Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Day 140 - The Birdman Ceremony Cult

How lucky we were with the weather today. At least the day long, because at 5 PM we were surprised by a sudden and really heavy rainfall. There was blue sky all day, so we enjoyed driving around with our scooter even more. Not only because I was allowed to drive for quite a long time with my dad in the back ;-)
We drove towards the southernmost point of the island, a volcano called Rano Kau, where the only ceremonial village on the Easter Island was build - Orongo. After around 100 years of fighting that included the massacre of the complete "Long Ear" class (leaving alive only one) and the toppling of all moais, a new cult was created to bring order and peace again to the Island.
The birdman cult was inspired by a large migratory bird that nested on a tiny motu south of Rano Kau and that was an important food addition to the notoriously hungry population. The idea was to identify the ruler of the Island not by fighting, but instead by a competition - and to repeat the competition every year to either confirm the ruler or find a different one. From all tribes of the Island, the chief (or representative of a chief) who brought the first egg of this bird to Orongo was the ruler for the next year - the "birdman". This cult was executed until 1878.
The competitors had to climb down a breakneck cliff from Orongo to the foot of the volcano, swim quite a distance through heavy, shark filled seas to "Motu Nui" (cf. map on Day 139) where the birds were nestling. There they had to wait for days or weeks until the birds laid their eggs. From then on the egg had to be treated carefully, brought back to the main island through the water and up the breakneck cliffs, and the first man with a whole egg wins for his clan. 
The houses of Orongo, where each clan
owes an own house in which wonderful
mural paintings were found.
The sharp island (Motu Kau Kau), the small island (Motu Iti)
and the bigger island (Motu Nui) as seen from Orongo.
The capital of Rapa Nui: Hanga Roa, with 6'000 inhabitants and 220 tourists arriving / leaving per day.

We continued by driving down the volcano to Vinapu, where the people had erected two platforms of which one was unbelievably precise. Hard to imagine how people living with stone age materials and tools could create something like this! The moais are stunning enough, but such a wall of huge stones perfectly fitting each other?
Another point that was worth to be seen was Ahu Akivi. As far as I know, that this is the only platform ever erected inland, far from the sea, looking into the random direction where the village was (and not away from the sea into the land).
As our "Hostal Pukao" is named after the quarry where the so-called "hats" (in fact it is hair) of the moais was carved, we had to visit this quarry too. The moai's hair is called pukao. In contrast to the moais that are carved from dark lava rock, the rock of which pukaos are carved is reddish. Like in the moai quarry, lots of half finished or finished pukaos lay around here. Don't wanna know how much they weigh.
Our last sight on this fine day were several huge caves at the Island's cliff coast, close to the main (and only) village. In one of them we could admire the remainders of many mural paintings, mainly depicting the birdman. Unfortunately most of the paintings have already gone, because the ceiling seemed to be quite weak and already knocked the "danger!" fence down. In times of the moai when there was still wood available, the caves had been used to build canoes.

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