INSCRIBED WOODEN TABLET OBTAINED BY W. J. THOMSON, PAYMASTER OF THE U.S. NAVY SHIP 'MOHICAN' IN EASTER ISLAND, DECEMBER 1886. TABLET WAS PURCHASED FROM MR. A. A. SALMON [a.k.a. Tati Salmon], A EUROPEAN SETTLER AND LONG-TIME RESIDENT OF EASTER ISLAND. THOMSON STATES TABLET "IS A PIECE OF DRIFTWOOD THAT FROM ITS PECULIAR SHAPE IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN USED AS A PORTION OF A CANOE" (USNM ANNUAL REPORT 1889:514) TRANSFERRED FROM ETHNOLOGY TO ARCHEOLOGY ON MAY 2, 1933. FORMERLY ON EXHIBIT NMNH HALL 8, UNIT 4. THREE PLASTER CASTS [A129774-1] MADE OF BOTH REVERSE AND OBVERSE SIDES.
This rongorongo tablet or board is illus. Fig. 49, p. 76, in "Splendid Isolation: Art of Easter Island" by Eric Kjellgren, Metropolitan Museum of Art/Yale University Press, 2001, and identified there as an inscribed tablet (kohau rongorongo). It is known as the Great or Large Washington tablet.
From card for 129773-4: "Engraved with shark's tooth. Transferred to Div. Archeology May 2, 1933." From second card formerly in Ethnology card file: "See USNM - AR 1889 Plate 40-41 [after p. 524]. Translation on p. 523; note on p. 537. Description of acquisition on p. 514. Cast made and sent to Musee d' Ethnographic, May, 1933."
For an article on this tablet, with illustrations, see: Horley, Paul, 2013, "The large rongorongo tablet from the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C." Rapa Nui Journal, 27(1): 37-61. See also Kaeppler, Adrienne. 2001. "A Photograph is Worth A Thousand Words" in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific. Christopher M. Stevenson, et. al, eds.