Subscribe now


Did the people of Easter Island independently invent writing?

Wooden tablets containing a language of glyphs called Rongorongo may be evidence that the people of Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, created their own writing system without the influence of European language

By Michael Marshall

14 March 2024

A wooden tablet from Rapa Nui with Rongorongo glyphs carved into it

Silvia Ferrara

This is an extract from Our Human Story, our newsletter about the revolution in archaeology. Sign up to receive it in your inbox for free every month.

When we think about the invention of writing, we generally think about Eurasia and Africa. It might bring to mind Mesopotamia in western Asia and the invention of cuneiform, or perhaps Egyptian hieroglyphics.

As a rule, we don’t think about isolated Pacific islands. But maybe we should. On Rapa Nui in…

Sign up to our weekly newsletter

Receive a weekly dose of discovery in your inbox! We'll also keep you up to date with New Scientist events and special offers.

Sign up

To continue reading, subscribe today with our introductory offers

View introductory offers

No commitment, cancel anytime*

Offer ends 2nd of July 2024.

*Cancel anytime within 14 days of payment to receive a refund on unserved issues.

Inclusive of applicable taxes (VAT)


Existing subscribers

Sign in to your account