post-foo The Thoughts and Sayings Of Baba Doodlius: July 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Heads on the Rock

Greetings all you Freckle-faced Tots of Inquisitiveness peering longingly through the window of the Candy Shop of Knowledge at the mouth-watering, sugary Treats of Truth! Baba Doodlius here, with a Revelation of another Mystery of the Universe

My regular readers (all six of you) may have noticed that I have not been around of late. For this I wholeheartedly apologize, and as way of excuse I'd just like to point out that it's hard out here for a bird. And there are, oddly enough, some places on this planet that are completely without any internet access, like, for example, Baba Sr.'s house.

Baba Sr.: "Consarnit, I can't even get the dag-gum clock on the VCR to quit flashing '12:00', and they gots to go invent that there new-fangled 'Internet' thing!"

All that aside, I'm not here to bitch and moan that life is tough, I'm here to Reveal Mysteries of the Universe! So without further ado, I present the Revelation of today's Mystery (by special request of that poetry-slingin' human Poetikat), the Secret of

Rapa Nui!

Rapa Nui is an extremely isolated island in the South Pacific, located about 2,000 miles from anything. (Have you heard the expression "it's not the end of the world, but you can see it from there"? Well, Rapa Nui really is the end of the world). The name "Rapa Nui" is Polynesian for "Big Head" (I made up half of that; it is left as an exercize for the reader to figure out which half), which is appropriate because this island, similar to Hollywood stars and corporate CEOs, is famous for big heads. The Rapa Nui heads, however, are made of rock rather than ego.

A bunch of famous Big Heads on Rapa Nui, Donald Trump, and Alec Baldwin

Let me jump back a step and start at the beginning of this Mystery.

The first European to reach Rapa Nui was a Dutch sailor named Jacob Roggeveen. Rumor has it he was searching for a good supplier of marijuana, or possibly some employees for a new business in which he was a partner. Whatever the case, he sighted the island on April 5, 1722, which happened to be Easter Sunday, and therefore he named the place "Island of Why The Heck Do I Have To Be At Work On Easter Sunday". Ha Ha, actually he named it "Easter Island", because he found there herds of happy bunnies that brought colored eggs to the natives.

This scene was fairly common on Rapa Nui in the early 1700's

The most intriguing aspect of this island as noted by Captain Roggeveen was the presence of huge stone heads that dotted the coastline. These monoliths, some standing over 7 meters in height and weighing over 30 tons, had apparently been erected by the local islanders, a group whose technological achievements did not include any metal working or the use of the wheel.

I'll put up another pic of a Rapa Nui head because they're just so darned cool

So how did such a supposedly primitive culture manage to carve huge slabs of rock into the shape of people's heads and stand them up on platforms all over the island? For centuries foreigners have asked the locals this question, and the conversations tended to go like this:

European Guy: "So, how did you islanders manage to carve these huge stone heads and prop them up next to the ocean?"

Rapa Nui Guy: "Ia orana, ua ite oe i te parau Rapanui, tane?" *

EG: "I have no idea what you're trying to say. I think I'll enslave you and spread European diseases throughout your population."

RNG: "Raho popa'a!" **

* - "Hello, do you speak Rapanui, sir?"
** - "Damn foreigner!" (or something like that)

As one can imagine, the whole slavery and disease thing didn't exactly endear the Europeans to the Rapa Nui locals. The lack of trust and the inability to understand each others' languages caused the visitors to remain completely in the dark about the origins of the big heads. So naturally, this means I had to do my own darned investigation. As usual.

What with energy prices going through the roof, I decided it would be better to forego the typical use of the Reverse K.E.G. Process to get to the bottom of this Mystery. (Hey, even us birds have to scrimp a bit in these trying economic times.) I had to resort to good ol' fashioned detective work and insight! Join me, if you would, in this fascinating journey into the world of forensic analysis!

Turns out this Mystery was way easier to solve than I excpected. I simply took some close-up photos of the big heads and took a couple samples of them back to the Bird Cave for analysis. Here's an extreme close-up pic of one of the heads:

Look how porous that rock is. Interesting! I began to formulate my theory, which was backed up by the laboratory analysis of the samples:

To those few of you not well-versed in organic chemistry, the chemical found in trace quantities in the Rapa Nui heads is... Sugar!

So let's see... a porous material... containing lots of sugar...

The Rapa Nui heads are not natural rock! They're petrified marshmallow!

The original inhabitants of Rapa Nui are the inventors of marshmallow! Their invention, being not only yummy but also easy to work with, was the perfect material to use in fashioning huge head sculptures. These sculptures were so easy to make and transport that they put up dozens of them all over the island! Unfortunately, the islanders had to coat their sculptures with protectants to keep them from dissolving during rainstorms, and this led to a rapid fossilization process of the building material. Very little of the original marshmallow remains, having been replaced by the minerals used to protect their creations.

An obscure note from Captain Roggeveen's log book provided final proof of this theory:

"Captain's Log, April 6, 1722: I cannot understand a single word these island folk say to me, but they have given myself and the crew a delicious gift which is apparently a local delicacy: tiny birdlike sculptures made of some sort of air-puffed sugar! Such a novel idea! In commemoration of the discovery of Easter Island, I shall distribute to all my friends facsimiles of the islanders' gift on the anniversay of sighting this land!"

And thus was the tradition of giving the gift of Marshmallow Peeps on Easter established!

Aren't the little details of history just fascinating?