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Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, [1891], at


The native weapons in offensive and defensive operations were limited to obsidian-pointed spears, short clubs, and the throwing-stones, but these were handled with remarkable shill and dexterity. The history of the simple weapons in the hands of people who became preeminent in their use has been repeated in all ages and countries, and is fully exemplified in these islanders; though their primitive spear,

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lacking the metal-piercing medium, could never aspire to the fame of the gladiator's trident, the Homeric javelin, the Roman pilum, the Turkish jereed, the Landsknecht's halberd, the Polish lance, the Zulu assagai, or even the knobkerry of the Amazulu. The formidable weapon of the ancient Parthian, still wielded by the dexterous Turcoman, was not known to these islanders. Arrows might have been improvised, but there was no wood in their possession suitable for the manufacture of bows.

Unlike the Fijians and other Polynesians to the westward, who did great execution with their long war clubs, these natives used in fighting only the patoopatoo, or the meré, like that of the Maori, except that they were invariably made of wood. They possessed a long club, a little expanded and flattened at one end, and the other carved into a head with a double face with eyes made of obsidian and bone; but this was carried as a batôn of office before the chiefs and used only for that purpose.

Stones were thrown with great precision and accuracy from the hand, and the use of a sling, such as made David more than a match for the gigantic Philistine, have been unknown. Slings were common among the Incas and other races of South America from the earliest times, but no traces of such an appliance could be found on Easter Island, either in the tombs or mentioned by the ancient traditions.

A want of practice has probably made the natives of to-day less proficient in stone-throwing than their forefathers, but if the stories may be believed, the time was when their truculent address could only have been surpassed by Runjeet Singh's Akalis in flinging the chuckkra.

Several of the ancient traditions speak of a net being used in fighting, and men were especially trained in its use, but whether they resembled the old Roman retiarius can not be discovered, the custom having long since died out. It is unknown to the natives of to-day.

Two kinds of spears were used, one about 6 feet long for throwing and the other a shorter one; a heavier stabbing pike was only fit for use at close-quarters. In its original form the spear was essentially a missile, and the traditions speak of the adoption of the thrusting weapon in the desperate engagements that resulted in the extermination of the "long-eared race." The shafts were made of pourou Hibiscus sp. and tu Dracæna terminalis, and the various forms of obsidian points were secured by a lashing made from the indigenous hemp. The javelins were thrown underhanded with the little finger foremost, but they did not have that peculiar vibratory motion that distinguished the Zulu assagai.

Nothing was known of a retrieving weapon, such as the boomerang of the Australians, or even the throwing-sticks of the Eskimo tribes on the coast of Alaska.

There was no class of professional fighters or soldiers; every able-bodied man was supposed to be a warrior and compelled to do duty in time of war. Fighting men were not trained or drilled, except that

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throwing stones and darting the spear were favorite amusements and always a prominent feature of all feasts. The clans were always led to battle by the chief, but there was no particular formation. Every man acted in accordance with his individual fancy, or as occasion demanded, relying upon skill and strength alone. No shields were used and no particular efforts were made to parry the weapons of the enemy.

In view of the fact that the islanders all acknowledged the authority of one king, their wars were surprisingly numerous, barbarous, and unrelenting. The traditions are filled with accounts of sanguinary conflicts originating from trivial causes and continued through generations, until one party or the other were entirely exterminated. The slaughter on the field of battle was never very great, but in the event of a general defeat, the vanquished party was pursued by the victors to the hiding places, their habitations destroyed, females captured, children and infirm persons brutally murdered. The defenseless unfortunates who fell victims to their merciless captors, accepted their fate, whether it was slavery, torture, or butchery, with remarkable fortitude, seldom if ever making any show of resistance.

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