The Easter Island Tablets: Decipherments

A. Carroll, M.A., M.D.

In a long letter to the Journal of the Polynesian Society, dated 6 October 1892, A. Carroll, a medical practitioner of Sydney (Australia), explains how he deciphered the Easter Island writing, and gives his translation of a tablet given as "No.1, Long Tablet." The partial drawing of it which accompanies Carroll's letter identifies it as Tablet A (also known as Tahua or The Oar). Carroll's translation of side b starts on page 246, of side a on page 249. This letter follows an earlier article by him, apparently written at the request of the Journal of the Polynesian Society, much shorter, in which he gave a partial translation of "a copy of the inscriptions kindly forwarded... by S. Percy Smith." What Carroll translated is uncertain. He refers to an "accompanying Plate" (p.104), but there is no accompanying plate in the reprint from which these texts were scanned. There is, however, a clear tracing of part of the Santiago Staff accompanying Carroll's explanatory letter of October 1892 (pp.233-253).

Eventually, in 1897, Carroll was asked how his work was progressing. His lengthy answer is reproduced here.

These texts are presented here as a curiosity, an interesting case in the pathology of decipherment, as Carroll's explanations of his method, of the structure of the writing, were fundamentally reasonable, until put to the test: the promised grammar and hieroglyphic dictionary never eventuated.

Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol.1, 1892
p.103 p.104 p.105 p.106
p.233 p.234 p.235 p.236 p.237 p.238 p.239
p.240 p.241 p.242 p.243 p.244 p.245 p.246
p.247 p.248 p.249 p.250 p.251 p.252 p.253
Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol.6, 1897
query p.91 p.92 p.93