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Abstract

Rapanui, or Easter Island, the eastern apogee of prehistory's great Austronesian expansion, has surrendered only fragmentary and contradictory information about its ancient performing arts. Almost unique for all of Oceania is Rapanui's seeming lack of any musical instruments in ancient time (Philippi 1873 :390; Brown 1924:203; Metraux 1940:354-5). Sugarcane, bone, and wood were available on Easter Island, yet the prehistoric Rapanui people apparently knew no flute, nose-flute, or even simple whistle. Gourds and shark-skins were to be had in plentiful supply; still, there was no Polynesian drum. Small sticks of bone and wood were easily obtainable everywhere on the island; however, the ancient Rapanui appear never to have possessed such mouth resonators like the Maori pakuru or Hawaiian 'ukeke.

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