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Easter Island

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #15 on: March 03, 2007, 02:25:27 am »



Fig. 6.2 The seaward wall at Ahu Tahiri, Vinapu, originally one course higher

 

Fig. 6.3 Details of the seawall.

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #16 on: March 03, 2007, 02:26:15 am »

In Peru, megalithic masonry is found on a far vaster scale and the polygonal blocks often have far greater dimensions. On the basis of carbon dating, orthodox researchers claim that the accurate mortarless fitting of large polygonal blocks began in Peru after AD 1440, whereas Easter Island had similar dressed stonework before AD 1200 and therefore could not have been influenced by South America in this respect! However, there is not a scrap of hard evidence to support the claim that magnificent colossal structures like the ‘fortress’ at Sacsayhuaman just outside Cuzco were built by the Incas just a few hundred years ago. Although the Incas were excellent stone masons, they used small rectangular blocks, perfectly fitted. Layers of Incan masonry can often be seen on top of the earlier, larger, polygonal construction. For all anyone knows, the oldest, cyclopean masonry at Sacsayhuaman could be hundreds of thousands of years old!

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #17 on: March 03, 2007, 02:27:03 am »



Fig. 6.4 Part of the cyclopean fortress at Sacsayhuaman, Cuzco.

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2007, 02:27:55 am »



Fig. 6.5 Masonry similar to that at Vinapu can be found at Sillustani, near Lake Titicaca, Peru.

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #19 on: March 03, 2007, 02:28:53 am »



The practice of dating stone structures by carbon dating organic remains found in association with them can obviously lead to flawed results. The same method has been used to date the beginning of the classic construction phase at Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) to AD 800. But the fact that the site was inhabited at that time does not preclude the possibility that some of the original structures were built ages earlier.

There are signs of different stages of ahu construction at Vinapu. Detailed examinations during Heyerdahl’s first expedition led to the conclusion that ‘Vinapu 1’ or Tahiri (the structure with the classical stone masonry) belonged to the earliest building period (which in Heyerdahl’s view still meant the 8th century AD), contrary to all previous theories, and that the platform had twice been rebuilt and added to by far less capable architects. The modern orthodox view, however, is that Vinapu 1 dates to AD 1516, whereas Vinapu 2 – a structure displaying a rougher, typically east Polynesian facing of vertical slabs – is earlier (AD 857). So we’re supposed to believe that both the most outstanding masonry on the island and the shoddy semi-pyramidal platforms belong to the same late phase of the island’s history!



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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #20 on: March 03, 2007, 02:29:58 am »



Fig. 6.6 Aerial view of fallen moai at Ahu Tahiri.3 (courtesy of John Flenley)



The official position is that all Easter Island’s platforms are simply variations of the marae platforms of central and eastern Polynesia, which were socio-religious centres and shrines to ancestral gods. Vinapu’s megalithic stone wall is said to bear only a superficial resemblance to the classic ‘Incan’ masonry because, unlike the solid block construction used in Peru, the Easter Island walls are merely a facing of slabs that mask a rubble core.

However, there are also striking similarities with the pre-Incan Andean style of masonry. Each slab is convex or pillow-shaped, with slightly bevelled edges, and stones with projecting edges are fitted into stones with receding edges. The blocks are irregularly shaped, fit together with the utmost precision, and small holes or chinks are filled with perfectly fitted stones. A block in one corner of the Vinapu wall has a projecting knob – just like many large blocks in Peru. The corners of the seawall are rounded, and its entire face is in fact slightly convex, again as in the Andes. Prof. Camila Laureani, a connoisseur of Tiahuanaco- and ‘Inca’-type masonry writes: ‘Ahu Vinapu is an architectonic construction which combines the essential characteristics of the structures in the Altiplano of Peru-Bolivia in a manner so evident that one cannot doubt the arrival on the island of a contingent of these people.’4



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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #21 on: March 03, 2007, 02:31:21 am »





Fig. 6.7 Megalithic seawall of Ahu Tepeu.
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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #22 on: March 03, 2007, 02:32:08 am »

In addition to Ahu Tahiri, many other platforms have perfectly-fitted stone masonry, such as the 3-m-high seawalls of Ahu Tepeu and Ahu Vai Mata. The outer surface of the upright stones in the latter two ahu, like that of the slabs used in Ahu Tahiri, is pillow-shaped. Captain Cook was particularly impressed by the huge wall of perfectly dressed megaliths at Hanga Roa, which he compared to the wall at Vinapu. Although no cement was used, the joints were exceedingly tight, with enormous stones mortised and tenoned into one another.5 The wall was unfortunately destroyed by European settlers in a futile attempt to build a harbour.

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #23 on: March 03, 2007, 02:33:11 am »



Fig 6.8 Huge stones in the seawall of Ahu Vai Mata, 2.8 m high and 69 m long.



William J. Thomson, who spent 12 days on the island in 1886, described an ahu with a record number of 16 fallen statues that lay on an inaccessible terrace halfway up the cliffs east of Rano Kao, but it later fell into the sea. On the high plateau of the north coast Thomson’s party saw another ahu, known as Ahu Oahu, that later suffered the same fate. His drawing of this ahu shows the same masonry technique admired by Captain Cook’s party in Hanga Roa and Vinapu. Another impressive platform stood nearby.6

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Carolyn Silver
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« Reply #24 on: March 03, 2007, 02:34:08 am »



Fig. 6.9 Drawing of Ahu Oahu. The central stone weighed an estimated 6 tons. The upper row of stones has been turned over sideways to make a firm support for a later statue.



Cut stone blocks of megalithic proportions are found scattered around at Anakena, and are also found in the Ahu Nau Nau platform there, though they are not perfectly fitted. This suggests that another, superior platform used to exist there, which has been dismantled.

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« Reply #25 on: March 03, 2007, 02:35:38 am »



Fig 6.10 The seawall of Ahu Nau Nau shows at least six stages of construction.
Note the inclusion of a moai head.



During Heyerdahl’s expedition in 1987, excavations were carried out on the landward side of Ahu Nau Nau. A neatly fitted pavement made of boulders was found 7 ft below the surface. Three feet below it, a layer of soil full of human refuse was found, which was radiocarbon dated to AD 850. Trenches sunk along the landward side also uncovered a beautiful wall of megalithic slabs, perfectly hewn and fitted. According to Heyerdahl, this type of masonry

was unmistakably an Early Period product that had been buried in silt before the Middle Period ahu was erected. A closer inspection proved that these fine slabs had been part of an even older structure originally existing elsewhere, one that had been dismantled by man or destroyed by nature. The slabs had been dragged to this place from another site, and although perfectly polished and joined in the original wall, they had then been reworked to fit them together according to another plan.

This discovery demolished the popular theory that such walls had appeared at a late stage on Easter Island and represented the high peak of local evolution due to the lack of timber. This buried wall was clearly older than the Middle Period walls visible above ground. Nothing like it has been found on a single island in the whole of Polynesia, but it is typical of the megalithic walls of South America.7

Heyerdahl adds that the widespread belief that the splendid walls in Peru date from the late Inca period has been disproved, and that the Incas learned the craft of masonry from their predecessors in Tiahuanaco. Excavations of the earth-covered pyramidal mound at Akapana in Tiahuanaco have shown it to be a terraced pyramid from long before the age of the Incas. It is faced with accurately hewn and artistically jointed blocks, just as on Easter Island.

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« Reply #26 on: March 03, 2007, 02:36:57 am »



Fig. 6.11 Megalithic walls at Anakena (above) and Tiwanaku (below).

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« Reply #27 on: March 03, 2007, 02:38:40 am »

Astronomical alignments

Around 20 ahu appear to have been oriented astronomically, so that the moai faced the rising or setting sun at the solstices or equinoxes. The inland ahu with astronomical orientation are generally linked with the solstices, especially the winter solstice, though the moai of Ahu Akivi face the setting sun at the equinoxes. Astronomically oriented ahu along the coast tend to be positioned so that the moai look straight east or west. This is true of Ahu Tahiri (Vinapu 1), whereas Ahu Vinapu 2 marks the summer solstice.1


Fig. 6.12 Ahu Akivi was one of the few platforms built inland. Its seven hatless moai stand about 16 ft tall and weigh about 18 tons each.



Graham Hancock points out that Ra, the name of the Egyptian sun god, appears frequently in connection with Easter Island’s sacred architecture, its mythical past, and its cosmology. Raa means ‘sun’ in the island’s language. There were clans called Raa, Hitti-ra (sunrise), and Ura-o-Hehe (red setting sun), the crater lakes are named Rano Kao, Rano Aroi, and Rano Raraku, and Ahu Ra’ai was aligned to two volcanic peaks to act as a marker and observatory for the path of the sun on the December solstice.2

Traditions state that ages ago there existed on the island a brotherhood of ‘learned men who studied the sky’, the tangata rani. Katherine Routledge was taken to a northwest facing cave near Ahu Tahi and told it had been ‘a place where priests taught constellations and the ways of the stars to apprentices’. Near the eastern extremity of the Poike headland she was shown a large flat rock called papa ui hetu’u, or ‘rock where they watched the stars’, incised with a spiral design. Nearby there is another engraved stone on which 10 cup-shaped depressions are visible, which are said to have represented a star map.3

At Orongo, on the edge of Rano Kau crater, there are four small holes pecked through the bedrock just beside an ahu. Detailed observations at the solstices and equinoxes showed that the four holes constituted a sun-observation device. The season for the summer paina ceremony honouring the dead depended on the position of the three stars of Orion’s Belt.





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« Reply #28 on: March 03, 2007, 02:40:35 am »

Hare paenga
Hare paenga are long, narrow houses resembling an upturned canoe, with a single narrow doorway in the middle of one side. The foundation stones of these elliptical houses were made of cut basalt. To make the pointed ends the right shape, the blocks had to be hewn to the correct curvature. The stones measure 0.5 to 2.5 m long, 20 or 30 cm wide, and at least 50 cm high; the largest weigh up to 10 tons. Small holes were bored in their upper surfaces, into which the islanders inserted thin branches to support the arched reed roof. The dwellings varied enormously in size; some could house more than 100 people, but others only half a dozen.





Fig. 6.13 Hare-paenga foundations.


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« Reply #29 on: March 03, 2007, 02:41:54 am »

The foundation stones must date to an early period of the island’s history, since they were often reused in later platform walls (they can be seen stacked on Ahu Tepeu, fig. 6.7). Thor Heyerdahl mentions that the excavation of the pre-Inca image platforms at Tiahuanaco has uncovered stones remarkably like the paenga of Easter Island (fig. 6.13). We do not know what they were originally used for, only that they were reused in walls of a later period.1



 
Fig. 6.14 Tiwanaku.



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.

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