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


The most ancient monuments of Polynesia are the lithic and megalithic remains, coincident in style and character with the Druidical circles of Europe, and the exact counterpart of those of Stonehenge and Carnac in Brittany. These earlier efforts of the human art are invariably the remains of temples, places of worship, or of edifices dedicated in some way to the religion and superstitions of extinct generations, whose graves cover every island and reef. The most numerous, and perhaps the most ancient structures, are quadrangular in shape, and are composed of loose lava stones, forming a wall of great firmness and strength. These temples frequently exceed 100 feet in length, with a

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proportionate width, and were designed to be roofless. They contain remains of altars composed of the same materials as the wall of the main inclosure, generally located at one end, and in shape resembling parallelograms. In many cases, these edifices are in as perfect a state of preservation as when countless numbers of human victims were immolated upon their altars, though time has obliterated all traces of everything perishable.

In the search for prehistoric remains, the diversified character of the many islands that dot the South Sea should be borne in mind. Coral groups and atolls, these wonderful formations produced by the ceaseless work of zoöphytic animals, being of comparatively recent creation, were perhaps merely tide-water reefs, when the islands of purely volcanic character were peopled by lawless and turbulent tribes, constantly engaged in warfare and in making depredations upon each other. Even where there is sufficient evidence of antiquity to warrant the search, the absence of monuments upon the low-lying islands of coral formation, may be accounted for by the lack of suitable material for their construction, or to the destroying hurricanes that occasionally sweep across this part of the Pacific, which are accompanied by a furious sea that breaks completely over the narrow atolls, carrying death and devastation to all things animate and inanimate.

The height of the atolls, in many cases, does not exceed 5 or 6 feet above the normal level of the sea surrounding them, and instances are unfortunately abundant, of islands that have been transformed in a few hours, from a scene of tropical luxuriance and with a contented people surrounded by nature's most bountiful gifts, to one of titter barrenness and desolation. The largest and most important islands of Polynesia are of volcanic character, and bear evidences of having been inhabited from a remote period. Here may be duplicated the Teocallis of Palenque, Copan, and Uxmal. In some islands these ancient monuments were searched out with great difficulty, having been so completely overgrown with dense tropical vegetation that their existence was not suspected by the indifferent people of to-day.

While the islanders never advanced to a high civilization, and their best efforts consist in cromlechs, dolmens, and elevated platforms or truncated pyramids, their handiwork is still preserved, and points with abundant interest to the history of a rude and early age.

The primitive Polynesians, like their contemporaries, the Incas of Peru, may be judged in regard to their condition and history, by the monuments, they have left, for with the exception of Easter Island, there is no trace of their having possessed a written language. Tribes flourished, were conquered and passed out of existence, without leaving a trace behind them except perhaps, a shadowy tradition. The natives in this genial climate have always dwelt in rude structures of thatch and cane, which after a few years of abandonment would decay and leave no sign behind, unless it be a few broken implements lying about. Among

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them, traditions have always been preserved with care, and it is wonderful to find how the history of a people call be followed in this way for hundreds of years. The Samoans claim a complete chronicle dating through twenty-two generations of the reigning family of Malietoa, and extending over a period of eight hundred years, while the Tongans can chronicle a fairly accurate history of their priesthood through twelve centuries. 1

The priests have usually been the custodians of the national traditions, and there is sufficient evidence to show that every precaution was taken to have them handed down front one generation to another, pure and unchanged, for oral record was their only means of committing to posterity the deeds of their ancestors.

To be intrusted with the traditions, constituted of itself an office of high dignity, and the holder was afforded the protection of a taboo of the most rigorous character.

Family records were perpetuated with the national history, but as might be expected, there was a tendency to embellish them when extended back beyond a reasonable limit, with mythological personages and improbable occurrences. Still the extraordinary power of these keepers to preserve unimpaired for centuries, events and facts or even the geneaology of important families, would astonish those who are familiar only with written history, and whose memories depend upon artificial aids. Except in a few cases, the traditions of the natives do not extend back far enough to throw much light upon the ancient monuments found upon the islands. This is due in a measure to the fact, that in only isolated localities have the people lived unmolested for any great length of time. The tribes were continually at war with one an other. From love of conquest, and jealousy, no tribe was safe from the depredations of its neighbor, although living upon terms of supposed friendship. The love of war induced frequent expeditions planned for the destruction of the tribes of adjacent islands, while occasionally a combination was made for more extensive operations against the unsuspecting natives of a different group. The visitors usually put to death the fighting men of the conquered tribes and absorbed the others. The traditions of both parties were preserved separately for a time, but they naturally tended to merge together, and in this state, a combination of the glories of both tribes were handed down never to be unraveled to their succeeding generations. The monuments of antiquity scattered throughout Polynesia, with the exception of Easter Island, increase in importance as we advance to the westward, commencing with the circles of uncut stones, and advancing by regular steps until we arrive at the more elaborate sculptures. This fact indicates the decline that

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took place in the social and mental culture of the people as they ramified eastward through the various islands, of the Pacific. Detachments arriving at the different groups separated into distinct communities as accident or fancy directed; here they became segregated, and rapidly degenerated in knowledge and in the arts.

Starting with the Sandwich Islands, we find that the Hawaiian prehistoric remains are confined to the most primitive forms of structures, such as the remains of the pagan temple at Waikiki, and the enormous heiau at Punepa near Iole, both of which axe, notable types of walled inclosures, and also the catacombs of Waimea, which do not greatly differ from some of the places of sepulture in other islands.

Farther to the South and West, the Marquesas, and Society groups show nothing beyond the primitive works of people who have passed away ages ago, leaving no other signs of their having, existed.

The island of Rapa-titi, in mid Pacific and just outside the tropics, contains evidences of a numerous population at some remote period. The island is remarkably mountainous, though quite small, with pinnacles rising to the height of 2,000 feet, and precipitous cliffs jutting into the sea. Massive forts command all the principal valleys; they are constructed of stone; built in terraces; and furnished with towers for observation and rallying points. 1

In the Friendly Islands are found some interesting relies of antiquity. Near the ancient metropolis of Moa, on the island of Tongatabu, and about 12 miles from Nukualofa, the present capital of the group, are the graves of the Tui-Tongas.

These embrace nineteen truncated pyramids, measuring about 100 feet square on the base lines, and rising in three terraces to a height of 25 feet. The stones used in their construction are of coral concrete, and many of the huge blocks are 18 feet long by 5½ feet high and 3 feet thick, and weigh fully 20 tons each.

The labor of building these tombs was enormous, and when it is considered that the great blocks were cut from the coral reef about 3 miles distant, and transported to the spot by savages who were ignorant of the laws of mechanics, and who were without appliances, we can not fail to be lost in wonder at the magnitude of the work accomplished. These pyramids are of various ages, extending over a period of twelve hundred and fifty years. They are overgrown by a dense forest of fao and banyan trees, of immense size and great age, the roots of which have dislodged and thrown down some of the largest stones. The Tui-Tongas were high-priests and their genealogy has been carefully preserved.

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[paragraph continues] The priesthood was hereditary, descending from father to son. Under the laws of Tonga the high-priests could marry only the daughters of the king. Their sons became priests, and the daughters occupied a position analogous to that of the Vestal Virgins and were not permitted to marry. This long line is now extinct, the last of the Tui-Tongas having been laid with his fathers in 1863.

About 6 miles beyond these tombs, on the eastern shore, stands an ancient cromlech, or more properly speaking a dolmen. This interesting monument is composed of three blocks of coral concrete. The two uprights are 14 feet high, 8 feet wide and nearly 4 feet thick, and weigh over 15 tons each, while the cross-piece is somewhat smaller and weighs about 10 tons. The native tradition is that these larger masses of stone were cut from the coral reef about 2 miles distant. and that the vertex was brought by one of their large canoes front Wallis Island. While it is possible for this legend to be founded upon fact, there is room for strong doubt, since the same formation exists upon both islands; but the difficulty of handling a stone of that size and weight, and of carrying it a distance of 600 miles by sea, would hardly be warranted when it could be quarried on their own shores. Viewed, however, as a trophy, and the cromlech as a sort of triumphal arch to commemorate a victory, (for the Tongans were perhaps the most successful of the ocean rovers of the Pacific) the legend of the stone seems entitled to greater credence than the neglected pile would at first warrant. The traditions do not go back far enough to tell us by whom this cromlech was erected, but simply assert its erection by one of the early kings on the advent of his dynasty, a fact which the disintegration of the stone, due to age, would seem to corroborate. The Samoans formerly erected stone pillars to the memory of their chiefs, but the most interesting relic of former ages, in this group, is the ruins of a heathen temple located in the mountains near the center of the island of Opolu. Secreted in an almost inaccessible gully, this temple was built in the form of in ellipse, measuring 57 feet one way by 39 feet the other. The roof was evidently thatched with pandanus leaves, as is the custom to the present day, but three large columns of basaltic rock formed the center supports, while the caves rested upon the pillars of the same stone placed at interval of 3 feet apart around the ellipse. Many of these stones are still standing, but the site has been almost obscured by a dense tropical growth.

Within a few feet of the old temple is an ancient tomb covered with a large block of stone and marked by an upright basaltic column. Samoan legends do not give much information about this ruin, but the Tongan traditions told that the temple was built by them, after they had conquered the Samoans, and that the tomb is that of one of the Tui-Tongas who accompanied the successful expedition, and who died and was buried alongside of the temple. This conquest took place it least eight hundred years ago, for it was about this time that Malietoa I. was

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made king, for his bravery and success in freeing his country from the Tongan yoke.

Plans were made to open this tomb, but for the lack of time could not be carried out, and the observations on this interesting relic were confined to one hasty visit.

Continuing still farther to the westward, to the island of Tinian, one of the Ladrones, are found two ranges of stone columns, over a dozen in number, and somewhat similar in size and shape to those of the cromlech at Tongatabu; but the curious feature of this ruin is that each column is surmounted by a large semi-globe, flat surface upward, weighing 4 tons, Freycinet supposes them to be supports of wooden ceilings to houses, that long ago have fallen into rain, but other authorities assert that they are sepulchral urns. The natives call them "the houses of the ancients."

Upon the adjacent islands are numerous remains of a similar character, but in most cases the columns are smaller.

In the island of Ponape, Caroline group, are found remains of a higher grade of stone work and which are a puzzle to ethnologists. 1 Upon the bank of a creek that empties into Metalanien harbor is an inclosure with massive walls built of basaltic prisms 300 feet long and 35 feet high. There is a gateway opening upon the creek composed of enormous basaltic columns laid flat, inside of which is a court inclosed by walls 30 feet high. There are terraces against the wall inside, also built of basaltic prisms 8 feet high and 12 feet wide. The inclosure is nearly square and is divided into three parts by low walls running north and south.

In the center of each court is a closed chamber 14 feet square, ornamented with basaltic columns and roofed with the same stone. On the central ridge of the opposite side of the island, 10 miles distant, are a large number of very fine basaltic columns, and this must have been the quarry for the structure just described, for the configuration of the land is such that roads would have been impracticable, and the only deduction is that the material must have been taken down to the coast and thence by water to the location on the creek.

This is reported to have been the home of the buccaneers, but it is impossible that they could have put up works of such magnitude. There are other ruins on the island, and also some mounds of considerable size, 12 feet high and a quarter of a mile long. On Kusai, and other islands of the group are found ruins, but those of Ponape are by far the most remarkable.

Though not properly in the province of the work, a short description by Mr. Wallace of some of the architectural wonders of Java is inserted. He estimates the date of their construction at live hundred years ago when the island was under the sway of the Hindoos.

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The road to Wonosalem led through a magnificent forest, in the depths of which we passed a fine ruin of what appeared to have been a royal tomb or mausoleum. It is formed entirely of stone, and elaborately carved. Near the base is a course of boldly projecting blocks, sculptured in high relief, with a series of scenes which are probably incidents in the life of the defunct. These are all beautifully executed, some of the figures of animals in particular being easily recognizable and very accurate. The general design, as far as the ruined state of the upper part will permit of its being seen, is very good, the effect being given by an immense number and variety of projecting or retreating courses of squared stones in place of mouldings. The size of the structure is about 30 feet square by 20 feet high, and as the traveler comes suddenly upon it on a small elevation by the road side, overshadowed by gigantic trees, overrun with plants and creepers, and closely backed by the gloomy forest, he is struck by the solemnity and picturesque beauty of the scene, and is led to ponder on the strange law of progress, which looks so like retrogression, and which in so many distant parts of the world has exterminated or driven out a highly artistic and constructive race, to make room for one which, as far as we can judge is very far its interior. The number and beauty of the architectural remains in Java have never been popularly illustrated or described, and it will therefore take most people by surprise to learn that they far surpass those of Central America, perchance those of India. To give some idea of these ruins, perhaps to excite wealthy amateurs to explore them thoroughly, and to obtain by photography on accurate record of these beautiful sculptures before it is too late, I will enumerate the most important as briefly described in Sir Stanforns Raffle's History of Java.

Near the center of Java, between the native capitals of Djoko-Kerta and Sura-Kerta, is the village of Brambanam, not far from which are abundance of ruins, the most important being the temples of Loro-Jongran and Chandi-Sewa. At Loro-Jongran there were separate buildings, six large, and fourteen small temples. They are now a mass of ruins, but the largest temple was supposed to have been 90 feet high. They were all constructed of solid stone, everywhere decorated with carvings and bas-reliefs, and adorned with numbers of statues, many of which remain entire. At Chandi-Sewa, or the "thousand temples," are many fine colossal figures. Captain Baker, who surveyed these ruins, said that he had never in his life seen such stupendous and finished specimens of human labor, and the science and taste of ages long since forgotten, crowded together in so small a compass as in this spot. They cover a span of nearly 600 feet square, and consist of an outer row of eighty-four temples; a second row of seventy-six; a third row of sixty-four, a fourth of forty-four; and a fifth forming an inner parallelogram of twenty-eight; in all two hundred

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and ninety-six small temples disposed in five regular parallelograms. In the center is a large cruciform temple surrounded by forty flights of steps, richly ornamented with sculpture and containing many apartments.

The tropical vegetation has ruined most of the smaller temples, but some remain tolerably perfect, from which the effects of the whole may be imagined. About half a mile off is another temple, called Chandi Kali Bening, 72 feet square and 60 feet high, in fine preservation, and covered with sculptures of Hindu mythology surpassing any that exists in India. Other ruins of palaces, halls and temples, with abundance of sculptured deities, are found in the same neighborhood.

About 80 miles eastward, in the province of Kedu, is the great temple of Borobods. It is built upon a small hill, and consists of a central dome and seven ranges of terraced wall, covering the slope of the hill, forming open galleries, each below the other, and communicating by steps and gateways. The central dome is 50 feet in diameter; around it is a triple circle of seventy-two towers; and the whole building is 620 feet square and about 100 feet high. In the terraced walls are niches containing cross-legged figures larger than life, to the number of about four hundred; both sides of the terraced walls are covered with bas-reliefs crowded with figures carved in hard stone, which must therefore occupy an extent of nearly 3 miles in length.

The amount of human labor and skill expended upon the great pyramids of Egypt, sink into insignificance when compared with that required to complete this sculptured hill temple in the interior of Java.

About 40 miles southwest of Samarang, on a mountain called Junong Prau, an extensive plateau is covered with ruins. To reach the temples, four flights of stone steps were made up to the mountain from opposite directions, each flight containing more than a thousand steps. Traces of nearly four hundred temples have been found here and many (perhaps all) were decorated with rich and delicate sculptures. The whole country between this and Brambanam, a distance of 60 miles, abounds with ruins, so that fine sculptured figures may be seen lying in ditches, or built into the walls of inclosures.

In the eastern part of Java, at Kediri, and in Melang, there are equally abundant traces of antiquity, but the buildings themselves have been mostly destroyed; sculptured figures, however, abound, and the ruins of forts, palaces, baths, aqueducts, and temples can be everywhere traced.

The ruins of the ancient city of Majapahit cover miles of ground with paved roads, walls, tombs, and gateways, while sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses of hard trachytic rock are found in the forests or in situ in temples. Some of the buildings are of brick of curious construction; the bricks are burned and built together without cement, and yet adhere incomprehensibly.

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540:1 These genealogies, although widely known and generally admitted to be true, have received the special investigation of some of the missionaries. The Rev. Shirley Baker, now premier of Tonga, assures us that there is no reason to doubt them, and that on the other hand there are many reasons for accepting them as absolute truth.

541:1 In 1867, the French purchased the sovereignty of this little island for a gallon of rum and some old clothes, thus cutting out a prospective American Steam-ship Company that had fixed upon it for a coal depot. Coal is found herein small quantities, and this fact has been adduced in support of the theory of a submerged continent in the Pacific, a fallacy evident to the geologist. Although there are several bays, a landing may be made at any point owing to the remarkable smoothness of the sea. The people bear a close resemblance to the New Zealanders.

543:1 From Wallace's "Australia".

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