Introduction

 

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-contact Easter Island culture". I am convinced that the precious little that is left of its inscribed artifacts will eventually enable a successful exploration of one of its darkest continents – the writing system of rongorongo. And while it may often give us the impression of a labyrinth, we must not forget it was never designed as one.

 

M. de Laat

November 2010