Rapa Nui, now known as Easter Island, was first populated by Polynesians somewhere between 690 AD and 1200 AD. But that appears to be a singular event, as the culture of the island developed in complete isolation afterward, due to the distance it lay from other populated islands of the Pacific. That is, until 1722, when Europeans found their way to the island. Along the way, the people of Rapa Nui developed a system of writing called rongorongo, consisting of around 600 hieroglyphs.
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Rongorongo was mainly used by the elite, and was not accessible to most of the population. Europeans had no clue about rongorongo documents etched in wood until a missionary found them in 1864. Tragically, by then there was no one left on Rapa Nui who could read the written language. Peruvian raids had taken many islanders away into slavery, and when they returned, they brought diseases that wrecked the native Rapa Nui population.
Examples of rongorongo are rare, with only 23 known examples still in existance. A new study takes a look at a wooden tablet from Rapa Nui known as the Berlin tablet. The rongorongo symbols on it are barely decipherable thanks to erosion and woodlice, but a 3D scan reveals the tablet, which is the largest rongorongo tablet ever found, contains 387 legible glyphs, and may have contained up to 5000 symbols before the wood was damaged. That would make it the longest rongorongo document ever found, if it were still a full document. The research was aimed at determining the age of the Berlin tablet by the species of wood and the history of its deterioration. Read about rongorongo and the Berlin tablet at The History Blog. -via Strange Company