Petroglyphs at Orongo
Thousands of petroglyphs (rock carvings) can be found on Easter Island. Many represent animals, notably birds
or anthropomorphic birdmen.
After the demise of the statue building, in the last days before the invasion by Peruvian slave traders, there arose a cult of the
Birdman (Tangata Manu). The birdman was seen as the representative on earth of the creator god Makemake, and eventually, this cult surpassed the traditional power of the king (ariki).
Once a year, representatives from each clan would gather at the ceremonial village of Orongo, and swim to Motu Nui, a nearby Islet to search
for the egg of the Sooty Tern. On his return, the competitor presented the egg to his representative who was then invested with the title of
Tangata Manu. He then went down to Mataveri and from there was led in procession to the southwest exterior slope of Rano Raraku, where he remained in seclusion for a year.
The Birdman ritual was still in existence when Europeans arrived on Easter Island - therefore historically
documented. It was also featured quite prominently in Kevin Costner's film "Rapa Nui".