A darkly poignant human story of lost knowledge and cruelty, connecting prehistory to today.
This picture is a comparison between ancient Harappan script and Easter island Rongorongo characters. They are unmistakably related. This is a bit of a mind fuck because they are about as far apart as possible both on the surface of the earth and over the length of human time. 1
The (Indus valley) Harappan culture was astoundingly advanced and sophisticated (I’ll explore how advanced in a later post). It began and flowered ~8 thousand years ago 2 during the eye-blink brevity of the neolithic agricultural transformation of humanity from the old stone age to new. 3 We still cannot understand the script but apparently, it WAS understood by the priestly caste on Easter island, where it was considered sacred.
In the 1800’s Peru took half the Easter island population as slaves including everyone who knew how to interpret the symbols. The survivors took to obsessively copying the characters onto scraps of wood. They wanted to keep the language alive but it was now only an empty, outward form, cut off from meaning. It drifted into mere decoration and when the missionaries arrived, they pressured the survivors to burn all the old writing and make a clean start with Jesus.
1 It also correlates strongly to proto- Chinese!
2 Even if we chop a couple of thousand years off this timeline to correct for exaggeration or error, the continuation of this alphabet/symbol system from Mohenjo-Daro to Rapa-Nui is the longest cultural transmission ever: comparable to modern Egyptians using hieroglyphics.
We lived “Paleolithically” for two hundred thousand years…then took just three thousand years to drop our life strategy as a whole species and throw a new one together. OK, not as a whole species, but the dribs and drabs of hunter-gatherer humanity that carried on are the microscopic exception to the new rule.