Rapanui Proper and Place Names versus Rongorongo Texts

© Sergei V. Rjabchikov

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Part 4.

9. Let us examine a record inscribed on the tablet Aruku-Kurenga (Br 5/6), see figure 11.


Figure 11.

The text reads as follows: 6-21 6-35 44 35 9-44-9-44 44 50 21 9 6-35 11 35 19 35 65-15 9 72 6-4 84 15 17 44 35 11 48 32 48 25-25 (48-48) 35 11 45 35 56-56 15-21 47 15 47 4-6 31-31 37? 30 6 139 11 5 56 12 5-21 17-19-17-19 Hakahapa tapa Niu [= Makoi] Taha Niu [= Makoi] Taha, tako i Niu [= Makoi]. Hapa THE SHARK pakipa. Rangi roa – Niu [= Makoi] – manu – a ata ivi roa tea. Taha pa Pakia hua/ua – hua-hua, pa Pakia pua, pa popo Roko ava roa, ava tuha Makimaki. Nui N(g)a Ara poki. Tupa ika tika tekiteki. ‘A descendant, the great Makoi Taha [= Kai Makoi (II)], appeared; (it is) the black colour for Makoi [= Kai Makoi (II)]. [It is the part of the formula of his birth.] The seals/sharks appeared. The Great sky – Niu [= Kai Makoi (II)] – the bird – the shadow of the great white ancestor. [It is the part of the formula of his birth.] The seals/sharks (associated with) standards, the beating seals/sharks, (the child) Roko (resembling) waves which strike one another, (a son of) a great marriage, of the marriage/part of (the god) Makemake came. (The king) Nga Ara raised the child. (Nga Ara) carried the dead boy who was stolen.’

In this text glyph 11 pakia/mango (THE SHARK) is a generic determinative.

Old Rapanui hapa ‘to lift; to elevate; to rise; to appear’ is comparable with Rapanui hapai ‘to lift; to elevate’ (< *hapa i), Maori apaapa ‘heap’, aparangi ‘the open sky’, Tahitian aparai ‘clear, cloudless’ (< *apa rangi ‘the height – the sky’).

The form pakiapa is the incomplete doubling of the form pakia (shark; seal). Old Rapanui tako ‘dark; black’ is comparable with Proto-Central-Eastern Polynesian *tako ‘dark colour’ (Biggs and Clark 2006). Old Rapanui pa is comparable with Rapanui pe ‘and’, pe, pa ‘here’, and Tongan pea ‘and’ (the alternation of the sounds e/a is possible). Old Rapanui ava ‘marriage’ is comparable with *ava ‘collection, pair’ of an unclear subgroup of the Polynesian family of languages, Proto-Nuclear Polynesian *’aawaga ‘spouse, married’ and Proto-Polynesian *’ahawa-na ‘marry; elope; spouse’ (Biggs and Clark 2006).

This rongorongo report is partially reflected in a legend about king Nga Ara. In compliance with this story (Métraux 1937: 44-45), only Rokoroko-he-tau, a son of Nga Ara, had the supernatural power (mana) among the three royal children who were born at the same time. The sharks and the seals came to the island and chased the people. The king Nga Ara took Rokoroko-he-tau and concealed him near the mountain Rano Aroi. He killed him so that the sharks and the seals went away.

The name of Rokoroko-he-tau means ‘(A boy who) corresponds (to his royal mission)’, cf. Rapanui tau ‘deserved; fitting; proud; season’ and Maori rokohanga ‘to be overtaken or come upon; to be reached’ (< roko-hanga).

According to K. Routledge (1914-1915), one of owners of the tablet Aruku-Kurenga was the Easter Islander Roko ko Renga (The beautiful Roko). I suppose that it is an inexact statement. The natives could know that the legend about Roko (Rokoroko-he-tau) was taken down on this tablet, and this name was given to the owners of this “talking board” later.

10. Let us examine a record on the tablet Aruku-Kurenga (Bv 1/2), see figure 12.


Figure 12.

The text reads as follows: 6 15-25 6-15 23 6-6-6-6 68 30-69 44-44 7-25 9 33 44-44 7-25 4-33 80 17 44 43 44 6 30 4-33 4 45-50-45-50 3 50 15 3 3 70 140 6 (102) 73 19 54 30 1 30 17 30 4 8 14 15-25 6 50 19-19 50 158-158 6 8 6 68 43 6 17 4 25-32 43 25-32 29 54 146 12 49-28 31 62 39 19 3 19 73-6 (102) 15-25 81 65 84 8 A rahu Hora Ura, Hahahaha, Honu. Ana Moko. Tahataha Tuu-hua niva/ua, taha Tuu-hua atua/ua. Ui te tamata a ana atua/ua Atua; Puhipuhi. Ina-ira, hina, hina, Pu THE FULL MOON. Hoe. Ku kai ana Tiki, ana Tea, ana atua Matua Haua rahu. Ha i kuku, i THE PIGEON THE PIGEON a matua. A honu ma, a tea atua/ua, ma ua/rua. Kai the new moon, ika, maunga. Maki too raa ki hina. Ku hea, rahu Manu RANGI ivi matua. ‘(The month) Hora = Hora-iti [August/September] produces the Crayfish, Darkness, Water (= the new moon). (It is) the house Ana Moko (in Orongo). The star Aldebaran is moving on the sky, (they are) the darkness (= the sky during the night)/the dwelling, the star Aldebaran is moving on the sky, (they are) the deity/the dwelling. A man looks at (the celestial bodies) from the house of the deity/the dwelling (called) ‘The deity’ (= the statue Hoa hakananaia); (and the name of this man is) Puhipuhi. (Thus, he has seen:) the moon Ina Ira, the moon, the moon, the full moon. (It is) a paddle. Then Tiki-the Light-the Father ate the almost full growing moon (= the moon became invisible on the sky). (This priest) is looking at the Pigeon-Father (= the sun). The Water (the first day Hiro) is coming, (it is) the whiteness of the deity/the dwelling, (and) the dwelling/the sunset of the sun are coming. (It is) the eating (of the sun) when the moon is new, (it is) the Fish, (it is) the end (of the lunar month). (The god) Makemake [Tiki] takes the sun to the moon. The bird THE SKY lifted itself (= it is the dawn), and it produces the Ancestor-the Father (it is the sun in the zenith).’

Old Rapanui tamata ‘man’ corresponds to Rapanui tangata ‘man’ (the alternation of the sounds ng/m is possible). According to K. Routledge (1998: 256), houses of the village of Orongo were called ana, and this term means ‘cave’ literally. This researcher informs that the Great Washington tablet once belonged to a rongorongo man named Puhi [Alonano =] a Ron(g)o no[ho] from the place Hanga Hahave (Routledge 1914-1915). There is a good probability that Puhi a Rongo noho and Puhipuhi were one and the same person. In this event he wrote the tablet Aruku-Kurenga. This man served as a priest in Orongo (O-Rongo), and lived in Hanga Hahave later.

In compliance with Rapanui beliefs, solar eclipses are described with the help of the expression ku kai a te raa (the sun being eaten), and the reason of them was the demon Katiki (Métraux 1940: 52). One can compare this name with the name of the god Tiki. Old Rapanui u(h)i means ‘to see; to look’ is comparable with Rapanui ui ‘to see; to look’. Interestingly to note that glyph 80 uhi represents yams (cf. Rapanui uhi ‘yams’). Old Rapanui ma means ‘to come; to go; leg’, cf. Maori ma ‘to come; to go’. Glyph 43 ma represents the leg.

I have used the computer program RedShift Multimedia Astronomy, Version 2 (produced by Maris Multimedia, San Rafael, California, USA) to look at the stars above Easter Island over the period of years from 1775 till 1830. I found that for two months, August and September, an almost full solar eclipse occurred on August (Hora-iti) 5, 1804; it was the morning. So, the rongorongo record tells of this eclipse. The star Aldebaran (tuu Pua, tuu Hua ‘The star ‘Fruits’’) was visible on the north-east before the sunrise. I conclude that the prince Kai Makoi (II) was born before August 5, 1804. It is well known that this last king of Easter Island was kidnapped by the Peruvians in 1862 and died in the Chincha Islands (Métraux 1940: 91-92).

The words of a Rapanui chant are known (Barthel 1962b: 854): Ka meamea no to Koro hami mea – tavake i tua e. Ka uuri no to Koro tangata – tuao i te Ohiro. This text can be translated as follows: ‘The red colour is from the Father (associated with) the dawn – the tropic bird is turned (the sun is still invisible). The black colour is from the Father (associated with) people – the bird tuao is on the day Hiro’.

Old Rapanui (h)ami ‘dawn; to dawn’ is comparable with Rapanui hamu ‘to dawn’ (the alternations of the sounds h/-, i/u are possible). The Rapanui personage Mea plays a role of the dawn in a song (Métraux 1940: 356). Old Rapanui tua ‘back; disappearance; to be turned’ is comparable with Rapanui tua ‘back’, cf. also Proto-Polynesian *tu’a ‘back, far side’ (Biggs and Clark 2006). The wordplay is quite possible: cf. Rapanui tuai ‘old’. In this context the bird tuao denotes the sun during an eclipse one morning. So, the written and folklore sources have common plots.

It might be well to point out that in 1805 the American whaler Nancy kidnapped 22 natives. So, the appearance of the sharks and seals near Easter Island in 1804 was a prediction of this terrible event.

11. Let us consider several records of the tablet Aruku-Kurenga, see figure 13.


Figure 13.

A text (Bv 8) is presented in fragment 1. It reads as follows: 19 7 15-4 15 15-4 68 33 26-15 Ku tuu rotu, rorotu, honu, ua, Maro ‘The heavy rains, the water, the rains – (the month) Maro (June/July) – came.’

The name of this month is written down by two syllables in this case (cf. the reading of glyph 53 maro/maru). Old Rapanui rotu ‘heavy rain; to beat’ corresponds to Tahitian rotu ‘heavy rain’.

A text (Bv 9) is presented in fragment 2. It reads as follows: 50-29-70 6-15 44-9 12 50-29-70 31 52 31 52 … 19 4 17 30-44 17 30 51 30 17 44 17 6-15 I rua Pua. Hora, Taniva, ika. I rua Pua. Maki hiti, Maki hiti.Ku ati te Ana-taha (= kena), te Ana-ke-(a)na, te Haua, te Hora ‘The top (= the sun on the east) disappeared. (The month) Hora = Hora-iti (August/September), the monster Taniva, the death (were together). The top (= the sun on the east) disappeared. (The god) Makemake (= the sun) is rising, (the god) Makemake (= the sun) is rising … (The month) Anakena (July/August), (the moon goddess and the almost full moon) Haua, (the month) Hora-iti have gone (August/September).’

Old Rapanui rua means ‘to disappear; disappearance’, cf. Rapanui rua ‘cave’, ruru ‘black petrel’ < *ru(a)-ru(a), cf. also Proto-Tahitic *ruki ‘dark, of night as opposed to day’ (Biggs and Clark 2006). The last form derives, in my opinion, from Proto-Polynesian *rua/*lua ‘hole, pit’ and *ki ‘preposition indicating motion towards, to’ (Biggs and Clark 2006). Old Rapanui ati ‘to go boldly’ corresponds to Rapanui atiati ‘to go boldly’. Rapanui puapua ‘top, summit’ is comparable with Hawaiian puu ‘peak’. In the eastern Polynesia the contrast between “above” and “below” corresponds to the contrast between East and West (Barthel 1978: 36), cf. also the lexical items of the western Polynesia: Niue Faahi lalo means ‘west’ (literally ‘the lower side’) and Faahi uta means ‘east’ (literally ‘the upper side’) (Polinskaya 1995: 106). The two variants of the name of the month Anakena (July/August) are presented here. First, it consists of two morphemes, ana and kena (cf. Rapanui kena ‘booby’, Old Rapanui taha ‘frigate bird’, Tahitian otaha ‘frigate bird’ < o taha). Second, it consists of the morpheme ana and the syllables ke and na. Old Rapanui taniva means ‘monster; guardian monster; lizard’ (< *ta niva), cf. Maori taniwha ‘monster; guardian monster’ (Rjabchikov 1998-1999: figure 4).

A text (Br 1) is presented in fragment 3. It reads as follows: 6-21 44 1 6-4 5 17 6 19 19 33 19 29 19 30 17 6 96 17 30 6-25 56-4 81 33 Hakataha Tiki, a atua Tea. Ho(a) ki ki ua, ki rua, ki ana. Te Ho(a). Manu te Ana ahu Patu Manu, ua. Tiki, the god of Light, is going. (The god) Hoa is speaking in dwellings, caves, houses (caves). (It is the deity) Hoa. (It is) the Bird (= a priest?) from a home (in Orongo where is) the statue (platform) of (the deity) Patu (incarnated in) Birds, (it is) the dwelling.’

Obviously here the rite dedicated to the end of the rain season and to the beginning of the hot season is described. The priests put masks decorated as birds and other supernatural beings, and they visited dwelling places of the natives.

The name of the deity Patu (= the god Tane) derives from Rapanui patu ‘to come into leaf’. It is the personification of two months, Hora-iti ‘August/September’ and Hora-nui ‘September/October’ which demonstrate the transition of nature from winter to summer, from death to life. These names contain the word hora that is comparable with Maori ora ‘alive’, cf. also Rapanui horahora ‘to spread; to extend’, hohora ‘to come into leaf’. Here the god Patu denotes the statue Hoa-hakananaia. Interesting to note that this statue stood on a stone slab in a stone house at Orongo (Métraux 1940: 298). The slab was a special platform (ahu) in fact.

The last sign of the bird in this record resembles the bird figure in Anakena (see Lee 1988: 57, figure 14).

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