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Easter Island on Valentines Day

Around Hanga Roa


View Patagonia on PetersF's travel map.

14th Feb- Valentine’s Day

Today was our own day, so we decided to explore Hanga Roa itself. Walking to the crossroads, we turned on to Atama Tekenu road. We’d thought to hire a quad bike, but needed a driving license, which we hadn’t bought, so instead we browsed the shops, buying a couple of mugs and some earrings. We managed, with a bit of work, to find the entrance to the Kari-kari ballet and got two front row tickets for the evening show. Then it was back to the crossroads and on up the road. We soon arrived at the interesting Church of the Holy Cross. As it was being cleaned we went opposite to the Artisans market. Interesting stuff, but pricey, so it was back to the church which was now open. The Church of the Holy Cross, which offers an interesting display of religious syncretism. The mix of Rapa Nui and Catholic symbolism can be seen from the front of the building where Catholic motifs, Rongo Rongo inscriptions and birdmen share spaces. Once inside, the altar and the carvings of saints deserve special attention, a Virgin crowned by a manutara, a Christ with a rei miro (crescent-shaped ornament worn by leaders on their chests and on the Rapa Nui flag), a baptismal font bordered by RongoRongo and even the creator god Make-Make on a wood carving. Mass is attended by most of the islanders. While the liturgy is in Spanish, songs with Polynesian rhythms are in Rapanui language. In the gardens to the side of the church are the graves of Father Sebastian Englert, Eugene Eyraud (the first missionary to reach the island in 1864) and Maria Angata, a local prophetess who led a brief uprising against turning the island into a sheep farming in 1915.
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Hanga Roa accounts for 95% of the island’s population. It is a small town, which has grown in a somewhat disorganised manner, but the possibility of getting lost is nonexistent. The concentration of Rapa Nui people in one place is relatively recent, beginning with the arrival of Westerners, primarily Catholic missionaries. Previously the more numerous population occupied the entire surface of the island, hence the distribution of its ahu (ceremonial altars) along the coast and in some inland areas. Hanga Roa means wide bay, referring to the large bay on which the city sits. At one point it was known as Bay Cook, after James Cook stayed here in 1774. Hanga Roa is the only part of the island that has electricity, water and services; hospital, 2 banks, fire station, pharmacy, post office, shops, restaurants, small grocery, craft and souvenir shops mostly located on the main street, Atamu Tekena, or the street running perpendicular to it between the beach and the church, Te Pito O Te Henua. Mataveri airport, the police station across the runway and the LAN offices (the only airline with scheduled flights to Easter Island) are at the beginning of the main street. There are two ports in Hanga Roa for small boats. “Caleta” or Cove is where most fishing boats dock. It’s very close to Pea beach.

An interesting church and fun to watch the quiet subversion of Christian beliefs to another world view! Anyhow, after this it was lunchtime, so we found a nearby street cafe (complete with curious toddler) for tuna empanadas (the tuna is cooked direct from the ocean on hot stones). Then it was back down to the Post Office opposite our hotel to get the official Easter Island passport stamp (free). It was still hot and an ice cream seemed in order, so back at Caleta Bay we ordered some from the famous gelateria Mikafé. Next door we spotted the Orca Diving Centre and it seemed like a great idea, so we booked a snorkelling session for 4pm.
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This gave up plenty of time for a walk along the north coast of the island, which is frequently ignored, even though it has some interesting sites. As we walked we passed Hanga Vare Vare, a wide open space, where the Tapati Rapa Nui festival is celebrated and decorated with stone statues and carvings made during previous Tapatis. Palm trees have been planted around a natural pool so you can enjoy a swim in an area of the coast where doing so is difficult. Further on was the cemetery, another place to see Easter Island’s religious syncretism. This is the 3rd Christian cemetery on the island, the first was in Vaihu, and the second is by the current school gym. The current cemetery is near Tahai, and is over 100 years old. Some stones are beautifully sculpted and combine Christian and Rapa Nui motifs. The great cross of red scoria in the centre of the cemetery is carved from an ancient pukao (moai headdress). It was a bit of a walk beyond to the Tahai site, which is three ahu, Ahu Vai Uri, Ahu Tahai and Ahu Ko Te Riki.

Tahai ancient village is a site with several ahus and moai statues close to Hanga Roa. Tahai has three ahus; Ahu Vai 'Uri (5 moais), Ahu Tahai (1 moai) and Ahu Ko Te Riku (1 moai). The moai of Ahu Ko Te Riku is the only moai with eyes restored, though of cement rather than coral. Photos of the statues at Tahai turn out best before noon, when the faces of the moais are sun-lit. In the afternoon, they become backlit and it's harder to take good photos. As the sun sets behind the statues as it is popular for sunset photos, but for photos of moon set behind the statues, you will probably be alone. The full moon sets in the same spot as the sun, often in the morning.
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This site was restored 1968 and recreates the original layout of the Rapanui villages. Mulloy’s ashes rest under a small carved stone under the hare paenga, at the southern end of the complex. Three ahu or ceremonial platforms found here are, from left to right, Ahu Vai Uri, 5 moais, Ahu Tahai, 1 eroded moai; and Ahu Ko Te Riku, 1 moai with eyes (a replica based on the eye found in Anakena in 1978) and a pukao (a red scoria headdress), displaying the moais in their maximum splendour.
Down the slope from the car park, the rock structure on the left is a hare moa, or chicken coop, where the Rapa Nui used to keep the hens during the tribal wars or in times of scarcity. The small hole in the front was the entrance, which was covered with a single rock when the chickens were inside at night. The purpose of the hare moa was deciphered thanks to the remains of feathers and eggshells.
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Remains of hare paenga
At the southern end of the square (towards Hanga Roa), is a hare paenga/ “houseboat” due to the characteristic elliptical structure that these houses had, similar to canoes. These were made using stones to form the base, to which long branches and firm wood were attached for structure, topped with reeds, leaves and grass. Houses were arranged in a semicircle around the central square and used only by the highest ranking people in each village. The lower-ranking people lived in simple structures without stone bases, or in the caves located. Descending towards Ahu Vai Uri a moai can be seen lying face down. This was the sixth moai platform, but it was impossible to restore it, so it was left where it was. Further on is a rustically carved stone head found in the sea behind the platform. It is thought to be one of the oldest and, according to dates, this part of the island was the first one to be populated.
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Ramp for canoes
Between Ahu Vai Uri and Ahu Tahai a ramp for canoes can be seen, built out of stone. This was very common because the island has only two sandy beaches, so ramps were needed to transport canoes to and from the sea. Tahai is one of the best places on the island to enjoy the sunset, because the sun sets right behind the five moais, creating an idyllic image. It can be reached by car on the road that leads to the museum and then turning left onto a dirt road leading to the parking lot. Walking, it’s just 15 minutes from the centre of Hanga Roa. Going north along the coast, it’s just past the cemetery. The best time to take photos is in the evening, when it sets right behind them. Finally we managed to reach Hanga Kioe (walkable from Hanga Roa) Hanga Kioe means Mouse Bay from a legend which tells of a widow that walked in the bay with a mouse in her mouth, a sign of mourning for the death of her husband, whose remains she buried here after the ahu was built. This ahu is located north of Hanga Roa approx 1.5 km from Ahu Tahai along the coast. Based on the restored moai’s design and size (4 m), this platform is considered to belong to a late ahu construction period, c1600 AD, like the 7 Ahu Akivi moai. You can also find a hare moa (chicken coop) in this archaeological site as well as the remains of several houseboats built on what was once a village. Unlike many other sites, Hanga Kio’e is rarely visited by tourists, and it was very empty.
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Snorkelling
It was time to head back for our snorkelling. We grabbed our own snorkels, then got a wetsuit and flippers from the office, before getting into the boat. As we went along the guide pointed out interesting things along the coast, such as the Virgin’s Cave and the bite in Ranu Kau where the Birdmen dived off. We spent a while by Ana Kai Tangata cave, the most important on the island.
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It turned out to be too rough to dive in the normal site at Motu Nui and Moto Iti, and instead went at the smaller Moto Kao Kao. Steve managed to lose his headcam twice, the second time very deep, but luckily the guide was a free diver and managed to 20m or so to get it (it was still running so we have some nice fish pics!). We saw some interesting fish, as well as the coral.
The most common fish was the Easter Island Butterflyfish, which is found only here in Easter Island.
We saw quite a number, with the orange Glasseye Snapper in attendance. Some small yellow leaf-like fish were drifting about too. These were Easter Island Dwarf angelfish (aka HotuMatua Angelfish) generally solitary and again only found here. Of course the inevitable wrasse were around as well as Goatfish. The coral reef supported vast numbers of Black Sea urchins, and I spotted an unusual near-transparent fish, the Cornetfish. Just as we were about to leave, we both spotted a large sea turtle. It was a good snorkel and mostly just our boat, until towards the end a bucketload of people turned up and all the fish and the turtle scarpered. Luckily we’d mostly finished so we headed back, giving us time to get ready for the evening.
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The Râpa Nui ballet at Kari-Kari Ballet welcomed us and it turned out we had front row seats in what was nearly, though now quite, a barn. Steve got the drinks in and it wasn’t long before the music started. A great show, with some amazing dancers. They gave an excellent range of fertility dances, war dances (very very similar to the haka, even with the tongues), and everyday dances. We were called up to do our own dance, nice. The show ended quite late, but we were peckish, so we walked back to the ocean to get a late meal at Te Moana.
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15th Feb
We only had half a day, so we decided to try our luck going left from the cove. Arriving at Pea Beach, we continued beyond towards the small fishing port of Hanga Piko bay. It’s also only very few meters deep, so cargo vessels/ cruise ships can’t dock. In order to unload everything that comes to the island from the mainland (most things), flat-bottomed boats are used. The ahu/moai on the port is Ahu Riata. It is common to see men and women in Polynesian canoes training here. The island is very competitive in this sport, even globally.
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We got as far as the Ana Kai Tangata cave (seen on our snorkelling trip), before we had to turn back. Ana Kai Tangata is a cave of volcanic origin in which the sea has eroded lava from the cliff creating a cavity 10 m wide, 5 m high and 15 m deep. Its opening overlooks the sea, but is above the high tide. The name of this cave has led to speculation. In Rapanui Ana means “cave” and Tangata means “man”. The problem lies in Kai, generally translated “to eat”, hence a literal translation “the cave where men are eaten”, so it became known as “the cave of the cannibals“. The oral tradition reflects ancient episodes of cannibalism on the island by the champion clan in the competition of the Tangata Manu. This group that resided in Mataveri, celebrated the victory with feasts and banquets that, sometimes, included human victims. Some of these cruel feasts took place in the cave, where they led the unfortunate rivals. Despite these legends, no physical evidence has been found in the excavations. Other variations could be “the cave where men eat” or “the cave that eats men” since the great opening of the cavern simulates a huge dark mouth that swallows the people who enter it. Alternatively, Kai can mean “gather/ tell” so the cave could be a meeting place or classroom. A final hypothesis, based on the remains, argues it was a small boatyard, where “vaka ama” were built, small canoes made with boards sewn together, typical of the time when wood was scarce in the island. Ana Kai Tangata stands out as one of the best places to admire the ancient rock art of Easter Island. In the inner vault, are beautiful cave paintings in red, white and black, which for the most part represent the Manutara or seagull (Sterna fuscata). This migratory bird, which nested on the motu or islets in front of Orongo each spring, was considered sacred and was the main icon of the cult of Tangata Manu or bird-man. The Mataveri sector, where Ana Kai Tangata is located, is closely related to the Orongo Ceremonial Village. During the month of July, the groups that participated in the competition of the Tangata Manu settled down here. Later, they ascended in procession along the slope of Rano Kau volcano to Orongo, where the competition was held. This section was called Te Ara or Te Ao or “The Way of the Command”, in reference to the ritual object that symbolised power. In September, when the first egg was captured, the title of bird-man was awarded to the winner, and the chosen one descended with the Ao (sceptre) in his hand, showing his victory and acquired power. This ancient rite based on the collection the first egg of the manutara, seems to have inspired the motifs found in the cave. The differences in the designs of the paintings indicate that they were made by different authors over time. The artists used vegetable essences and mineral pigments collected from the Vinapu area, mixed with shark fat. Inside the cave you can see a “taheta” or container dug in the rock where they could have prepared and mixed the colours. At present, a dozen birds can be distinguished painted red and outlined in white, accompanied by other figures that could represent boats. Some take the form of the classic Polynesian canoes or pora and others show European ships with masts. It is surprising the great number of boats painted in Ana Kai Tangata, only surpassed by the ones found inside the houses of Orongo. This joint representation of boats and birds found both in the cave and in the ritual village, confirms a strong connection between both places. Researchers suggest that during a certain period of history, islanders considered the European visitors as messengers from beyond, arriving and disappearing like as the migratory birds. This curious relationship may have been reinforced by the fact that a large number of the visits of the ships to Easter Island coincided with the southern spring and autumn, when the ceremony of the bird-man took place. Until the 1930’s, the state of the paintings was quite good. However, due to water leaks from the upper layers and to the harmful effect of sea salt, the pigments have been losing their intensity.
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We watched the birds bathing in rock pools before we turned back, hoping to have an ice cream at Bar Pea. It was shut, but we suddenly spotted the sea turtles; a whole group of 4. Pea Beach is a tiny beach. Pea, together with the natural pools of Hanga Vare Vare, is the closest option that residents and tourists have to take a swim. Pea beach is divided into 2 separated by the small protrusion where Pea Restobar rises. To the left next of the breakwater has been built a natural pool protected by stone walls. On the right, facing the sea is the beach, a small portion of sand with some umbrellas. A few meters beyond is Ahu Tautira on which stand two moai. After watching the turtles for a time, we headed back to get our taxi for the flight (first class) back to Santiago.

Rongo Rongo
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Santiago Staff (Text I)
Rongorongo script (kohau rongo rongo) is a system of glyphs carved on wood or tablets, yet to be deciphered. Kohau is “wood used to make the hull of the canoe” and rongo rongo means “great message/ study”, so kohau rongo rongo is “recitation wood/narrator staffs”.
According to oral tradition, Hotu Matu’a, had 67 tablets (like the 67 Maori wisdoms) telling how to sail, astronomy, etc. However, no other writing has been found in Polynesia.
Rongorongo may have been invented after the arrival of the Spaniards in 1770, when they asked the ariki to sign the island assignment contract, the first contact Rapa Nui had with western script. It is likely the meaning of Rongorongo script will remain a mystery as there are only 27 pieces with Rongo Rongo inscriptions, scattered in museums all over the world. No original piece remains in Easter Island. The scarcity, and lack of knowledge about the ancient Rapa Nui language, makes it almost impossible to decipher. The symbols and glyphs were carved using shark teeth or obsidian flakes in toromiro or Oceania rosewood wood, on both sides and without spaces or separations. They seem to represent anthropomorphic beings in different positions, creatures that resemble birds, aquatic animals or plants, celestial beings, small hooks or geometric figures. It is probable it is a symbolic rather than phonetic script. The system used in Rongo Rongo tablets is inversed boustrophedon, which means you write a line in one direction and the next upside down in the opposite direction. To read the tablet you need to turn it over as you read. One of the first missionaries on the island, French monk Eugenio Eyraud, reported: “Wooden tablets covered in hieroglyphics are found in every hut. They are animal figures unbeknownst in the island. Each figure has a name.”
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Unfortunately, Rongo Rongo tablets were burned by the missionaries as satanic messages. There have been numerous attempts to decipher rongorongo script since its discovery in the late 19th century. Apart from a portion of one tablet (Tablet C Mamari), which deals with a lunar calendar, no text is understood, and even the calendar cannot actually be read. There are three obstacles to decipherment
- the small number of remaining texts, comprising only 15,000 legible glyphs
- the lack of context in which to interpret the texts, such as illustrations or known parallel texts
- modern Rapanui is heavily mixed with Tahitian and is unlikely to closely reflect the language of the tablets

Since the 1950s, it has been argued that rongorongo is not true writing but proto-writing, ie an ideographic rebus- based mnemonic device, making it impossible to decipher. The topic of the texts is unknown; ideas include genealogy, navigation, astronomy, agriculture. Oral history suggests that only the Rapanui elite were literate, and that the tablets were tapu (sacred). In 1868 Florentin-Étienne Jaussen, Bishop of Tahiti, received a gift from Easter Island of a rongorongo tablet. He asked Father Hippolyte Roussel on Easter Island to collect more tablets and find islanders capable of reading them. Roussel acquired a few, but no-one to read them. In 1869 in Tahiti Jaussen found a labourer from Easter Island, Metoro Tau‘a Ure, who knew the inscriptions "by heart" (rather than being able to read them). Metoro deciphered four tablets: A (Tahua), B (Aruku kurenga), C (Mamari), and E (Keiti) and a list of the glyphs they identified was published for A and B- the Jaussen list. It has been criticised for five glyphs called porcelain but actually porcelaine= cowrie! In 1974 Barthel realised Metoro had read the lines of Keiti forwards on the reverse but backwards on the obverse and failed to recognise the very obvious full moon pictogram on Mamari. William J. Thomson, paymaster on USS Mohican, spent Dec 1886 on Easter Island, during which time he collected the names of the nights and months of the year, key to interpreting the single understood sequence of rongorongo (Mamari tablet), which is unusual as it contains 13 months; others mention only 12. He translated Anakena as August, rather than July as it appears the Rapanui used a lunisolar calendar with ‘kotuti' as a leap month. Thomson met an old man, Ure Va‘e Iko who claimed he had been learning to read rongorongo at the time of the Peruvian raids, and to understand most of the characters. He had been the steward of King Nga‘ara, the last king with knowledge of writing, and though unable to write himself, he knew many rongorongo chants by memory. Unfortunately he refused to "ruin his chances for salvation by doing what his Christian instructors had forbidden" and fled. Eventually he was persuaded and the English- Tahitian landowner Alexander Salmon (who had learnt some Rapanui) took down Ure's dictation, which he translated into English, for tablets E Keiti (Apai), R Small Washington (Atua Matariri), S Great Washington (Eaha to ran ariiki Kete), D Échancrée (Ka ihi uiga) and C Mamari (Ate-a-renga-hokau iti poheraa). While no one has succeeded in correlating Ure's readings with the rongorongo texts, the first two, Apai and Atua Matariri, are not corrupted with Tahitian. The verses of Atua Matariri are “X ki ‘ai ki roto Y, ka pû te Z” (“X by mounting Y, let Z come forth"), eg. "Moon, by mounting into Darkness, let Sun come forth or “mounting into Stingray, let Shark come forth" seem like creation chants, but do not link to Rapanui or Polynesian creation mythology. Possibly the Atua Matariri chant which Ure knew was not the specific tablet he recited it for.
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In 1957 Butinov and Knorozov (who later deciphered the Maya writing system) suggested the repetitive structure of a sequence of 15 glyphs on G (Small Santiago Tablet) was like a genealogy (glyph 200 could be a title like "king", and glyph 76 a patronymic marker, ie: King A, B's son, King B, C’s son, King C, D's son, King D, E's son; a lineage). If this is true, other glyph sequences may be personal names. The Santiago Staff, with 63 glyph 700 (îka "victim"), could be in part a kohau îka (war casualties).
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Barthel identified 3 lines on recto (side a) of tablet C (Mamari) as a lunar/ astronomical calendar. The Mamari calendar is the only rongorongo whose function is accepted as understood, though it cannot actually be read. The core is 29 left-side crescents of the full moon, and a pictogram of te nuahine k# ‘umu ‘a rangi kotekote 'old woman lighting an oven in kotekote sky' (Polynesian mythology).
All the texts but I and G consist mainly of shared sequences of glyphs, though they occur in different orders/ contexts. There are 100 shared phrases of 10-100 glyphs, accounting for 99.7% of the total glyphs.
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One of Jaussen's tablets, Mamari was collected on Easter Island by Father Gaspar Zumbohm in 1870 and sent to Tahiti. Mamari and Large Washington (S) are the only tablets with a documented provenance. Mamari has been identified with a tablet called Kouhau ‘o te Ranga that belonged to ‘ariki Nga‘ara. It was stolen by his servant, who gave it to a friend, whose son sold it to Zumbohm. Katherine Routledge was told that the Kouhau ‘o te Ranga tablet was unique, a ranga tablet that listed the names of enemy prisoners, giving it power to conquer and enslave. The Portia tree the wood was cut from must have been some 15m tall and Easter Island has long been deforested, proving an antiquity.
Rongorongo text G, known as Small Santiago, is the smaller of two Pacific rosewood tablets in Santiago Archaeology Museo Nacional de Historia Natural. Gv (reverse) is distinct from the rest of the rongorongo corpus.

Rongorongo text H, the larger of 2 tablets in Santiago, is called the Great/Large Santiago tablet, and is 1 of 3 recording the so-called 'Great Tradition'. Traditional fire-making caused the gouge. A plugged hole at the top may have been used for hanging. The Large Santiago tablet holds a long glyph cycle and is considered the finest rongorongo inscription. The Staff was presented to the officers of the Chilean corvette O'Higgins in 1870 by French colonist Dutrou-Bornier, who claimed it had belonged to an ‘ariki (king).
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Text C
Modern Rapanui
The current native population on Easter Island is bilingual, in Spanish and Rapa Nui (commonly used by islanders in their families). Vananga Rapanui (Rapanui speech) is a Polynesian language, spoken exclusively by Rapanui, with a total of less than 3,000 speakers. In spite of its roots and similarity to Tahitian and Marquesan, Rapa Nui is independent and indigenous, because the island’s isolation caused unique characteristics. Rapa Nui has only 10 consonants and 5 vowels, which makes it difficult to learn because many words of different meaning sound very similar. Rapa Nui phonology is very similar to Maori, leading to speculation that the first navigators to Easter Island could be the same as those who went to New Zealand. Modern Rapa Nui is very influenced by Tahitian and has loanwords from English, French and Spanish. Rapa Nui was in danger of extinction. In the 1960s, Spanish was important due to the Chilean administration: interracial marriages and increased tourism caused many young Rapa Nui to grow up as Spanish speakers. Recently, the Rapanui people have experienced an ethnic reaffirmation as an indigenous people, with a wish to preserve the language.
Iorana - Hello / Good morning / Good bye Pehe koe? - How are you?
Ana hanga koe - Please Mauru-ur - Thank you
To’oku henua ko... - I’m from... Éé - Yes Ina - No
Rapa Nui Tattoo and body painting are artistic manifestations of Rapa Nui culture. Like other Polynesians, it has a spiritual aspect and tattoos were considered a receptor for divine strength or mana. Priests and rulers had more tattoos than the rest of the population, as a symbol of their hierarchy, though both men and women were tattooed to represent their social class. The tattooing process is performed with bone needles and combs (Uhi) made of bird, hen or fish bones. The ink was made out of natural products, primarily from the burning of Ti leaves and sugar cane.
Wood carving Reimiro, a gorget or breast ornament of crescent shape with a head at one or both tips (also on the flag of Rapa Nui). Two Rei Miru at the British Museum are inscribed with Rongorongo. Moko Miro, a man with a lizard head was used as a club or dancers wore it around their neck. The Moko Miro would be placed at the doorway to protect the household, hanging from the roof or set in the ground. The original form had eyes made from white shells, and the pupils of obsidian. Moai kavakava are male carvings and the Moai Paepae are female carvings. These grotesque, highly detailed human figures carved from Toromiro pine, represent ancestors. Usually, they are used for harvest celebrations or fertility rites. When the statues were not used, they would be wrapped in bark cloth and kept at home. There were reports that the islanders would pick up the figures and dance with them. Early figures are rare and generally depict a male with an emaciated body and a goatee. The figures' ribs and vertebrae are exposed and many examples show carved glyphs on the body, especially the top of the head. The female figures, rarer than males, depict the body as flat with the hand across the body. The figures, although some were quite large, were worn as ornamental pieces around a tribesman's neck. The more figures worn, the more important the man.
Riva riva - Very good
To’oku ingoa ko... - My name is...
E hia moni...? - How much is ...?

Posted by PetersF 13:01 Archived in Chile Tagged island chile easter rapa nui

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