The decipherment of rongorongo began with the discovery of the
rongorongo tablets on Easter Island in the late nineteenth century. As
with most undeciphered scripts, many of the proposals have been
fanciful. Apart from a portion of one tablet which has been shown to
deal with a lunar calendar, none of the texts are understood, and even
the calendar cannot actually be read. There are three serious obstacles
to decipherment: the small number of remaining texts, comprising only
15,000 legible glyphs; the lack of context in which to interpret the
texts, such as illustrations or parallels to texts which can be read;
and the fact that the modern Rapanui language is heavily mixed with
Tahitian and is unlikely to closely reflect the language of the
tablets—especially if they record a specialized register such as
incantations—while the few remaining examples of the old language are
heavily restricted in genre and may not correspond well to the tablets
either. Since a proposal by Butinov and Knorozov in the 1950s, the
majority of philologists, linguists, and cultural historians have taken
the line that rongorongo was not true writing but proto-writing, that
is, an ideographic- and rebus-based mnemonic device. If it is the case
that rongorongo is proto-writing, then it is unlikely to ever be
deciphered. Oral history suggests that only a small elite were ever
literate, and that the tablets were considered sacred.
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Today's selected anniversaries:
Northern Crusades: In the Battle of the Ice, Novgorod forces led by
Alexander Nevsky rebuffed an invasion attempt by the Teutonic Knights
at Lake Peipus on the present-day border of Estonia and Russia.
Native American Pocahontas married English colonist John Rolfe in
Virginia, and was christened Lady Rebecca.
A decades-long border dispute between Chile and Bolivia over control of
the saltpeter-rich Atacama Desert and other territories escalated into
the War of the Pacific.
The Tiananmen Incident, a protest against the repression of the Chinese
regime nearing the end of the Cultural Revolution, took place in
Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Bosnian War: Serb gunmen killed two people while firing upon a large
crowd of anti-war protesters in Sarajevo, marking the start of the
Siege of Sarajevo.
Wiktionary's word of the day:
Fashionable and elegant; well-groomed
Wikiquote quote of the day:
I learned the lesson that great men cultivate love, and that only
little men cherish a spirit of hatred. I learned that assistance given
to the weak makes the one who gives it strong; and that oppression of
the unfortunate makes one weak.
--Booker T. Washington
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