku crater, opposite to the great cliff, but one at least of these was a memorial to a man whose body had been disposed of in the clefts of the cliff. Others of these independent memorials were in the shape of cairns about 6 feet in height, known as "pipi-hereko," and were formerly surmounted by a white stone. Many of them still exist, and they are particularly numerous on the high ground above Anakena Cove. The locality was chosen as one which was but little inhabited, for the taboo for the dead (or pera) extended to them, and no one went near them in the daylight, on penalty of being stoned, till the period of mourning had been terminated with the usual feast. Various voyagers commented on these cairns, which were marked objects, and Cook thinks that they may have been put up instead of statues.

It would seem by the following tale, which imposes a somewhat severe strain on the European imagination, that piles of stones had in the native mind a certain resemblance to the human figure. “There was once an old lady who had an arm so long that it could have reached right across the island. She was a bad old woman, and once a month had a child to eat, so a certain man determined to put an end to her power for doing harm. He took her out in a boat to fish, first telling his small son to collect stones, and after they had gone to put them in piles in front of the house of the woman, and also to make a fire and much smoke. When the canoe had got out to sea, he looked back and found the boy had done as he was told, and glimpses of the cairns could be seen among the clouds of smoke. Then he called to the old woman, 'Look, there are men at your house!' So she put out her long arm to seize what she thought were the people going to rob her hut, whereon the man seized the paddle and brought it down on her arm and broke it; then he killed the old woman and threw her body into the sea.


Life was by no means dull in Easter Island, for if a feast was not being given to commemorate a departed relation, it was arranged in honour of one whilst still alive. The "PAINA," which means simply picture or representation, was given by the family as a testimonial of esteem to a father, or possibly a brother who might be either alive or dead; it was a serious matter, and the original direction for the celebration came from a supernaturally gifted individual known as an "ivi-atua." The paina was a large figure made of woven rods, and the host would clamber up inside it and look through eyes or mouth; it had a crown made of the wings of a particular sea-bird, known as "makohe," and long ears. Occasionally it was put up on a special spot, where, for example, a man had been killed, but the interesting point in connection with the paina is that the usual place for erection was in front of an image ahu on its landward side, and at most, or all, of the large ahu, there can still be seen, in the grass at the foot of the paved slope, the holes where the paina have stood. It was kept in place by four long ropes, one of which passed over the ahu. The feast was held in the summer, and lasted from two to four days; at any given ahu there might be only one in the season or as many as five. The drawbacks, which would have seemed obvious to such a locality, do not seem to have clouded the entertainment; the feasting was great, and consisted largely of rats which were caught in the hen-houses. The recollection of these entertainments and the crowds who attended them were very vivid, and Viriamo's eyes brightened as she told of the singing, dancing, and feasting of her youth.



There are records of another figure which appears to have been different from the paina; it was clothed and known as "KO PEKA." The Spanish Expedition in 1770 says that the islanders brought down to the beach, on the day when the three crosses were set up, an idol about 11 feet high like a "Judas," stuffed with straw; it was all white, and had a fringe of black hair hanging down its back. They put it up on stones and sat cross-legged around it, howling all night by the light of flares. As no information was volunteered to us about such celebrations, the natives were asked if they had ever known a similar figure, and an old man at once replied that there had existed one just like the description, made of reeds, as a memorial of a dead wife or "fine" child; it stood in front of the house, or was sometimes carried to a hillock where the people assembled to mourn. One of the officers of the La Pérouse Expedition also described a figure seen near a platform; it was 11 feet in height, clothed in white tapa ("étoffe blanche du pays"); it had hanging round the neck a basket covered with white, and by the side of this bag the figure of a child 2 feet long. This seems to confirm the information that it was intended to represent a woman.

Another great festivity, given for a father either living or dead, was the ''KORO." This was a house-party on a very extended scale. A special dwelling made with poles and thatched was put up, and, according to accounts, which surround it no doubt with a halo from the past, measured some hundreds of feet in length and 20 feet in height. An old man stated that at a celebration at which he was present there were "a hundred guests," a number which is probably a guess, but the addition that there were "ten cooking-places" sounds like memory. Invitations to these festivities were much in request, as there was "no work to do"; presents of food were brought to the hero who distributed them to the party. They seem to have lasted indefinitely, going on for months, and the time was passed with various entertainments. The old people sang, the young people danced, and the host, who lived in a little house near, came and looked on. On the last day there was a great feast, and the house was broken down with the aid of the carved wooden lizards, which are associated with the island (fig. 117). We were puzzled in coming across a rough stone building, near Anakena, which seemed to be neither ahu, dwelling, nor chicken-house; it had been, the men told us, a shelter for the posts of the koro, where they were kept in readiness for the next celebration.

There was yet another entertainment which is said to have been in honour of a mother, as a koro was of a father. In at least four different places on the island are to be seen a dancing-ground known as "KAUNGA." It is a narrow strip paved with pebbles, over 200 feet in length by 2 feet in width, and not unlike the paved approach to some of the ahu. A demonstration was given of the way it was used. The dancers, “fine men, fine women," as was explained with emphasis, proceeding along it single file, holding rapa in both hands. In connection with some or all of the kaunga there was a house where the party remained indoors for a long time previous to the dances, in order to "get their complexions good," a touch which shows that a white skin was admired.

These feasts were held in certain months only, determined by the appearance of the heavens after nightfall. On the extremity of the eastern headland there is an outcrop of boulders, one of which is incised with a spiral design; the place is known as "Ko Te Papa-ui-hetuu," or, “The Rock-for-seeing-stars," and here the old men came to watch the constellations. About two hundred yards from these boulders there is another engraved stone on which ten cup-shaped depressions are visible; this represented, it is said, “a map of the stars."

The season for the Paina depended on the position of the three central stars of Orion, with regard to which the following story is related. A certain married woman, on going down to bathe, was carried off by a stranger. When her husband discovered this, he slew her in his anger, and she fled up to be a star. The husband then took their two boys, one in each hand, and followed her to the sky, where the three form the belt of Orion. The wife, however, would have nothing to do with them, and remained in a separate part of the heavens. This is the only nature myth which we encountered on the island.


1 An island was reported in lat. 27° by an English buccaneer named Davis in 1687. It was, he said, five hundred miles from the coast of Chile, low and sandy, and some twelve leagues to the west of it was seen "a long tract of pretty high land." The description in no way applies to Easter, with which it has sometimes been identified. The probability seems to be that Davis was out of his reckoning, as was by no means unusual in the case of the early mariners, and it has been suggested that the island he saw was Crescent Island, the high ground in the distance being the Gambier group. The latitude of Easter Island is 27° 8' S., that of Crescent Island is 23° 20' S.

2 Precisely the same habit obtains to-day among the Akikuyu in East Africa.

3  For Roggeveen's description of the Island see Voyage of Gonzalez. Hakluyt Society, Series II., vol. xiii., pp. 3 to 26.

A statement of the evidence re Davis Island is given in the introduction to the same volume.

4 Voyage of Gonzalez, p. 27 seq.

5 A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World, by James Cook, 1st ed., 4to, 1777, pp. 276-96.

A Voyage Round the World, George Forster, 410, 1777. Vol. i., pp. 551602.

6 Voyage de La Pirouse autour du Monde. 4to edn., London, 1799. Vol. i., pp. 319-36.

7 MS. copy in the British Museum of a letter sent by one of the officers of the Spanish ship to a Canon or a Prebendary in Buenos Aires. MSS. 17607 (18). Our attention was drawn to this document by Dr. Corney.

8 See above, p. 171.

9 Voyage of Gonzalez, p. 126.

10 Voyage Round the World in the Ship “Neva," Lisiansky, Lond. 1 8 14, p . 58.

11 Voyage to the Pacific, H.M.S. "Blossom," p. 41.

12 See Annales de la Propagation de la Foi. 1866, 1867, 1869.

13 Journal Ethnological Society, Vol. i. p. 373.

14 The above statement is made on the authority of Mr. John Brander of Tahiti. According to report of H.M.S. Sappho, which visited the island in 1882, Salmon was then an agent of the Maison Brander.

15 Smithsonian Report, 1889.

16 In the Odyssey Athene speaks of Odysseus as "in a sea-girt isle, where is the navel of the sea." {Odyssey, Bk. I., 1. 50, Butcher & Lang.)

17 Easter Island. The Rapa-nui Speech. W. Churchill, p. 3.

18 Voyage of Gonzalez, p. 90.

19 One of the Scitamineæ — further determination awaits the blooming of plants brought back to Kew.

20 Of these clan names, “Raa" means the sun and "Marama" the light. The signification of the others is not equally clear, and the natives could give no assistance; but Mr. Ray gives the following interesting information from other Polynesian sources. “Haumoana" means the sea-breeze; "Hitiuira" is probably "hiti-ra" or sunrise; and "Ure-o-hei" another version of "ura-o-hehe," or red of sundown, “Koro-orongo" is doubtless from "Koro-o-Rongo," or the ring of Rongo (a well-known Polynesian deity), that is the rainbow. “Kotuu" appears to be a contraction of "Ko Otuu," meaning "The Hill"; the name "Otuu" is used alternatively for the same district. “Hotu" is another form of the word for hill and "Iti" signifies small, it presumably refers to Rano Raraku.

21 Since writing the above the following has been seen: "The higher Polynesian races, such as the Tahitians, Hawaiians, Samoans, had one and all outgrown, and some of them had in part forgot, the practice (cannibalism) before Cook or Bougainville had shown a topsail in their waters." — In the South Seas, R. L. Stevenson, p. 94.

22 See Chapter XVI; the section on the Bird Cult.

23 "These bodies, enveloped in mats, are placed on a heap of stones or on a kind of wooden structure, the head being turned towards the sea. Now, as all the population live round the island, dried skeletons are to be met all along this coast, and no one seems to take any notice of them." — Letter from Brother Eyraud — Annals of the Propagation of the Faith, Jan. 1866.

24 When all those ahu which can be placed in categories as Image, Semi-Pyramid, Canoe, Wedge-shaped, or Pavement have been noted, there remain, out of the total of two hundred and sixty burial-places, some fourteen which are unique in design; and between sixty and seventy which cannot be classified, either because they are mere cairns or in too ruined a condition to be identified.

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