The rongorongo script of Easter Island constitutes true writing since it displays all the structural characteristics of such a system and it can be deciphered because the Rapanui language it represents is known. In Words out of wood: Proposals for the decipherment of the Easter Island script (2009), I have tried to demonstrate this by assigning phonetic values to the most common signs and applying them to three of the surviving texts – tablets A, B and E. Their translations suggest that these texts consist entirely of dialogues, which possibly were meant to be read aloud by different persons – perhaps even to be enacted in some way or other. Further studies of the rongorongo corpus and certain points in the criticism of my book have encouraged me to improve upon these interpretations.
On this web site, I plan to present the findings of the book in a more elaborate way, to substantially review the translations of texts A, B and E and to provide detailed studies of the other main texts (C, G/K, H/P/Q, I, R and S). To these will be added essays on several brief inscriptions that can be found on a wide range of such diverse objects as rocks, sculptures, and ... people.
In his famous story about imaginary worlds Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (1940), Jorge Luis Borges wrote "Tlön is surely a labyrinth, but it is a labyrinth devised by men, a labyrinth destined to be deciphered by men". To me, the same holds very much true for the unknown world we call "pre-
M. de Laat
During the past years it has become more and more clear to me that there existed an intimate connection between the writing of rongorongo and the initiation cult of the so-
If most of the surviving inscriptions belong to the same genre and share the same subject matter, it would explain the existence of so many parallel segments without the need of assuming that the inscriptions are collections of short unrelated texts of different genres. Furthermore, names and classifications such as ranga and ika which have been associated with certain tablets and which have been thought to refer to captives and victims of war, would certainly have also applied to the secluded children. Not only does ranga also translate as "exile" and ika as "sacrifice", but the young girls were also metaphorically described as "fish", possibly at a specific stage in their process of ritual transformation.
If most of the extant rongorongo texts can be linked to the neru, their cult must have occupied a very significant place among pre-
In the following, the ethnological material regarding the puberty rite of the "white virgins" will be presented and confronted with the rongorongo inscriptions in an attempt to verify the phonetic values proposed earlier.