The Birdman Motif of Easter Island
A paramount chief - 'ariki mau' - held the original power in the society, as was typical throughout Polynesia. Over time, the chief's omnipotence declined (possibly as a result of ecological stresses), and the secular power on the island was seized by a warrior class, called 'matatoa', whose emblem was the Birdman. The result was a decline in the old religion of ancestor worship and an increase in acts of warfare. At this time, statue making appears to have ceased, and the birdman cult came into being.
The most sacred area at Orongo is called Mata Ngarau, where priests chanted and prayed for success in the annual egg hunt.
The purpose of the birdman contest was to obtain the first egg of the season from the offshore islet Motu Nui. Contestants descended the sheer cliffs of Orongo and swam to Motu Nui where they awaited the coming of the birds. Having procured an egg, the contestant swam back and presented it to his sponsor, who then was declared birdman for that year, an important status position.
Birdman Motif Photographs from Easter Island
|Orongo - Islet Motu Nui||Painted Slab from Orongo||Mata Ngarau, Orongo|
|Birdman Motifs at Orongo||Mata Ngarau, Orongo||Painted Slab from Orongo|
→ Easter Island Introduction
→ Sentinels in Stone - Rise & Fall of Easter Island's Culture | Page | 1 | 2 | 3 |
→ The Rock Art of Easter Island
→ The Birdman Cult / Motif of Easter Island
→ Sea & Marine Creatures in Easter Island Rock Art
→ Designs & Motifs of Easter Island's Rock Petroglyph Carvings
→ Dr Georgia Lee - Publications on Easter Island
→ Moai Location Map & Islanders
→ Contemporary Easter Island Art
→ Easter Island Glossary
→ Easter Island Conclusion