Easter Island is a spectacular place full of mysteries that have fascinated scientists and visitors alike for many decades. Its most famous attractions are the enigmatic stone statues known as Moai of whose meaning is not yet fully understood.
Rapa Nui as well as the island is a mysterious place in the middle of the Pacific and belongs to Chile inhabited by around 7,500 people in a single settlement called Hanga Roa.
In this city is the Rapa Nui Museum, the place with the greatest amount of objects and clues to take a look at this ancient civilization. Among the most important objects in the collection are a few wooden tablets with symbols carved on them. This seems to be some type of writing in the ancestral language of the original inhabitants of the island, but which has not yet been deciphered.
The carved drawings, some with shapes similar to people or animals and others much more abstract and difficult to understand, are part of the native language Rongorongo, which is one of the few linguistic systems to develop in the islands and civilizations of the Pacific Ocean prior to the 20th century.
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The language was probably used for religious purposes and not all the inhabitants of the island knew how to write it. It is presumed that only a few individuals belonging to the ruling elites had these linguistic abilities developed.
When coming into contact with European colonizers in the 16th century and due to overpopulation and internal wars, the original culture of Easter Island began to rapidly disappear but some traces persisted over time.
As said by Steven Roger Fischer, former director of the Institute of Polynesian Languages and Literatures in Auckland, “Several Rapanui still remembered the traditions, some chants, and customs, and relayed a few of these things to foreign visitors well into the first two decades of the 20th century.”
Studies of the very few written tablets indicate that the texts seem to refer to creation myths of the world and humans, but not all scientists agree with these statements. The consensus on the matter is further complicated due to the little evidence that has survived through the years.
The messages carved in the wood of Easter Island remain indecipherable for many but we hope that soon, it will be possible to understand what is written there and we can take a closer look at this incredible island and its ancient culture.