|An example of the abundant petroglyphs in Orongo, Rapa Nui associated with the tangata manu cult of Catholic missionary Eugène Eyraud who said they were found "in all the houses." However, he paid them little attention and they remained unnoticed by the outside world. It wasn't until 1869 that one of the tablets came into the possession of Florentin-Étienne Jaussen, the Bishop of Tahiti. He brought the tablets to the world's attention and instructed the Rapa Nui mission to gather more information about them. But by then, most of the tablets were allegedly already destroyed, presumed to have been used as fuel by the natives in the deforested island.
At the time of discovery of the tablets, Rapa Nui had undergone severe depopulation. This was largely due to the loss of the island's last trees and the Peruvian and Chilean slave raids in the early 1860s. The literate ruling classes of the Rapa Nui people (including the royal family and the religious caste) and the majority of the island's population were kidnapped or killed in the slave raids. Most of those taken died after only one or two years in captivity from the harsh working conditions and European diseases. Succeeding epidemics of smallpox and tuberculosis further decimated the island's population to the point that there were not enough people to bury the dead. The last remnants of the Rapa Nui people were assimilated by the Tahitians who were later brought to the island in an effort to repopulate it, further resulting in the loss of mo