Skullduggery On Easter Island (Part II Of II)
This is the second installment in a two-half sequence. Read half one here.
I continue up the barren coast a short distance, and stop at a bluff to look at the sea fling veils of water 100 feet into the air. At this meeting of rock, sea and sky — mass, power, and light — I am sufficiently sated to turn inland, and stitch in the direction of larger floor. My horse, inaptly named Pegasus, brings me to the base of Ahu Tepeu, a magnificent beetle-browed statue crowned with a crimson stone headdress weighing eleven tons. The achievement of donning this fellow’s hat should be compared with putting a man on the moon today. The better of origin theories however, the erectors probably had little wood at their disposal, and limited manpower; however the statue stands, proud in his haberdashery, lips peculiarly pursed, eyes blind, mouth in solemn silence, yet one way or the other alive in the deadness of stone.
Ahu Tepeu faces inland, as do nearly all of the statues. A popular concept is that the statues have been created to characterize essential people who had died. The power of the deceased was thought to be transmitted to descendants by way of the eyes of moai. Thus, all the statues initially faced the middle of the island, towards villages. As I guide Pegasus behind the statue whereas gaping at the huge hat, he all of a sudden rears and whinnies, virtually tossing me to the dirt. Wanting up, I see the supply of his fright — from this vantage it appears the statue is toppling over in direction of us, an illusion that matches the spooky nature of the place.
For the subsequent few hours the ride yields nothing, save stark vistas, a rough pitch-stone terrain, and wild horses. The island is totally volcanic, with three major cones forming the points of a triangle. As I zigzagg northwards I find myself ascending the talus slopes of the island’s highest peak, the extinct Volcan Aroi, 1400 feet above the sea. Halfway up an incongruous grove of banana timber circumscribes a rock outcropping. I dismount to investigate.
There’s a cave beneath the vast leaves. I poke my head inside, and await eyes to adjust. There appears to be a skull with horns, maybe of a ram, not far inside.
A boulder blocks the entrance, but with my back into it I’m in a position to roll it aside. A shaft of light strikes the horned skull, and sends a shiver by way of me.
I lower myself into the grotto ft first, kicking apart a latticework of spider webs. Inside, I squirm to my knees, and crawl through the damp, black velvet of darkness to the skull, which is lit by a pinpoint of sunlight. Next to it, in the half gentle, I could make our two extra skulls. I reach to drag one nearer, then coil again like a snake-bitten dog.
They are two human skulls. I carry them to the floor to photograph, and see that every has a pen-sized holed in a single facet of the top, and a jagged, gaping grapefruit-sized hole on the other. Forensics is hardly my forte, but the marks appear to be bullet holes to me. What chilling tales would these heads tell if they could communicate Murder Accident Cannibalism Double suicide How outdated had been they One yr, one hundred Did they know the riddles of the islands
Later, back in Hanga Roa, I communicate with Claudio Cristino, an archeologist from the College of Chile, who spent years finding out and mapping the island’s thousands of archeological sites.
“Those caves are sepulchers, burial chambers for the victims of smallpox again in the mid-1800s,” he tells me.
Claudio agrees with Professors Flenley and King that Easter Island at its peak supported 15,000 folks, a bustling South Pacific station. When Captain Cook arrived he discovered only 600 males and fewer than 30 ladies eking out existences on an island with only stunted mulberries and tiny mimosas for bushes. “On the complete surface of the island, there will not be a tree that merits being known as that,” wrote naturalist George Forster, who accompanied Captain Cook. If the ecological devastation how to tell real stone island idea holds, a lot of the population loss was the result of forest obliteration greater than 600 years before Cooks’ touchdown. However issues received worse. In the early 19th century Peruvian expeditioneers, in search of cheap labor, abducted Easter Islanders as slaves, and launched smallpox (which had been earlier gifted to South America by the Spanish Conquistadors), consumption, and venereal diseases to those remaining. By the mid-19th century the island’s inhabitants was decimated. At its ebb, within the 1870s, there were just 111 inhabitants. At the moment the inhabitants is round 5,000, and the place nonetheless seems underpopulated.
After my skullduggery at the cave I spur Pegasus onward and upwards. I come to a simple farmhouse, an island of life on the desolate volcanic slope, the place a darkish, disheveled figure steps out to fulfill me. As he steps from the shadow of the mountain I can see that that left side of the farmer’s face is contorted in bizarre strains, with lip and eye drooping like melted butter. He is a leper, one of about 30 on Easter Island, and his illness had paralyzed and disfigured his face. Now he lives in isolation on the world’s most isolated isle.
When Chilean navigator Captain Policarpo Toro negotiated to switch Easter Island to Chilean sovereignty in 1888, he introduced with him a number of islanders who had been dwelling in Tahiti. Missionary data indicate that one passenger was visibly in poor health with leprosy, already showing some limb paralysis. He was the primary.
The disease spread quickly, and a decade later a leper colony was built not removed from this farmhouse to isolate the sufferers. By the 1940s, forty islanders had the illness. Then, with the island-wide vaccinations in the 60s and 70s, the disease was ultimately officially eradicated. Now the final of the lepers have staked out homesteads in the far corners of the islands, such as the one right here on the aspect of the volcano.
We nod and attempt to exchange salutations, however are hampered by the impenetrability of a native dialect I don’t understand. He smiles, and waves me in the direction of his home, so I slip off Pegasus and observe him inside. There he pulls a black pot off the stove, and serves up a cup of steaming, scrumptious real bean espresso. It is an unexpected treat, and after i ask in my finest signal-language what I would give him in return, he shakes his head. I insist, and eventually, after some thought, I pull off my Hanes T-shirt and hand it to my host.
After bidding goodbye I proceed the ride up the fallow grade, reaching the summit mid-afternoon. A shallow crater, lush with rain-nourished grass (the island is devoid of running water) types an imperfect crown. A few of this grass is papyrus, known as totora, like that discovered alongside the shores of Lake Titicaca, and the stuff Thor Heyerdahl believed made up historic ocean crafts.
Pegasus picks up speed and fireplace descending the jap scree slope. After an hour’s hard journey I crest an empty ridge and look down upon Easter Island’s most resplendent sight — Ahu Akivi, or “The Seven Monkeys,” as the islanders have nicknamed them. Since restoration by Chilean archeologist Dr. Gonzalo Figueroa and Professor William Mulloy, former head of the Department of Archeology at the University of Wyoming, the seven monkeys have turn into the most renowned and most photographed residents of the island. They stand not like apes, however rather troopers guarding a wasteland, mounted in scorn, perpetually watching a vacant panorama and the watery azimuth past. Their graven images serve as tongue-tied testimony to a past about we will solely surmise and quarrel.
Minutes later my as soon as-glue-factory-candidate is galloping back Preakness-type, a cat that looks like me clinging to its again. Minus my right stirrup I screech into Hanga Roa, pull into the first tavern, wrap the reins round a hitching post, and mosey inside for a brew. I order a Brazilian import called Xingu, and walk outdoors to pull the fleece saddle off Pegasus’s sweaty again. A gust of wind spins down the lane and pitches dust into my eyes. A chill runs by me. I still haven’t any shirt, having left mine with the leper on the hill, however this breeze seems ghost-like, something from sculptors previous perhaps, makers of nice art, however failed stewards of land, resources and culture. Are we any higher Is there a message within the stony stares of the island sentries
I take a long draw from my Xingu, drink within the glazed Pacific horizon, and the splendidly lonely landscapes of the island. I can hear the sea murmuring one thing, but it is indecipherable to me. The solar is setting, however I imagine I see a slight, sly smile on the lips of the statue on the ridge.