Rongorongo ( in English, in
Rapa Nui) is a system of glyphs discovered in the 19th century on Easter Island that appears to be writing or proto-writing.
It cannot be read
despite numerous attempts at decipherment. Although some calendrical
and what might prove to be genealogical
information has been identified, not
even these glyphs can actually be read. If rongorongo does prove to
be writing, it could be one of as few as three or four independent
inventions of writing
Two dozen wooden objects bearing rongorongo inscriptions, some
heavily weathered, burned, or otherwise damaged, were collected in
the late 19th century and are now scattered in museums and private
collections. None remain on Easter Island. 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
which may include short
rongorongo inscriptions. Oral history suggests that only a small
elite was ever literate and that the tablets were sacred.
Authentic rongorongo texts are written in alternating directions, a
system called reverse boustrophedon
In a third of the tablets, the lines of text are inscribed in
the wood. The glyphs themselves are outlines of human, animal,
forms. Many of the human and animal figures, such as
, have characteristic protuberances on
each side of the head, possibly representing ears or eyes.
Individual texts are conventionally known by a single uppercase
letter and a name, such as Tablet C
Tablet. The somewhat variable names may be
descriptive or indicate where the object is kept, as in the Oar,
the Snuffbox, the Small Santiago Tablet, and the Santiago
Etymology and variant names
is the modern name for the inscriptions. In the
it means "to
recite, to declaim, to chant out".
The original name—or perhaps description—of the script is said to
have been kohau motu mo rongorongo
, "lines incised for
chanting out", shortened to kohau rongorongo
or "lines for
chanting out". There are also said to have been more specific names
for the texts based on their topic. For example, the kohau
("lines of years") were annals, the kohau îka
("lines of fishes") were lists of persons killed in war
"fish" was homophonous with or used figuratively for
"war casualty"), and the kohau ranga
"lines of fugitives"
were lists of war refugees.
Some authors have understood the ta‘u
to refer to a separate form of writing distinct from
Barthel recorded that, "The Islanders had
another writing (the so-called 'ta‘u script') which recorded their
annals and other secular matters, but this has disappeared."
However, Fischer writes that "the ta‘u
was originally a
type of rongorongo
inscription. In the 1880s, a group of
elders invented a derivative 'script' [also] called ta‘u
with which to decorate carvings in order to increase their trading
value. It is a primitive imitation of rongorongo.
alleged third script, the mama
described in some mid-twentieth-century publications, was "an early
twentieth-century geometric [decorative] invention".
Form and construction
The forms of the glyphs are standardized contours of living
organisms and geometric designs about one centimeter high. The
wooden tablets are irregular in shape and, in many instances,
), with the glyphs carved in shallow channels
running the length of the tablets, as can be seen in the image of
at right. It is thought that irregular
and often blemished pieces of wood were used in their entirety
rather than squared off due to the scarcity of wood on the
To conserve space, the text wraps
around the edge of tablet K
Except for a few possible glyphs cut in stone (see ), all surviving
texts are inscribed in wood. According to tradition, the tablets
were made of toromiro
wood. However, Orliac
(2005) examined seven objects (tablets B
, and reimiro
) with stereo
and determined that all were instead made
from Pacific rosewood
; the same
identification had been made for tablet M
This 15-meter tree, known as "Pacific
rosewood" for its color and called mako‘i in Rapanui, is
used for sacred groves and carvings throughout eastern Polynesia
and was evidently brought to Easter Island by the first
settlers. However, not all the
wood was native: Orliac (2007) established that tablets
N, P, and S were
made of South African
and therefore that the wood had arrived with Western
contact. Fischer describes P
as "a damaged and
reshapen European or American oar", as are A
(which is European ash, Fraxinus
) and V
; says that wood from the
wreck of a Western boat was said to have been used for many
tablets; and that both P
had been recycled as planking for a Rapanui driftwood canoe.
Several texts, including O
, are carved on gnarled
. The fact that the islanders
were reduced to inscribing driftwood, and were regardless extremely
economical in their use of wood, may have had consequences for the
structure of the script, such as the abundance of ligatures
and potentially a telegraphic style
of writing that would
complicate textual analysis.
Oral tradition holds that, because of the great value of wood, only
expert scribes used it, while pupils wrote on banana leaves. German
ethnologist Thomas Barthel
believed that carving on wood
was a secondary development in the evolution of the script based on
an earlier stage of incising banana leaves or the sheaths of the
banana trunk with a bone stylus, and that the medium of leaves was
retained not only for lessons but to plan and compose the texts of
the wooden tablets. He found experimentally that the glyphs were
quite visible on banana leaves due to the sap that emerged from the
cuts and dried on the surface. However, when the leaves themselves
dried they became brittle and would not have survived for
Barthel speculated that the banana leaf might even have served as a
prototype for the tablets, with the fluted surface of the tablets
an emulation of the veined structure of a leaf:
Direction of writing
Rongorongo glyphs were written in reverse
, left to right and bottom to top. That is, the
reader begins at the bottom left-hand corner of a tablet, reads a
line from left to right, then rotates the tablet 180 degrees to
continue on the next line. When reading one line, the lines above
and below it would appear upside down, as can be seen in the image
However, the writing continues onto the second side of a tablet at
the point where it finishes off the first, so if the first side has
an odd number of lines, as is the case with tablets
, the second will start at the upper
left-hand corner, and the direction of writing shifts to top to
Larger tablets and staves may have been read without turning, if
the reader were able to read upside-down.
According to oral tradition, scribes used flakes or small shark teeth
, presumably the hafted
tools still used to carve wood in Polynesia, to
flute and polish the tablets and then to incise the glyphs. (See .)
The glyphs are most commonly composed of deep smooth cuts, though
superficial hair-line cuts are also found. In the closeup image at
right, a glyph is composed of two parts connected by a hair-line
cut; this is a typical convention for this shape. Several
researchers, including Barthel, believe that these superficial cuts
were made by obsidian, and that the texts were first sketched with
obsidian and then deepened and finished with a worn shark tooth.
The remaining hair-line cuts were then either errors, design
conventions (as at right), or decorative embellishments. Vertical
strings of chevrons or lozenges, for example, are typically
connected with hair-line cuts, as can be seen repeatedly in the
closeup of one end of tablet B
Barthel was also told that the last literate Rapanui king, Nga‘ara
, sketched out the glyphs in soot with a
fish bone and then engraved them with a shark tooth.
, on the
other hand, shows no sign of shark teeth. Haberlandt noticed that
the glyphs of this text appear to have been incised with a
sharpened bone, as evidenced by the shallowness and width of the
also "displays secondary working with
obsidian flakes to elaborate details within the finished contour
lines. No other rongo-rongo
inscription reveals such
Other tablets appear to have been cut with a steel blade, often
rather crudely. Although steel knives were available after the
arrival of the Spanish, this does cast suspicion on the
authenticity of these tablets.
A photographic negative of one end of
The numbers are line numbers; Fin de 13 means "end of
(Click on image once to see it approximately life size.)
The glyphs are stylized human, animal, vegetable and geometric
shapes, and often form compounds
. Nearly all those with
heads are oriented head up and are either seen face on or in
profile to the right, in the direction of writing. It is not known
what significance turning a glyph head down or to the left may have
had. Heads often have characteristic projections on the sides which
may be eyes (as on the sea turtle
below, and more clearly on sea-turtle petroglyphs) but which often
resemble ears (as on the anthropomorphic petroglyph in the next
section). Birds are common; many resemble the frigatebird
(see image directly below) which was
associated with the supreme god Makemake
. Other glyphs look like fish
or arthropods. A few, but only a few, are similar to petroglyphs
found throughout the island.
- Some of the more iconic rongorongo glyphs. The
seated man is thought to be a compound.
- (Readings from Barthel (1958). The captions in the
right-most column are merely descriptive.)
Oral tradition holds that either Hotu
or , the legendary founder(s) of Rapa Nui, brought
67 tablets from their homeland. The same founder is also
credited with bringing indigenous plants such as the toromiro
. However, there is no homeland likely to
have had a tradition of writing in Polynesia or even in South
America. Thus rongorongo appears to have been an internal
development. Given that few if any of the Rapanui people remaining
on the island in the 1870s could read the glyphs, it is likely that
only a small minority were ever literate. Indeed, early visitors
were told that literacy was a privilege of the ruling families and
priests who were all kidnapped in the Peruvian slaving raids or
died soon afterwards in the resulting epidemics.
Dating the tablets
Little direct dating has been done. Tablet Q
Petersburg) is the sole item that has been carbon dated
but the results only
constrain the date to sometime after 1680.
Direct dating is not the only evidence. Texts A
, and V
can be dated to the 18th
or 19th century by virtue of being inscribed on European oars.
Orliac (2005) calculated that the wood for tablet C
was cut from the trunk of a tree some tall, and
Easter Island has long been deforested of trees that size. Analysis
of charcoal indicates that the forest disappeared in the first half
of the 17th century. Roggeveen
discovered Easter Island in 1722, described the island as
"destitute of large trees" and in 1770 González de Ahedo
a single tree is to be found capable of furnishing a plank so much
as six inches [15 cm]
in width." Forster, with
expedition of 1774, reported that
"there was not a tree upon the island which exceeded the height of
10 feet [3 m]".
All of these methods date the wood, not the inscription. However,
Pacific rosewood is not durable, and is unlikely to survive long in
Easter Island's climate. On the other hand, glyph
) is thought to represent the extinct
Easter Island palm
, which seems to
have disappeared from the island's pollen
1650, suggesting that the script is at
least that old. The start of forest clearing for agriculture has
been dated to circa
1200, implying a date of the 13th
century or later.
1770 Spanish expedition
Several scholars have suggested that rongorongo may have been a
recent invention, inspired by the 1770 Spanish visit to the island
and the signing of a treaty of annexation under González de Haedo
circumstantial evidence, they note that no explorer reported the
script prior to Eugène Eyraud
1864, and that the marks with which the chiefs signed the Spanish
treaty do not resemble rongorongo.
The hypothesis of these researchers is not that rongorongo was
itself a copy of the Latin alphabet, or of any other form of
writing, but that the concept
of writing had been conveyed
in a process anthropologists term trans-cultural diffusion
then inspired the islanders to invent their own system of writing.
If this is the case, then rongorongo emerged, flourished, fell into
oblivion, and was all but forgotten within a span of less than a
hundred years. However, known cases of the diffusion of writing,
such as Sequoyah
's invention of the
the power of English-language newspapers, or Uyaquk
's invention of the Yugtun script
inspired by readings from
Christian scripture, involved greater contact than the signing of a
single treaty. The fact that the script was not observed by early
explorers, who spent little time on the island, may simply reflect
that it was taboo at the time; such taboos and the tangata
may have lost power by the time the Rapanui society
collapsed following European slaving raids and epidemics, so that
the tablets had become more widely distributed by Eyraud's day. As
Orliac pointed out, Tablet C would appear to predate the Spanish
visit by at least a century.
Easter Island has the richest assortment of petroglyphs
in Polynesia. Nearly every suitable
surface has been carved, including the stone walls of some houses
and a few of the famous mo‘ai
and their fallen topknots
. Around one thousand
sites with over four thousand glyphs have been catalogued, some in
, and some painted red and white.
include a concentration of chimeric bird-man figures at Orongo, a
ceremonial center of the tangata
manu or the "bird-man" cult; faces of the creation deity
Makemake; marine animals like
turtles, tuna, swordfish, sharks, whales, dolphins, crabs, and
octopus (some with human faces); roosters; canoes, and over five
hundred komari (vulvas).
Petroglyphs are often
accompanied by carved divots ("cupules") in the rock. Changing
traditions are preserved in bas-relief birdmen, which were carved
over simpler outline forms and in turn carved over with
Although the petroglyphs cannot be directly dated,
some are partially obscured by pre-colonial stone buildings,
suggesting they are relatively old.
Several of the anthropomorphic and animal-form petroglyphs have
parallels in rongorongo, for instance the double-headed frigatebird
) on the
topknot above, which also appears on a dozen
tablets. McLaughlin (2004) illustrates the most prominent
correspondences with the petroglyph corpus of Lee (1992). However,
these are mostly isolated glyphs; few text-like sequences or
ligatures have been found among the petroglyphs. This has led to
the suggestion that rongorongo must be a recent creation, perhaps
inspired by petroglyph designs or retaining individual petroglyphs
(Macri 1995), but not old
enough to have been incorporated into the petroglyphic tradition.
The most complex candidate for petroglyphic rongorongo is what
appears to be a short sequence of glyphs, one of which is a
ligature, carved on the wall of a cave. However, the sequence does
not appear to have been carved in a single hand (see image at
right), and the cave is located near the house that produced the
, a crude
imitation of rongorongo, and so themselves may not be
Eugène Eyraud, a lay friar of the
de Picpus, landed on Easter Island on January 2, 1864, on the
24th day of his departure from Valparaíso.
He was to remain on Easter Island for nine
months, evangelizing its inhabitants. He wrote an account of his
stay in which he reports his discovery of the tablets:
There is no other mention of the tablets in his report, and the
discovery went unnoticed. Eyraud left Easter Island on October 11,
in extremely poor health. Made a fully fledged priest in 1865, he
returned to Easter Island in 1866 where he died of tuberculosis in
August 1868, aged 48.
In 1868 the Bishop of Tahiti, Florentin-Étienne "Tepano"
, received a gift from the recent Catholic converts of
Easter Island. It was a long cord of human hair, a fishing line
perhaps, wound around a small wooden board covered in hieroglyphic
writing. Stunned at the discovery, he wrote to Father Hippolyte Roussel
on Easter Island to
collect all the tablets and to find natives capable of translating
them. But Roussel could only recover a few, and the islanders could
not agree on how to read them.
Yet Eyraud had seen hundreds of tablets only two years earlier.
What happened to the missing tablets is a matter of conjecture.
Eyraud had noted how little interest their owners had in them.
Orliac has observed that the deep black indention, about 10 cm
long, on lines 5 and 6 of the recto of tablet H
is a groove made
by the rubbing of a fire stick, showing that tablet
had been used for fire-making. Tablets
had been cut into lashed
planking for a canoe, which fits the story of a man named Niari who
made a canoe out of abandoned tablets.
As European-introduced diseases and raids by Peruvian slavers,
including a final devastating raid in 1862 and a subsequent
smallpox epidemic, had reduced the Rapa Nui population to under two
hundred by the 1870s, it is possible that literacy had been wiped
out by the time Eyraud discovered the tablets in 1866.
Thus in 1868 Jaussen could recover only a few tablets, with three
more acquired by Captain Gana of the Chilean corvette O'Higgins
in 1870. In the 1950s
Barthel found the decayed remains of half a dozen tablets in caves,
in the context of burials. However, no glyphs could be
Of the 26 commonly accepted texts that survive, only half are in
good condition and authentic beyond doubt.
British archaeologist and anthropologist Katherine Routledge
1914–1915 scientific expedition to Rapa Nui with her husband to
catalog the art, customs, and writing of the island. She was able
to interview two elderly informants, Kapiera and a leper named
Tomenika, who allegedly had some knowledge of rongorongo. The
sessions were not very fruitful, as the two often contradicted each
other. From them Routledge concluded that rongorongo was an
idiosyncratic mnemonic device that did not directly represent
language, in other words, proto-writing
, and that the meanings of the
glyphs were reformulated by each scribe, so that the kohau
could not be read by someone not trained in that
specific text. The texts themselves she believed to be litanies for
priest-scribes, kept apart in special houses and strictly
recorded the island's history and mythology. By the time of later
ethnographic accounts, such as Métraux (1940), much of what
Routledge recorded in her notes had been forgotten, and the oral
history showed a strong influence from popular published
The 26 rongorongo texts with letter codes are inscribed on wooden
objects, each with between 2 and 2320 simple glyphs and components
of compound glyphs, for over 15,000 in all. The objects are mostly
oblong wooden tablets, with the exceptions of I
possibly sacred chieftain's staff known as the Santiago
, inscribed on
pectoral ornaments worn by
the elite; X
, inscribed on various parts of a
statuette; and Y
, a European assembled from
sections cut from a rongorongo tablet. The tablets, like the
pectorals, statuettes, and staves, were works of art and valued
possessions, and were apparently given individual proper names in
the same manner as jade ornaments in New Zealand. Two of the
, have a
documented pre-missionary provenance
though others may be as old or older. There are in addition a few
isolated glyphs or short sequences which might prove to be
Barthel referred to each of 24 texts he accepted as genuine with a
letter of the alphabet; two texts have been added to the corpus
since then. The two faces of the tablets are distinguished by
the reading sequence can be ascertained, to which the line being
discussed is appended. Thus Pr2
(the Great Saint Petersburg Tablet), recto,
second line. When the reading sequence cannot be ascertained,
are used for the faces.
is item A
, first line. The six
sides of the Snuff Box are lettered as sides a
. Nearly all publications follow the Barthel
convention, though a popular book by Fischer uses an idiosyncratic
|Nickname / Description
||Tahua (the Oar)
||1825 glyphs inscribed on a 91-cm European or American oar
blade. Ash wood.
||1135 glyphs on a 41-cm fluted rosewood tablet.
||1000 glyphs on a 29-cm unfluted rosewood tablet. Contains
calendrical information; more pictographic than other texts.
||270 glyphs on a 30-cm unfluted notched tablet. The tablet first
given to Jaussen, as a spool for a cord of hair. The two sides are
written in different hands. Yellowwood?
||822 glyphs on a 39-cm fluted tablet. Destroyed by fire in WWI.
Casts survive in Washington and Paris.
||A 12-cm fragment with 51 recorded crudely executed glyphs. Palm
||720 glyphs on a 32-cm fluted rosewood tablet. The verso may
include a genealogy and does not resemble the patterns of other
||1580 glyphs on a 44-cm fluted rosewood tablet. Nearly
duplicates P and Q.
||2920 glyphs inscribed on a 126-cm chief's staff. The longest
text, and the only one which appears to have punctuation, it only
resembles the patterns of Gv and
Ta among the other texts.
||A 73-cm breast ornament decorated with 2 glyphs. May be
||163 crudely executed glyphs paraphrasing Gr on
a 22-cm rosewood tablet.
||A 41-cm breast ornament decorated with a line of 44 glyphs. May
be old. Rosewood.
||A 28-cm rosewood tablet in poor condition. Side
b is destroyed; 54 glyphs are visible on side
a. An early cast preserves more of the text.
||172 intricately carved glyphs, loosely paraphrasing
Ev, on a 26-cm piece of yellowwood.
||103-cm piece of fluted driftwood with 90 legible glyphs on side
a. In poor condition, none of the glyphs on side
b can be identified.
||Large St Petersburg
||1163 glyphs inscribed on a 63-cm European or American oar
blade. Yellowwood. Had been used for planking. Nearly duplicates
H and Q.
||Small St Petersburg
||718 glyphs on a 44-cm fluted rosewood tree trunk. Nearly
duplicates H and P. A closeup of
Qr3–7 is shown in the infobox.
||357 glyphs, nearly all in phrases repeated on other texts, on a
||600 legible glyphs on a 63-cm piece of yellowwood. Later cut
||120 legible glyphs on a 31-cm fluted tablet. In poor condition,
side b is illegible.
||27 legible glyphs on a 70-cm European or American beam. In poor
condition. The two sides are written in different hands.
||22 legible glyphs on a 72-cm European or American oar blade. In
poor condition. One line of text, plus a separate pair of glyphs,
on side a; traces of text on side
||A 7-cm fragment with 8 glyphs on the one side that has been
(New York birdman)
||A 33-cm birdman statuette with 37 glyphs in seven scattered
texts of superficially inscribed glyphs.
||A 7-cm box cut and pieced together from 3 planed pieces of a
tablet; 85 crude glyphs on outside of box only. Driftwood?
||Driftwood? 11 cm. Apparently a palimpsest; Fischer does
not consider the legible layer of text to be genuine.
Crude glyphs have been found on a few stone objects and some
additional wooden items, but most of these are thought to be fakes
created for the early tourism market. Several of the 26 wooden
texts are suspect due to uncertain provenance (X
, and Z
), poor quality
), or to having been carved with a steel blade
, and Y
and thus, although they may prove to be genuine, should not be
trusted in initial attempts at decipherment. Z
resembles many early forgeries in not being boustrophedon, but it
may be a palimpsest
on an authentic but
now illegible text.
In addition to the petroglyphs mentioned above, there are a few
other very short uncatalogued texts that may be rongorongo. Fischer
reports that "many statuettes reveal rongorongo
-like glyphs on their crown." He gives the
example of a compound glyph,
, on the crown of a mo‘ai
statuette. (Although this compound of glyph
is not otherwise attested, it is
formally analogous to other compounds of glyph
.) Many human skulls are inscribed with the
single glyph 700
, which may stand for îka
casualty". There are other designs, including some tattoos recorded
by early visitors, which are possibly single rongorongo glyphs, but
since they are isolated and pictographic, it is difficult to know
whether or not they are actually writing.
The only published reference to the glyphs which is even close to
comprehensive remains Barthel (1958). Barthel assigned a
three-digit numeric code to each glyph or group of similar-looking
glyphs that he believed to be allograph
(variants). In the case of allography, the simple numeric code was
assigned to what Barthel believed to be the basic form
while variants were specified by alphabetic
affixes. He assigned 600 numeric codes. The hundreds place is a
numeral from 0 to 7, and categorizes the head, or overall form if
there is no head: 0 and 1 for geometric shapes and inanimate
objects; 2 for figures with "ears"; 3 and 4 for figures with open
mouths (they are differentiated by their legs/tails); 5 for figures
with miscellaneous heads; 6 for figures with beaks; and 7 for fish,
arthropods, etc. The tens and units numerals were used similarly,
so that for example glyphs 206, 306, 406, 506, and 606 all have a
downward pointing wing or arm on the left and a raised
four-fingered hand on the right:
- Coding: The first digit distinguishes head and
basic body shape, and the six in the unit's place indicates a
specific raised hand.
There is some arbitrariness to which glyphs are grouped together,
and there are inconsistencies in the assignments of numerical codes
and the use of affixes which make the system rather complex.
However, despite its shortcomings, Barthel's is the only effective
system ever proposed to categorize rongorongo glyphs.
Barthel (1971) claimed to have parsed the inventory of glyphs to
120, of which the other 480 are allographs or ligatures
. The evidence was never
published, but similar figures have been obtained by other
scholars, such as Pozdniakov & Pozdniakov (2007).
For almost a century only a few of the texts were published.
the director of the Chilean National
Museum of Natural History in Santiago, Rudolf Philippi, published the Santiago Staff, and
Carroll (1892) published part of the Oar.
remained beyond the reach of would-be decipherers until 1958, when
Thomas Barthel published line drawings of almost all the known
corpus in his Grundlagen zur Entzifferung der
("Bases for the Decipherment of the Easter
Island script") which remains the fundamental reference to
rongorongo. He transcribed texts A
, over 99% of the corpus; the CEIPP
estimates that it is 97% accurate. Barthel's
line drawings were not produced free-hand but copied from rubbings
, which helped ensure their faithfulness to
Fischer (1997) published new line drawings. These include lines
scored with obsidian but not finished with a shark tooth which had
not been recorded by Barthel because the rubbings he used did not
show them, for example on tablet N
. (However, in
shown in the section on above, the light
lines were recorded by both Fischer and Barthel.) There are other
omissions, such as a sequence of glyphs at the transition from line
which are missing from
Barthel, presumably because the carving went over the side of the
tablet and was missed by Barthel's rubbing. (This is right in the
middle of Barthel's calendar.) However, other discrepancies between
the two records are straightforward contradictions. For instance,
the initial glyph of I12
(line 12 of the Santiago
Staff) in Fischer does not correspond with that of Barthel or
Philippi, which agree with each other, and Barthel's rubbing
(below) is incompatible with Fischer's drawing. Barthel's
annotation, Original doch 53.76!
.76!"), suggests that he specifically verified Philippi's
In addition, the next glyph (glyph 20
, a "spindle
with three knobs") is missing its right-side "sprout" (glyph
) in Philippi's drawing. This may be the result
of an error in the inking, since there is a blank space in its
place. The corpus is thus tainted with quite some uncertainty. It
has never been properly checked for want of high-quality
As with most undeciphered scripts, there are many fanciful
interpretations and claimed translations of rongorongo. However,
apart from a portion of one tablet which has been shown to have to
do with a lunar calendar
, none of the
texts are understood. There are three serious obstacles to
decipherment, assuming rongorongo is truly writing: the small
number of remaining texts, the lack of context such as
illustrations in which to interpret them, and the poor attestation
of the Old Rapanui language since modern Rapanui is heavily mixed
and is therefore
unlikely to closely reflect the language of the tablets.
The prevailing opinion is that rongorongo is not true writing but
, or even a more limited
device for genealogy,
choreography, navigation, astronomy, or agriculture. For example,
the Atlas of Languages
states, "It was probably used as a
memory aid or for decorative purposes, not for recording the
Rapanui language of the islanders". If this is the case, then there
is little hope of ever deciphering it. For those who believe it to
be writing, there is debate as to whether rongorongo is essentially
, though it appears to be compatible with
neither a pure logography nor a pure syllabary.
|This basic inventory of rongorongo, proposed by
Pozdniakov & Pozdniakov (2007), accounts for 99.7% of the
intact texts, except for the idiosyncratic Staff.