Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, , at sacred-texts.com
The investigations in the vicinity of Orongo having been finished, a contract was made with Mr. Brander for removing from the excavations and transporting to the landing-place the frescoed slabs, inscribed door. posts, and objects collected, and the evening was devoted to the native traditions until exhausted nature demanded a few hours rest. With a view of propitiating the natives and securing their good-will and cooperation in prosecuting the work with the utmost dispatch, a number of men were employed to assist in the excavations made at Orongo, but the experiment proved a failure. They constituted themselves an appreciative audience, and could not be induced to work. They evinced a lively interest in all that was going on, and performed astounding gastronomic feats at meal-time. We concluded to dispense with their services after a demonstration of their dexterity in causing the disappearance of every small object that remained unprotected for a moment. Several of the head-men, afterwards employed as guides to accompany the expedition around the island and stimulated with the hope of bountiful
rewards, performed valuable service in the way of locating waterholes, identifying localities, naming objects of interest, etc.
December 21.--Preparations were made for in early start on the expedition already planned. The native contingent was dispatched about daylight with camp equipage and instructions to form Camp Mohican at a spot where it was reported good water could be found in abundance. We were somewhat handicapped for the march by the fatigue of the last few days, added to the want of rest. The hospitality of the Brander establishment had been cordially extended, but such a large and varied assortment of insects and noxious animals had possession of the premises, that we preferred the open air, though there were several passing showers during the night. A working party from the ship, consisting of nine men, including a boatswain's mate and quartermaster, landed at an early hour, each man equipped with knapsack, canteen, shovel and pick. The expedition took the road passing through the villages of Mataveri and Hanga Roa to the coast, followed by almost every man, woman, and child on the island. The interest displayed by the natives in our movements gradually died out after a few hours of hard walking, and towards noon the last party returned to their homes, leaving us a clear field.
Following the coast-line to the northwest, every part of the ground was carefully examined, platforms measured and plotted, excavations made, and objects of interest collected and catalogued.
Near Anahoirangaroa point, on some ledges of hard volcanic rock we found numerous depressions that evidently were made at the cost of great labor. Some are elliptical in shape, others perfectly circular, averaging about 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet deep. The majority are above high-water line and others just awash when the tide is full. No explanation could be obtained in regard to these holes, and it was concluded that they were originally intended as live-boxes for the preservation of fish.
The natives have a superstition to the effect that any one who walks over these rocks will be afflicted with sore feet, and we received many solemn warnings in regard to it. If there is any foundation for it at all it is probably due to a succulent vine that grows here, coming in contact with the wounds caused by the sharp rocks. A short distance farther on stands a round tower 12 feet in diameter and 20 feet high (Fig. 9), said to have been erected as a lookout station from whence the movements of turtles could be watched. We found here, as well as under every other pile of stones of ally description on the island, tombs and receptacles for the dead, all filled with human remains in various stages or decay, from freshly interred bodies to the bones that crumbled into dust upon exposure to the air. The entire island seems to be one vast necropolis, and the platforms along the sea-coast appear to have been the favorite burial places in all ages. Natural caves were utilized as places of deposit for the dead.
Considerable time was devoted to the examination of the platforms,
and in numerous instances interesting catacombs and tombs were discovered, containing remains of great antiquity. In this connection a peculiar trait in the native character was developed. Towards evening one. of the native guides returned to pilot the working party to the place selected for the camp, just at the time a particularly old tomb had been uncovered and the crania were being removed from their former resting place. This the unsophisticated native took in at a glance, and with the announcement that we were desecrating the burial place of his forefathers, he set up a howl of despair, and became prostrated with grief at the sight of a skull which he claimed to recognize as that of his great-grandfather. Notwithstanding the absurdity of the statement. the anguish displayed induced as to return the bones to their ancient resting place. The afflicted youth quickly dried his eyes, and intimated that for a suitable reward he would be willing to dispose of the remains of his ancestors, and he thought that a consideration of about $2 would assuage his grief. That settled it. The skulls were gathered into the collection, and the sorrowing native left to mourn the loss both of the money and of the bones of his forefathers.
OBSERVATION TOWER ON BLUFF NEAR ANHOIRANGAROA POINT.
Many of the stone bases upon which the images stood still remain in their original position upon the platforms. Generally they are irregular in shape, a few have been squared, and on platform No. 5 we
found one of octagon shape that stood the test of measurement very well. Between platforms 4 and 5 the land falls away gently to the sea, and this slope is paved regularly with small round bowlders, having every appearance of having been constructed as a way for hauling out boats. The coast in this vicinity is perfectly rock-bound, but a narrow channel extends from the paved way out to sea. Boats might land here at any time. With the wind southeast, or in any direction except west, the landing would be perfectly smooth. The place is admirably adapted to the landing of heavy weights, but, as far as known, the images were never transported by sea, nor did the islander possess boats sufficiently large to float them, or material from which they could be constructed.