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Easter Island

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #30 on: March 03, 2007, 02:43:05 am »

But were the paenga stones originally intended for the foundations of thatched houses? As John Macmillan Brown said: ‘The timbers of their houses look ridiculous alongside the cyclopean stone-foundations, into the small holes in which they were stuck.’ The stones are of the hardest basalt, tooled to perfection, and ‘were evidently intended by their original architects to bear the framework of great structures’. He also says: ‘It is difficult to understand how they bored the inch-deep holes for the wooden posts in the adamantine basalt of the foundation stones.’2

During Heyerdahl’s excavations at Ahu Nau Nau, an enormous, stone-lined, boat-shaped enclosure immediately to the landward side was discovered. Although archaeologists assume that all such structures are the foundations of boat-shaped houses, some traditions refer to them as ‘boats of bones’ and associate them with a builder-god named Nuku Kehu who came to Easter Island with Hotu Matua. There are also seven boat-shaped platforms known as ahu poepoe, which were used as tombs. The best example, 21 m long and 4 m high, with the bow elevated over a metre above the stern, lies just west of Anakena close to the ocean, ‘as if it were ready’, comments Father Sabastian Englert, ‘to carry its deceased passengers to some far away coast’.

Graham Hancock says that the ahu poepoe and the ‘boat house’ foundations are reminiscent of the ‘boat graves’ associated with pyramids and tombs in ancient Egypt – which might be stone or brick replicas of boats or full-sized sailing vessels. The ancient Egyptian funerary and rebirth texts describe the souls of deceased kings passing between earth and heaven in such boats. An Easter Island legend about the god-king Hotu Matua says: ‘He came down from heaven to earth ... He came in the ship ...’3

Other noteworthy examples of exquisite craftsmanship are popoi pounders which, says Heyerdahl, ‘were so perfectly formed and balanced, with the slender lines, graceful curves and high polish that our engineers refused to believe that such work was possible without the modern lathe’. He also mentions examples of exquisitely fashioned basalt fish hooks, which the first European explorers never saw being used and which the natives refused to part with.4 These have not been found on other Polynesian islands.



Fig. 6.15 Basalt fish hook.


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