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Te Pito Te Henua, Or Easter Island

Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, [1891], at

December 20.–Leaving Vaihu at early daylight we arrived at Hanga Roa in time to fulfill the detachment of eight chosen males despatched on shore from the ship with correct instruments and implements for making a radical exploration of Orongo and vicinity. (Plate XIX). The blue-jackets scampered up the slope of Rana Kao with the buoyant spirits of schoolboys out for a holiday, and arriving at the spot had been anxious to lend the help of keen fingers and loads of brawn to the prosecution of the work.

Each home was entered and inspected, although sometimes a miscalculation was made in the dimensions of a narrow passage-approach and it became necessary to rescue a prisoner by dragging him back by the heels. As soon as contained in the constructing, the inside may very well be simply inspected and sketches manufactured from frescoes and sculptured figures. (Plate XX).

These exceptional habitations had been built in opposition to a terrace of earth or rock, which in some circumstances formed the again wall of the dwelling (Fig. 5). From this place to begin a wall was constructed of small slabs of stratified basaltic rock, piled collectively with out cement and of a thickness varying from about 3 ft to a large rampart of 7 ft in width.

FIG. 5.
The outer entrance is formed by brief stone posts planted in the bottom and crossed by a basaltic slab. The passage-means was in all circumstances unpaved and often lined on the highest and each sides with flat stones. This essential characteristic added materially to our comfort while forcing an entrance by means of a few of the slender openings, and saved the necessity for including to our already bountiful provide of bruises and abrasions. No regularity of plan is proven in the development of the vast majority of the houses; some are parallelogram in shape, others elliptical, and lots of are immethodical, displaying a total absence of design, the builder being guided by the conformation of the bottom, the quantity of fabric obtainable, and different probability circumstances. These homes

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are roofed with slabs of rock of sufficient size to span the side walls, showing that no particular care had been exercised to form close joints. Over this stone ceiling the earth was piled in mound-shape, reaching a depth in the center of from 4 to 6 feet, and covered by a sod that afforded ample protection from rain. The floors were the naked earth, and the interiors were damp and moldy from insufficient ventilation afforded by the single contracted opening.

An accurate measurement of these remarkable structures gave the average height from floor to ceiling 4 feet 6 inches; thickness of walls, 4 feet to 10 inches; width of rooms, four toes 6 inches; length of rooms, 12 feet 9 inches; average size of door-ways, height 20 inches, width 19 inches. In making the survey of Orongo the houses were

FIG. 6.
numbered from 1 to 49, inclusive, commencing at the inshore extremity (Fig 6). While in the majority of instances the interior dimensions have been considerably below the average given above, several of the houses exceeded those limits, notably in the length of the rooms. The

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largest house contained a single chamber nearly 40 feet long; three were over 30 feet, and eight measured over 20 feet in length, with other dimensions approximately the same as the general average. These rude dwellings were not in all circumstances confined to a single condo; some have one and a few have two or three recess chambers opening out of the primary room; but they were dark little dens, having no separate light or ventilation.

Near the center of this assemblage of houses there is a form of square court docket with eight door-ways opening upon it. These is likely to be considered separate and distinct though the apartments are connected by interior ways, making it possible to pass from one to the other. At the extreme end of the point an analogous collection of houses opens upon a circular court docket, and the interiors are also linked.

In front of each house and about 10 feet from the door-way, small excavations lined with slabs of stone, making holes about afoot wide and 2 feet long and about 20 inches deep, indicated the culinary arrangements of the former inhabitants. The modus operandi of getting ready the food was primitive in the extreme; a fire was built in the rude oven and removed when the stones were sufficiently heated, a covering of damp earth being placed over the oven to retard the radiation of heat.

Thorough examination demonstrated the fact that these peculiar houses weren’t precisely alike in all respects, though the same general characteristics prevailed. Those at the extreme point of the ridge (Plate XXI) bear evidence of great antiquity, and much excavation was mandatory earlier than a passable examination could possibly be made from the door-posts or stone supports to the entrances, which were covered with hieroglyphics and rudely carved figures. From houses numbered 2, 3, and 4 (Fig 6) on Lieutenant Symond’s chart of Orongo, had been taken samples of these sculptures for the National Museum. The big seashore pebbles had been obtained by digging to a depth of 2 feet below the door-posts, and are of considerable interest both from the dense nature of the material and the fact that these carvings were found continuously repeated throughout the island.

Nearly all of the houses at Orongo are in a fair state of preservation and bear evidence of having been occupied at no very remote period. The result of the investigation here showed very little of carving on stone, but the graceful slabs lining the partitions and ceilings had been ornamented with mythological figures and rude designs painted in white, pink, and black pigments. Homes marked 1, 5 and 6 on Lieutenant Symond’s chart were demolished at the expense of great labor and the frescoed slabs obtained. Digging beneath the door-posts and under the floors produced nothing beyond a number of stone implements.

The houses in this vicinity occupy such a outstanding position that they have been naturally robbed of all the pieces in the way of relies by the natives, who were beginning to appreciate the value of such issues via the importance placed upon them by the foreign vessels that

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have referred to as at the island. Stone Island Clothes A niche in the wall of each of these dwellings was evidently designed to receive the family god and the various valuables which have been possessed by the inhabitants. No matter treasures they might have held in former years, we found them empty, and our search revealed nothing of importance.

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Attention was directed to one of many buildings in this assemblage that apparently had no entrance, manner. One wall was demolished, disclosing a rude coffin containing the remains of a native recently deceased. The unoccupied house had been utilized as a tomb, and sealed up with the material of which the walls were built.

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