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Te Pito Te Henua, Or Easter Island

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Author Topic: Te Pito Te Henua, Or Easter Island  (Read 1458 times)
Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #555 on: March 22, 2010, 11:20:19 am »

To be intrusted with the traditions, constituted of itself an office of high dignity, and the holder was afforded the protection of a taboo of the most rigorous character.

Family records were perpetuated with the national history, but as might be expected, there was a tendency to embellish them when extended back beyond a reasonable limit, with mythological personages and improbable occurrences. Still the extraordinary power of these keepers to preserve unimpaired for centuries, events and facts or even the geneaology of important families, would astonish those who are familiar only with written history, and whose memories depend upon artificial aids. Except in a few cases, the traditions of the natives do not extend back far enough to throw much light upon the ancient monuments found upon the islands. This is
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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #556 on: March 22, 2010, 11:20:36 am »

due in a measure to the fact, that in only isolated localities have the people lived unmolested for any great length of time. The tribes were continually at war with one an other. From love of conquest, and jealousy, no tribe was safe from the depredations of its neighbor, although living upon terms of supposed friendship. The love of war induced frequent expeditions planned for the destruction of the tribes of adjacent islands, while occasionally a combination was made for more extensive operations against the unsuspecting natives of a different group. The visitors usually put to death the fighting men of the conquered tribes and absorbed the others. The traditions of both parties were preserved separately for a time, but they naturally tended to merge together, and in this state, a combination of the glories of both tribes were handed down never to be unraveled to their succeeding generations. The monuments of antiquity scattered throughout Polynesia, with the exception of Easter Island, increase in importance as we advance to the westward, commencing with the circles of uncut stones, and advancing by regular steps until we arrive at the more elaborate sculptures. This fact indicates the decline that


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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #557 on: March 22, 2010, 11:20:52 am »

took place in the social and mental culture of the people as they ramified eastward through the various islands, of the Pacific. Detachments arriving at the different groups separated into distinct communities as accident or fancy directed; here they became segregated, and rapidly degenerated in knowledge and in the arts.

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« Reply #558 on: March 22, 2010, 11:20:53 am »

took place in the social and mental culture of the people as they ramified eastward through the various islands, of the Pacific. Detachments arriving at the different groups separated into distinct communities as accident or fancy directed; here they became segregated, and rapidly degenerated in knowledge and in the arts.

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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #559 on: March 22, 2010, 11:21:17 am »

Starting with the Sandwich Islands, we find that the Hawaiian prehistoric remains are confined to the most primitive forms of structures, such as the remains of the pagan temple at Waikiki, and the enormous heiau at Punepa near Iole, both of which axe, notable types of walled inclosures, and also the catacombs of Waimea, which do not greatly differ from some of the places of sepulture in other islands.

Farther to the South and West, the Marquesas, and Society groups show nothing beyond the primitive works of people who have passed away ages ago, leaving no other signs of their having, existed.

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« Reply #560 on: March 22, 2010, 11:21:29 am »

The island of Rapa-titi, in mid Pacific and just outside the tropics, contains evidences of a numerous population at some remote period. The island is remarkably mountainous, though quite small, with pinnacles rising to the height of 2,000 feet, and precipitous cliffs jutting into the sea. Massive forts command all the principal valleys; they are constructed of stone; built in terraces; and furnished with towers for observation and rallying points. 1

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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #561 on: March 22, 2010, 11:21:39 am »

In the Friendly Islands are found some interesting relies of antiquity. Near the ancient metropolis of Moa, on the island of Tongatabu, and about 12 miles from Nukualofa, the present capital of the group, are the graves of the Tui-Tongas.

These embrace nineteen truncated pyramids, measuring about 100 feet square on the base lines, and rising in three terraces to a height of 25 feet. The stones used in their construction are of coral concrete, and many of the huge blocks are 18 feet long by 5½ feet high and 3 feet thick, and weigh fully 20 tons each.

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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #562 on: March 22, 2010, 11:21:52 am »

The labor of building these tombs was enormous, and when it is considered that the great blocks were cut from the coral reef about 3 miles distant, and transported to the spot by savages who were ignorant of the laws of mechanics, and who were without appliances, we can not fail to be lost in wonder at the magnitude of the work accomplished. These pyramids are of various ages, extending over a period of twelve hundred and fifty years. They are overgrown by a dense forest of fao and banyan trees, of immense size and great age, the roots of which have dislodged and thrown down some of the largest stones. The Tui-Tongas were high-priests and their genealogy has been carefully preserved.


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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #563 on: March 22, 2010, 11:22:23 am »

The priesthood was hereditary, descending from father to son. Under the laws of Tonga the high-priests could marry only the daughters of the king. Their sons became priests, and the daughters occupied a position analogous to that of the Vestal Virgins and were not permitted to marry. This long line is now extinct, the last of the Tui-Tongas having been laid with his fathers in 1863.
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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #564 on: March 22, 2010, 11:22:36 am »

About 6 miles beyond these tombs, on the eastern shore, stands an ancient cromlech, or more properly speaking a dolmen. This interesting monument is composed of three blocks of coral concrete. The two uprights are 14 feet high, 8 feet wide and nearly 4 feet thick, and weigh over 15 tons each, while the cross-piece is somewhat smaller and weighs about 10 tons. The native tradition is that these larger masses of stone were cut from the coral reef about 2 miles distant. and that the vertex was brought by one of their large canoes front Wallis Island. While it is possible for this legend to be founded upon fact, there is room for strong doubt, since the same formation exists upon both islands; but the difficulty of handling a stone of that size and weight, and of carrying it a distance of 600 miles
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« Reply #565 on: March 22, 2010, 11:22:53 am »

by sea, would hardly be warranted when it could be quarried on their own shores. Viewed, however, as a trophy, and the cromlech as a sort of triumphal arch to commemorate a victory, (for the Tongans were perhaps the most successful of the ocean rovers of the Pacific) the legend of the stone seems entitled to greater credence than the neglected pile would at first warrant. The traditions do not go back far enough to tell us by whom this cromlech was erected, but simply assert its **** by one of the early kings on the advent of his dynasty, a fact which the disintegration of the stone, due to age, would seem to corroborate. The Samoans formerly erected stone pillars to the memory of their chiefs, but the most interesting relic of former ages, in this group, is the ruins of a heathen temple located in the mountains near the center of the island of Opolu. Secreted in an almost inaccessible gully, this temple was built in the form of in ellipse, measuring 57 feet one way by 39 feet the other. The roof was evidently thatched with pandanus leaves, as is the custom to the present day, but three large columns of basaltic rock formed the center supports, while the caves rested upon the pillars of the same stone placed at interval of 3 feet apart around the ellipse. Many of these stones are still standing, but the site has been almost obscured by a dense tropical growth.
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« Reply #566 on: March 22, 2010, 11:23:01 am »

Within a few feet of the old temple is an ancient tomb covered with a large block of stone and marked by an upright basaltic column. Samoan legends do not give much information about this ruin, but the Tongan traditions told that the temple was built by them, after they had conquered the Samoans, and that the tomb is that of one of the Tui-Tongas who accompanied the successful expedition, and who died and was buried alongside of the temple. This conquest took place it least eight hundred years ago, for it was about this time that Malietoa I. was

p. 543

made king, for his bravery and success in freeing his country from the Tongan yoke.

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Jennifer Murdoch
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« Reply #567 on: March 22, 2010, 11:23:10 am »

Plans were made to open this tomb, but for the lack of time could not be carried out, and the observations on this interesting relic were confined to one hasty visit.

Continuing still farther to the westward, to the island of Tinian, one of the Ladrones, are found two ranges of stone columns, over a dozen in number, and somewhat similar in size and shape to those of the cromlech at Tongatabu; but the curious feature of this ruin is that each column is surmounted by a large semi-globe, flat surface upward, weighing 4 tons, Freycinet supposes them to be supports of wooden ceilings to houses, that long ago have fallen into rain, but other authorities assert that they are sepulchral urns. The natives call them "the houses of the ancients."

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« Reply #568 on: March 22, 2010, 11:23:22 am »

Upon the adjacent islands are numerous remains of a similar character, but in most cases the columns are smaller.

In the island of Ponape, Caroline group, are found remains of a higher grade of stone work and which are a puzzle to ethnologists. 1 Upon the bank of a creek that empties into Metalanien harbor is an inclosure with massive walls built of basaltic prisms 300 feet long and 35 feet high. There is a gateway opening upon the creek composed of enormous basaltic columns laid flat, inside of which is a court inclosed by walls 30 feet high. There are terraces against the wall inside, also built of basaltic prisms 8 feet high and 12 feet wide. The inclosure is nearly square and is divided into three parts by low walls running north and south.

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« Reply #569 on: March 22, 2010, 11:23:33 am »

In the center of each court is a closed chamber 14 feet square, ornamented with basaltic columns and roofed with the same stone. On the central ridge of the opposite side of the island, 10 miles distant, are a large number of very fine basaltic columns, and this must have been the quarry for the structure just described, for the configuration of the land is such that roads would have been impracticable, and the only deduction is that the material must have been taken down to the coast and thence by water to the location on the creek.

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