Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Rapa Nui : Excerpts from 2 Letters

7 January, 2005

Dear Professor Diamond,

...I must say that I think you and others who persist in the notion that Rongorongo was not a wholly indigenous achievment (based solely on the speculation that the European (Spanish) script was the trigger) are incorrect. By the time the Spanish arrived, the island was, as you must know, in such a state of disarrray, with the Moai toppled and the "civil wars"on and people hiding in caves, it would have been impossible that Rongorongo script and schools teaching it would develop then....Georgia Lee, founder of RAPA NUI JOURNAL, said she does agree with me as to the dating of the Rongorongo as much earlier than that....See also my debunking of Professor S.R. Fischer's decipherment claim, which was published as a Guest Editorial in Len Fulton's SMALL PRESS REVIEW, July-August, 2002 (volume 34, 7/8).

N.B. This second letter was sent to the Editors of the N.Y. Review of Books, but it was never published. I would like to make it clear that Jared Diamond's COLLAPSE (and his previous book) is a considerable achievment. He's just dead wrong about some of what he says of Rapa Nui in his own texts, and also in reviewing a colleague's book on the subject, and his insulting denigration of Thor Heyerdahl's work is not worthy of him.

Further, I must say that it would have been nice if Dr. Diamond had acknowledged, in his Pulitzer Prize book, GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL, my research concerning the smallpox which decimated the Mandan Indians in 1837 (p. 212 & p. 374 in the 2005 edition of his book), which results had been published on five separate occasions since 1980: in an essay in ANGLO-WELSH REVIEW (1981) titled "1837: The Mandan Indians" which was republished in PAPER AIR (Philadelphia, 1989), and as poetry sequences in FOOL'S HOUSE, an anthology edited by Allen Fisher, (London 1980), and in SPANISH SONGS IN MANDAINE LAND (Dream Tree Press, California 1981), and in CODA TO SPANISH SONGS IN MANDAINE LAND (Branch Redd, New Jersey, 1984). If Prof. Diamond reached his conclusions independently of my work, he is free to correct me. -----(This paragraph added to the Rapa Nui blog on May 5, 2006.)-----

My formerly unpublished letter follows, with paragraphs four and five combined into one.

Even after his death, academicians are quick to stomp on Thor Heyerdahl. So many people in the anthropological/archaeological Establishment need, out of fear and insecurity, to reify their speculations as to the "whence" of the Polynesian people, and Heyerdahl, disdained for over fifty years of his life put forward evidence in exploration after exploration, excavation after excavation, and book after book (AKU AKU, AMERICAN INDIANS IN THE PACIFIC, EARLY MAN AND THE OCEAN) antithetical to majority opinion that all Polynesian migration was from West to East. He knew that some of the migration came from pre-Inca settlements in South America; nevertheless, Jared Diamond ("Twilight at Easter" NYR, 25 March) chooses to link him with nutters like von Daniken, who condescend to the Polynesian people and dismiss their achievments.

Alfried Metraux, (EASTER ISLAND, OUP, 1957) who is acknowledged by all as Professor Diamond would doubtless agree as still one of the foremost if not THE foremost expert on Rapa Nui from the anti-Heyerdahlian perspective, challenges Heyerdahl's theories (pp. 220-230), but with great respect and utmost seriousness noting Heyerdahl's "vast erudition" and noting that it is "hardly fair to disassociate Heyerdahl's ideas on Easter Island from the sum total of his work and conclusions."

Rapa Nui is of course the Polynesian name of the island. There is an older name: Te Pito
O Te Henua - "the navel of the world." Not that the people of the island seem to mind ALL that much being alluded to in "the name that stuck" as Diamond calls it. But some would question his assumption that rats were stowaways on the Big Canoes on their long voyages. More likely they came from European ships.

Further, the red volcanic rock is neither the statues' "crown" nor a "hat"for the Moai, but a representation of the HAIR of the ancestors, worn in what can still be seen today on many Polynesian islands: a Topknot, or hair braided in a sort-of Rasta fashion. ..... The "mana"or Spiritual Power of the Moai derive from their eyes, all of which were destroyed in the wars; however, there is one original coral eye extant, and that powerful and compelling circle of coral in the little local museum on the island, was the only intact eye ever to be excavated. And whose team performed the excavation? Thor Heyerdahl's of course.


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