Aku-aku Essay - Critical Essays

Analysis

Much of Heyerdahl’s evidence concerning the statues and the history of the island comes from native legends. The natives tell legends of ancestors who would rather eat members of their own species than fish or fowl. They have also persistent legends of a still-earlier time of greatness when another people, the long-ears, had lived at peace with their ancestors, the short-ears. The long-ears demanded too much labor of the short-ears, however, and in the end there was a war in which nearly all the long-ears were burned in a ditch. From that day, no more statues were made, and many of those standing were pulled down with ropes. Civil war, family feuds, and cannibalism marked the years that followed, right up to the time when a missionary named Father Eugenio landed two generations before and collected the inhabitants peacefully around him in the village of Hangaroa.

When Heyerdahl asked the local residents if they could tell him how these stone giants could have been carried about in old times, one answer was that they went by themselves. Another reply was a legend about a witch and a lobster. An old witch lived at Rano Raraku at the time when the sculptors made the great figures. It was her magic that breathed life into the stone giants and made them move. One day, the sculptors ate a big lobster. When the witch found the empty shell and realized that none of the lobster had been given to her, she was so angry that she made all the walking statues fall flat on their noses, and they have never moved since. When Heyerdahl discovered a people from a land with generations of experience in maneuvering monoliths, he believed that he had solved the mystery presented by the movement of the colossal statues. His more practical solution involves speculation about seafaring men using rigs.

Heyerdahl reports that the history of Easter Island had three distinct epochs. First came a...

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