Subject: Easter Island S. American links
   From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
   Date: 20 Oct 1997 21:12:41 GMT
   Message-ID: <62ghg9$i3v$>
   Newsgroups: sci.archaeology,sci.anthropology,alt.native,soc.history

Easter Island & South America


by Yuri Kuchinsky

The more I deal with the current problems in Easter Island history,
the more it is obvious to me that this whole field is in a rather
unhealthy state currently. It seems that there's the "Heyerdahl 
camp", and then there's the mainstream. The mainstream
mistrusts and tries to do its best to marginalize the work of
Heyerdahl, and also of the archaeologists who excavated as part
of the excavations he organized. Of course Heyerdahl was a
pioneer in modern archaeology of EI, and he, and the highly
respected archaeologists who were working with him, have done a
great amount of work there, almost all of it published in great
detail. Also, he has done a great amount of ethnohistorical work
there. It needs to be said that Thor Heyerdahl is highly respected
by the native Easter Islanders, who actually made him an
Honourable Chieftain of Easter Island in 1987.

The mainstream Easter Island history establishment mostly doesn't
read the published research associated with Heyerdahl, and
doesn't even try to deal with the evidence presented there. The
result is a field of study that seems to be possessed of a very
strange split personality. The two camps don't even seem to talk
the same language, but instead branch off in different directions.
The historical truth suffers as a result, certainly.

So I hope that this article can begin to address this split.

Jo Anne Van Tilburg, the author of EASTER ISLAND, British
Museum Press, 1994, seems like a fine representative of the
mainstream. And here is a very revealing quote from her book.

     Since the nineteenth century a prehistoric connection
     between Rapa Nui and S. America has occasionally been
     suggested but never demonstrated. Some forty years ago,
     this idea found a dramatic and outspoken advocate in Thor
     Heyerdahl. The movement of pre-Columbian people from the
     coast of S. America into the Polynesian geographic sphere is
     extremely plausible when one considers, as Heyerdahl did,
     the east to west trade wind pattern. As of this writing
     however, no reliable archaeological, linguistic, or biological
     data on the mainland, in East Polynesia or on Rapa Nui
     support such an east to west population movement. (p. 46)

She herself says: "The movement of pre-Columbian people from
the coast of S. America into the Polynesian geographic sphere is
extremely plausible..." But "no reliable data" to support it? I beg to
differ. So let's look at this "unreliable data" that she seems mostly
to overlook in her publication...

In this article I will try to summarize some of the research
published in Thor Heyerdahl, EASTER ISLAND: THE MYSTERY
SOLVED, Random House, N. Y., 1989. To me, this research
leaves virtually no doubt about the strong links between EI and the
S. American mainland at the earliest periods of EI history. I would
like to hear if and where I may be wrong in this assessment.

Further on, I will use as reference the work of French ethnologist
Alfred Metraux, who arrived to the EI in 1934, and published his
research in his ETHNOLOGY OF EASTER ISLAND, 1940. Metraux
firmly believed that Easter Islanders originated in Polynesia proper.

     No other ethnologist has made such a meticulous survey of
     all Easter Island cultural traits in a deliberate attempt to trace
     them back to some area in Polynesia. (Heyerdahl, p. 163)

So his views, which provided the basis for all further studies, and
which were key in the formulation of the current mainstream
opinion, are quite relevant.

We can begin with


Let's look at the remains of the houses of early Easter Islanders.
Earliest dwellings on the EI were generally of the types unknown in
Polynesia. There were 3 types of them:

1. Very special long and narrow canoe-type houses. 

This type of a house is unique in the world. It looks most of 
all like a giant overturned canoe. These houses were first 
described in detail in 1786 by the French expedition under the
leadership of La Perouse. One such house was about 100 meters 
long, and could hold as many as 200 people! But its entrance was 
so low and narrow that one had to wiggle to get into it. Nothing 
like that could be found in the rest of Polynesia.

According to Heyerdahl, Metraux admitted that a very special 
funnel-like door of such a house is "unparalleled in Polynesia". 
(p. 166)

2. All-stone houses with thick masonry walls rising to an arched

     Metraux found nothing in Polynesia that could have inspired
     the building of such corbel-vaulted stone houses as those
     found in the ceremonial village of Orongo. (p. 166)

3. Underground dwellings, invisible from ground level except for
the square entrance.

Heyerdahl summarizes about all of these 3 types of houses,

     None of them were of Polynesian design. (p. 54)

While the first type of houses, the canoe-like type, is quite unique,
the stone houses, OTOH, are quite revealing.

     Stone buildings were totally alien to Polynesian culture,
     though they were characteristic of pre-Inca settlements on
     the nearest part of the mainland. (p. 54)

     And turning again to the nearest shore to the east, we find
     that low, circular walls -- the remains of stone houses -- both
     alone and built together in continuous clusters just as on EI,
     are the most typical archaeological feature in the desert
     areas between Lake Titicaca and the Pacific coast. (p. 164)

     There are neither boat-shaped houses, stone houses, nor
     subterranean dwellings in Polynesia, and the presence of
     three distinct non-Polynesian house forms calls for a
     reasonable explanation. Reed houses, stone houses, and
     underground dwellings occur on the timberless Pacific slopes
     of S. America... (p. 55)


Let's look at these next.

Easter Island also features another very special stone
constructions: tupas. These are large round stone towers with
square entrances. Nothing like this can be found anywhere in
Polynesia. And yet,

     ... the un-Polynesian tupa is strongly reminiscent of the
     _chullpa_ often found among the pre-Inca ruins on the arid
     slopes from Lake Titicaca down to the Pacific coast. In both
     regions, these prehistoric towers are presumably the remains
     of plundered mausoleums from an earlier period. (p. 55)

     The tupa of EI resemble the chullpa in every detail, and a
     Polynesian would pronounce chullpa as tupa. (p. 166)

For his part, Metraux was not able to explain either the purpose
or the derivation of the EI tupa in any satisfactory way.

These words, "tupa", and "chullpa", certainly seem like they are
basically the same word. How can this sort of evidence be
disregarded or dismissed?

Somewhere along the line, a sort of an urban myth emerged that 
tupas were in fact ...remains of ancient "chicken coops". This is
still the view that the mainstream EI history establishment 
subscribes to. Nothing could be more preposterous. For one thing, 
the space within tupas is so narrow, and access to them is so 
difficult, that they obviously did not serve any utilitarian purpose.


Old "paenga" stones on Easter Island, large flat rectangular stone
blocks with characteristic holes in them, come from early periods of
human occupation. Nothing like this is known elsewhere in
Polynesia. And yet,

     Excavations of the pre-Inca image platforms at Tiahuanaco in
     what is now Bolivia has uncovered stones remarkably like the
     paenga of EI. [Illustration is given on p. 57 of extremely
     similar large stone blocks in the two places, the S. American,
     and the EI.]


Giant stone statues are found in S. America, but not in Polynesia.
(p. 89)

     Giant statues of human shapes have been left by unknown
     sculptors all down the chain of the Andes from San Augustin
     in Colombia to Tiahuanaco in Bolivia, and reappear on the
     nearest habitable islands in the ocean: Easter Island, the
     Marquesas, and Raivaevae. (p. 156)

On p. 156 two photos of giant stone statues are given. One from
the Marquesas Islands, and the other one from San Augustin in
Colombia. They are very similar.

     All the clues -- chronological, typological and geographical --
     suggest that the inspiration for the Marquesas statues came
     from the tropical regions of Colombia, while those of EI are in
     all respects more akin to the art of Tiahuanaco in more
     southerly latitudes. (p. 157)


This is a special type of EI iconography.

     In 1883 Capt. Geiseler published his account of his visit to EI.
     He was the first to illustrate the characteristic "weeping eye"
     ornament from the religious paintings in the stone houses of
     Orongo. It later turned out that this stylized motif was very
     widespread on EI, though totally unknown in the rest of
     Oceania. It was, on the other hand, common in many parts of
     the Americas, and was specially characteristic of the pre-Inca
     cultural centre of Tiahuanaco and regions directly influenced
     by that area. (p. 98)

     [Dr. E. N. Ferdon] was the first to point out the striking parallel
     [of the weeping-eye figures] to the religious art of
     Tiahuanaco, where the weeping eye symbolizes rain from the
     sun-god. Wherever this motif is found on the pre-Inca coast
     of the mainland, it is interpreted as indicative of influence
     from Tiahuanaco. Why not when it is found on EI? (p. 165)

Good illustrations of these "weeping eye figures" are given in the


Stone fishhooks of EI are very similar to those in the Americas.

     Fishhooks of stone are foreign to Polynesian culture, but
     have occasionally been found along the American Pacific
     coast from northern Chile to California. (p. 114)

An example is illustrated on p. 114.


Small stone statues, similar to the ones from EI are found in the
area of Lake Titicaca.

     Two full-length human figures carved in high relief on stones
     were also among the Gana expedition's finds. One is of a
     man with goatee and topknot. The other represents a woman
     with long ears... (p. 118)

     A comparative study has failed to demonstrate the existence
     of similar stone sculptures elsewhere in Polynesia, but some
     striking parallels are to be found in the area round Lake
     Titicaca. (p. 119)

Illustrations are given in the book.


     Pointed bone needles perforated near the blunt end to hold
     thread are the most common artifact to be found on EI after
     toke and mataa. Outside of New Zealand, sewing was not a
     Polynesian practice... (p. 169)

A quote from Metraux follows:

     "Easter Island is the only place in Polynesia where strips
     were felted together by sewing. Elsewhere in eastern
     Polynesia the strips were felted together, in western
     Polynesia they were pasted."

Heyerdahl continues,

     Again, no links to Polynesia. Yet bone needles,
     indistinguishable from those found on EI, are frequently
     found in the prehistoric middens of Ilo on the south coast
     below Lake Titicaca. Again Easter Island sides with Peru. (p.


     The rectanguloid pillar statue had its only counterpart in S.
     America and not on any other island in the Pacific. Kneeling
     statues were among the most typical monuments of pre-Inca
     time. ... It was not only the kneeling attitude with hands on
     knees that matched the new find on Easter Island, but also
     the facial expression, the characteristic shape of the eyes,
     mouth, and the goatee. (p. 199)

Also, such statues in S. America and on EI both have another
peculiar and essential feature: the clearly marked ribs.


More such little known data is available in Heyerdahl's book. So
anyone interested should read it to get all the details.

This is an incredible amount of solid evidence already. Most if not
all of it is completely omitted by our dear Prof. Jo Anne Van Tilburg
in her rather lavish British Museum publication. No wonder she
somehow missed the "reliable data" that is not in accord with her
opinion. Questions really do arise here about both her
methodology and her sincerity. Both seem notably deficient.

Nevertheless, there's much more evidence to prove the same
thing. Other clear and obvious cultural similarities link EI with S.
America. But these are better known generally, and have already
been considered in this forum, so I will list them here only for
reference. Much more can be said about each of the following,
and perhaps I will in the future.


     In 1987, we discovered a megalithic wall of finely hewn and
     perfectly fitted blocks during our excavations on the landward
     side of Ahu Naunau. This discovery demolished the popular
     theory that such walls had appeared at a late stage on EI...
     This buried wall was clearly older than the Middle Period
     walls visible above ground. Nothing like it has been found on
     a single island in the whole of Polynesia, but it is typical of
     the megalithic walls of S. America. (p. 233).

This is new and important evidence published by Heyerdahl in this
book. This evidence was unknown at the time of his previous


Totora bundles were used on EI in exactly the same way as they
are used on the coast of Peru. (p. 20)


Dr. Walter Knoche arrived to the EI in 1911, and he tried his best
to collect the ancestral traditions of the Easter Islanders at that

     He ... interviewed the two old men in the presence of sixty or
     seventy other islanders, all of whom took an interested part in
     the procedure. As a result, Knoche was able to obtain
     unanimous agreement from the crowd on a number of tribal
     memories... (p. 122)

These tradition obtained at that time, and at other times previously
indicate that

     To put it plainly: the Easter Islanders had told us that the first
     people to settle their own island had come from what we call
     S. America. There was no other land to the east. And the
     Short-ears, coming later from the west, would of necessity
     have been Polynesians. This is what the old Easter Islanders
     originally told us... (p. 127)

     Nobody lengthened their earlobes in Polynesia, while Peru
     was ruled by Long-ears. (p. 127)


     ... [Metraux] concluded: "The main difficulty in solving the
     problem of the tablets lies in the lack of any convincing
     parallel in Polynesia." (p. 167)

Generally, the rongorongo certainly demands much more space
for consideration. I already consulted the recent literature
published about this, and, I must say, this in a truly fascinating
puzzle. Much confusion on this subject, and often even plenty of
plain silliness, abounds in the mainstream publications.


     ... [Metraux] finds: 'The complex of the bird cult ... has no
     parallel in the rest of Polynesia." (p. 167)

     [Metraux:] "The most striking feature of Easter Island religion
     is the unimportance of the great gods and heroes of other
     Polynesian religions." (p. 167)

Much, much more can be said about this. This is perhaps the most
obvious mythological and cultural link with S. America. The
iconography is _almost exactly parallel_ in both places, but you
would not get even a hint of this if you read only Prof. Jo Anne Van
Tilburg's tendentious publication.

-    DOUBLE-BLADED PADDLES (of two types: "rapa", and "ao")

     Paddles with a blade at either end are unknown in Polynesia.
     (p. 167)

There are plenty of them in S. America. Much more on this can be
said, or course...

And also, plenty of info on the last couple of items exists on the
Web already. Good illustrations are also available. Check out, for
example, the cite I already mentioned previously:

This is the Kon Tiki Museum website.

So here we are, ladies and gentlemen. The "reliable data" that
Prof. Jo Anne Van Tilburg supposedly sought, but not too
diligently, is all published and awaits honest scholars who are
really interested in the truth about Easter Island history, and not in
the propagandistic pabulum of the obviously Eurocentric academic
hacks whose clear intention is to minimize the achievements of
Native South Americans who were excellent shipbuilders and
sailors many centuries before Columbus and who almost without
doubt came to the Easter Island at the earliest periods of human
settlement there.


            =O=    Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto    =O=
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