Among the finds in caves difficult of access... Easter Island again

Once again we refer to Easter Island, the navel of the earth. Perhaps, the subject is not particularly interesting for many readers, but as an ordinary researcher I cannot omit another little “puzzle piece” to be added to our picture and refrain from mentioning it on our website. After the series of articles dedicated to this marvellous corner of the world situated in the middle of the boundless Pacific Ocean (Which secrets are hidden on Easter Island?In quest of… The 11th century. Easter Island and PolynesiaVoice in one’s head and Easter Island) I suddenly wondered: should we assume the island was indeed attended by the great civilizer and Kind Friend of people, is it really possible that no traces of one of the main signs from the Primordial Knowledge has been preserved there? Here is what I discovered while rereading the book Aku-Aku: The Secret of Easter Island by Thor Heyerdahl.

The autobiographical story is somewhat protracted, but I recommend you to read it, since it quite interestingly describes Easter Island caves difficult of access.

 

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“Soon afterward we passed a lone statue which had been abandoned en route to an ahu near the north cape. I thought of the transport problem with dismay: seven miles from Rano Raraku as the crow flies, and much more on this rough ground where riding was so difficult. Here we left the ancient trail and proceeded over a wild stony plain just inside the steep drop to the ocean. The endless sea was still dotted with whitecaps. As we were riding down into a little gully, one of my stirrup straps broke, but I managed to hide it so that Lazarus noticed nothing, and rode on with only one stirrup into very rough ground, which was getting worse and worse.

As we neared our destination, I observed for the first time that Lazarus was growing nervous. He whipped up his horse with a little stick and begged me to quicken my pace, so that we might arrive before the others. We increased our lead across the stony plain by a couple of hundred yards, and when we came to the foot of two great lava blocks, Lazarus jumped to the ground and tied up his horse, asking me to do the same. Then he pulled off his shirt and trousers at top speed and stood with nothing on but his shorts. He rushed down the slope toward the edge of the precipice with a coil of rope in his hand, begging me as he ran to strip quickly and follow him with the hen. I had no idea where the hen was, and when I asked, I received an irritable, distracted reply as he bounded down the slope. I caught sight of an old bag hanging from his saddle, seized it, and hurried after him I too completely stripped but for my shorts.

I overtook Lazarus on the very edge of the precipice, and without turning he hastily mumbled a snappish and nervous order that I should eat the chicken tail and give him a little bit when he came up again. Then he vanished down the cliff. When I asked in bewilderment if I was to eat the tail now or wait till he returned, I received no answer.

In the bag I found the hen plucked and baked and packed in banana leaves. I had just wrenched off the little tail stump when Lazarus appeared over the edge again. I stuffed the tail into my mouth and chewed as I tore off a strip of the breast for him, which he gulped down like a wild beast, looking to left and right. It was a strange ceremony we performed on the very edge of the precipice, wearing only our shorts. The others had now reached the rocks and were dismounting. Lazarus asked me to break a few pieces from the hen and lay them on the rocks, and when this was done he suddenly seemed relieved and said that we could now eat freely, and also give some to the other two, who had joined us.

Lazarus was still in a great hurry. He slung the loop of his rope over a stone which was only loosely attached to the rock by a dried lump of earth, and then flung the rest of the rope over the cliff. Now he disappeared over the edge again, without supporting himself by the rope or even testing it to see if it would hold. I looked down at him and asked cautiously if we could be sure that the rope was securely made fast. He gave me a queer look and said that he himself never used a rope, and what had I to be afraid of? He knew that nothing could happen to me.

It is not always pleasant to be regarded as supernatural. I felt that I had only too good use for the rope, but dared not touch it, so badly was it secured. So I manoeuvred myself over the edge, as Lazarus had done, while holding the scissors, wrapped in paper, between my teeth: I had been expressly instructed to bring them with me down the cliff. I am no mountaineer, and loathed what I was setting out to do. I lowered myself down till the tips of my toes found a hold on a disgustingly narrow ledge, but it was almost impossible to find a hold for my fingers. There was a perpendicular drop of 150 feet below, and down there foam and green water were whirling and roaring among sharp lava blocks. The ocean itself was as blue as the sky, but all along the rocks beneath us turbulent waves encircled the island like a twisting green monster foaming in fury as it sent licking tongues of water in between the black teeth of sharp lava jaws, greedily agape for anything which might fall down from the cliff above. It was a horrifying maw to contemplate.

We had to keep ourselves tight against the rock wall, for a single careless inch could tip us out of balance. Lazarus, straight-backed and light-footed, moved sideways along the ledge like a tightrope dancer, showing me the way. I suddenly lost all interest in his cave and cursed all aku-akus, not least my own, which had landed me in such a situation. My only wish was to clamber up again before it was too late. But I could not quite bring myself to do that either. So I followed slowly in Lazarus' wake, down the slanting ledge, with one cheek, my body, and two outstretched arms pressed close to the rock face so as not to tilt outward.

Never again will I climb on a lava cliff in my underwear! The wide meshes caught on the jagged surface and I hung fast as though nailed to the wall. I had to jerk and pull till I managed to tear myself loose. If Lazarus had wished for a really vicious aku-aku to guard his cave, he could have hit upon nothing worse than an invisible one planted on this narrow ledge to catch ignorant intruders by their shorts at the most inconvenient moment. Certain it was that while I staggered along the ledge, engaged in a constant struggle to release myself, Lazarus was tripping along gracefully on the tips of his toes without a single scratch.

We climbed down in zigzags, coming upon the rope again at a steep place where it hung free down the cliffside. I could not quite do without it down to the next ledge, and I pressed fingers and toes against the lava wall wherever I could, letting as little as possible of my weight rest on the rope, till I reached a little shelf on which Lazarus stood. He flattened himself against the wall as stiff as a guardsman, and gave no sign of going further. This was a most uncomfortable parking place; the shelf was a foot wide and there was just room for both of us side by side, with our backs to the rock.

There was no cave here. Lazarus stood motionless, pressed to the cliff, and stared at me with a strange and inscrutable expression. Suddenly he reached out and said quickly:

“Give me your hand!”

He could have asked nothing worse of me right at that moment, as I was standing with the scissors in my mouth, clinging fast to the rock with my fingers, my shorts in shreds. I pressed against the cliff so hard that I felt the rough lava cutting into my back, and held out my right hand to him. He grasped it firmly.

“Promise me not to say a word to anyone on the island about what we're up to now,” he begged. “You can talk to your own people, but they must keep their mouths shut as long as they are here.”

He did not let go of my hand, as he continued. If his name was mentioned in connection with this affair, his sisters would be beside themselves with fury. When I had left the island, I could talk freely, for if rumours got back to the village through the Pinto, he would just say that he had made copies, and in a few months everything would be forgotten.

I promised to do what he asked of me, and then he let go my hand. He told me to bend over the precipice and look down. I stretched out as far as I dared, and gazed in horror at the sharp lava blocks in the whirling foam. There was a small ledge, like that on which we stood, about a man's height below us. And under this the cliff again fell sheer to the bottom.

“Now, where is the entrance?” Lazarus asked with pride.

“Impossible to say,” I muttered through the package in my mouth. My only desire was to get all this over.

“There, under your feet,” he said, pointing to the small ledge beneath us. He braced me while I cautiously leaned out again. But still I saw nothing.

“You can't get to the opening unless you do exactly as I tell you,” Lazarus said. And then he began a course of instruction the like of which I have not experienced since I stood before my first dancing master. I was told to begin with the left foot and then follow with a meticulous series of short steps and half-turns which were to end in my sinking down on my knees and stretching out on my stomach on the shelf below. I was asked to wait where I was while Lazarus gave a demonstration of the difficult dance. I saw how he placed his hands and feet, how he twisted himself round down on the ledge to be able to sink onto his knees and onto his stomach; after that I only saw his kicking legs, and then he was gone.

I stood alone and noticed more than ever how the air was filled with the thundering surf against the cliff. A few hundred yards farther west, on a curve of the coast, I spotted the cameraman standing on the very edge of the plateau, filming in the late afternoon sun. The ocean was still white-crested. It was out there we had been circling that morning, also without seeing this infernal cave.

Then a hand appeared on the shelf below holding a fiendish stone head; Lazarus' own head and body followed, and he slowly repeated, in reverse order, the same carefully studied steps and turns until he was up on the ledge with me again.

“The 'key,'” Lazarus said, holding out the cave stone.

Again I had to press myself hard against the wall, for now Lazarus asked me to give him the scissors. I had to take them out of my mouth and hand them to him, while he gave me the ‘key’ in my other hand. This ‘key’ had human features with great bulging eyes, a bearded chin, and a most hypnotic expression; but a long neck stretched horizontally from the back of the head, as on an animal. Lazarus asked me to put the ‘key’ down on a tiny ledge by my head, and then it was my turn to begin the frightful dance down to the cave.

There was so little room for the manoeuvre that I soon realized the necessity of following Lazarus' lessons in every detail. When I had turned myself about so that I could crouch down on all fours on the lower ledge, I saw for the first time the opening leading to the cave, hidden under a projection in the rock. The hole was so small that I should never have dreamed of anyone being able to crawl into it. The original discoverers of the cave must have lived quite near, with time to explore every single inch of this terrain. Lazarus had told me that the cave was called Motu Tavake, which means ‘Cliff of the Tropical Bird’; the locality was called Omohi and lay at the foot of Vai-mataa on the Hanga-o-Teo plain. The cave had belonged to Hatui, who was the grandfather of Lazarus' mother.

I was crouched on all fours on the tiny ledge, but the narrow hole in the rock opened onto a still smaller ledge, on the same level, but a little way off. To get to it I had to stretch forward and take hold of the edge of the other shelf. Lying flat, I got my arms and head into the hole on one ledge, while my knees and legs still lay on the other. My stomach was without support above the abyss and the breakers. The hole through which I was trying to worm my way was so narrow that my shorts were pulled down several times. The rock scratched and cut my back and thighs, for there was hardly any sand, only rough, hard lava.

At first I could make out nothing but a horribly narrow passage and a very faint suggestion of light ahead. I lay for a long time struggling with my legs out over the abyss, and when at last I got my feet inside I felt that the passage was widening a little, without any rise of the low roof. I became aware of various contours around me. And then, next to my ear, I discovered a sculpture representing two mating turtles. On my other side appeared a small statuette of the same type as the giants from Rano Raraku. I crept farther in and found more room. I could soon sit up and look into a cave which was dimly illuminated from some opening I could not yet see.

Closely packed along the walls strange sculptures stood or lay, piled up in several rows on the bare, dry rock. There were no mats here and no hay. A few yards in front of me and blocking the way stood a conspicuous figure, unmistakably of the male sex. He was in a straddled position with bent knees and his arms raised threateningly; and he was surrounded by a mass of other figures. There was a little step behind him leading to a lower level, where two human skeletons were lying. A tiny hole in the wall to the right let a dim light fall on the crumbling bones and made it possible to see faintly the outlines of the ghostly treasure chamber.

I heard something breathing. I heard it as clearly as if it were in the corner beside me. But it was only Lazarus outside, squeezing himself in through the narrow opening. The acoustics were incredible: I could hear his bare skin rubbing against the sharp lava. Lazarus came in without ceremony and squatted down beside me. His big eyes and his teeth shone white. Lazarus now was quite himself again, just as I knew him on his nocturnal visits to my tent. He pointed out the big figure which straddled in a warning posture with its arms in the air, towering above the others; it suggested a traffic policeman directing the swarm of mysterious figures around him and along both sides of the cave down toward the opening.

“That's the most important stone,” Lazarus explained. “He's the chief of the cave, an old king.”

Otherwise Lazarus knew incredibly little: to all my questions about the other figures his only reply was a shrug of the shoulders and “don't know”. The only things he seemed to be sure about were two flat stone disks bearing symmetrical symbols: he declared that they represented the sun and the moon. We were not obliged to whisper, but the whole atmosphere and acoustics were such that it was natural to speak in a hushed voice…”

***

 

Symmetrical symbols representing the sun and the moon… Wasn’t this the AllatRa sign in the faraway cave on Easter Island? Today nobody is able to answer.

 

Prepared by A...

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