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Saturday, March 17, 2007
The Rongo-rongo board

The Rapanuians spread blankets on the grass and arranged their carvings and shell jewelry along the edges. The older kids were in school so just the young children and babies distracted their parents as they socialized in the warm afternoon sun. One item I especially wanted to buy was a rongo-rongo board. Briefly, the boards portray mystical animals and birds, anthropomorphic figures, and other signs which are carved in rows like hieroglyphs. They are read from the bottom corner upwards.

Discovered in 1868, the rongorongo language has never been completely deciphered, but it has been discerned early Rapanuians had a lunar calendar. To read more, click rongorongo. Some examples of the original rongorongo boards are seen on the following web site: The Rongorongo of Easter Island. The back side of my board was carved with petroglyphs which are carved into many rocks, especially at "Orongo." The outstanding image is that of the birdman, the subject of the cult of the birdman or "Tangata Manu". The petroglyphs began after the moai statues were deserted.
Wood and stone carvings have a life of their own. Each cut and gouge by a Rapanuian carver reinterpreted his culture's ancient symbols and language, the only written language in Oceania. Collecting the wood, sitting down with tools, and purposefully working the wood or stone in order to feed his family was meaningful work to me. The finished rongorongo boards cost the most of all the items because of the intricacy of the hieroglyphs.

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