The people of Easter Island were possibly inspired to invent the Rongorongo script after seeing the writing used by the Spanish when they annexed the island in 1770. The Easter Islanders were apparently impressed by the mana or power of the Spaniards' writing.
Rongorongo was used until the 1860s, after which knowledge of the script was lost. Nowadays most Easter Islanders write in Spanish using the Latin alphabet though a few try to write their own language, Rapanui, also with the Latin alphabet.
Since missionaries started visiting Easter Island in the 1860s, they have taken an interest in the mysterious Rongorongo symbols. A number of attempts have been made to decipher them, none of which have been completely successful, though in his book Rongorongo: The Easter Island Script, Steven Roger Fischer, Director of the Institute of Polynesian Languages and Literatures in Auckland, New Zealand, claims to have unlocked its mysteries.
Two other scripts were once used on Easter Island: Ta'u and Mama, but little is known about them as very few inscriptions have been found.
Rapanui, a Polynesian language spoken by about 2,500 people on Easter Island and also in Chile, Tahiti and the USA.
Further information about the Rongorongo script and decipherment efforts
The Rongorongo of Easter Island - includes many samples of Rongorongo inscriptions
An introduction to the language of Easter Island - includes English <> Rapa Nui dictionary
Easter Island Home Page
Information about Easter Island (in Spanish and English)
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