“El sueño de la razón produce monstruos”. This is how Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828), the outstanding, multi-talented Spanish painter and etcher, commented on his famous print No. 43 from the series of Los caprichos. “The sleep of reason produces monsters”. The artist added a further explanation of his concept: “Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels”.
I have chosen this rather provocative statement by Goya as the main title of the present book, as I find it offers very telling insight into the ways that people often deal with what they know and what they claim to know. Due to a phenomenon that I would call intellectual inertia, various old, deep-rooted misconceptions about many issues tend to linger on in the public opinion. This holds true also in the case of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) – a small Pacific island of volcanic origin, the easternmost outpost of Polynesia, situated in the south-eastern Pacific Ocean and presently forming part of Chilean territory. The real Rapa Nui, world famous especially for its huge stone statues, the moai – popularly, but erroneously called ‘big heads’ – has its own folkloric, banalized counterpart, persisting in the popular imagination.
In the present volume we encourage the Reader, among other things, to return to the very basics of Easter Island studies. When I invited the Authors to contribute to this book, I offered them the idea of challenging and debunking old myths (in the sense of unscientific convictions, fantasies, prejudices), and I have not restrained the scope of the papers, not wanting to limit the horizons of the publication.
No subject in science can be deeply understood without the history of its roots and the human story behind it. This fine collection of essays does precisely that. It offers a well edited and refreshing approach to the way ‘monsters’ are produced about the past of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) when we put our scientific mind to rest. The bundle is concluded with a nice and very welcome overview of the state of affairs in the field of rongorongo inscriptions.
Jan J. Boersema
Author of The Survival of Easter Island (CUP, 2015)