Tangata Manu

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Tangata Manu (Birdman Ceremony)

Spring
Sometime around the 14th century, different groups on Easter Island, also known as Rapanui, were at war with each other, perhaps over a lack of food caused by a mini ice age. Some scholars theorize that the islanders began the Tangata Manu, or Manutara, as a way of resolving their conflicts.
Each tribal chief would select a young man to compete with representatives from other tribes in an egg hunt. Each man swam to a nearby island in search of the first egg laid by a seabird known as a tern. This process could take as long as a month. The chief of the first one to swim back with the egg was called the "birdman" for the year.
Carvings of the Birdman—represented as a bird-headed man whose hand grasps an egg—can be found all over Easter Island.
CONTACTS:
Embassy of Chile
1732 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
202-785-1746; fax: 202-887-5579
www.chile-usa.org
SOURCES:
FestWrld: Chile-1998, p. 12