Research Paper O Easter Island

Easter Island Essay

598 Words3 Pages

Easter Island was once a haven for its inhabitants. It provided them with all of their needs, food, shelter, tools, and even the ability to create great works of art. They abused this Eden, and turned it into a disaster, with almost no natural resources. This could very well happen to us, because our earth is the same Eden that Easter Island once was.
     The people of Easter Island came over to their new land, and recognized that it was ideal for them to settle. The land was lush; the sea was providing a bounty of fresh fish, and other seafood. The earth was dark brown, and very rich. Everything was just the way it needed to be to support a growing community of people.
     They began…show more content…

The soil was losing its great growing powers, because of over cultivation. There were hardly as many seabirds as could be remembered in recent years. Slowly but surely, their way of life was dwindling, like a slowing dying flame. They couldn’t directly see their end, but it was near. When their major population finally did go, it went out with a whimper. Slowly and quietly they went the way of their beloved fern trees. With the loss of all of the necessary items to sustain their eco system, such as the fern, the trees, which they used to make rope, the birds they used, hunt. All gone now, because they could not replenish them selves in a quickly enough time to meet the needs of the people.
     This should act as a rude awakening to us. The planet could be considered a large Easter Island. We have a potentially non-sustainable eco system. If we are not careful, we could go the same way as the inhabitants of the island. It is possible for us to use up everything so there is nothing left for our children to use. If we look at our progression over the last 300 years that we have inhabited North America, we will notice that we have removed many natural resources. Trees in the Northwest, plains in the Midwest, the marshes of Florida, all of which have been devastated by humans in the past centuries. Our great grandparents did not notice the destruction, nor will I ever be

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Easter Island - Conclusion

In Polynesia, all serious enterprises were accompanied by religious activities to protect the populace from evil influences and to appeal to the gods through offerings and prayers.' (Handy 1927:282-283). Georgia Lee, in her publication 'The Rock Art of Easter Island - Symbols of Power, Prayer to the Gods', states that carving on rocks, which themselves contained mana (Handy 1927:179) was associated with such rites. In some parts of Polynesia, stones with carved faces were set in fields to serve as abiding places for protective gods and to promote the fertility of the land. These petroglyphs implanted mana in the area and protected the life principle of birds, fish, and land mammals.

A tradition of carving on stone can be traced westward through eastern Polynesia, central Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Malaysia. Wherever suitable surfaces were located, aboriginal populations tended to place petroglyphs or paintings on them. For many islands, no data are available; whether this means that rock art is absent - or simply not reported - is unknown.

New Caledonia has numerous rock art sites, including panels of cupules and vulva designs, as well as human faces that appear to be similar to those of Easter Island. In eastern Polynesia, the Hawaiian Islands have the largest number of petroglyphs. Both paintings and petroglyphs have been documented in the Marquesas, although petroglyphs [over 6,000] are by far in the majority. A few have been reported from the Society Islands; Tahitian motifs include stick-figure humans, turtles, a few canoes and representations of masks and mourner's headdresses. In New Zealand, sites with paintings are common, although a few petroglyphs have been reported.

The favoured petroglyph motif in the Hawaiian Islands is the stick-figure anthropomorphs, often in active poses. In contrast, not one human stick-figure motif has been found on Easter Island. There are, however, petroglyphs that bear a striking resemblance to the birdman figure of Easter Island. No direct contact with Easter Island is postulated; these artistic conventions appear to reflect common ancestry and belief systems leading back to Southeast Asia.

The rock art of the Marquesas, when compared with the rock art of Tahiti, Hawai'i, and New Zealand, provides more correlations with Easter Island. This seems reasonable because the Marquesas are the likely point of dispersal for the settlement of the rest of east Polynesia, including Easter Island (Bellwood 1978:365).

The state of rock art research in the rest of Polynesia is still "in process." Databases are growing as the result of ongoing archaeological fieldwork, and certain similarities, as well as divergences, are becoming apparent.

At this stage of research, Georgia Lee states that the rock art of Easter Island is far more elaborate and diverse than that found in other Polynesian island groups. However, it is distinctly Polynesian and clearly comes from a common artistic heritage and system of beliefs, legends, and myths. Nothing in the entire corpus of Polynesian petroglyphic art bears any resemblance to the rock art of South America.

The petroglyphs of crouching profile figures that are found in Hawai'i, the Marquesas, and Easter Island can be followed back across the Pacific into Southeast Asia. As if coming from a deep unconscious, this motif appears to be a key figure in our search for origins and connections.

In the same way that statues of human figures on Easter Island evolved from earlier Polynesian prototypes, there was parallel efflorescence in the creation of the petroglyphs on Easter Island. In typical fashion, there was a progression from simple to complex, from pecked lines to the elaborate bas relief figures that border on sculpture.

Wherever human beings have been, they have made their mark upon the landscape. With this mark, one declares that the place on which one stands is meaningful. In this way, humans show that they have a relationship with the world around them; a relationship whose sanction and purpose transcends the mere physical character of the place" (S. D. Gill 1982:20).

Georgia Lee's research on Easter Island has documented 4,000 examples of rock art and more than 4,000 cupules. A typology was derived from an inspection of motif types found in the database and, in turn, this typology provides distinctive patterns of distribution and development. These patterns show the evolution of certain motifs, such as birdman, and allow conclusions to be drawn concerning change in the culture and the rise of the warrior class. Distribution studies indicate that clan affiliations were being depicted; legends and prayers were tied to certain petroglyphs, and some sites with petroglyphs can be related to observations of the heavens. A few motifs can be explained by correlating information gathered by early ethnographers, and some have archaeological data that illuminate site functions.

The designs carved or painted on rocks were neither idle nor casual markings. They had significance, meaning, and purpose, even though this information is rarely available to us today. When we see the repetition of certain rock art motifs that display little variation of design, we know they functioned as a precontact communication system that contained levels of meaning understood by (at least) a certain segment of the population, with the ultimate meaning hidden beneath layers of other meanings.

Animal imagery played a vital role in the ancient society. The important symbology that incorporates majestic seabirds throughout Polynesia is well described, as is that of fish and other sea forms. The combined forms are particularly interesting because they represent creatures of the mind and imagination mental conceptualizations that lead us to question the relationship between those creatures and the culture.

It seems significant that, in all those instances where we were able to record legends associated with sea creature petroglyphs, the highlight of the stories was a magical ability to fly or swim away. These petroglyphs and their accompanying lore appear to be expressions of intense feelings of isolation and the desire to leave this lonely, confining island.

The image of the birdman appears in the rock art around AD 1550, a time of great stress and upheaval in the society. Because there is no precursor for this symbol either as an artifact or in myth and legend prior to this time, Georgia Lee suggests the symbol arose from the collective unconscious of the people. Its presence in the unconscious no doubt is con-nected to the symbol of man-bird in all its various guises throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia, arising from a pan-Oceanic belief in, and fascination for, birds as messengers of the gods or spirits of dead ancestors. This religion, perhaps fostered by a powerful priesthood, was an attempt to rejuvenate a dying society.

An important feature of the prehistoric culture is the well-documented rise of the warrior class, as well as the power of high priests who seemingly wrested control from the hereditary chief. It is suggested that not only did the matatoa achieve secular control of the island, but that they were in league with, or under the control of, a priesthood that assumed enormous power as the fertility of the land declined and the traditional mana of the king was thought inadequate to prevent disaster.

Master carvers enjoyed an elevated social status, rank, and mana, and it was these gifted individuals who were probably responsible for many of Easter Island's excellent bas relief carvings. The technique of bas relief is a later development that required expertise of the sort likely to be found in the repertoire of tufunga who, coming from a sculpting tradition, were well aware of the subtleties of light and shadow provided by bas relief carving. The later phase bas relief birdmen are so conventionalized and stylized that it is apparent they were made by experts who strove for uniformity. A progression in time and ideology is clear: the earlier birdman petroglyphs gradually disappeared as boulders were recarved with the new version of the warriors' emblem. It is possible that each birdman petroglyph represented a specific winner.

Despite the efforts of the prehistoric Easter Islanders to alter their destiny through ritual and prayer, sacrifice and warfare, the fertility of the land continued to decline and resources became scarce. Wood for canoes disappeared, affecting the fishing in offshore waters and preventing emigration. Cannibalism was practiced. In the end, the culture disintegrated. Contact with the Western world caused further disruption as Peruvian slavers, smallpox, and then missionaries impacted the remnants of the old culture. At some point toward the end, suggested by the presence of komari, a cult dealing with fecundity arose. However, before the catastrophic end point of the society was reached, the Rapa Nui "attained a level of advancement that resulted in one of the most highly evolved technologies in the world at a Neolithic level" (McCoy 1979:135).

The astonishing technical skill and artistic ability reflected in the rock art of Easter Island is found nowhere else in Polynesia. That it has remained relatively unrecognized is, for Georgia Lee, yet another of the many mysteries for which the island has become known. For a small isolated population restricted to stone tools, the petroglyphs are extraordinary in their scope and quantity.

→ Easter Island Introduction
→ Sentinels in Stone - Rise & Fall of Easter Island's Culture | Page | 1 | 2 | 3 |
→ The Rock Art of Easter Island
→ The Birdman Cult / Motif of Easter Island
→ Sea & Marine Creatures in Easter Island Rock Art
→ Designs & Motifs of Easter Island's Rock Petroglyph Carvings
→ Dr Georgia Lee - Publications on Easter Island
→ Moai Location Map & Islanders
→ Contemporary Easter Island Art
→ Easter Island Glossary
→ Easter Island Conclusion

'In Polynesia, all serious enterprises were accompanied by religious activities to protect the populace from evil influences and to appeal to the gods through offerings and prayers.’ (Handy 1927:282-283).

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