When early Europeans discovered
In 1864, Father Joseph Eyraud became the first non-islander to record Rongorongo. Writing before the ultimate decline of the
Some time later, Bishop Florentin Jaussen of
In 1886 Paymaster William Thompson of the ship USS Mohican became interested in the pictographic system during a journey to collect artifacts for the
Thompson was determined, however, and decided that Ure Va'e Iko might be more forthcoming under the influence of alcohol. After having a few drinks kindly provided by Thompson, the Easter Islander looked at the tablets once again. The old man burst into song, singing a fertility chant which described the mating of gods and goddesses. William Thompson and his companions quickly took down his words. This was potentially a big breakthrough, but Thomson struggled with assigning words to the pictographs. Furthermore, he couldn't find another Islander who was willing to confirm the accuracy of this translation. While Thompson was ultimately unable to read Rongorongo, the translation that Iko provided has remained one of the most valuable clues on how to decipher the tablets.
Some of the most recent research has been conducted by a linguist named Steven Fischer. Having studied nearly every surviving example of Rongorongo, he took particular interest in a four-foot-long scepter that had once been the property of an Easter Island Chief. The artifact is covered in pictographs, and Fischer noticed that every third symbol on this staff has an additional "phallus-like" symbol attached to it. This led Fischer to believe that all Rongorongo texts have a structure steeped in counts of three, or triads. He has also studied Ure Va’e Iko's fertility chant, which lent additional support to the concept. Iko had always named a god first, his goddess mate second, and their offspring third. Fischer has also tried to make the claim that all Rongorongo texts relate creation myths. Looking at another text, he has suggested that a sentence with a symbol of a bird, a fish, and a sun reads "All the birds copulated with fish: there issued forth the sun." While this could be the translation, it bears little resemblance to Ure Va'e Iko's chant about the matings of gods and goddesses.
Rongorongo naturally commands a great deal of interest from linguists, anthropologists, and archaeologists. Only twenty-five texts are know to have survived. Should anyone find a workable translation for Rongorongo, the knowledge stored on the remaining tablets might explain the mysterious statues of
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