The Rise & Fall of Easter Island's Culture

Designs & Motifs of Easter Island's Rock Petroglyph Carvings



Over 4000 petroglyphs have been documented on Easter Island, with a variety of motifs. There are also several thousand cupules, or small carved hollows usually 3 to 5 cms in diameter, which usually act as decorative elements around the petroglyph panels. Most of the petroglyphs are carved in bas relief, and in some instances were painted, particularly with pigments of red and white.

easter island boulder rock art
Housepost at Mata Ngarau, Orongo
It is possible that some of Easter Island's cupules may relate to fertility in those cases where they are closely associated with komari (vulva) and form an integral part of that design. An example of this is found at Orongo where these two elements are in cominbiation on a carved housepost. It has a group of komari and cupules in association with faces and birdmen. There is no shortage of the vulva motif forms in rock art. Next to the ubiquitous cupules, vulva signs comprise the largest design category on Easter Island.

Aside from the sacred site of Orongo with its plethora of rock carvings, other sites around Easter Island contain some amazing designs-and many are of considerable size. One great panel is ten meters long.

easter island boulder rock art
The 3m Boulder at Hau Koka
At Hau Koka on Easter Island is one of the finest example of rock carving in Oceania. The largest boulder at this site measures 3m across and is covered with designs that swirl around the surface, forming an impressive work of art. There is a unity of design and style, suggesting the carving was done by, or under the direct of, a single individual, The central figure in the panel appears to be a sea creature possible an octopus with a human face, surrounded by by strange elongated fish shapes and what seems to be a fish-bird combination. Other sea forms have been recorded on the north coast of Easter Island, but no two are alike and none match this example.

The Swiss anthropologist Alfred Métraux, remarked that the panel proves the existence of a fully developed tradition of design on Easter Island. There is, in fact, nothing equal to it in all of Polynesia. It can be assumed with confidence that a myth or legend accompanied this remarkable work of art.

Another popular rock art motif on Easter Island is the canoe shape. The best examples of canoe motifs are carved on dense lava, some of which was subsequently cut out for paenga (worked stone for structures). These sites are located at Ahu Ra'ai near La Perouse Bay. Presumably, these petroglyphs mark a place of myth or ritual probably related to kingship legends for it was a ruling chief who had control over such things as great sea-going watercraft. Ahu Ra'ai's canoes are unique in that many of them have a very specifically shaped extension: a vertical line with curved elements at eah end. This distinct form is repeated numerous times at this site, sugeesting that it contained explicit symbolic content for the people of Easter Island. The major panal at Ra'ai is 12m long and contains many sea forms, as well as canoes, cupules and fishhooks.
canoe petroglyph easter island
The major canoe panal at Ra'ai near La Perouse Bay


Easter Island Introduction
Sentinels in Stone - Rise & Fall of Easter Island's Culture | Page | 1 | 2 | 3 |
The Rock Art of Easter Island
The Birdman Cult / Motif of Easter Island
Sea & Marine Creatures in Easter Island Rock Art
Designs & Motifs of Easter Island's Rock Petroglyph Carvings
Dr Georgia Lee - Publications on Easter Island
Moai Location Map & Islanders
Contemporary Easter Island Art
Easter Island Glossary
Easter Island Conclusion

bradshaw foundation donate help
Mailing List

Email Sign-Up
website updates

Email

First Name

Last Name

Country

iShop
bradshaw foundation ishop tshirt
Podcast
bradshaw foundation podcast
DVD
bradshaw foundation ishop dvd
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Join the free Mailing List Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Coso Range Nevada Oregon Territory Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Ian Wilson Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Portable Art Research Paper Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Tanum Rock Art Museum Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes List of Research Papers Other Websites Contact the Foundation