In the 19th century, 24 wooden artifacts were found on Easter Island carved with unknown language / undeciphered symbol or glyph, some heavily weathered, burned, or otherwise damaged . The writing system known as Rongorongo inscription. The artifacts were collected in the late of 19th century and are now scattered in museums and private collections. Unfortunately, none of them still remain on Easter Island. Many believe they represent a lost system of writing or proto-writing and could be one of just three or four independent inventions of writing in human history. Until now, the mysterious glyphs remain undecipherable, and their true messages may be lost forever.
|Wooden object with Rongorongo inscription|
The word rongorongo came from the Polynesian island of Mangareva, and was applied to the script carved on staves or tablets used as mnemonic devices in the ritual chanting by the so-called rongorongo men. These were men who competed in an annual ritual associated with the birdman cult, which is connected to the deity Makemake.
The objects are mostly tablets shaped from irregular pieces of wood, sometimes driftwood, but include a chieftain's staff, a bird-man statuette, and two reimiro ornaments. There are also a few petroglyphs which may include short rongorongo inscriptions. Oral history suggests that only a small elite was ever literate and that the tablets were sacred.
Several scholars have tried to decipher the script but as yet without complete success, hindered by the small number of tablets. It appears to be a writing system which mixes ideographs (where each concept is represented by a symbol) with a phonetic alphabet.