Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, , at sacred-texts.com
The day was devoted to the examination of the inside of the crater of Rana Roraka. The walls of the crater are very abrupt except on the west side, where the lava-flow escaped to the sea, and here the cattle and horses find easy access to the pool of water that has collected in the bottom. High up on the southern side are the workshops of the image-builders, extending in irregular terraces quite to the top. Here we found images in all stages of incompletion (Fig. 10), from the rude
FIG. 10. UNFINISHED IMAGE. CRATER OF RANA RORAKA.
outline drawing to the finished statue ready to be cut loose from its original rock and launched down the steep incline. The modus operandi
appears to have been to select a suitable rock upon which the image was sketched in a reclining position. The upper surface having been carved into shape and entirely finished, the last work was to cut the back loose from the rock. This necessitated the exercise of great care to prevent the breaking off of exposed portions, and was accomplished by building piles of stones to sustain the weight while it was being undermined.
Sixty-three statues in all similar to those shown in Figs. 11 and 12, were counted inside the crater, and of these forty are standing up, completed and ready to be transported to the platforms for which they were
intended. They stand well down towards the bottom of the slope, and are more or less buried in the earth by the washings from above, as shown in Figs. 13 and 14.
The work of lowering the huge images from the upper terraces to the bottom of the crater and thence over the wall and down into the plain below, was of great magnitude, and we are lost in wonder that so much could be accomplished by rude savages ignorant of everything in the way of mechanical appliances. The average weight of these statues would be something between 10 and 12 tons, but some are very large and would weigh over 40 tons. It, is possible that a slide was made, upon which the images were launched to the level ground below; a number of broken and damaged figures lie in a position to suggest that idea, but from the bottom of the crater they were transported up and over the wall and thence over hill and dale to various points all over the island. Excavations were made at different points inside the
crater, but nothing was found of interest beyond a few broken stone implements that had. no doubt been used by the image-builders.
December 27.--We made an early start and visited the image-builders' workshops on the west side of Rana Roraka, which are much more extensive than those on the inside of the crater. These workshops commence well up on the side of the mountain and extend quite to the summit by irregular terraces. In places these terraces extend one above another with unfinished images upon each, and the configuration of the land is such as to preclude all idea of launching the statues by means of a slide. We were unable to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion as to how the immense statues on the upper tier of works' could be moved to the plain below, passing over the underlying cavities where similar works had been quarried. We know the natives had ropes made of hemp, two kinds of which are indigenous to the island, but it is difficult to conjecture how these heavy weights were handled without mechanical appliances. One hundred and fifty-five images were counted upon this slope in various stages, including those standing at the base of the mountain finished and complete, ready for removal
to the platforms. Many of the images in the workshops are of huge proportions, but the largest one on the island lies on one of the central terraces in an unfinished condition and measures 70 feet in length, 14½ feet across the body; the head being 28½ feet long. Some of the standing statues are in as perfect condition as the day they were finished.
One (Fig. 15) is noticeable from the fact that the head is slightly turned to one side and is known as the "wry-neck," but whether it is the result of accident or design could not be determined.
Another excellent specimen (Fig. 16) of these remarkable figures stands near the last mentioned and shows tool-marks around the neck as though an effort had been made to cut the head off. The natives call this "hiara" and have a tradition to the effect that it belonged to a powerful clan who were finally defeated in war, and that their enemies had made an attempt to destroy the statue by cutting off the head. The story may be based only upon the mutilation, but the chances are that it is founded upon fact.
Nothing of importance was found by digging about the images or in the workshops except broken stone implements which had been used by the builders. In one of the quarries we found the only trace of sculptured figures in the vicinity.
These emblems were carved upon a smooth rock over a half-finished image.
December 28-Shortly after daylight the entire force started making excavations under the foundations of the image-builders houses, the ruins of which extend towards Rana Roraka from Tongariki Bay, on regular terraces. These peculiar ruins are to be found here in great numbers both inside and outside of the crater, but do not differ from those already described. A custom obtained among the islanders, similar to that practiced by the tribes of Alaska and other Indian, of America, of burying something of interest or value beneath the doorposts of their dwellings. Usually it was a smooth beach pebble which was supposed to have some fetish qualities to bring good luck or ward off evil influences.
One of the largest of these ruins has an extensively paved terrace in front. At a depth of about three feet below the surface of the central door-way, we found a rough angular flinty stone with a rudely carved face upon it. A prominent ruin of the same description inside of the crater, and another near the workshop on the outside, yielded a hard stone upon which marks had been carved very similar to those on the rocks at Orongo.