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The Rongorongo of Easter Island

The Santiago Staff: Procreation Chant or Tally of Coups ?

In 1995 the Journal of the Polynesian Society published an article by Steven Fischer where he likened the pattern of the signs of the Santiago Staff to that of recitation Atua-Mata-Riri, i.e. So-and-so by copulating with Such-and-such [produced] this or that.

The image below shows ten such verses, taken from the middle of line 12 of the Santiago Staff, segmented and colour-coded. Sign 76, in green, was interpreted by Barthel as meaning phallus, and that is why Fischer took it as expressing ki 'ai ki roto ki (literally "by copulating inside of") found in almost every verse of Atua-Mata-Riri. In his 1995 article Fischer proposed only one decipherment, that of group 6 in the image below, as: All the birds copulated with the fish, [there issued forth] the sun (Te manu mau ki 'ai ki roto ki te ika, [ka pû] te ra'â).

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Note how Fischer's decipherment is incompatible with Butinov and Knorozov's interpretation of part of the Small Santiago Tablet as a genealogy. The image below shows this probable genealogy segmented as a procreation chant as advocated by Fischer. Note in particular how, in groups 2, 3, and 4, three different males copulate with the same person to produce themselves

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Fischer's interpretation was severely criticized by Guy (in: Easter Island - Does the Santiago Staff Bear a Cosmogonic Text? Anthropos, Vol.93, pp.552-555, and in: Un prétendu déchiffrement des tablettes de l'île de Pâques, Journal de la Société des Océanistes, September 1998, pp.57-63). Guy later proposed an alternative interpretation, based on Butinov and Knorozov's hypothesis.

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