A DIFFERENT STORY. From the beginning.

PART I: INTRODUCTION

3.    EASTER ISLAND

The massacre on Easter Island should have gone down as one of the most dreadful episodes in human history. It was ethnic cleansing … the total and complete slaughter of a small ethnically distinct group by the overwhelming masses of a competing tribe. The scale was only modest but the event was especially notable for the genealogy of the massacred group … they were the Ariki, the last of the legendary lords, the mighty men of old, the children of Aeneas of Troy. They were totally wiped out leaving behind only the enigmatic stone statues of their forefathers.

And even worse was to follow.

Around 1770-1774 on the tiny speck of Easter Island in the furthermost corner of the south-east Pacific, the majority of the ‘lesser’ peasants rebelled and overthrew the minority of the Aro Te Mati Nui descendants of the original Miru royalty and their Ariki hereditary divine kings … completely annihilating them down to the last man. The peasants rose up and slaughtered the princes. The awful event should have gone down as the most sorrowful affair in recorded history, had we known about it. But we didn’t. It was as if a magnificent ancestral tree fell in the forest, but there was no one there to see it. Given the remoteness of the times and the extreme isolation of Easter Island, the incident passed unnoticed and unrecorded in western European history.  It registered only uneasily in the folklore of the victors, and not at all amongst the vanquished … because there were no survivors. The Ariki and all traces of their history were eradicated and a seminal chapter of human history was destroyed.

It was said that the last man standing howled most piteously to the heavens … ‘Oh ye gods, why hast thou forsaken me’. Ironically he was the last son of Aeneas who in Homer’s Iliad had fled the destruction of Troy crying in anguish ‘… I am Aeneas of Troy, a remnant … what tract on Earth that is not full of our agony … we beseech thee, stay the dreadful flames, spare a guiltless race.’

Aeneas was spared but alas his descendants were not. They were struck down mercilessly, not by the gods, but by the cruel hands of the children of men. The great unwashed rose up and slaughtered the last of the hereditary lords. There must have been something in the air of the period because it was only a few years later that the revolting French peasants likewise arose against les noblesses and took off their heads … the first step in the long decline of western Europe into fractured populist democracy.

Easter Island, so named by Dutch explorer Roggeveen who landed at Easter 1722 but now locally called Rapanui, was settled by boat-people from western Polynesia at a rather late date put uncertainly at 600 to 1200 AD. The tiny speck is at the very remotest fringe of southeast Polynesia with no further land for another 3000 km to the coast of South America. The earliest settlers seemed to know it was their last refuge, pulling their boats ashore and using the overturned hulls as huts … a style that persisted down the generations. The early settlers were of two distinct peoples … the minority Miru ruling royalty including hereditary Ariki chiefs who were ‘quite white’, tall and angular featured; and the majority of ordinary Hoto Iti peasants who were rather shorter, stout and round-featured.

In 1914 the English anthropologist Katherine Routledge collected 58 skulls which were examined in England and found to be mainly ‘broad-headed’ Polynesian but included several distinctly different ‘long-headed’ types. The cranial capacity of the long-headed skulls was larger than normal and, the examiner added wryly, had a brain capacity higher than the inhabitants of Whitechapel (London). [1] Dutch explorer Roggeveen in 1722 and Spaniard Gonzalez in 1770 had both emphatically remarked on the mixed-type population, and that the Ariki chiefs were ‘quite white’ and very tall. Gonzalez measured two individuals at 6ft 5 and 6ft 6½ inches tall (196-199 cm. [2] But by the time English Captain James Cook visited in 1774, after ‘discovering’ New Zealand and Australia, he made a great point of stressing that the population was entirely typically Polynesian, of the Tahitian type. The tall Ariki were nowhere to be seen … but there were obvious signs of civil conflict with a scarcity of crops and food, damaged canoes on the shore, and many toppled moai statues.

Not to put too fine a point on it … there is incontrovertible evidence that until 1770 Easter Island was ruled by a small group of Miru royalty including people who were of European appearance; tall, white, angular featured and ‘long-headed’ with above average cranial capacity.  A totally anomalous situation in the far reaches of the southeast Pacific. Then somewhere between the visits of Gonzalez in 1770 and Cook in late 1774, there was a civil war in which the Miru people and their Ariki chiefs were wiped out.

Mrs Routledge’s expedition in 1914 collected the surviving folklore.

Despite the rather Spartan environment, the settler population had expanded to an estimated 5000-10,000 people which put a strain on resources … the island was deforested and food supply was meagre. Community conflict intensified and the clan groups geographically separated … with the Hoto Iti peasants in the southwest, while the fewer Miru ruling class withdrew behind a deep ditch across the tip of the eastern promontory. But the defensive ditch was insufficient; the peasants rose up and overran the princes. The Ariki chiefs had lost the old power of royal mana and they were totally overwhelmed and destroyed at the hands of men.

More shameful events followed.

In the ensuing years, the remaining Polynesian population was afflicted by sealers and slavers; pox and priests. Peruvian slavers captured and removed about 1500, mainly men, into forced-labour and when some were later returned they brought back phthisis (TB) and pox which decimated the native population. By 1866, barely a century from first contact with the benefits of European civilisation, Easter Island was turned into a commercial sheep farm and the resident native population was reduced to 110 confined to a Catholic mission compound. Captured and converted in both body and mind by the missionaries of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, of Valparaiso. [3]

The Ariki chiefs had left behind hundreds of rongo-rongo writing tablets … wooden objects delicately inscribed with hieroglyphs recording their history. But under the direction of the zealous missionaries, these objects were almost all burned. When challenged, Catholic missionary Eugene Eyraud claimed disingenuously that the burning was necessary to supply firewood. Now only about twenty-five examples of rongo-rongo survive in various museum collections.

The history of the Easter Island people … a chapter of human history … was destroyed in the name of the new Christian god. Or as firewood! From his stone statue, the enigmatic face of Aeneas looked down and wept.

‘But remind me again … who exactly was Aeneas?’

He was a character in the Iliad of Homer. Not a particularly prominent individual in conventional commentaries, but ultimately the single most important player in the history of modern man. He was a survivor … the only named survivor … of the fall of Troy.

In orthodox commentaries, the Iliad describes the culmination of an on-going battle between the Trojans and the Greeks … after the Trojans captured Helen and the Greeks fought to have her returned. The celestial demi-gods, led by Apollo, Ajax and Achilles, intervened on behalf of the Greeks and used their awesome supernatural powers to overwhelm the hapless Trojans …  their homeland was uprooted and completely destroyed by fire and flood. The human Trojans were apparently totally annihilated by celestial forces.

But not quite! Just before the final battle, Cassandra had warned the King Priam that the sky would fall … at which only Aeneas heeded the dire warning. He gathered together a few of his kin, and pausing to collect the sacred fire of the hearth, he sailed away across the stormy seas to safety. He sailed away …westward … crying aloud to the gods, ‘I am Aeneas … a remnant of a worldwide catastrophe ‘… what tract on Earth is not full of our agony.’   He was a survivor of a guiltless race, slaughtered by the celestial gods.

He sailed away to safety … but into obscurity.

Some say, following Virgil’s Aeneid, that he sailed around the Aegean and the Mediterranean before ultimately settling in Italy to establish the foundations of Rome. But that was pure fiction written centuries later … entirely concocted to give a semblance of legitimacy to the Roman Emperor’s claims of divinity… Aeneas was a son of Anchises from union with demi-god Aphrodite (Venus) so his descendants could claim dubious descent from the gods. But that was all pure fiction, borrowed heavily from Homer’s Odyssey. It may have been laudable literature but ultimately just Roman political propaganda of the time.

The descendants of Aeneas did not end up in Rapanui directly but via a long and tortuous journey. It was their last refuge, as far away as they could get from the children of men. Their epic journey of human history has been lost to orthodox accounts but was fortunately preserved in the netherworld of what we now call folklore, legend and myth.

The Ariki chiefs did not just look European but also they preserved several customs and characteristics seen elsewhere in the old world of the eastern Mediterranean and later Western Europe. They claimed that they were not just royal but actually divine … descended from the ‘gods’ … as was the case for the Egyptian Pharaohs, Roman Emperors and later European royalty. And similarly, they were purebreds (Biblical monogenes) who could only marry within the family clan, even incestuously. The Ariki carried a staff or mace of office which was originally a symbol of their mana … a term which has come to imply just personal gravitas but was originally a real superhuman ‘magic’ power. Just as European royals still display their ‘orb of power’, so the old Polynesian chiefs possessed the magic force of mana, derived from a stone sphere called Te Pito Kura (the navel of light).

The last survivors called themselves the Rapa Nui … the people of the Great Light. This is their story.

 

[1] Routledge, 1919, The Mystery of Easter Island: the story of an expedition.

[2] Records of the Roggeveen and Gonzalez visits to Easter Is in Vol xiii of the Hakluyt Society, Cambridge, 1908, cited in Heyerdahl,1957. Aku-aku, The Secret of Easter Island.

[3]  Fischer, 2005. Island at the end of the World – The Turbulent History of Easter Island

 

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